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

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