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Spirituality or Emotionalism?

Some initial investigative questions Download PDF Version:

  1. Is “feeling” the Spirit a common, regular, everyday, every class experience? Is it “easy” to feel the Spirit? Is it just a feeling, or does the feeling accompany something else? Did people always think that Joseph Smith was teaching by the Spirit?
  2. Are there counterfeits of “feeling the Spirit”? Can one “fake” it?
  3. What is it that people do to make other people think they are “feeling the Spirit”? What techniques are used? Can people be “stroked” or manipulated into believing they are feeling the Spirit? Can we explain to another person what the Spirit “feels” like? Should we?
  4. Is the Spirit at our beck and call, or is it the other way around? Do we manipulate the Spirit? Can we? Should we?
  5. Is what is called “feeling the Spirit” the same thing that motivates people in other religions to “feel good” about what they “know and believe”? Is it always a positive, upbeat, happy feeling? Why are things that are pleasing to the carnal mind described by some people as “spiritual”?
  6. Is having the Spirit a justification for us to stop thinking? Can we “out think” the Spirit? Is there effort on our part involved?
  7. What is the role of the Holy Ghost? If people presume to take the role of the Spirit upon themselves, then what does the Spirit do? What is the difference between the light of Christ and the Holy Ghost?

Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 149.
The first Comforter or Holy Ghost has no other effect than pure intelligence. It is more powerful in expanding the mind, enlighening the understanding, and storing the intellect with present knowledge, of a man who is of the literal seed of Abraham, than one that is a Gentile

Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 189.
There are three independent principles; the Spirit of God, the spirit of man, and the spirit of the devil.

Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 331.
But there has been a great difficulty in getting anything into the heads of this generation. It has been like splitting hemlock knots with a corn-dodger [bread] for a wedge, and a pumpkin for a beetle [hammer]. Even the Saints are slow to understand.

I have tried for a number of years to get the minds of the Saints prepared to receive the things of God; but we frequently see some of them, after suffering all they have for the work of God, will fly to pieces like glass as soon as anything comes that is contrary to their traditions: they cannot stand the fire at all. How many will be able to abide a celestial law, and go through and receive their exaltation, I am unable to say, as many are called, but few are chosen.

Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 307.
I desire the learning and wisdom of heaven alone. I have not the least idea, if Christ should come to the earth and preach such rough things as He preached to the Jews, but that this generation would reject Him for being so rough.

Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 328.
This generation is as corrupt as the generation of the Jews that crucified Christ; and if He were here to-day, and should preach the same doctrine He did then, they would put Him to death.

Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 112.
If the Church knew all the commandments, one-half they would condemn through prejudice and ignorance.

Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 225.
President [Joseph] Smith continued by speaking of the difficulties he had to surmount ever since the commencement of the work, in consequence of aspiring men,”Great big Elders,” as he called them, who caused him much trouble; to whom he had taught the things of the kingdom in private councils, they would then go forth into the world and proclaim the things he had taught them, as their own revelations; said the same aspiring disposition will be in this [Relief] Society, and must be guarded against … He said he had been trampled under foot by aspiring Elders, for all were infected with that spirit; for instance, John E. Page and others had been aspiring; they could not be exalted, but must run away as though the care and authority of the Church were vested with them. He said he had a subtle devil to deal with, and could only curb him by being humble.

Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 289.
… I refer to the prophets [in the Old Testament] to qualify my observations which I make, so that the young elders who know so much, may not rise up like a flock of hornets and sting me. I want to keep out of such a wasp-nest.

Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 270.
Some of the company thought I was not a very meek Prophet; so I told them: “I am meek and lowly in heart,” and will personify Jesus for a moment, to illustrate the principle, and cried out with a loud voice, “Woe unto you, ye doctors; woe unto you, ye lawyers; woe unto you, ye scribes, Pharisees, and hypocrites!” But you cannot find the place where ever went that I found fault with their food, their drink, their house, their lodgings; no, never; and this is what is meant by the meekness and lowliness of Jesus.

Joseph Fielding Smith, Answers to Gospel Questions, 4:89.
The world today does not have this great gift [of the Holy Ghost] because men have [1] forsaken the way of the Lord, have [2] discarded his ordinances, and [3] teach the philosophies of men.

The Lord will grant to any honest person who earnestly seeks to know the truth one manifestation by the Holy Ghost; but he is not entitled to repeated manifestations. After such a revelation is given, he is to act, for the Holy Ghost cannot be appealed to for continued manifestations until after baptism and the gift has been bestowed. Cornelius is a good example of this. [Acts 10; see also Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 199. Italics in original.]

Joseph Fielding Smith, CES Book of Mormon student manual, (1996), 43; “We Are Here To Be Tried, Tested, Proved,” BYU Speeches of the Year [25 Oct 1961], 4-5.
Now I am going to say something that maybe I could not prove, but I believe is true, that we have a great many members of this Church who have never received a manifestation through the Holy Ghost. Why? Because they have not made their lives conform to the truth. And the Holy Ghost will not dwell in unclean tabernacles or disobedient tabernacles. The Holy Ghost will not dwell with that person who is unwilling to obey and keep the commandments of God or who violates those commandments willfully. In such a soul the spirit of the Holy Ghost cannot enter. That great gift comes to us only through humility and faith and obedience. Therefore, a great many members of the Church do not have that guidance. Then some cunning, crafty individual will come along teaching that which is not true, and without guidance which is promised to us through our faithfulness, people are unable to discern and are led astray.

President Howard W. Hunter, “Eternal Investments,” President of the Quorum of the Twelve, 10 February 1989, Assembly Hall, Temple Square.
Let me offer a word of caution on this subject. I think if we are not careful as professional teachers working in the classroom every day, we may begin to try to counterfeit the true influence of the Spirit of the Lord by unworthy and manipulative means. I get concerned when it appears that strong emotion or free-flowing tears are equated with the presence of the Spirit. Certainly the Spirit of the Lord can bring strong emotional feelings, including tears, BUT that outward manifestation ought not to be confused with the presence of the Spirit itself.

I have watched a great many of my brethren over the years and we have shared some rare and unspeakable spiritual experiences together. Those experiences have all been different, each special in its own way, and such sacred moments may or may not be accompanied by tears. Very often they are, but sometimes they are accompanied by total silence. Other times they are accompanied by joy. Always they are accompanied by a great manifestation of the truth, of revelation to the heart [pure intelligence, Teachings, 149].

Give your students gospel truth powerfully taught; that is the way to give them a spiritual experience. Let it come naturally and as it will, perhaps with the shedding of tears, BUT perhaps not. If what you say is the truth, and you say it purely and with honest conviction, those students will feel the spirit of the truth being taught them and will recognize that inspiration and revelation has come into their hearts. That is how we build faith. That is how we strengthen testimonies — with the power of the word of God taught in purity and with conviction.

Harold B. Lee quoting Brigham Young, Conference Report, October 1950, 129-130 (also in CES Rel 333 manual Teaching of the Living Prophets [1982], 47). This is what has been said, if effect, in this conference: Unless every member of this Church gains for himself an unshakable testimony of the divinity of this Church, he will be among those who will be deceived in this day when the “elect according to the covenant” are going to be tried and tested. Only those will survive who have gained for themselves that testimony.

… I remembered the words of Brigham Young:

Were your faith concentrated upon the proper object, your confidence unshaken, your lives pure and holy, every one fulfilling the duty of his or her calling according to the priesthood and capacity bestowed upon you, you would be filled with the Holy Ghost, and it would be as impossible for any man to deceive and to lead you to destruction as for a feather to remain unconsumed in the midst of intense heat.

And then this:

I am more afraid that this [LDS] people have so much confidence in their leaders that they will not inquire for themselves of God whether they are being led by him. I am fearful they settle down in a state of blind security, trusting their eternal destiny in the hands of their leaders with a reckless confidence that in itself would thwart the purposes of God in their salvation, and weaken that influence they could give their leaders in they know for themselves by the revelations of Jesus Christ that they are led in the right way. Let every man and woman know by the whisperings of the Spirit of God to themselves whether their leaders are walking in the way the Lord dictates or not.

To me, there is a tremendous truth. It is not alone sufficient for us a Latter-day Saints to follow our leaders and to accept their counsel, but we have the greater obligation to gain for ourselves [1] the unshakable testimony of the divine appointment of these men and [2] the witness that what they have told us is the will of our Heavenly Father.

Marion G. Romney, “The Gifts of the Spirit,” Conference Report, Apr. 1956, 68 ff.
These citations [Ex 7:11-12; Isa 8:19; Mt 7:21-23; History of the Church 1:109-110; D&C 28:11; 46:7] not only sustain the proposition that there are counterfeits to the gifts of the spirit, but they also suggest the origin of the counterfeits. However, we are not required to rely alone upon their implications, plain as they are, for the Lord states specifically that some of the counterfeits “are of men, and others of devils.” (D&C 46:7.)

Some of these counterfeits are crude and easily detected, but others closely simulate true manifestations of the spirit. Consequently, people are confused and deceived by them. Without a key, one cannot distinguish between the genuine and the counterfeit. The Egyptians could not tell the difference between the power through which Moses and Aaron worked and that by which the magicians worked. On the day of Pentecost, the non-believers did not recognize that the apostles were speaking in tongues by the power of the spirit; on the contrary, they concluded that they were “drunken with new wine.” The Savior himself said, “… there shall also arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders, insomuch, that, if possible, they shall deceive the very elect, who are the elect according to the covenant.” (JS-M 1:22.)
Now those “who are the elect according to the covenant” are members of the Church, so we ourselves are on notice to beware.

Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, 203 ff.
One great evil is, that men are ignorant of the nature of spirits…. Hence the Methodists, Presbyterians, and others frequently possess a spirit that will cause them to lie down, and during its operation, animation is frequently entirely suspended; they consider it to be the power of God, and a glorious manifestation from God–a manifestation of what? Is there any intelligence communicated? Are the curtains of heaven withdrawn, or the purposes of God developed? Have they seen and conversed with an angel–or have the glories of futurity burst upon their view? No! but their body has been inanimate, the operation of their spirit suspended, and all the intelligence that can be obtained from them when they arise, is a shout of “glory,” or “hallelujah,” or some incoherent expression; but they have had “the power.”

The Shaker will whirl around on his heel, impelled by a supernatural agency or spirit, and think that he is governed by the Spirit of God; and the Jumper will jump and enter into all kinds of extravagances. A Primitive Methodist will shout under the influence of that spirit, until he will rend the heavens with his cries; while the Quakers (or Friends) moved as they think, by the Spirit of God, will sit still and say nothing. Is God the author of all this? If not all of it, which does He recognize? Surely, such a heterogeneous mass of confusion never can enter into the kingdom of heaven.

… Who can detect the spirit of the French prophets with their revelations and their visions, and power of manifestations? Or who can point out the spirit of the Irvingites, with their apostles and prophets, and visions and tongues, and interpretations, etc.? Or who can drag into daylight and develop the hidden mysteries of the false spirits that so frequently are made manifest among the Latter-day Saints? We answer that no man can do this without [1] the Priesthood, and having a [2] knowledge of the laws by which spirits are governed; for as no man knows the things of God, but by the Spirit of God, so no man knows the spirit of the devil, and his power and influence, but by [3] possessing intelligence which is more than human, and having unfolded through the medium of the Priesthood [4] the mysterious operations of his devices; without knowing the angelic form, the sanctified look and gesture, and the zeal [emotion] that is frequently manifested by him for the glory of God, together with the prophetic spirit, the gracious influence, the godly appearance, and the holy garb, which are so characteristic of his proceedings and his mysterious windings.

A man must have [5] the discerning of spirits before he can drag into daylight this hellish influence and unfold it unto the world in all its soul-destroying, diabolical, and horrid colors; for nothing is a greater injury to the children of men than to be under the influence of a false spirit when they think they have the Spirit of God….

We have also had brethren and sisters who have had the gift of tongues falsely; they would speak in a muttering, unnatural voice, and their bodies be distorted like the Irvingites before alluded to; whereas, there is nothing unnatural in the Spirit of God….

There have also been ministering angels in the Church which were of Satan appearing as an angel of light. A sister in the state of New York had a vision, who said it was told her that if she would go to a certain place in the woods, an angel would appear to her. She went at the appointed time, and saw a glorious personage descending, arrayed in white, with sandy colored hair; he commenced and told her to fear God, and said that her husband was called to do great things, but that he must not go more than one hundred miles from home, or he would not return; whereas God had called him to go to the ends of the earth, and he has since been more than one thousand miles from home, and is yet alive. Many true things were spoken by this personage, and many things that were false. How, it may be asked, was this known to be a bad angel? By the color of his hair; that is one of the signs he can be known by, and by his contradicting a former revelation.

We have also had brethren and sisters who have written revelations, and who have started forward to lead this Church. Such was a young boy in Kirtland, Isaac Russell, of Missouri, and Gladden Bishop, and Oliver Olney of Nauvoo. The boy is now living with his parents who have submitted to the laws of the Church. Mr. Russell stayed in Far West, from whence he was to go to the Rocky Mountains, led by three Nephites; but the Nephites never came, and his friends forsook him, all but some of the blood relatives, who have since been nearly destroyed by the mob. Mr. Bishop was tried by the High Council, his papers examined, condemned and burned, and he cut off the Church…. Mr. Olney has also been tried by the High Council and disfellowshipped, because he would not have his writings tested by the word of God; evidently proving that he loves darkness rather than light, because his deeds are evil. (April 1, 1842. HC 4:571-581.)

Boyd K. Packer, “Candle of the Lord” (to new mission presidents) 6/25/82.
We do not have the words (even the scriptures do not have words) which perfectly describe the spirit. The scriptures generally use the word voice, which does not exactly fit. These delicate, refined spiritual communications are not seen with our eyes, nor heard with our ears. And even though it is described as a voice, it is a voice that one feels, more than one hears.

Once I came to understand this, one verse in the Book of Mormon took on a profound meaning, and my testimony of the book increased immeasurably. It had to do with Laman and Lemuel, who rebelled against Nephi. Nephi rebuked them and said, “Ye have seen an angel, and he spake unto you; yea, ye have heard his voice from time to time; and he hath spoken unto you in a still small voice, but ye were past feeling, that ye could not feel his words.” (1 Ne 17:45; italics added [by BKP].) …

Should an angel appear and converse with you, neither you nor he would be confined to corporeal sight or sound in order to communicate. For there is that spiritual process, described by the Prophet Joseph, by which pure intelligence can flow into our minds and we can know what we need to know without either the drudgery of study or the passage of time, for it is revelation….

The Spirit does not get our attention by shouting or shaking us with a heavy hand. Rather it whispers. It caresses so gently that if we are preoccupied we may not feel it at all. (No wonder that the Word of Wisdom was revealed to us, for how could the drunkard or the addict feel such a voice?) …

I have learned that strong, impressive spiritual experiences do not come to us very frequently. And when they do, they are generally for our own edification, instruction, or correction. Unless we are called by proper authority to do so, they do not position us to counsel or correct others.

I have come to believe also that it is not wise to continually talk of unusual spiritual experiences….

There is something else to learn. A testimony is not thrust upon you; a testimony grows. We become taller in testimony like we grow taller in physical stature; we hardly know it happens because it comes by growth.

It is not wise to wrestle with the revelations with such insistence as to demand immediate answers or blessings to your liking. You cannot force spiritual things. Such words as compel, coerce, constrain, pressure, demand, do not describe our privileges with the Spirit….

Do no be impatient to gain great spiritual knowledge. Let it grow, help it grow, but do not force it or you will open the way to be misled.
We are expected to use the light and knowledge we already possess to work out our lives. We should not need a revelation to instruct us to be up and about our duty, for we have been told to do that already in the scriptures; nor should we expect revelation to replace the spiritual or temporal intelligence which we have already received–only to extend it. We must go about our life in an ordinary, workaday way, following the routines and rules and regulations that govern life….

Be ever on guard lest you be deceived by inspiration from an unworthy source. You can be given false spiritual messages. There are counterfeit spirits just as there are counterfeit angels. (See Moro 7:17.) Be careful lest you be deceived, for the devil may come disguised as an angel of light.

The spiritual part of us and the emotional part of us are so closely linked that it is possible to mistake an emotional impulse for something spiritual. We occasionally find people who receive what they assume to be spiritual promptings from God, when those promptings are either centered in the emotions or are from the adversary.

Boyd K. Packer, General Conference, Ensign, Nov 1991, 21 ff.
… While we may invite this [divine] communication, it can never be forced! If we try to force it, we may be deceived….
For the past several years we have watched patterns of reverence and irreverence in the Church. While many are to be highly commended, we are drifting. We have reason to be deeply concerned. The world grows increasingly noisy. Clothing and grooming and conduct are looser and sloppier and more disheveled. Raucous music, with obscene lyrics blasted through amplifiers while lights flash psychedelic colors, characterizes the drug culture. Variations of these things are gaining wide acceptance and influence over our youth. Doctors even say that our physical sense of hearing can be permanently damaged by all of this noise.

This trend to more noise, more excitement, more contention, less restraint, less dignity, less formality is not coincidental nor innocent nor harmless….

Our sacrament and other meetings need renewed attention to assure that they are truly worship services in which members may be spiritually nourished and have their testimonies replenished and in which investigators may feel the inspiration essential to spiritual conversion. Our meeting houses are designed so that we may enjoy socials, dancing, drama, even sports. All of these are important. But these auxiliary activities should be subdued when compared with what the world is doing. Music, dress, and conduct associated with them are quite different from what is appropriate in the chapel or classroom on the Sabbath day.

When we return for Sunday meetings, the music, dress, and conduct should be appropriate for worship. Foyers are built into our chapels to allow for the greeting and chatter that are typical of people who love one another. However, when we step into the chapel we must– each of us must–watch ourselves lest we be guilty of intruding when someone is struggling to feel delicate spiritual communications.
Leaders sometimes wonder why so many active members get themselves into such predicaments in life. Could it be that they do not feel what they need to feel because our meetings are less than they might be spiritually? Irreverent conduct in our chapels is worthy of a reminder, if not reproof. Leaders should teach that reverence invites revelation….

There is something else: We are drifting from the use of reverential words in our prayers. Familiar terms such as you and yours are replacing thee and thine in prayer. Teach the children and gently inform new members that we use reverential terms when addressing our Heavenly Father in prayer.

Boyd K. Packer, Tasting Salt – Describing the Spirit. Conference Report, October 1964, 126-129.
Some time ago a representative of the Church on a plane bound for a large west coast city was drawn into conversation with a young attorney. Their conversation centered on the front page of a newspaper, a large city tabloid with the sordid, the ugly, the tragic openly displayed.

The attorney said the newspaper was typical of humanity and typical of life – miserable, meaningless, and in all ways useless and futile. The elder protested, holding that life was purposeful, and that there lives a God who loves his children, and that life is good indeed.

When the attorney learned that he was speaking to a minister of the gospel, he said with some emphasis, “All right! We have one hour and twenty-eight minutes left on this flight, and I want you to tell me what business you or anyone else has traipsing about the earth saying that there is a God or that life has any substantial meaning.”

Jesus Is the Christ

He then confessed himself to be an atheist and pressed his disbelief so urgently that finally he was told, “You are wrong, my friend. There is a God. He lives. I know he lives.” And he heard the elder proclaim with fervor his witness that Jesus is the Christ.

But the testimony fell on doubtful ears. “You don’t know,” he said. “Nobody knows that! You can’t know it.”

The elder would not yield and the attorney finally said condescendingly, “All right. You say you know. Then [inferring, ‘if you are so smart’] tell me how you know.”

The elder had been faced with questions before, in written and oral examinations attendant to receiving advanced degrees, but never had a question come which seemed to be so monumentally significant.

I mention this incident, for it illustrates the challenge that members of the Church face – all of them. This challenge particularly becomes a stumbling block to our youth. They face a dilemma when the cynic and the skeptic treat them with academic contempt because they hold to a simple child-like faith. Before such a challenge many of them turn away, embarrassed and ashamed that they cannot answer the question.

Essential to Knowledge of Spiritual Truth

As our friend attempted to answer this question, he found himself helpless to communicate with the attorney for when he said, “The Holy Ghost has borne witness to my soul,” the attorney said, “I don’t know what you are talking about.”

The words “prayer” and “discernment” and “faith” were meaningless to the attorney, for they were outside the realm of his experience.

“You see,” said the attorney, “you don’t really know. If you did, you would be able to tell me how you know.” The implication was that anything we know we readily can explain in words alone.

But Paul said:

Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.

Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.

But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. (1 Cor 2:12-14.)

The elder felt that he might have borne his testimony unwisely and prayed in his heart that if the young attorney could not understand the words, he could at least feel the sincerity of the declaration.

“All knowledge is not conveyed in words alone,” he said. And then he asked the attorney, “Do you know what salt tastes like?”

“Of course I do,” was the reply.

“When did you taste salt last?”

“Why, just as we had dinner on the plane.”

“You just think you know what salt tastes like,” said the elder.

“I know what salt tastes like as well as I know anything,” said the attorney.

“If I gave you a cup of salt and a cup of sugar and let you taste them both, could you tell the salt from the sugar?”

“Now you are getting juvenile,” was his reply. “Of course I could tell the difference. I know what salt tastes like. It is an everyday experience; I know it as well as I know anything.”

“Then,” said the elder, “may I ask you one further question? Assuming that I had never tasted salt, could you explain to me, in words, just what it tastes like?”

After some thought the attorney ventured, “Well . . . I . . . it is not sweet, and it is not sour.”

“You have told me what it isn’t,” was the answer, “not what it is.”

Limitations of Words

After several attempts he admitted failure in the little exercise of conveying in words knowledge so commonplace as that. He found himself quite as helpless as the elder had been to answer his question.

As they parted in the terminal the elder bore testimony once again, saying, “I claim to know there is a God. You ridiculed that testimony and said that if I did know I would be able to tell you exactly how I know.

“My friend, spiritually speaking, I have tasted salt. I am no more able to convey to you in words how this knowledge has come than you are to perform the simple exercise of telling me what salt tastes like. But I say to you again, there is a God. He does live. And just because you don’t know, don’t try to tell me that I don’t know, for I do.”

Young people, do not apologize or be ashamed because you cannot frame into words that which you know in your heart to be true. Do not repudiate your testimony merely because you have no marvelous manifestations to discuss.

Lehi saw in his dream those who “tasted the fruit,” and “were ashamed, because of those that were scoffing at them; and they fell away into forbidden paths and were lost.” (1 Nephi 8:28.)

Learning by Other Means

We sympathize with you and know how difficult it is to hold to the truth, particularly when professors of worldly knowledge – some of them counterfeit Christians – debunk and scoff. We know from personal experience that you may have some doubts. You may wonder at times, “Can I ever really know for sure?” You may even wonder, “Does anyone really know for sure?”

President David O. McKay once told of his search for a testimony as a youth. “I realized in youth,” he said, “that the most precious thing that a man could obtain in this life was a testimony of the divinity of this work. I hungered for it.”

He indicated that he had somehow received the impression that the testimony would come as a great spiritual manifestation.

“I remember,” he said, “riding over the hills one afternoon thinking of these things and concluded that there in the silence of the hills was the best place to get that testimony.

“I stopped my horse and threw the reins over his head. . . . I knelt down and with all of the fervor of my heart poured out my soul to God and asked him for a testimony of this gospel. I had in mind that there would be some manifestation, that I should receive some transformation that would leave me without doubt.

“I arose, mounted my horse, and as I started over the trail I remember rather introspectively searching myself, and involuntarily shaking my head, saying to myself, ‘No, sir, there is no change; I am just the same boy I was before I knelt down.'”

Qualifications of Witnesses

President McKay continues, “The anticipated manifestation had not come. Nor was that the only occasion. However, it did come, but not in the way that I had anticipated. Even the manifestation of God’s power and the presence of his angels came, but when it did come, it was simply a confirmation; it was not the testimony.”

In answer to your question, “Can I ever really know for sure?” we answer, just as certainly as you fill the requirements, that testimony will come. The Lord has never said, nor was it ever pretended, that this testimony yields itself to scientific investigation, to mere curiosity, or to academic inquiry.

In answer to your question, “Does anybody really know?” Yes, tens of thousands know. The brethren know. Your parents know.

I have respect for the truth. It is wrong to fabricate, to invent, to mislead.

There is another dimension also. When one has received that witness; and is called to testify, for him to dilute, to minimize, to withhold would be grossly wrong. It is in the face of this that I feel the urgency to bear witness. And I bear my solemn witness that Jesus is the Christ. I say that I know Jesus is the Christ, that the gospel of Jesus Christ was restored to Joseph Smith, a prophet of God, that David O. McKay who presides over this Church is a prophet of God. In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Boyd K. Packer, Ensign, Aug 1975, 85 ff.
I think I should alert you to the fact that the talk I have prepared is not really very interesting. That, I must claim, is not because I have not spent time in preparing it, for I have — a good deal more than usual. I want very much to be informative, and if you find that the talk is not interesting — and you may — be patient with the thought that in this case I would rather teach a few of you than entertain all of you….

I have become very anxious over the amount of counseling that we seem to need in the Church, and the network of counseling services that we keep building up — without once emphasizing the principle of self-reliance as it is understood in the welfare program. There are too many in the Church who seem to be totally dependent, emotionally and spiritually, upon others. They subsist on some kind of emotional welfare. They are unwilling to sustain themselves. They become so dependent that they endlessly need to be shored up, lifted up, endlessly need encouragement, and they contribute little of their own….

Has it occurred to you that many problems can be solved by reading the scriptures? We should all personally be familiar with the revelations. As part of your emotional self-reliance, read the scriptures. I fear that leaders, both in the stakes and in the University, may be doling out counsel and advice without first requiring you to call on every personal resource and every family resource before seeking a solution of your problems from the Church….

I think that an emotional dole system can be as dangerous as a material dole system, and we can become so dependent that we stand around waiting for the Church to do everything for us. A few years ago I received a telephone call from a bishop whose son had been inducted into the military service and was at an army basic training center. The father said, “He’s been there for three weeks and he hasn’t been to church yet.” Then he described his son as being an active Latter-day Saint, faithful in his duties. He had received his Duty to God award and was typical of the fine young men in the Church. “He’s never missed a church meeting before,” his father said. “Isn’t there something you can do to help?” The boy had telephoned and said that no one had come yet to invite him to go to church.

I made an investigation of the circumstances. Can you picture the following: In the barracks a few feet from his bunk was a bulletin board. On it was an 8-1/2 x 11 bulletin with a picture of the Salt Lake Temple on it, and a listing of the meeting times at the base chapel. He had been to an orientation for all new inductees, conducted by one of the base chaplains. While in this case it was not a Latter-day Saint chaplain, there was a Latter-day Saint chaplain at that installation. This fact had been noted in the lecture, incidentally. He had been told that if he wanted to know about church services to talk to the sergeant on duty, or he could contact any chaplain’s office and that information would readily be given him.
He, however, had been told before he left home that the Church had a wonderful program to help young men in the military service. He was assured that the Church was doing everything to take care of our men and that we would find them and look after them and bring the full Church program to them. He had, therefore, laid back on his bunk, propped up his feet, put his head on the pillow, and waited for the Church to do everything for him. He waited three weeks and was disappointed enough that he called his father, the bishop, to say that the Church had failed him.

Now this was not malicious. It was just that he had been brought up with the idea that the whole effort and duty of the Church was to look after him. (He had missed the very point that the whole effort of the Church is to give him the opportunity to serve someone else.) Surely, since he was away from home and in a strange place and needing attention more than he had every needed it in his life, all of that help, he was sure, would be forthcoming immediately without any effort on his part. He had been weakened by a dole system and was now in mortal spiritual jeopardy because he would not act for himself. That experience had a great effect on me, and when we reorganized the military relations program, it was entirely changed in its emphasis from what it had been before over the years. This change can be illustrated by one thing: The old program urged the ward or the quorum to subscribe to the Church magazine for every man entering the military service. It was the duty of the bishop to see that the subscription was renewed during the time of his enlistment. Now we have changed all of that. Now we counsel the young man to subscribe to the magazine himself and to pay for it out of his own money. He ordinarily has money to spend on less useful things, and he should learn to take care of himself at the very beginning. If he cannot, for one reason or another, then his family should supply it. If they cannot, or if in some cases they will not, then and only then would it be the responsibility of the ward or the quorum to step in and see that this important Church publication is sent to him.

We found that our men would not bother to file change-of-address cards for the magazines if the subscriptions had been doled out to them. They had done nothing to earn them, and they didn’t appreciate them. On one occasion we had a communication from the commanding general at Fort Ord asking us to please cease and desist from sending subscriptions of Church magazines to men in basic training. They were there for only a few weeks and then they moved on. He advise, “We literally have a roomful of what now must be termed “junk mail.” Under military regulations we cannot forward it and therefore must destroy it.” It is interesting to see what has happened in that military relations program. It used to be that every week there would be many letters, “My boy is somewhere. Please, won’t you get all of the Church working to find him?” We have put the shoe on the other foot. He’s finding himself now. He is more self-reliant.

In virtually every ward or branch there are chronic cases of individuals who endlessly seek counsel but never follow the counsel that is given. That, some may assume, is not serious. I think it is very serious! Like the common cold, it drains more strength out of humanity than any other disease. We seem to be developing an epidemic of “counselitis” which drains spiritual strength from the Church. Spiritual self-reliance is the sustaining power in the Church. If we rob you of that, how can you get the revelation that there is a prophet of God? How can you get answer to prayer? How can you know? If we move so quickly to answer all your questions and provide so many ways to solve all of your problems, we may end up weakening you, not strengthening you.

Now I say here that I know quite well that some counselors are apt to say, “My counseling does not rob one of his self-reliance because I use the nondirective counseling approach. I am scrupulously careful not to take a position. I merely reflect back comments and feelings of the individual so that he will make the decision totally himself. I do my counseling by nondirection and never make a value judgment.”

While I have respect for that procedure of counseling as a method, I think that if that’s all they do, nondirection, very often that’s precisely what we get from the counseling — no direction. When counselors schedule interminable sessions to say as little as possible while the student is struggling to try to decide if something’s right or wrong, and the counselor already knows, that’s a waste of time. So is the fussing around trying to determine whether it is right for you under the circumstances or wrong for you under the circumstances, when anyone with any moral sense would know that if a course is wrong, it’s wrong for anybody and it’s wrong for everybody.

In the Church, the directive pattern of counseling is at least as respectable and decent and desirable and needed as the nondirective approach to counseling. Unfortunately, we see very little of it anymore. How sweet and refreshing for a branch president or a bishop or a counselor to say clearly to a student, “This course is right and this course is wrong. Now, you go and make the decision.” The student ought to know what is right and what is wrong by the quickest method possible, and that may be very directive. There is a crying need for counselors who will say pointedly and plainly, “This is wrong. It’s evil. It’s bad. It will bring you unhappiness. This course is right. It is good. It is desirable. It will bring you happiness.” Then the agency comes when the individual determines for himself whether or not he will follow the right course.

In the world, this preoccupation with counseling has led to a number of experiments from which we are not entirely free in the Church. There are those counselors who want to delve deeper into the lives of subjects than is emotionally or spiritually healthy. I think I should explain here that when I use the word counselor I’m not just talking about professional counselors. I’m talking about all of us who are responsible for counseling. There are those who want to draw out and analyze and take apart and dissect. While a certain amount of catharsis is healthy and essential, overmuch of it can be degenerating. It is seldom as easy to put something back together as it is to take it apart.

There have been developed several procedures for group therapy. They are promoted under a number of titles: sensitivity training, self-actualization, training groups or T-groups, simulation, transactional analysis, encounter groups, marathon counseling sessions. Some even function under such titles as value clarification, one or two under the title of character education, and so on. Although they differ in some respects (none of them is exactly alike), one or more of the following elements is apparent in all of them: They recognize no ultimate source for truth. All values are those established by the individuals or by the group. There is no reference to God. They encourage a free and full expression, something of a confession, before the group of every intimate and personal feeling and experience. They encourage an openness, a touching, and a closeness among the members of the group, and they attempt to resolve problems simply by finding a comfortable [“spiritual”?] interaction. Above all, they avoid any feeling of guilt.

There are major emotional and spiritual dangers involved in such procedures, and members of the Church would do well to be very cautious — perhaps best to leave them alone. [Some scriptural references: 2 Ne 28:31; 2 Ne 9:28-29; 2 Ne 2:4-5; D&C 1:19.] …

I think I should mention one other thing, and I hope this won’t be misunderstood. We often find young people who will pray with great exertion over matters that they are free to decide for themselves. Suppose, if you will, that a couple had money available to build a house. Suppose they had prayed endlessly over whether they should build an Early American style, a ranch style, modern style architecture, or perhaps a Mediterranean style. Has it ever occurred to you that perhaps the Lord just plain doesn’t care? Let them build what they want to build. It’s their choice….

Now, if you start receiving revelation for anyone else’s jurisdiction, you know immediately that you’re out of order, that they come from the wrong source. You will not receive revelation to counsel your bishop or to correct the leaders of the Church….

Roy W. Doxey, Ensign, Februay 1973, 57
[Brigham Young said] he knew he had the Spirit of God with him because he thought about the gospel continually.

Dallin H. Oaks, BYU 1981-82 Fireside & Devotional Speeches, pp. 20 ff.
President Lorenzo Snow declared that it is “the grand privilege of every Latter-day Saint … to have the manifestations of the spirit every day of our lives” (CR, April 1899, 52) [Study the scriptures daily.] …

“There are counterfeit signals” (Boyd K. Packer, “Prayers and Answers,” Ensign, November 1979, 20). Satan is a great deceiver, and he is the source of some of these spurious revelations. Others are simply imagined….

I have heard of cases where a young man told a young woman she should marry him because he had received a revelation that she was to be his eternal companion. If this is a true revelation, it will be confirmed directly to the woman if she seeks to know. In the meantime, she is under no obligation to heed it. She should seek her own guidance and make up her own mind. The man can receive revelations to guide his own actions, but he cannot properly receive revelation to direct hers. She is outside his stewardship.

What about those times when we seek revelation and do not receive it? We do not always receive inspiration or revelation when we request it. Sometimes we are delayed in the receipt of revelation, and sometimes we are left to our own judgment. We cannot force spiritual things.

Joseph Fielding McConkie, Seeking the Spirit, 45
Nothing is imitated more often or counterfeited more frequently than spirituality.

Joseph Fielding McConkie, Seeking the Spirit, 7.
Considerable effort is necessary to become fluent in the language of the Spirit. Some who are unwilling to expend the effort to learn that language justify their spiritual lethargy by denying the reality of such things. To all such, gospel treasures or wisdom remain hidden.

Joseph Fielding McConkie, Seeking the Spirit, 10.
We choose to associate with those among us with whom we feel most comfortable; the Spirit of the Lord does likewise.

Joseph Fielding McConkie, Seeking the Spirit, 46-49.
The efforts of such people to assess true spirituality usually fall short of the mark as do their efforts to imitate it. To some, spirituality is a sanctimonious list of do’s and don’ts; to others it is a religious rally and a bumper sticker. Many are satisfied with a new set of terms to say that what they were doing before is all right. To still others, it is regularity in attending certain religious services or in obeying some other kind of commandment. Some measure spirituality by the zeal with which they vocalize certain tenets and the unrelenting attacks they make on the beliefs of others. For others it takes the form of masochism or personal denial, while there are those who use it as means to hide from the realities of life. Setting all such aside, let us see if by carefully searching the scriptures we can paint a word picture that at least leaves the proper impression in our minds as to what true spirituality is and how it is obtained.

Isaiah declared that “the work of righteousness shall be peace; and the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance forever.” (Isa 32:17.) Just as it was intended that good works be accomplished quietly, so it is that the attendant spiritual rewards be unobtrusive. God is not a showman, and ostentatious displays quickly alienate his Spirit. Loud and indecorous behaviors provide a sharp contrast with the quiet assurance Isaiah suggested would be characteristic of those whose lives have truly been touched by the Spirit.

One of the most expressive passages dealing with the process of gaining spiritual understanding is found in Doctrine and Covenants 98:12. It reads: “For he will give unto the faithful line upon line, precept upon precept.” Then the Lord adds, “and I will try you and prove you herewith.” This passage limits the knowledge of spiritual things to the faithful, notes that a process is involved — undoubtedly spanning a significant period of time — and suggests that this slow schooling process of the Lord’s will in itself prove to be the test of faith. Faith, like any other spiritual talent, grows gradually and is strengthened as it is used. We will consider the manner in which revelation is granted at greater depth in a subsequent chapter; yet, appropriately it could be noted at this point that the Lord has announced his system for manifesting his will as one in which understanding is granted “line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little.” (2 Ne 28:30.) Those who are obedient and responsive to this process are rewarded with greater spiritual endowments, while those who announce themselves satisfied with their present state — not desiring to move forward — lose the understanding and light that they once possessed. In both instances, the process is quiet and gradual.

In this same context the Lord has said that those who live gospel principles will “learn wisdom,” and then he added, “for unto him that receiveth I will give more; and from them that shall say, We have enough, from them shall be taken away even that which they have.” (2 Ne 28:30.) Two basic concepts are involved here: First, that they key to knowledge is knowledge. That is, obtaining knowledge increases our capacity to obtain still more knowledge. In large measure, we learn by relating things to each other — by identifying how things are similar; thus, the obtaining of knowledge becomes an ever-widening circle.

Conversely, and this is the second concept, when we arrive at the point at which we say “we have enough,” we start to lose knowledge. For instance, President Harold B. Lee said of George Washington that he was an educated man because he never went to school — thus he never quit learning. In the realm of spiritual things any religion that says the heavens are sealed and the Lord no longer speaks begins, like a schoolboy who has closed his books for summer vacation, to forget or lose even that which it had. Even in the realm of spiritual things the rich get richer and the poor get poorer.

Faith comes by righteousness. The Holy Ghost will associate with none but the clean. To the extent to which we are able to sanctify ourselves, we are welcomed into the association of those powers and influences reserved for the pure in heart. “No man is possessor of all things except he be purified and cleansed from all sin. And if ye are purified and cleansed from all sin, ye shall ask whatsoever you will in the name of Jesus and it shall be done.” (D&C 50:28-29.) The Lord has said that his eyes are upon us and that he is in our midst though we see him not, “but the day soon cometh that ye shall see me, and know that I am; for the veil of darkness shall soon be rent, and he that is not purified shall not abide the day.” (D&C 38:8.)

Nothing in our spiritual growth exceeds in importance the need for good spiritual hygiene. “Let virtue garnish thy thoughts exceedingly,” wrote the Prophet; “then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God,” and the Holy Ghost become our “constant companion.” (D&C 121:45-46.)

If our faith differs from the world, our works will differ also. Since the works are produced by faith, if our works are good, our faith is good. The claim to having the same faith as the ancients is evidenced only by producing the same results. If they dreamed dreams, we can dream dreams; if they saw visions, we can see visions; if they entertained angles, we can entertain angels; if they had living prophets and revelation, we too can having living prophets and revelation. If their faith made of them a peculiar people, in like manner we can become a peculiar people.

Works are the roots of faith. A system of beliefs that is not rooted in works of righteousness, like a tree whose branches have outgrown its roots, is vulnerable to uprooting by every wind of doctrine or ideological storm that comes its way. This is why the scriptures teach us that we can know the gospel only to the extent that we live it. Salvation consists in our becoming like God: we do that by learning to think as he thinks, believe as he believes, and do as he would do. (Bruce R. McConkie, Conference Report, Apr 1972, 134.)

Having already considered the manner in which Christ advanced from grace to grace, let us now consider the implications of this doctrine as far as men are concerned. Three times within a single sentence we are told that Christ did not receive “a fulness at first,” but rather acquired that fulness advancing “from grace to grace.” (D&C 93:12-14.) The revelation then proceeds to explain that we have had the process by which Christ obtained perfection taught us in order that we might gain an understanding of how and what to worship, that in due time we too might obtain a fulness of the Father. Salvation, then, consists in our advancing after the manner in which Christ advanced. His salvation did not consist of some divine manifestation of power, nor did it center in some particular event. He worked out his salvation with “fear and trembling” over the course of time by making his works the works of the Father, just as we have been commanded to do.

Christ showed the way; the path that we must walk. Our lot, like his, is to learn the will of the Father and do it, advancing from one grace to another, from good works to greater works, from challenges to greater challenges, from service to greater service, from hope to faith, from faith to power, in all things becoming like unto him. True worship takes the form of works. Thus, in Peter’s language we become “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Pet 1:4), or in Joseph Smith’s words, we are “assimilated into {his} likeness.” (Lectures on Faith, 66.) Testimony, spiritual strength, salvation itself, become the product of the things we do — not as the world would falsely tell us of some spiritual experience that assures that we will be saved.

God, in his wisdom, grants only that which we are prepared to receive. No purpose would be served by legions of angels coming from the courts on high to preach and teach in our meetings if they spoke a celestial language or taught principles beyond our comprehension. If an angel is going to communicate effectively with a man, he must condescend to speak in the language and according to the understanding of that man. Any other form of communication would be fruitless. Revelation, if it is to be meaningful, cannot exceed that which we are prepared to receive. If our preparation and understanding are puny, then the revelations we receive will be puny. We would not expect God to add to that which we did not improve upon. “Whom shall he teach knowledge, and whom shall he make to understand doctrine?” the scriptures inquire. Answering, we are told, “them that are weaned from the milk, and drawn from the breasts. For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little and there a little.” (Isa 28:9-10.)

Spiritual growth cannot be programmed. It is not for man to schedule or establish deadlines for the Spirit. The Lord has made it abundantly clear that spiritual blessings are granted according to “his own time, and in his own way, and according to his own will.” (D&C 88:68.) The Lord has assured us that if we ask we shall receive, but that the promised blessings will be granted according to his timetable, not ours; confirmation, assurance, understanding, all will come line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little, as he wills it….

We cannot program spiritual growth any more than we can program physical growth. Imagine how silly it would be for a father to call all of his children in and establish goals for each of them as to how much they should grow in the next six months or year, and then to reward or punish them according to their success in meeting the goals he had established. No one questions that proper nourishment, exercise, and rest will facilitate proper growth, but we cannot demand it — we cannot schedule it. As Christ “waited upon the Lord for the time of his ministry to come,” so we too must learn patience, doing all e can to facilitate the receipt of such blessings, but not supposing it to be our right to dictate them.

Spiritual growth takes effort. The development of spiritual senses takes time. As we struggle in that process, what we learn today will be so much to our advantage tomorrow. The more we know, the greater our capacity to learn. Gospel principles are not mastered in a few days, weeks, or even months. For us to suppose otherwise is to be like the naive child who assumes his education is complete after a similarly short stint in school. The veil between man and the heavens is not drawn in a day; rather, it is pulled back gradually.

The refining of any of our senses takes time and effort. In that relationship we note with interest that people will commonly compensate for the loss of physical senses by developing others to a more marked degree. The ability to utilize these other senses was always theirs but remained dormant simply because no need required them. Similarly, within the soul of man rests a great host of spiritual senses — these latent spiritual abilities anxiously await a time when we choose to develop them.

Joseph Fielding McConkie, Seeking the Spirit, 78.
Still the question persists as to why we were unable to get an answer and save ourselves such anguish and difficulties. To this we can only respond that life is a schoolmaster with some hard lessons to teach, and it is not in the providence of the Lord that people of faith be excused from life’s difficult courses. It is almost axiomatic that life’s greatest lessons come out of its greatest struggles. In the twilight years of his life, Elder Hugh B. Brown observed that he had “learned more from brick bats than bouquets.” Faith, wisdom, judgment, all have their roots in such experiences. As the child must learn to stand on his own and then to walk without assistance, so we too must learn to stand alone and walk alone as we meet some of life’s difficult challenges.

The Lord told Joseph Smith, “A man may receive the Holy Ghost, and it may descend upon him and not tarry with him.” (D&C 130:23.) The implication of this passage is not that unworthiness has forced the Holy Ghost to flee, but rather that there are those occasions in which the Lord leaves us to our own devices and understanding. Elder Bruce R. McConkie has explained that “even a righteous person is often left to himself so that he does not at all times enjoy the promptings of revelation and light from the Holy Ghost.” (Mormon Doctrine, 313.) …

Joseph Fielding McConkie, Teach and Reach, 5, 6.
Students who have been dined on a seven-course meal of fried fluff may have enjoyed the sweetness of its taste [the emotion, the “spirit”], but they soon find that such a meal does not produce sufficient spiritual energy to sustain them when strength is needed….
We live in a world in which synthetics are commonplace: logic and reason, argument and debate, science and archaeology, charisma and humor have all at one time or another been used as substitutes for the Spirit in teaching the gospel.

Joseph Fielding McConkie, The Spirit of Revelation, 124 ff.
Revelation and spiritual experience, like true religion, always have their counterfeits. This is as true within the Church as it is in the world. In greater or lesser degree all of us, as we grow to spiritual maturity, have been tempted with these spiritual shams. Perhaps it would be helpful for us to briefly identify some of their more common forms.

The Spiritual-Bargain Hunters. These are the people who are constantly on the alert for a spiritual sale. They desire salvation without effort or inconvenience. They are often found shopping for counsel, running from Church leader to Church leader seeking answers that justify the course they have already determined to follow. They have mastered the art of selective hearing and selective believing. They continue to shop until they find what they want. These seekers of a bargain-basement theology are offended at the price tag affixed to genuine spiritual experiences and real gospel understanding.

The Saved Mormons. Having had some special spiritual experience or some special relationship with the heavens, these people become resentful when someone disturbs their pleasant spiritual slumber. They have some kinship to those of whom Nephi spoke when he said, “A Bible! A Bible! We have got a Bible, and there cannot be any more Bible.” Their motto seems to be “Knowledge! Understanding! We have knowledge and understanding, and there cannot be any more knowledge or understanding.” Their attitude is often very condescending toward the rest of the congregation who have not yet had the same spiritual experiences they claim.

The Spiritual Con Artists. In one of its most insidious forms, the con game in played by someone using Church membership or priesthood position as collateral for a business deal. This sham also includes the many young men and young women who have had dreams or visions in which they have been given specific directions as to whom they are to marry. A frustration to these manipulators of romance is that so many of them receive instructions that they are to marry the same person. One of the identifying characteristics of the spiritual con artists is the seeming ease with which they get answers to their prayers and the freedom with which they communicate with the heavens.

The Crusaders. Always articulate, these self-ordained spokesmen have a mission to straighten the church out on something or other. Often they can trace their authority to some private conversation with one of the Brethren (usually one who is now dead). Not infrequently their pitch will need as part of its introduction an affirmation of their testimony, loyalty to the Church, and positions that they have held. Of such, beware! There is a world of difference between the person who says, “I believe the Church is true and sustain the Prophet, but …” and the person who says, “I believe the Church is true and sustain the Prophet, therefore …”

The Goose-Pimple Gang. These are those who ride on an emotional wave. If it brings a tear to your eye or raises the hair on your arms, it must be revelation. They love the sensational and the dramatic but quickly lose interest in the scriptures and the basic principles of the gospel. They cherish “hand-me-down” stories that they hold to tenaciously even when confronted by eyewitnesses who tell them their stories are embellished and inaccurate.

The Destroying Angels. These are those who use gospel principles or leadership positions as a club to beat everyone else into line. These angels of destruction are often found impugning the loyalty and commitment of any whose experience, point of view, or spiritual maturity differs from their own. What they see is all there is to be seen. Like the spiritual mole, instead of building on the rock of revelation, they have burrowed beneath it. These souls have made their Sunday clothes from 100 percent pure woolen zeal. They have yet to find out how much more comfortable it is to wear a garment blended with patience, long-suffering, and love unfeigned.

Spirituality is something to be worked at, not something to be played with. Satan can and does use such expressions as “I feel impressed to say,” “It was made known to me,” “After much prayer,” and “It is the will of the Lord that …” Satan, who can speak all languages, also speaks very fluent Mormonese.

Truth can stand on its own. It does not need an office or a position to lean on. It need not be dressed up to appear respectable. It is not enhanced by shows of force, nor is it made more recognizable by emotional displays. Everything that comes from God carries with it its own evidence of its divine origin and needs no artificial coloring to make it more palatable.

Hugh Nibley, “Historicity of the Bible,” Old Testament & Related Studies, 7-8.
… in the ways of disbelief the clergy have led the field. This can be seen in Marneck’s final definition of a “religion without faith,” for in the end he recommends “to the non-believing person access to religious feelings through the substitution (Auslösung) of religious feelings by like feelings of a non-religious nature.” These “non-religious” feelings which are accessible to the complete “non-believer” are found in

o social good works,
o aesthetic experience,
o brotherly love,
o the psychological search for the deeper self, and
o the Ethical Gospel.

But these are the very things that for many years have made up the substance of religion as taught in liberal [Catholic and Protestant] theological seminaries everywhere: truly a “religion without faith.” “Never before,” says a leading Egyptologist, view our times against a sweeping background of world history, “was the human race farther from the divine than it is today. It has in this respect sunk to the lowest abyss.”

Hugh Nibley, “A House of Glory.”
[Re: D&C 109:35.] To carry us over we receive “anointing … sealed … with power from on high.” Without that power we have nothing, as we clearly see when we try to put on our own show, such as church films of various kinds, including much sentimental kitsch with professional, non-LDS actors waxing emotional about situations which they have never experienced. Illustrations in study manuals, tear-jerking stories, photographs of sacred ordinances suffused with frosted light to make them spiritual — do we need all this rhetorical and theatrical Hollywood and Disneyland if we have the real thing? The most impressive temple sessions I have attended have been at Manti where elderly farm people put on a far more intelligent display than the slick professionals. Do we take the real thing seriously enough?

Hugh Nibley, “Zeal without Knowledge.” Approaching Zion, 63ff.
… How many a Latter-day Saint has told me that he can understand the scriptures by pure revelation and does not need to toil at Greek or Hebrew [or English?] as the Prophet and the Brethren did in the School of the Prophets at Kirtland and Nauvoo? Even Oliver Cowdery fell into that trap and was rebuked for it. (D&C 9.)

The principle of knowledge is the principle of salvation. This principle can be comprehended by the faithful and the diligent [“and everyone that does not obtain knowledge sufficient to be saved will be condemned. The principle of knowledge is given us through the knowledge of Jesus Christ.”], says the Prophet Joseph. (Teachings, p. 297.) New converts often get the idea that having accepted the gospel, they have arrived at adequate knowledge. Others say that to have a testimony is to have everything — they have sought and found the Kingdom of Heaven; but their minds go right on working just the same, and if they don’t keep on getting new and testable knowledge, they will assuredly embrace those “wild, enthusiastic [emotional] notions” of the new converts in Kirtland. Note what a different procedure Joseph Smith prescribes: “The first comforter, or Holy Ghost, has no other effect than pure intelligence.” It is not a hot, emotional surge. “It is more powerful in expanding the mind, enlightening the understanding, and storing the intellect with present knowledge, of a literal seed of Abraham than one who is a gentile.” (Teachings, p. 149.) “For as the Holy Ghost falls upon one of the literal seed of Abraham, it is calm and serene [emotional?] and his whole soul and body are only exercised by the pure spirit of intelligence. The spirit of revelation is in connection with these blessings. A person may profit by noticing the first intimation of the spirit of revelation: for instance, when you feel pure intelligence flowing into you, it may give you sudden strokes of ideas … thus by learning the spirit of God and understanding it, you may grow in the principle of revelation.” (Teachings, p. 151.) This is remarkably like the new therapeutic discipline called “biofeedback.” …

In Israel today, there are great contests in which young people and old from all parts of the world display their knowledge of scripture and skill at music, science, or mathematics, in grueling competitions. This sort of thing tends to breed a race of insufferably arrogant, conceited little show-offs — and magnificent performers. They tend to be like the Jews of old, who “sought for things that they could not understand,“ ever “looking beyond the mark,“ and hence falling on their faces: “they must needs fall” (Jacob 4:14). Yet Joseph Smith commends their intellectual efforts as a corrective to the Latter-day Saints, who lean too far in the other direction, giving their young people and old awards for zeal alone, zeal without knowledge — for sitting in endless meetings, for dedicated conformity, and unlimited capacity for suffering boredom. We think it more commendable to get up at 5 a.m. to write a bad book than to get up at 9 o’clock to write a good one — that is pure zeal that tends to breed a race of insufferable, self-righteous prigs and barren minds. One has only to consider the present outpouring of “inspirational” books [and tapes and videos] in the Church which bring little new in the way of knowledge: truisms, and platitudes, kitsch, and cliches have become our everyday diet. The Prophet would never settle for that. “I advise you to go on to perfection and search deeper and deeper into the mysteries of Godliness…. It has always been my province to dig up hidden mysteries — new things — for my hearers.” (Teachings, p. 364.) It actually happens at the BYU, and that not rarely, that students come to a teacher, usually at the beginning of a term, with the sincere request that he refrain from teaching them anything new. They have no desire, they explain, to hear what they do not know already! I cannot imagine that happening at any other school, but maybe it does. Unless we go on to other new things, we are stifling our powers….

Are we here to seek knowledge or to seek the credits that will get us ahead in the world? One of the glorious benefits and promises of the gospel given the Saints in these latter days is that “inasmuch as they sought wisdom, they might receive wisdom … and inasmuch as they were humble they might be made strong, and blessed from on high and receive knowledge from time to time.” (D&C 1:26-28.) But they had to want it and seek for it. What is the state of things? The late President Joseph Fielding Smith wrote in the Melchizedek Priesthood Manual, Answers to Gospel Questions, 1972-73, p. 229, “We are informed that many important things are withheld from us because of the hardness of our hearts and the unwillingness as members of the Church to abide in the covenants and seek divine knowledge.” Our faculties are enlarged,” says Joseph Smith, “in proportion to the heed and diligence given to the light communicated from heaven to the intellect.” (Teachings, p. 51.) If a man “does not get knowledge, he will be brought into captivity by some evil power in the other world, as those spirits will have more knowledge and consequently more power than many men who are on the earth. Hence it needs revelation to assist us, and give us knowledge of the things of God. (Teachings, p. 217.)

Noel B. Reynolds, Academic Vice-President, BYU, Summer 1981.
… too much of the literature used, seen, and quoted in the Church today is just sentimental trash which is designed to pull our heart strings or to moisten our eyes — but it is not born of true spiritual experience. The tendency of our youth to use sentimental stories in Church talks creates a culture of spiritual misunderstanding in which thinking and learning are discouraged.

Because our youth often respond positively to sentimentalism, there is a danger that we might cater to that in the Church instruction more generally…. It [emotional sentimentalism] should never be leaned upon as a substitute for spirituality. Reliance on sentimentality will stunt our own spiritual growth by misleading us and filling our understanding with false experiences.

Two publishing houses which cater to an LDS audience are primarily interested in books either authored by well-known Mormons or so simply written that they give people a warm comfortable feeling without any challenging ideas. Such material fosters flabby reasoning which can easily make us vulnerable to false gospels, moralistic movements, and the irresponsible claims of some scholars and scientists.

Elder Boyd K. Packer, Of the Council of the Twelve, INSPIRING MUSIC–WORTHY THOUGHTS, Conference Reports, Oct 1979.
“Music,” Addison said, “is the only sensual gratification in which mankind may indulge to excess without injury to their moral or religious feelings.” If that were true in his day, it is not in ours. Music, once that innocent, now is often used for wicked purposes.

It has been obvious for centuries that lyrics of the worst kind can be set to music that is innocent of itself. Words which are bad can be set to music which is otherwise good, and lead men astray.

Recently the First Presidency restated this counsel: “Through music, man’s ability to express himself extends beyond the limits of the spoken language in both subtlety and power. Music can be used to exalt and inspire or to carry messages of degradation and destruction. It is therefore important that as Latter-day Saints we at all times apply the principles of the gospel and seek the guidance of the Spirit in selecting the music with which we surround ourselves.” (Priesthood Bulletin, August, 1973.)

In our day music itself has been corrupted. Music can, by its tempo, by its beat, by its intensity, dull the spiritual sensitivity of men. Studies citing physiological effects from some of the extreme music of today neglect the most serious thing concerning it.

Our youth have been brought up on a diet of music that is loud and fast, more intended to agitate than to pacify more intended to excite than to calm. Even so, there is a breadth of it, some soft enough to be innocent and appealing to our youth, and that which is hard, and that is where the problem is.

One of the signs of apostasy in the Christian churches today is the willingness of their ministers to compromise and introduce into what had been, theretofore, the most sacred religious meetings the music of the drug and the hard rock culture. Such music has little virtue and it is repellent to the Spirit of God….

Some have been critical when our leaders have exercised restraint on the kind of music we will allow at Church activities.

Do you want to lose your youth?” they ask.

I would remind all such that it is not the privilege of those called as leaders to slide the Church about as though it were on casters, hoping to put it into the path that men or youth will be safe within it.

President J. Reuben Clark said: “We may not, under our duty, provide or tolerate an unwholesome amusement on the theory that if we do not provide It the youth will go elsewhere to get it. We could hardly set up a roulette table in the Church amusement hall for gambling purposes, with the excuse that if we do not provide it the youth would go to a gambling hall to gamble. We can never really hold our youth thus. Our task is to help the home to plant better standards in the minds of the youth.”

And so we urge parents in the Church to show as much interest in the records and tapes their children purchase as they would the books and magazines they bring into the home. There are many parents who would not for one moment tolerate a pornographic magazine in their homes who unwittingly provide money for music, some of which in its influence can be quite as damaging.

Someone said recently that no music could be degrading, that music in and of itself is harmless and innocent. If that be true, then there should be some explanation for circumstances where local leaders have provided a building–expansive, light, and inviting and have assembled a party of young people dressed modestly, well-groomed, with manners to match. Then overamplified sounds of hard music are introduced and an influence pours into the room that is repellent to the Spirit of God….

We have said a good deal through our youth organizations and at our [page 26] Church schools about dress and grooming standards and have been successful. By comparison, we have not given sufficient counsel and attention, I think, to the music that our young people consume. And “consume” is a proper word. There is much of today’s music that they may well enjoy, if they avoid the hard kind….

Young people, you cannot afford to fill your mind with the unworthy hard music of our day. It is not harmless. It can welcome onto the stage of your mind unworthy thoughts and set the tempo to which they dance and to which you may act. You degrade yourself when you identify with all of those things which seem now to surround such extremes in music: the shabbiness, the irreverence, the immorality, and the addictions. Such music as that is not worthy of you. You should have self-respect. You are a son or a daughter of Almighty God. He has inspired a world full of wonderful things to learn and to do, uplifting music of many kinds that you may enjoy….

Elder Boyd K. Packer, Of the Council of the Twelve, “Prayers and Answers,” Conference Report, October 6, 1979.
It is difficult to separate from the confusion of life that quiet voice of inspiration. Unless you attune yourself, you will miss it. Answers to prayers come in a quiet way. The scriptures describe that voice of inspiration as a still, small voice. If you really try, you can learn to respond to that voice….

There are so many of us who go through life and seldom, if ever, hear that voice of inspiration, because “the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Cor. 2:14). The scriptures have many lessons on this subject. Lehi told his sons of a vision, but Laman and Lemuel resisted his teachings:

“For he truly spake many great things unto them, which were hard to be understood, save a man should inquire of the Lord; and they being hard in their hearts, therefore they did not look unto the Lord as they ought” (I Ne. 15:3). They complained to their younger brother, Nephi, that they could not understand their father, and Nephi asked this question:

“Have ye inquired of the Lord?

“And they said unto [him]: We have not; for the Lord maketh no such thing known unto us” (I Ne. 15:8-9).

Later they intended to do Nephi harm and he said to them: “Ye are swift to do iniquity but slow to remember the Lord your God. Ye have seen an angel, and he spake unto you; yea, ye have heard his voice from time to time; and he hath spoken unto you in a still small voice, but ye were past feeling, that ye could not feel his words” (1 Ne 17:45.)

I have come to know that inspiration comes more as a feeling than as a sound. Young people, stay in condition to respond to inspiration.

I have come to know also that a fundamental purpose of the Word of Wisdom has to do with revelation. From the time you are very little we teach you to avoid tea, coffee, liquor, tobacco, narcotics, and anything else that disturbs your health. And you know that we get very worried when we find one of you tampering with those things. If someone “under the influence” can hardly listen to plain talk, how can they respond to spiritual promptings that touch their most delicate feelings?

As valuable as the Word of Wisdom is as a law of health, it may be much more valuable to you spiritually than it is physically. Even if you keep the Word of Wisdom, there are some things that can happen to you physically, but those things don’t generally damage you spiritually.

When you become a father or a mother, don’t live so that your children go unled because of habits that leave you uninspired. The Lord has a way of pouring pure intelligence into our minds to prompt us, to guide us, to teach us, to warn us. You can know the things you need to know instantly! Learn to receive inspiration.

Even in our youth activities there is something to do with inspiration, for they include service to others. Inspiration comes more quickly when we need it to help others than when we are concerned about ourselves.

Now, I know that some young people resent it a little when we comment upon such things as the wild music that is served up. Can you not see that you’re not going to get much inspiration while your mind is filled with that? The right kind of music, on the other hand, can prepare you to receive inspiration.

You should know also that, in addition to static and interference which jam the circuits, there are counterfeit signals. Some have received revelations and heard voices that are put there deliberately by wicked sources to lead astray. You can learn to recognize those and tune them out, if you will.

Now, how do you tell the difference? How can you know if a prompting is an inspiration or a temptation? My answer to that must surely expose my great confidence in young people. I believe young people, when properly taught, are basically sensible.

In the Church we are not exempt from common sense. You can know to begin with that you won’t be prompted from any righteous source to steal, to lie, to cheat, to join anyone in any kind of moral transgression. You have a conscience even as a little boy and girl. It will prompt you to know the things that are wrong. Don’t smother it.

Once again the scriptures tell us something. Read the Book of Mormon–Moroni, chapter 7. I quote only one verse: “For behold, my brethren, it is given unto you to judge, that ye may know good from evil; and the way to judge is as plain, that ye may know with a perfect knowledge, as the daylight is from the dark night” (Moro. 7:15). You read the whole chapter. It tells of a way to judge such things.

If ever you are confused and feel that you are being misled, go for counsel to your parents, and to your leaders….

Already you have been taught to pray. You need to know how to get answers. It is good to learn when you are young that spiritual things cannot be forced. Sometimes you may struggle with a problem and not get an answer. What could be wrong? It may be that you are not doing anything wrong. It may be that you have not done the right things long enough. Remember, you cannot force spiritual things.

Sometimes we are confused simply because we won’t take no for an answer. On several occasions when a member has insisted that something be done his way, I have remembered that great lesson from Church history. I have said to myself in my mind: All right, Joseph, give the manuscript to Martin Harris. Do it your own way, and see where you get. Then when you’re confounded and confused, come back and we’ll get you set on the course that you might have taken earlier if you had been submissive and responsive….

Put difficult questions in the back of your minds and go about your lives. Ponder and pray quietly and persistently about them. The answer may not come as a lightning bolt. It may come as a little inspiration here and a little there, “line upon line, precept upon precept” (D&C 98:12).

Some answers will come from reading the scriptures, some from hearing speakers. And, occasionally, when it is important, some will come by very direct and powerful inspiration. The promptings will be clear and unmistakable. You can learn how, in your youth, to be led by the Holy Ghost. As an Apostle I listen now to the same inspiration, coming from the same source, in the same way, that I listened to as a boy. The signal is much clearer now. And on occasions, when it is required for His work, for instance when we are to call members to high positions in the stakes, we can ask a question in prayer and receive an immediate, direct revelation in return.

No message is repeated more times in scripture than the simple thought: “Ask, and ye shall receive” (D&C 4:7). I often ask the Lord for direction from Him. I will not, however, willingly accept promptings from any unworthy source. I refuse them. I do not want them, and I say so.

Young people, carry a prayer in your heart always. Let sleep come every night with your mind centered in prayer. Keep the Word of Wisdom. Read the scriptures. Listen to your parents and to the leaders of the Church. Stay away from places and things that common sense tells you will interfere with inspiration. Develop your spiritual capacities. Learn to tune out the static and the interference. Avoid the substitutes and the counterfeits! Learn to be inspired and directed by the Holy Ghost.

Prayer can be a very public thing. We teach you often about prayer, about the asking part. Perhaps we have not taught you enough about the receiving part. This is a very private, a very individual thing, one that you must learn for yourself….

Elder Boyd K. Packer, Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, “Revelation in a Changing World,” Conference Report, Oct 1989; Ensign, Nov. 1989, 14-16.
…The Holy Ghost communicates with the spirit through the mind more than through the physical senses. This guidance comes as thoughts, as feelings, through impressions and promptings. It is not always easy to describe inspiration. The scriptures teach us that we may “feel” the words of spiritual communication more than hear them, and see with spiritual rather than with mortal eyes.

The patterns of revelation are not dramatic. The voice of inspiration is a still voice, a small voice. There need be no trance, no sanctimonious declaration. It is quieter and simpler than that. The Book of Mormon teaches that “angels speak by the power of the Holy Ghost” (2 Ne. 32:3) and records that even though an angel spoke to some, they “were past feeling, that [they] could not feel his words” (1 Ne. 17:45; italics added). If you have experienced inspiration, you understand.

Our physical body is the instrument of our spirit. In that marvelous revelation, the Word of Wisdom, we are told how to keep our bodies free from impurities which might dull, even destroy, those delicate physical senses which have to do with spiritual communication. The Word of Wisdom is a key to individual revelation. It was given as “a principle with promise, adapted to the capacity of the weak and the weakest of all saints.” (D&C 89:3.) The promise is that those who obey will receive “great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures.” (V. 19.) If we abuse our body with habit-forming substances, or misuse prescription drugs, we draw curtains which close off the light of spiritual communication.

Narcotic addiction serves the design of the prince of darkness, for it disrupts the channel to the holy spirit of truth. At present, the adversary has an unfair advantage. Addiction has the capacity to disconnect the human will and nullify moral agency. It can rob one of the power to decide. Agency is too fundamental a doctrine to be left in such jeopardy. It is my conviction, and my constant prayer, that there will come through research, through inspiration to scientists if need be, the power to conquer narcotic addiction through the same means which cause it. I plead with all of you to earnestly pray that somewhere, somehow, the way will be discovered to erase addiction in the human body. It is not just human suffering, even human life, which is at risk; it is all of the personal and social and political and spiritual freedoms for which humanity has struggled for ages. At risk is all that was purchased by the blood of martyrs. Moral agency itself is in jeopardy! If we all pray fervently, the Lord will surely help us. And with those prayers, teach your children to obey the Word of Wisdom. It is their armor and will protect them from habits which obstruct the channels of personal revelation.

Things of the Spirit need not–indeed, should not–require our uninterrupted time and attention. Ordinary work-a-day things occupy most of our attention. And that is as it should be. We are mortal beings living in this physical world….

All inspiration does not come from God. (See D&C 46:7.) The evil one has the power to tap into those channels of revelation and send conflicting signals which can mislead and confuse us. There are promptings from evil sources which are so carefully counterfeited as to deceive even the very elect. (See Matt. 24:24.) Nevertheless, we can learn to discern these spirits. Even with every member having the right to revelation, the Church can be maintained as a house of order.

Revelation comes in an orderly way in the Church. We are entitled to personal revelation. However, unless [page 15] we are set apart to some presiding office, we will not receive revelations concerning what others should do. Revelation in the Church comes to those who have been properly called, sustained, ordained, or set apart. A bishop, for instance, will not receive any revelation concerning a neighboring ward, because that is out of his jurisdiction.

Occasionally someone will claim to have received authority to teach and bless without having been called and set apart. Less than a year after the Church was organized [February 1831], a revelation was received which the Prophet specified “embraced] the law of the church.” It contains this verse: “It shall not be given to any one to go forth to preach my gospel, or to build up my church, except he be ordained by some one who has authority, and it is known to the church that he has authorityand has been regularly ordained by the heads of the church.” (D&C 42:11; italics added.) …

In unusual spiritual experience should not be regarded as a personal call to direct others. It is my conviction that experiences of a special, sacred nature are individual and should be kept to oneself.

Few things disturb the channels of revelation quite so effectively as those who are misled and think themselves to be chosen to instruct others when they are not chosen. Others, fearing they also might go astray, then hold back and do not seek the source of divine revelation. Obedience to constituted priesthood authority will protect us from going astray.

There are those within the Church who are disturbed when changes are made with which they disagree or when changes they propose are not made. They point to these as evidence that the leaders are not inspired. They write and speak to convince others that the doctrines and decisions of the Brethren are not given through inspiration.

Two things characterize them: they are always irritated by the word obedience, and always they question revelation. It has always been so. Helaman described those who “began to disbelieve in the spirit of prophecy and in the spirit of revelation; and the judgments of God did stare them in the face.” (Hel. 4:23.) “They were left in their own strength” (v. 13), and “the Spirit of the Lord did no more preserve them; yea, it had withdrawn from them” (V. 24)….

Harold B. Lee, General Conference speech, quoting the First Presidency statement of August 1913, Ensign, January 1973, 105.
“… directions for the guidance of the Church will come, by revelation, through the head. All faithful members are entitled to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit for themselves, their families, and for those over whom they preside. But anything at discord with that which comes from God through the head of the Church is not to be received as authoritative or reliable The Lord’s Church ‘is a house of order.’ It is not governed by individual gifts or manifestations.”

Marion G. Romney, Conference Report, Apr, 1942, 19-20. I assure you, however, that the spirit of the Lord will never direct a person to take a position in opposition to the counsel of the Presidency of His Church … all who are out of harmony in any degree with the Presidency have need to repent and to seek the Lord for forgiveness and to put themselves in full harmony. (CES Teachings of the Living Prophets manual, 1982, 26.)

Parley P. Pratt, History of the Church 6:23. Many suppose they must get direction revelation from God for themselves. Not so. He has a prophet, and he says the Church shall give heed to the words of the Prophet, as he is to hold the keys of the kingdom of God in this life and in the world to come.


Robert Mouritsen, Wayne Brickey, Gerald L. Lund, “An Immutable Charge,” prepared for the CES.
Principle #4. Divine inspiration is given without respect to any standards, evaluations, or prerequisites devised by men.
Principle #5. Divine inspiration is given to all those who will meet the Lord’s requirements.
Principle #6. The important place of one who teaches the things of God requires that he be appointed by authority from God.
Principle #10. Revelation is not given to the faculties of the physical body [sight, sound, etc.] but rather to the spirit entirely as if there were no physical body at all.
Principle #11. Effects and impressions of the Holy Spirit are not generally perceived by the natural faculties of men.
Principle #12. The power of the Holy Spirit may operate through one who is not immediately conscious of its operation.
Principle #14. The Holy Ghost will operate only in the soul of a man who has sufficient freedom to reject his message.
Principle #17. The Holy Ghost has power to convince far beyond any means devised by man.
Principle #19. Any words, actions, or methods that offend the Spirit are inappropriate.
Principle #20. Sacred truths are conveyed independent of unnatural and dramatic decorations or other devices designed to attract attention.
Principle #21. The teacher grieves the Spirit when he attempts to convey sacred truths by unnatural or dramatic decorations.
Principle #23. External pressures, whether intellectual, emotional, or social, which do intrude upon the agency of the mind will offend the Spirit.
Principle #26. Any method or manner of delivery contrived to inspire faith in the teacher rather than faith in the Lord offends the Spirit.
Principle #27. The teacher who conscientiously attempts to please, or to inspire love and admiration towards himself offends the Spirit.
Principle #28. The teacher must never presume as his own any power or brilliance produced in him through the gifts and operations of the Holy Spirit.
Principle #35. To study, teach, or prepare as if the promised inspiration may not come is a patent demonstration of unbelief [as is the hypocritical statement, “Pray as if everything depended on God, then act as if everything depended on you” and not upon God].
Principle #37. The Holy Spirit is one of only a few resources God has approved for those who teach.
Principle #45. A teacher succeeds when the message is carried unto the hearts of his hearers by the power of the Holy Spirit.
Principle #46. A teacher fails when the Holy Ghost refuses to attend him in the delivery of his message.
Principle #47. The teacher does not fail if his hearers reject the message he delivers to them by the power of the Holy Ghost.
Principle #48. Some who hear the word of God as it is preached by the Spirit may respond with anger, belligerence, rebellion, or rejection of the proclaimed message.
Principle #51. Tangible or outwardly perceived attitudes, expressions, or responses may not necessarily reflect success or failure in teaching.


1 Cor 2:13 — 3:3 (J B Phillips) It is these things that we talk about, not using the expressions of the human intellect but those which the Holy Spirit teaches us, explaining spiritual things to those who are spiritual.

But the unspiritual man simply cannot accept the matters which the Spirit deals with-they just don’t make sense to him, for, after all, you must be spiritual to see spiritual things. The spiritual man, on the other hand, has an insight into the meaning of everything, though his insight may baffle the man of the world. This is because the former is sharing in God’s wisdom, and

Who hath known the mind of the Lord,

That he should instruct him?

Incredible as it may sound, we who are spiritual have the very thoughts of Christ!

I, my brothers, was unable to talk to you as spiritual men: I had to talk to you as unspiritual, as yet babies in the Christian life. And my practice has been to feed you, as it were, with “milk” and not with “meat.” You were unable to digest “meat” in those days, and I don’t believe you can do it now. For you are still unspiritual

See John 3:6-8.

D&C 85:6. Yea, thus saith the still small voice, which whispereth through and pierceth all things, and often times it maketh my bones to quake while it maketh manifest.

3 Nephi 9:20. 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.

Neal A. Maxwell, Wherefore Ye Must Press Forward, 119–123. One great aid that is essential to enduring is to be able to have access to the promptings of the Spirit.

Sometimes we try to make access to the promptings of the Spirit an almost mechanical thing. There are so many things involved: our readiness, the need for the prompting, studying it out in our minds, taking no thought save it were to ask, lessons to be learned, etc.

The true disciple has an inborn questing to know, personally, all that God is willing to teach us. Nephi could have accepted gladly the vision of his father, Lehi. But Nephi “desired to know the things that [his] father had seen.” (1 Nephi 11:1.) Abraham sought, even though he had a father who had turned from the faith, “for greater happiness and peace” and “for mine appointment unto the Priesthood.” (Abraham 1:2, 4.) Abraham described himself as desiring “great knowledge, and to be a greater follower of righteousness” (Abraham 1:2), questing for the word of Christ. Divine discontent in the form of promptings can move us to feast because we know that by feasting we can increase our knowledge, effectiveness, and joy.

Now, clearly, the word of Christ, as given in the past through the holy scriptures and as given to us now through the Holy Ghost, can provide us with the guidance necessary to help us to know “all things what [we] should do.” (2 Nephi 32:3.) Such can happen when the Holy Ghost is our constant companion, not a periodic partner.

There is a twin danger in our glossing over certain promises as profound as this one, however. First, we may be unduly harsh on ourselves when revelations for our personal lives do not gush forth as if from a fire hydrant. Second, we may think of the process as if it were like switching our decision-making apparatus on ‘automatic pilot,” leaving us with a ho-hum role.

We must make allowance for the real possibility that we are lacking in faith and/or worthiness. But we must also make allowance for the equally real possibility that some considerations of growth are involved at times, too. Oliver Cowdery was told that he had oversimplified his role in the process: ‘You took no thought save it was to ask.” (D&C 9:7.)

Next, the effort to study propositions out in our mind, carefully and prayerfully, can be followed by a stupor or a burning, but these are not the only ways in which God can tell what we should do. There is a spectrum of styles used by the Lord to inspire and guide us. If we seek to make the process too mechanical, we may deprive ourselves of guidance from God that comes in other ways, equally valid. Matthias, Judas’s replacement, was chosen by lot, but no doubt under the direction of the Spirit. Dreams, visions, Urim and Thummim, voices, and some forms of revelation are quite dramatic.

Yet, as the Prophet Joseph Smith said, inspiration can come in the form of “sudden strokes of ideas.” President Marion G. Romney has noted how whole sentences have come into his mind. The author has said God does not send thunder when a still small voice is enough.

Inspiration can come in the form of our being directed to already revealed wisdom that is apropos and adequate for our need. The disciple needs to become at home in the Lord’s library. A bit of wisdom or a phrase uttered by a friend in a timely way can remain in our mind and prove catalytic in meeting the challenge. There are probably some situations in which we are struggling over something that is a matter of preference rather than principle, or situations in which more than one alternative is acceptable and, as the Lord said on one occasion, “it mattereth not unto me.” (D&C 60:5.)

Divine guidance is so crucial, however, that we need to go out of our way to put ourselves in a situation in which such special help can be given. President David O. McKay spoke of how the morning hours, before we are cluttered with the cares of day, are especially conducive to inspiration. Others have felt that solitude and reading the scriptures can create an atmosphere conducive to the Spirit and can be developed. After all, to read the words of Christ already before us is a good thing to do before asking for more. Sometimes steady importuning is a necessity.

As desirable as the frequency of revelation and inspiration is, that it happens at all is the crucial thing. In any event, we may know that a loving Father will give to us as we are ready, and even then in a way that is consistent with our need to grow and the needs of others who may be involved in the considerations at hand.

General Authorities, for instance, are not able to go to a community and live for weeks among the people before selecting a new stake president. Those circumstances, therefore, may lend themselves to more dramatic examples of direct inspiration than, say, circumstances when a mother is struggling to communicate with a daughter. The latter situation is as vital as the former and inspiration can be and is given in rich ways, but there may be growth considerations involved in the latter situation that may not obtain in the former.

Other times it is good for us to ponder more than we do. Mary, the mother of Jesus, heard and saw almost more than she could absorb for the moment, so she kept certain things in her heart and pondered them. The main thing for the disciple to do is to increase his personal righteousness, to inquire, and to be ready to receive. That is far more important than focusing on technique and mechanics or seeking to follow a single delivery system.

It should not surprise us that one of the highest exercises of discipleship, learning to draw upon the Spirit for help, should require some schooling—sometimes deep and extensive schooling. We may need to learn, for instance, that reflection and pause are even more necessary than we had supposed in order to wipe clean the busy chalkboard of our lives; fresh impressions need a place to be recorded. The visit to a sick friend we are prompted to make but do not make because we have our own problems, may provide a clue: often we need first to seek inspiration in order to help others before we ask for it to help ourselves. With regard to inspiration, as with other things in the kingdom, we must be faithful stewards over small things first.

If we desire to have the promptings of the Spirit become almost habitual in our lives, then we must develop the habits that lend themselves to the flow of such inspiration.

We should learn, too, that the prompting that goes unresponded to may not be repeated. Writing down what we have been prompted with is vital. A special thought can also be lost later in the day in the rough and tumble of life. God should not, and may not, choose to repeat the prompting if we assign what was given such a low priority as to put it aside.

Finally, regarding promptings and impressions, this is special territory one enters for which detailed maps are not available. The guides who know the country well speak of such things only in hushed tones, if at all. Suffice it to say that if we truly hunger and thirst after such things, we will be led to living water!

President John Taylor said, as if in commentary on the blending of enduring and prompting: “Pray for the revelations of God, that the spirit and power of God may rest upon us, that we may comprehend correct principles and understand the laws of life, to guide and guard and protect the ship’s Zion from among the rocks and shoals and troubles that will sooner or later overcome this nation and other nations, and prepare ourselves for the events that are to come.”

Indeed the pressures will be so great that the Lord will be asked to shorten the days of tribulation. “For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened.” (Matthew 24:21-22.)

And finally, it is more than noteworthy that Nephi tells of how the Son’s voice came to him to attest to the mighty responsibilities that come with the baptisms of water and fire. Then Nephi heard the voice of the Father certify to the truth of what the Son had said, saying further: “He that endureth to the end, the same shall be saved.” (2 Nephi 31:15.) The Father chose to emphasize, among the many things He might have said, enduring to the end.

 

Neal A. Maxwell, We Talk of Christ, 14–15. Alma said, “And now, behold, because ye have tried the experiment, and planted the seed, and it swelleth and sprouteth, and beginneth to grow, ye must needs know that the seed is good. And now, behold, is your knowledge perfect? Yea, your knowledge is perfect in that thing, and your faith is dormant; and this because ye know, for ye know that the word hath swelled your souls, and ye also know that it hath sprouted up, that your understanding doth begin to be enlightened, and your mind doth begin to expand.” (Alma 32:33-34.)

Thus, behaving and knowing do feed upon each other, resulting in what Paul called “the evidence of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1.) Interestingly enough, Orson Pratt wrote, “When God reveals a truth,… it is always accompanied by sufficient evidence.”

 

 

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