Sunday, September 29, 2013

Come, Listen to a Prophet’s Voice

The past few weeks on this blog, I have been writing about God speaking to Prophets today as he did in the past and that he will speak to us through the Holy Ghost if we will listen for the promptings. These are important principles to understand and have a testimony of because today we are faced with difficult times and choices. The world is attacking traditional family values from all directions. The family is in danger of collapsing under the continued secularization of the world and rejection of God from all public forums. How can we know what we must do to shield our families from this increasing storm of wickedness and evil? We can listen to the words of the modern prophets and then give heed to his counsel.

We have a hymn in the LDS Church titled “Come, Listen to a Prophet’s Voice” the first verse of that hymn says:

Come, listen to a prophet's voice,
And hear the word of God,
And in the way of truth rejoice,
And sing for joy aloud.
We've found the way the prophets went
Who lived in days of yore.
Another prophet now is sent
This knowledge to restore.1

A question that I often hear is “How can I know when the prophet speaks if it is from God?” That is a great question and one that we each need to ask when we are listening to the prophets speak. The scriptures tell us one way to know:

And whatsoever they shall speak when moved upon by the Holy Ghost shall be scripture, shall be the will of the Lord, shall be the mind of the Lord, shall be the word of the Lord, shall be the voice of the Lord, and the power of God unto salvation.

Behold, this is the promise of the Lord unto you, O ye my servants.

Wherefore, be of good cheer, and do not fear, for I the Lord am with you, and will stand by you; and ye shall bear record of me, even Jesus Christ, that I am the Son of the living God, that I was, that I am, and that I am to come. 2

The obvious follow-up question then would be how do I know if they are speaking by the power of the Holy Ghost? The answer to that question is found in my last posting “How Will I Know?” I have a personal testimony that when we listen and obey the counsel of the living prophet we are always blessed and we can know by the Holy Ghost when they are speaking for the Lord.

Often the counsels of the prophets are at odds with the worldly trends and occasionally their teachings don’t agree with our personal feelings. People are offended by what they hear and think the church should not get involved in things like same-sex marriage, dress standards, pornography or other hot topics of today. When I hear these comments, I have to ask who they think is the head of the church? It is not the prophet or other general authorities; it is the Lord Jesus Christ. This church bears his name and none other. The Lord speaks to the prophets and they speak to us. We have the choice to listen and obey or not and we will be held responsible for those choices.

In the Old Testament there is a great example of this. Balak, King of Maob, saw the Israelites coming to battle against him. He had seen what they had done to their enemies and did not want to be destroyed as well. He sent the elders of Moab to the Prophet Balam to ask him to come and curse Israel so that Moad would not be destroyed. Balam told the elders that he would not go with them, that God had blessed the people of Israel and he would not curse them. Balak then sent the princes of Moab to try and convince him to curse Israel. The scriptures then say:

16 And they came to Balaam, and said to him, Thus saith Balak the son of Zippor, Let nothing, I pray thee, hinder thee from coming unto me:

 17 For I will promote thee unto very great honour, and I will do whatsoever thou sayest unto me: come therefore, I pray thee, curse me this people.

 18 And Balaam answered and said unto the servants of Balak, If Balak would give me his house full of silver and gold, I cannot go beyond the word of the Lord my God, to do less or more. 3

Balam told the elders that whatever the Lord told him, that would he do. It would not matter how much riches or rewards they promised him, he would only speak the word of the Lord, he would not speak the words Balak wanted just because it was the politically correct thing to do.

We are no different than Balak if we think the prophet today should be getting involved politically hot topics or moral issues. When the brethren speak against worldly trends and warn us to avoid the evils of the world, when the prophet says that sexual sins, or abortion, or pornography is evil it is not his opinion that he is expressing; it is the Lord’s will and because the world mocks or criticizes, it will not change.  Elder Robert D. Hales, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, made this comment about prophets today:

“A characteristic of prophets throughout the ages is that, regardless of the consequences, they have had the strength to speak the words of God with plainness and boldness…

“If we listen to the prophets of this day, poverty would be replaced with loving care for the poor and needy. Many serious and deadly health problems would be avoided through compliance with the Word of Wisdom and the laws of sexual purity. Payment of tithing would bless us, and we would have sufficient for our needs. If we follow the counsel given by the prophets, we can have a life in mortality where we do not bring upon ourselves unnecessary pain and self-destruction. This does not mean we will not have challenges. We will. This does not mean we will not be tested. We will, for this is part of our purpose on earth. But if we will listen to the counsel of our prophet, we will become stronger and be able to withstand the tests of mortality. We will have hope and joy. All the words of counsel from the prophets of all generations have been given so that we may be strengthened and then be able to lift and strengthen others.

“The desire of the prophets is to assist our Father in Heaven and his Son Jesus Christ in bringing about the great objectives of the plan of salvation, or, as one ancient prophet called it, “the great plan of happiness” (Alma 42:8).

“We declare with soberness, and yet with the authority of God in us vested, we have a prophet today. The President of the Church, as a prophet, is God’s representative on earth and is appointed to lead his church. This has been true in the past as recorded in the Old Testament, the New Testament, the Book of Mormon, and in this, the last dispensation of the fulness of times with the restoration of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. 4

Next weekend we will have the opportunity to listen to the prophet whom God has chosen to be his spokesman for the world today. On Saturday, October 5, 2013 the 183 Semiannual General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints will be broadcast from Salt Lake City, Utah. Speakers will consist of men and women who are members of the general authorities of the church including the First Presidency and the Quorum of the 12 Apostles. We will have the opportunity to hear from the President of the Church, President Thomas S. Monson, who is the Lord’s prophet today. He will speak four times throughout the five sessions of conference. For the first time in the history of the modern church, all five sessions will be broadcast live (including the general priesthood session, which has never been broadcast on TV) on KBYU TV and the Internet at I invite you to join us and hear what the Lord would have us do to protect our families from the evils of the world. I invite you to come, listen to a prophet’s voice and hear the word of the Lord.

Your thoughts and comments are welcome.

1.              “Come, Listen to a Prophets Voice, LDS Hymnbook, Hymn #21
2.              Doctrine and Covenants 68:4-6
3.              Numbers 22:16-18
4.              “Hear the Prophet’s Voice and Obey”, Robert D. Hales, General Conference, April 1995

Sunday, September 22, 2013

How Will I Know?

Whitney Huston sings a song titled “How Will I Know?” She is singing about love and about wanting to know if the boy of her dreams loves her back. The chorus of that song goes:

How will I know (Don't trust your feelings)
How will I know
How will I know (Love can be deceiving)
How will I know
How will I know if he really loves me 

I have often wondered how will I know something, not whether the girl of my dreams loves, I know she does because she tells me so every day. The past two weeks, I have shared my testimony of the truth that God speaks to us today not only through living prophets, but directly to us as well. Today my question is how do I recognize and respond to the promptings of the Holy Ghost? I often wonder is how will I know if a prompting or answer to my prayers is coming from the Lord or are they just my feelings?

In the Book of Mormon, the prophet Mormon was teaching his son Moroni how to recognize when something comes from God. He taught:

“For behold, the Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil; wherefore, I show unto you the way to judge; for every thing which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ; wherefore ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of God.” 1

So the first test to know if your promptings are coming from the Lord is if it leads us to do good and to believe in Christ, it is of God. The scripture goes on to say that if something tries to entice us to do evil and believe not in Christ then it is of the devil.

Elder Boyd K. Packer, President of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles, says that most often answers to our prayers come from the Holy Ghost as communication to our minds as feelings and impressions. He says:

“That sweet, quiet voice of inspiration comes more as a feeling than it does as a sound. Pure intelligence can be spoken into the mind. The Holy Ghost communicates with our spirits through the mind more than through the physical senses. 4 This guidance comes as thoughts, as feelings through promptings and impressions. 5 We may feel the words of spiritual communication more than hear them and see with spiritual rather than with mortal eyes. “ 2

Unlike the chorus in Whitney Huston’s song where it says the we should not trust our feelings and that love can be deceiving; we learn that we all have the Spirit of Christ and that we can trust our feelings to know if they are coming from God through the Holy Ghost or if they are just our thoughts. If they lead us to do good things and bring us closer to Christ it is coming from God and not the devil.

But knowing if the thoughts of our hearts are coming from God or the devil is one thing; how do we know if they are our own desires or if they are really coming from God?  Elder David A. Bednar, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, teaches us:

“f you and I would distinguish our personal emotions from the impressions placed in our hearts and minds by the Holy Ghost, then we must desire and seek, ask and discern, hear and obey, and then again desire and seek and ask and discern and hear and obey. Our faith and diligence and obedience are ongoing invitations for additional spiritual knowledge and insight. Faith leads to obedience, which yields wisdom and an even greater desire for added light and truth.
“The process of discerning between our will and God’s will becomes less and less of a concern as time goes by and as we strive to rid ourselves of worldliness—and thereby cultivate the spirit of revelation in our lives. That is, as we mature spiritually, we begin to develop sound judgment, a refined and educated conscience, and a heart and mind filled with wisdom. It is not just that we have grown older, nor have we simply become smarter and had more experiences on which to draw, as important as those experiences are. Rather, the Holy Ghost has over time been expanding our intellect, forming our feelings, sharpening and elevating our perspective, such that we increasingly think and feel and act as the Lord would under similar circumstances. In short, we have made steady progress in obtaining “the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16). 3

So as our will becomes more in line with the will of our Father in Heaven and His Son, our spirit mature and we can better discern if the promptings are coming from God as answers to our prayers. Another problem we might have is how to know which is the right answer when we think we have received answers that are conflicting. In a devotional address to the BYU-Idaho students, brother Gordon Limb spoke on this subject. He said after he had finished his doctorate degree and was interviewing for a faculty position. He prayed to know if they should accept the position. He prayed and felt good and decided to move forward. When he visited the university, things did not go well. His presentation was a failure and he had a bad feeling about the job. Why would the lord give him a good feeling about the job and then have things not work out for him. He later was offered a different position that ended up being better for him and his family he said:

“Sometimes what we perceive to be a positive answer followed by a negative outcome is later followed by an unsuspecting better answer or opportunity if we will but trust in the Lord and keep moving forward. The Lord knew what I did not. That first experience prepared me to listen closer to the spirit the next time. To have an increased level of gratitude for how the Lord works in our lives and to remember that all things work together for good in the Lord’s time frame to them that love God. So in summary, sometimes the right answers come through promptings that are often not recognized until after they are acted upon and in the Lord’s time.”

It is possible then, to receive conflicting answers to our prayers and we have to continue to wait upon the Lord and sometimes go on in faith relying on the Holy Ghost to direct us in the right path.

What if we are praying to know something and we get answers to our prayers that either or both are the right thing to do. I believe in this situation it won’t matter which course of action we take because both are good.  In the Lord’s time we will know the choice we have made is right.

Now if we understand these principles and try to increase in our spiritual maturity will we always recognize and follow the promptings, probably not. Just this past week I was refereeing a youth soccer game that was close to the home of one of my granddaughters. I had a feeling that I should stop by and say high. I then thought that it was getting late and I needed to get home. When I got home there was a message from that granddaughter that she needed some help with something. I called her and we talked and she asked if she and her mother could come by the house to take care of it. It was now almost 9 pm, but I said of course they could come. Had I listened to that prompting, I would have saved them the time of having to come to our home for the help. Other times I have listened and recognized the promptings and followed them and those times have been a blessing to me and to the one that I was prompted to help.

I have a long way to go before I will always know if the promptings are from the Lord or if they are just my desires, but at least I am still trying to learn. I am learning to trust my feelings because I do know that the Lord really does love me. How will you know?

Your thoughts and comments are always welcome.


1                Moroni 7:16

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Will God Speak to Me?

Last week I testified that God speaks today as he did anciently – through his Prophets. But what about me, will he speak directly to me and if so, how will I know it is really God that is speaking to me?

One of the greatest witnesses that God does speak to individuals today is the experience Joseph Smith had when he was almost 14 years old. He wanted to know the truth about religion. He lived in the early 1800’s during a time of spiritual revivals. All of the ministers claimed to have the truth. Joseph wanted to know which church he should join, which one was really God’s true Church. He was reading in the bible and found a scripture in James that touched him deeply:

If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.

But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.” (James 1:5-6)

Joseph Smith tested James’ promise and went to the Lord in prayer and the result was the appearance of God and Jesus Christ personally to the boy Joseph. That experience ushered in the restoration of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the organization of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Another person that was involved at the beginning of the restoration of the Gospel was Oliver Cowdery. He was a scribe to the Prophet Joseph Smith and wrote most of the Book of Mormon as Joseph dictated it to him from the gold plates. Before Oliver became involved in the work with Joseph, he prayed to the Lord to know if it was true and if he should help Joseph. Later in a revelation from the Lord to Oliver, the Lord said:

“11 And if thou wilt ainquire, thou shalt know bmysteries which are great and marvelous; therefore thou shalt exercise thy cgift, that thou mayest find out mysteries, that thou mayest bringdmany to the knowledge of the truth…

14. …for thou hast ainquired of me, and behold, as often as thou hast inquired thou hast received instruction of my Spirit…

22. …if you desire a further witness, cast your mind upon the night that you cried unto me in your heart, that you might aknow concerning the truth of these things.

23 Did I not speak apeace to your mind concerning the matter? What greater bwitness can you have than from God?” (Doctrine and Covenants 6:11-14, 22-23)

You are probably saying, ya but they were the leaders of the church. True, but they were not church leaders when they went to God in prayer with their questions. Joseph Smith was a 14-year-old boy with only a 3rd grade education. Oliver Cowdery was a young schoolteacher wanting to know if what he had heard about Joseph Smith was true. Both of them learned through personal revelation that God does exist and that he will answer their prayers.

But what about today does God still answer personal prayers today? Absolutely, the scriptures say that God does not change. If that is true then he will answer the prayers of anyone that comes to him in faith knowing that he will answer their prayers in his own time and in his own way.

Sister Caryn Esplin spoke at a BYU-Idaho devotional on personal revelation. She shared an experience that she and her daughter had one day at a Walmart store. She said that as they were walking out to their car a $20 bill blew by them. Her daughter ran to it and picked it up. Sister Esplin told her daughter is was her lucky day. She said that they both had the feeling that they should take the $20 back into the store and turn it in. They went in and the person at the service desk told them to keep the money, that no one ever came looking for lost money. Just then the phone rang and she answered it. She hung up and said: “You won’t believe this. That was a young mother (she could hear the baby crying in the background) and she had lost a $20 bill somewhere at the store and was wondering if someone had turned it in. She said it was all she had for the rest of the month and needed it. (“Recognizing and Increasing Personal Revelation”, BYU-Idaho Devotional, August 31, 2012). The Lord had answered two prayers that day; the mother that had lost the money and Sister Esplin and her daughter when they prayed to know what to do with the money.

When we go before the Lord in prayer, the answers most likely will come through the Holy Ghost instead of direct communication with Heavenly Father or Jesus Christ. The Lord speaks to us through the Holy Ghost. The Holy Ghost testifies of truth and of Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. In the Gospel of John 14:6 Christ tells the people what the purpose of the Holy Ghost is:

But the Comforterwhich is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.

To receive the Holy Ghost we must be clean before the Lord, by keeping his commandments and living a Christ like life. As best as we can The Holy Ghost is also described as a still small voice. President Boyd K. Packer, President of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles, had this to say about receiving inspiration from the Holy Ghost:
“Inspiration comes more easily in peaceful settings. Such words as quiet, still, peaceable, Comforter abound in the scriptures: “Be still, and know that I am God.” (Ps. 46:10; italics added.) And the promise, “You shall receive my Spirit, the Holy Ghost, even the Comforter, which shall teach you the peaceable things of the kingdom.” (D&C 36:2; italics added.) (“Reverence Invites Revelation”, President Boyd K. Packer, General Conference, October 1991)

Today we live a fast paced life that is full of noise and distractions. We must take the time to unplug from the noise that surrounds us and immerse ourselves in the scriptures to prepare our minds and spirit to communicate with the Lord. He is there waiting for us. He has said, “Ask and it shall be given, knock and it shall be opened unto you” (Matthew 7:7). But we must pause and listen for the answers in a quiet manner. We cannot be distracted by technology and the noise of the world.

One of the ways that answers come for me is through feelings and thoughts. I maybe reminded of something that I need to do. One time at work I had misplaced something and I really needed to find it. I was trying to think of all the places that I had been and all of the individuals that I had visited that day. I retraced my steps as best as I could but the thing I had lost was not to be found. I remember simply praying to know where to look or where to go. I was prompted to look in a drawer in my desk and there it was. I have no idea why I would have put it in that drawer, but the thought to look there was a direct answer to my simple prayer.

We may not even know of the many times that our prayers, spoken and unspoken, have been answered unless we look back at the end of the day and we are reviewing our day with the Lord giving thanks to him for the blessings we received when the Holy Ghost will remind us of the things that happened that were answers to our pleading for the Lord to direct us throughout the day.

We need to express gratitude to the Lord for his grace and kindness to us each day. We need to be thankful that he is willing to bless us with his spirit to guide us and teach us.  I am grateful to know that we have a loving Heavenly Father and that he wants to commune with us if we take the time and effort to be still and know that he is God.

Your thoughts and comments are welcome.