Saturday, August 16, 2014

Learning to Recognize & Understand the Spirit

There is a question that I get asked everyday: How do I recognize and understand when the spirit is talking to me? I think we all struggle with this question. We wonder whether thoughts that come to our mind are our thoughts or thoughts that come from the spirit. It is one of the most difficult thing for all of us to answer. Is it me or the spirit? Luckily, there is an entire chapter in Preach My Gospel that helps answer this question!

The other day, I was studying in chapter four of Preach My Gospel, under the heading "Learn to Recognize the Promptings of the Spirit". There was a particular section that really stood out to me. It says, "The Spirit is always available to guide and direct you. However, the Spirit speaks quietly, through your feelings as well as your mind. One great challenge for you and those you work with is to recognize the quiet, subtle promptings of the Holy Ghost."

So, yes. We are all aware that it is a great challenge to learn how to recognize and understand the spirit. So how do we learn?

The other day I was listening to a talk by Diana Holscher, who is a motivational speaker. Her talk was entitled, "Prayers That Reach Heaven". In her talk, she discussed this exact topic. There was something that she suggested that really stuck out to me. Her first suggestion was to write down a time where you REALLY felt the spirit. Then follow that up by writing down a time where you really DIDN'T feel the spirit.

There was a time in my life that I can not deny the spirit I felt. In the October 2012 session of General Conference, President Monson opened it up and made a historical announcement that there had been a lowering of the age for young women to serve missions. "As we have prayerfully pondered the age at which young men may begin their missionary service, we have also given consideration to the age at which a young woman might serve. Today I am pleased to announce that able, worthy young women who have the desire to serve may be recommended for missionary service beginning at age 19, instead of age 21." When I heard these words, I could not deny the spirit. I was overwhelmed. I NEEDED to serve a mission. It was always in the plans, but now I was going to have the opportunity to do it sooner. As I felt the spirit testify to me that this is what the Lord wanted me to do, I could not help by cry. Goosebumps covered my body. This was what the Lord wanted me to do. It is safe for me to say, I have not since felt the spirit so strongly in my life. Although I know that there have been many times where I have received guidance, I have not since felt such a strong impression.

The best example of a time where I knew that I could not feel the spirit was a time shortly after I had come out on my mission. We were invited to teach a sweet, older woman who lived in an assisted living center. It was in a very old building in downtown Vancouver. As my companion and I walked into the building for the first time, we felt as the spirit left. From that moment on, I hated being there. I hated the feelings that I had. The spirit was NOT there. It was at this moment in my life that I felt that the spirit was really, truly, not with me.

Since I have had the opportunity to write these two experiences down, I have slowly begun understanding when I feel the spirit. When he truly is talking to me. These two situations are very black and white for me, but most of the time life is very grey. The spirit most likely isn't going to be so clear with us as these two situations are, but I can pull from both of these experiences to learn in those grey area times. I have come to understand that the best way I can describe how I feel the spirit is peace. There is either peace or unrest as I try to move forward with decisions I have made.

In the Doctrine and Covenants, in section 6, it says:

So here is my challenge to you: Take the time to write down a time where you felt the spirit the strongest and a time where you felt the spirit absolutely missing. Then, as you have determined these things, you will begin to recognize when the spirit is speaking to you in the times of "grey". When you aren't sure that the spirit isn't speaking to you, look at that time when you REALLY didn't feel the spirit. Then ask yourself, "Do I feel that way now?" Most likely not. Then try to zero in on what the spirit is saying to you. Maybe the answer is yes. Maybe the answer is no. Maybe that answer is just make a decision and THEN will I confirm or deny. But JUST LISTEN. Take the time. Pray with real intent, then ponder the thoughts and feelings that come.

I know that the spirit is trying to guide and direct us. The world is going to try and compete for our attention. We must tune out the world and then listen for the spirit. I know that you can now begin understanding when the spirit speaks to you. Take the time and write down these experiences. Your understanding will change! I know it will, because mine has. I am so grateful too!


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