In part 1, I discussed how I developed a relationship with the Holy Ghost by learning to recognize the subtle workings of this third member of the Godhead. We’re taught to pray to the Father in the name of his Son Jesus Christ. However, I think it is safe to say that the Holy Ghost is part of the prayer equation.
Elder Jeffery R. Holland teaching at the 2012 Seminar for New Mission Presidents spoke about new converts and church members, saying, “the Holy Ghost is the member of the Godhead with whom they will have their most frequent and the most intimate relationship…No other promise of divine companionship is so universally available to each member of the Church and yet we fear that some…members of the Church generally may take this gift too lightly.” Church News, June 30, 2012.
Nephi said the Holy Ghost “is the gift of God unto all those who diligently seek him…” (1 Nephi 10:17).
Diligently seeking God is the key to obtaining the Holy Ghost. My experience seeking to draw nearer to God taught me that it takes time, effort, and patience. In other words, exercising faith. We exercise faith when we pray, when we feast on the scriptures, when we repent, when we fast, and when we endure trials.
Some of the choicest experiences I’ve had with the Lord were preceded by disappointment, and heart wrenching trials. When I returned from my mission I assumed the Lord would bless me to find a wife. After all, I thought, the Lord would quickly prepare the way so that I could keep this important commandment. More on this later.
Early in my efforts to draw near to the Lord I assumed that those who were called to important church positions or who had connections with church leaders had an advantage. I didn’t understand that the Lord is “no respecter of persons”: Heavenly Father will respond to anyone who diligently seeks him. However, at the same time, it is important to understand that the Lord favors the righteous. I’ve written on this important topic here.
Growing in the Holy Ghost
When seeking a blessing we petition the Heavens by calling upon Heavenly Father in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ. The Father uses many means to answer our prayers. I think its safe to say that the Holy Ghost takes part in all or nearly all the communication we receive from Heavenly Father.
I hope the following experiences will help you understand that Heavenly Father doesn’t always answer our prayers subtlety. Sometimes we need to have experiences that grab our attention, stirring and motivating us in powerful ways.
I had been home from my mission for nearly eight years and was concerned I wasn’t married. I would say to myself, “eight years, that’s how long it took Lehi and his family as they sojourned in the wilderness before arriving in Bountiful!”
It seemed like the heavens were sealed regarding marriage. I prayed often, asking the Lord to help me find a wife. I dated a lot, almost weekly for eight years (52 x 8 = 416). I estimate I dated in excess of a hundred girls in those eight years.
I graduated from college and was dating a beautiful and charming girl I’d met at a ward outing. The only problem, she was divorced and had a little boy. That was a concern for me. Years earlier, I had decided I didn’t want to marry a divorcee.
A Ministering Angel Provides a Divine Nudging
While contemplating what I should do, I went to the Wilkinson Center to get something to eat. When I walked in I passed by a girl whom I barely glanced at. After I took a step or two a voice spoke to me saying, “that was Jill” (not her real name). I turned around and said “where?” I walked back to where I could better see the girl I had walked by–it was Jill! I hadn’t seen her since high school. She was a friend I often thought of. I had wondered if she might have been my wife if I hadn’t fell away from the church in my teen years. I had often wondered if she was married and what she was doing. I stood there for a moment in awe at what had just occurred.
She didn’t see me. I looked around the nearly empty cafeteria to see if she were with someone. I saw several young boys sitting together and assumed these were her children. While Jill was getting food I walked over to the boys and asked them if their mother’s name was Jill. I told them I was an old friend of their mom’s. In a few minutes Jill returned to the table. She was surprised and seemed to be at a loss for words. She was pregnant and looked tired, even worn out. We talked briefly, she was busy taking care of some hungry boys.
The next morning I went to the University Mall. I walked a short distance and as I turned a corner there was Jill. She had entered the mall from another entrance. She was pushing a baby carriage and was about 40 feet away. We were both surprised at this second chance meeting. We smiled and waved to each other and went our ways.
Meeting Jill and her boys had a profound impact on me. I realized just how far behind I was in the important matters of life.
I’m sharing this very sacred experience with the hope those who read it will realize that Heavenly Father answers prayers in many ways. I’ve wondered who it was that spoke to me from the other side of the veil. I’ve had this kind of experience a few other times. Each time it was the same, I heard a voice speak, as one person speaks to another. There wasn’t a feeling of the Spirit, no impression, nothing other than a voice telling me something.
I believe it was a ministering angel who not only spoke to me, but somehow influenced both Jill and me to meet on both occasions. Why the second meeting? I believe the Lord provided a second witness to verify the truthfulness of the first witness. I also believe I was being taught how the Lord accomplishes his purposes. He can work to bring about his purposes subtlety or be very apparent and powerfully manifest his presence.
I had no idea I was being influenced to be where I would meet Jill on these two occasions. I imagine Jill would say the same thing. The timing of these events is also curious, if either of us would have been a minute or two off schedule in either meeting, we might have entirely missed each other.
By the way, I married in the Salt Lake Temple a few weeks after this divine nudging.
A Vision Provides Comfort and Knowledge
The day of the funeral the family gathered at my in-laws home. I was in the front yard feeling the weight of losing a young member of my wife’s family and wondering how such a terrible event could befall a faithful family. I looked heavenward and offered a silent prayer pleading with the Lord for understanding and for mercy to be extended to the family.
Suddenly I found myself in the presence of many spirits. Somehow the veil was partially lifted—sadness and sorrow gave way to joy and peace as the realization of what was happening swept over me. The heavens were opened and I was literally in two worlds. Impressions of the spirit came into my mind and I knew that the front yard and the surrounding area were filled with spirits—thousands of them. I was standing in a crowd of spirits. I understood that many of the spirits were pre-mortal and had come to comfort the family (as well as to observe and learn).
I was anxious that all the family could share in this experience. I found my father-in-law in the garage and told him what I was experiencing. I then went into the house and told others. None of them shared the experience I was having. This caused me concern. Why was I given this experience and not the Father, Mother, or another family member? My father-in-law had been a Bishop and also served in a Stake Presidency. I had never been blessed to hold any significant church position. My heart ached. Would they believe me?
Gradually the “vision” left me and familiar surroundings filled my senses—but the power of what had just transpired remained. The Lord had given a spiritual gift to the family—but more was yet to come. Within the hour a ward member while walking down the street to visit the family had a similar experience. She also testified that the streets were filled with spirits. Thus the Lord provided a second witness—much to my relief (2 Cor. 13:1, D&C 6:28).
So far I’ve talked about the Holy Ghost as a revelator. He does more. The Savior taught:
Now this is the commandment: Repent, all ye ends of the earth, and come unto me and be baptized in my name, that ye may be sanctified by the reception of the Holy Ghost, that ye may stand spotless before me at the last day. 3 Nephi 27:20
There is a verse in the Book of Mormon where the Savior explains the kind of repentance that sanctifies. This is the kind of repentance that Enos, the people of king Benjamin, Alma and others experienced.
And ye shall offer for a sacrifice unto me a broken heart and a contrite spirit. And whoso cometh unto me with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, him will I baptize with fire and with the Holy Ghost, even as the Lamanites, because of their faith in me at the time of their conversion, were baptized with fire and with the Holy Ghost, and they knew it not. 3 Nephi 9:20
The Savior teaches the necessity of offering a sacrifice of a broken heart and a contrite spirit before we can experience fire and the Holy Ghost. Go here for a three part essay on this subject.
Offering a sacrifice of a broken heart and a contrite spirit is not easily done. I know by my own experience the pain and joy associated with this transforming event. I’ve written about my experience here.
The Book of Mormon account of King Benjamin’s people provide one of the best examples of what it means to offer up a sacrifice of a broken heart and a contrite spirit. They are described as a people who were diligent in keeping the commandments of the Lord. A highly favored people of the Lord.
Notwithstanding the goodness of his people, on this day, king Benjamin taught them of their nothingness in comparison to all that the Lord had done for them. He taught them, “…I say, if ye should serve him with all your whole souls yet ye would be unprofitable servants.” Mosiah 2:21
At the conclusion of king Benjamin’s Spirit filled teachings, his listeners had fallen to the ground because the fear of the Lord had come upon them. We can only imagine the power that must have been contained in king Benjamin’s words to have this effect–“they had viewed themselves in their own carnal state, even less than the dust of the earth. And they all cried aloud with one voice saying: O have mercy, and apply the atoning blood of Christ that we may receive forgiveness of our sins, and our hearts may be purified…” Mosiah 4:2
They were humbled “in the depths of humility”, as is everyone who offers up the sacrifice of a broken heart and a contrite spirit. Once this sacrifice was made the record says, “the Spirit of the Lord came upon them, and they were filled with joy, having received a remission of their sins, and having peace of conscience, because of the exceeding faith which they had in Jesus Christ…” Mosiah 4:3
No follower of Christ can escape the requirement of offering up a sacrifice of a broken heart and a contrite spirit. We fool ourselves if we think that diligently serving the Lord in our church callings is sufficient. Our works, no matter how great, will not have the power to save us in the celestial kingdom. At some point, each Latter-day Saint will need to be awakened to a sense of their nothingness—their worthless and fallen state. Then, like king Benjamin’s people, they will plead for forgiveness with sufficient humility that the Spirit of the Lord will come upon them, and like the people of king Benjamin, they will receive a remission of their sins.
I agree with Elder Jeffrey R. Holland that church members generally may take the Holy Ghost too lightly. I’m not being critical when I say this because I’ve done the same thing.
One of the reasons I’m writing is to testify that average church members can experience the manifestations of the Holy Ghost much like the writers of the Book of Mormon did.
I think some church members measure their standing with Heavenly Father by the church callings they’ve received—the more prominent the calling the higher their standing—I thought this way until the Lord showed me differently. I hope I can persuade my readers to measure their standing with Heavenly Father by the guidance they receive from the Holy Ghost.
I hope my readers will take a moment and reflect on their experiences with the Holy Ghost. Are you acquainted with the manifestations of the Holy Ghost by the presence of spiritual gifts? When you read from the scriptures do you feel the Spirit of the Lord? Can you recall an answer to prayer? Have you been comforted by the Spirit when you’ve grieved? Are spiritual experiences generously sprinkled in your walk through life? If yes, keep the good work up, if not, have the courage to face up to the issues that are hindering the Spirit from being part of your daily walk.
Our attitudes and assumptions about what it takes to get close to the Lord can help or hinder us. I hope what I’ve written will help my family, friends, and interested others to awaken to their spiritual possibilities if they are in need.
I’ll close with a scripture that encourages followers of Christ to rely on the Lord no matter what level of spirituality their at.
“And ye cannot bear all things now; nevertheless, be of good cheer, for I will lead you along”. D&C 78:18