As I previously wrote, the most important thing a follower of Christ can do in this life is to receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. The gift of the Holy Ghost is made available to each church member through the ordinance of baptism. After baptism, actually receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost is based on our diligent seeking and the Lord’s will.
Before going on, I want to emphasize a few things:
First, the Lord has provided the scriptures and prophets to answer our questions. The Book of Mormon contains the fullness of the gospel and has been a great influence in my life. (D&C 20:8-9)
Second, as I wrote before, we differ in our receptiveness to the things of the Spirit.
Third, the church callings we’ve had, currently have, and will have are not an indicator or limitation of our receptiveness to things of the Spirit. I’ve also learned that the Lord is no respecter of persons, meaning, the Lord doesn’t focus His gifts and blessings on just those in leadership positions. Average members of the church have the same opportunity for blessings as church leaders.
Fourth, a careful reading of the scriptures teaches that one of the most important understandings a follower of Christ can have is a correct view of his or her nothingness (Mosiah 3-4) coupled with a correct view that they are a beloved son or daughter of Heavenly Father. (D&C 76:24)
Fifth, there is nothing I can pass on to you that will provide a quick and easy way to access the things of the Spirit. Each of us is required to diligently seek, hunger and thirst in order to receive the things of the Spirit. I hope what I write will increase your faith, hope, and desire to draw nearer to God so that you can receive those things Heavenly Father has prepared for you.
Understanding the Workings of the Spirit
Relating sacred experiences are just words on a page, that is, until the Spirit participates. It is my prayer and my hope that the Lord’s Spirit will bear witness to the spirits of those who read my words. When this happens, spiritual communication occurs.
As a parent, with children who so far don’t have eyes that see or ears that hear, I pray the Lord will bring them to the knowledge of their Savior. I hope the words of their father will inspire them. Additionally, I desire that my children who are active in the church will diligently seek for greater access to the Spirit. And lastly, I hope that my extended family, friends and interested others will be motivated by the experiences I share to seek after greater light and knowledge than they now have.
At this point, some readers may be asking themselves, “how do I know if I have the companionship of the Holy Ghost?” The answer is as you might expect. You’ll know by the spiritual experiences you’re having. I think it’s important from time to time to measure our experiences with the Holy Ghost. Are we having frequent manifestations of the Spirit? If yes, then we know we’re on course, if not, then it may be the right time to take steps to do something about it.
I keep a journal to record sacred experiences. As I’ve reviewed my journal, I am very grateful the Lord has been so kind to me. I’ve selected a few experiences that I hope will be helpful to you in your efforts to better understand the workings of the Spirit. Not everyone experiences the workings of the Spirit in the same way. However, I believe that what I’ve prepared will be useful to nearly everyone.
A Sheep is Lost then Found
When I was in high school I joined with those who liked to party. Many weekends were spent figuring out ways to acquire alcohol, usually in the form of Coors beer. We didn’t have much trouble. There was always a way to find a case of beer, and when things went well we would buy a keg.
On one occasion, while a group of us were partying, the subject turned to religion. As we talked, the Spirit of the Lord joined our conversation. I wasn’t the only one who felt His Spirit, several others recognized it too. It was the same Spirit I felt at church years earlier. It may surprise those reading this, but I know by this and other experiences that the Lord doesn’t abandon his sons and daughters who fall into error and sin.
On a July holiday, along with a group of friends I drove to a resort. We were all drinking heavily. Early in the morning, I joined a friend in his high powered sports car to go for a ride. As we drove away, I realized that my friend was very drunk, but the thrill of riding in his sports car was too exciting to worry about safety. I admit, I was a mindless youth. We collided head on with another vehicle. The driver and another passenger in our car were hurt badly but eventually recovered. Those in the other car also recovered. I was ejected from the car, slamming into the windshield of the car we hit and then flung into a field at the side of the highway. After I regained conscientiousness, I walked away with nothing more than a few loose teeth and a powerful feeling that I had been protected, and that it was time for me to mend my ways. I realized I was being watched over, but I was angry with the Lord and not ready to change my ways.
I decided to include these stories to testify that the Lord didn’t turn his back on me because of my course of life. I believe the door is always open, and that the Lord beckons to his children in many ways to follow him.
A few years later, I was drafted into the army and decided to stop ignoring the Lord long enough to ask him a question. With the prospect of going to war I started to think about heaven and hell and the stories I’d heard about Joseph Smith and the Book of Mormon. I’ve already related this experience and won’t repeat it. I will just say that the Lord showed me in a powerful manner that there are two powers influencing our journey in mortality.
When the Lord leaves the ninety-and-nine to reclaim his lost sheep he does so with full knowledge of their sins. He is not shocked or offended. He beckons to them with tenderness and mercy-he is our Redeemer.
The Lord Answers My Prayer
After my experience with the “messenger” and being delivered by the power of prayer, I was anxious to change my life. Transitioning from a natural man to a follower of Christ wasn’t easy. I struggled. I attempted to stop smoking and drinking, but I ended up having several false starts. I was in a barracks with several hundred soldiers. It didn’t take me long to realize I needed to find a new location, and new friends. I was learning that repentance required change on many levels.
I prayed that Heavenly Father would bless me to find a new place to live, a place away from the barracks and the distractions of army life. It was hard to study with non-stop Beatles music filling the air. Within days I was reassigned. It was perfect, my new assignment required only two soldiers and allowed me ample free time to study. I drank in the doctrines of the Book of Mormon and started to attend church.
I made progress. I was living the word of wisdom and enjoyed my new found friends at church. I’m so thankful for their examples and kindness!
When I think about the answer to my prayer to be relocated from the loud and noisy barracks life to a place of solitude, I want to make sure you realize the significance of this event. It represents the way the Lord answers prayer. I’ll explain.
I like the word serendipity. It means to find something valuable by luck. However, I’ve learned that prayer can create serendipitous experiences. I believe the Lord intervened and I was selected for the reassignment because of prayer. The Lord answers some prayers quietly. In other words, it can appear to be a coincidence rather than an answer to prayer because things unfold naturally. There is no feeling of the Spirit, no indication that God has intervened, yet what is needed and prayerfully sought for comes about.
Experiencing Moroni’s Promise
As I studied the Book of Mormon I learned about the workings of the Spirit. My new location allowed me to read and ponder the Book of Mormon. I read it slowly, I wasn’t in a hurry. I prayed earnestly to have Moroni’s promise of obtaining a witness of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon by the power of the Holy Ghost.
As I read, I noticed a “feeling” that accompanied my reading. The feeling was subtle, yet tangible. I noticed that it invigorated me both mentally and physically. It may sound odd, but I was able to play ping pong better when the Spirit lingered with me after my reading sessions. There were only two of us at the new location. For recreation we occasionally played ping pong. When my friend noticed my increased skill, he would ask, “have you been reading your scriptures today?”
When I completed my reading of the Book of Mormon, I didn’t need to ask if it was true. I knew it was true by the feelings I experienced each time I read from its pages. This taught me that the Lord communicates with us through our feelings. When the Holy Ghost is influencing us there is generally a feeling of peace present in our heart (“I will tell you…in your heart” (D&C 8:2)).
The Lord Helps Me See Things Differently
A few years ago one of my sons asked me to co-sign on a loan for a motorcycle. I was surprised he asked. I’d made it a point to tell my children I didn’t like motorcycles and to never ask me to help them obtain one. He pressed me, explaining that it was very important to him. He was older and on his own and was able to pay for it. I told him I would fast and pray and go to the temple before I made the final decision, but made it clear to him that, short of a miracle, the answer would be no.
As my wife and I entered the temple, I consulted my feelings and told her I was dead set against helping. I personally knew several families who had lost loved one in motorcycle crashes. As the session started, I said to Heavenly Father, “if he should get hurt or killed, how would I ever get over it?” I prayed silently, asking Heavenly Father to bless me to make the best decision. As I pondered on my son’s request, I noticed my feelings softening. By the time I walked out of the temple, my heart was changed. I was very surprised, but confident the Lord had changed the feelings of my heart and answered my prayer.
Examples of Warnings from the Lord
Through the years, I have been guided by the Spirit in ways that has allowed me to circumvent difficulties. Here are three examples of how the Lord provides warnings.
1. While on my church mission, my missionary companion and I met a man who wanted to learn more about the church. He invited us to his home. We were excited. When we visited his home the feeling entered my heart to leave as soon as possible and never return. I was very surprised. After we left I asked my companion how he felt about the visit. He said that the Spirit told him the same thing. The strength of this manifestation was compelling. We had no doubt the Spirit of the Lord was the source of the feelings we experienced. He called several times to make another appointment, but we knew the Lord didn’t want us to associate with him.
2. My work requires that I hire staff members. On one occasion, I interviewed an individual and thought she would be ideal for the position I had open. I invited her for a second interview. From my window I saw her entering the building. At that moment I had a very anxious feeling suddenly enter my heart. When she entered my office for the interview I knew for certain I shouldn’t hire her. No reason was given, I just knew I shouldn’t hire her.
3. On another occasion, I was urged to sign a new contract that would modify the existing employment contract I was on. Over the course of several months I pondered and prayed about the decision. Many of my associates decided to sign it. I was contacted by several people with the company who told me if I didn’t sign the contract I might regret it. I prayed and fasted about it one last time before making the final decision. When I woke up the next morning I could feel the presence of the Spirit. I had many thoughts come in to my mind. Not only about the details of the contract but about the intentions of company management. As I pondered and made the effort to wrote down my impressions it was revealed to me that “they draw near to you with their lips but their hearts are far from you”. With the passage of time, my decision not to sign the contract has proven to be accurate.
Thoughts and Feelings Were Presented to My Mind and Heart by the Spirit
Yea, behold, I will tell you in your mind and in your heart, by the Holy Ghost, which shall come upon you and which shall dwell in your heart (D&C 8:2).
I was driving to work on a beautiful fall morning. It had rained some and the streets were slightly wet. Before I had driven very far, I realized that I was more at peace than usual. Instead of hurrying along, I found myself thinking, “take it easy and enjoy the beauty of the day, don’t be in a hurry”. When I approached the intersection of Highland Drive and Walker Lane I did something I never do. When the light turned red and I began to slow, instead of taking the empty lane at the stop light, I stayed in the right lane and came to a stop behind the car in front. I remember thinking how odd it was for me to do that. The car in front of me turned right so now I was the first car at the light and the lane next to me was still empty. Suddenly, a Corvette came roaring west on Walker lane, the light changed and the driver of the Corvette lost control while making a left turn. She spun completely around and came to a stop in the lane next to me as though she was some kind of precision stunt driver. I was stunned at what had taken place and just sat there looking at her. She pulled forward into the intersection, make a right turn in front of me and proceeded to go eastbound on Walker Lane.
I continued the drive to my office, and expressed thanks to Heavenly Father that I had been protected. If I had moved to the left lane when I slowed for the light I would have been hit when she lost control. The events of that morning revealed some interesting things about the workings of the Spirit: I wasn’t warned of impending danger; circumstances didn’t arise that morning to change my schedule; I didn’t take a different route for some unknown reason. Rather, I was influenced by the spirit to change my driving pattern from hurried to relaxed; to take it easy. This resulted in a blessing.
There is another aspect of this experience that I would like to relate. I had been asking Heavenly Father for a period of time to teach me to better understand the workings of his Spirit. I believe this experience was an answer to that prayer. It taught me how the Spirit can weave impressions into our minds and how our feelings can be influenced by his Spirit.
My experience with the Spirit has taught me that the Lord answers prayers. How he chooses to answer can vary. Most prayers are answered subtlety, like those I’ve related above. Sometimes we’re aware that a prayer has been answered, other times we’re not sure. I’ve concluded, as a general rule, when the Lord answers our prayers it occurs subtlety and without fanfare.
I’ve learned that when I feel the whisperings of the Spirit moving me in the opposite or different direction than I’m thinking, to pay close attention.
I think it is important to ask the Lord to teach you how to pray, how to recognize answers to prayer. Therefore, I urge my loved ones and others who may read my words to diligently seek the gift of the Holy Ghost. Pray continually that you can understand God’s dealings. Ask him to teach you to pray.
In part 2, I will discuss other ways the Lord has chosen to answer my prayers. Most prayers are answered subtlety, but on occasion the manifestation of the answer is very evident.