Sunday, March 30, 2014

The Watchman on the Tower

The Lord speaking to the ancient Israelites gave them a warning to head the words of his servants, the prophets:

 17 Son of man, I have made thee a watchman unto the house of Israel: therefore hear the word at my mouth, and give them warning from me.

 18 When I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die; and thou givest him not warning, nor speakest to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life; the same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand.

 19 Yet if thou warn the wicked, and he turn not from his wickedness, nor from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but thou hast delivered thy soul. (Ezekiel 3:17-19)

The watchman is the prophet and apostles at the head of the Lord’s church today. Earl C. Tingey speaking to the students at Brigham Young University said this about who the watchman is today:

“I believe the watchmen today are the prophets and apostles. The Lord has designated President Gordon B. Hinckley as our chief watchman on the tower today. We will be guided and protected from the enemy if we follow his counsel. President Boyd K. Packer is also a watchman on the tower. His biography, written several years ago, is entitled Boyd K. Packer: A Watchman on the Tower.2 Trusted local priesthood leaders, including stake presidents and bishops, are watchmen on the tower to their members and congregations. Certainly a father is a watchman on the tower to his family. Each of you should be a watchman to yourself.”  (“The Watchman on the Tower”, Earl C. Tingey, BYU Devotional, June 5, 2007)

The Lord speaking to the Prophet Joseph Smith in Kirtland, Ohio gave the parable of the watchman on the tower:

 44 A certain nobleman had a spot of land, very choice; and he said unto his servants: Go ye unto my vineyard, even upon this very choice piece of land, and plant twelve olive trees;

 45 And set watchmen round about them, and build a tower, that one may overlook the land round about, to be a watchman upon the tower, that mine olive trees may not be broken down when the enemy shall come to spoil and take upon themselves the fruit of my vineyard.

 46 Now, the servants of the nobleman went and did as their lord commanded them, and planted the olive trees, and built a hedge round about, and set watchmen, and began to build a tower.

 47 And while they were yet laying the foundation thereof, they began to say among themselves: And what need hath my lord of this tower?

 48 And consulted for a long time, saying among themselves: What need hath my lord of this tower, seeing this is a time of peace?

 49 Might not this money be given to the exchangers? For there is no need of these things.

 50 And while they were at variance one with another they became very slothful, and they hearkened not unto the commandments of their lord.

 51 And the enemy came by night, and broke down the hedge; and the servants of the nobleman arose and were affrighted, and fled; and the enemy destroyed their works, and broke down the olive trees.

 52 Now, behold, the nobleman, the lord of the vineyard, called upon his servants, and said unto them, Why! what is the cause of this great evil?

 53 Ought ye not to have done even as I commanded you, and—after ye had planted the vineyard, and built the hedge round about, and set watchmen upon the walls thereof—built the tower also, and set a watchman upon the tower, and watched for my vineyard, and not have fallen asleep, lest the enemy should come upon you?

 54 And behold, the watchman upon the tower would have seen the enemy while he was yet afar off; and then ye could have made ready and kept the enemy from breaking down the hedge thereof, and saved my vineyard from the hands of the destroyer. (Doctrine and Covenants 101:44-54)

Elder Tingey explained the meaning of the tower and the impact it can have for us:

“In the Holy Land (and I have personally seen them) are remnants or remains of ancient towers—round structures built of rock, like lighthouses near the sea. The purpose of these towers was to provide a structure or facility where the watchman might look out upon the land and see the enemy before he came and destroyed the olive trees.
“Then what might be analogous to the tower today? The tower is a symbolic point of elevation where we may see the enemy before others do. I think today’s towers might be revelation, prophets, inspired scriptures, and, certainly, the temple. Revelation from living prophets permits us to see more clearly in a clouded world. Our modern scriptures—the Book of Mormon, the Doctrine and Covenants, and the Pearl of Great Price—help us understand the Bible more fully. As compared to the world, all of these are opportunities to receive elevated instructions in a troubled world.” (“The Watchman on the Tower”, Earl C. Tingey, BYU Devotional, June 5, 2007)
Today we have fifteen prophets, seers and revelators that can see the troubles that are coming and they warn us of the dangers and help us know what we can do to be ready and battle the enemy. If we listen and heed the words of the prophets and apostles, we will be blessed and our families will be protected. If we do not take the time to listen and then follow their teachings the sin will be on our heads. On the day the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was organized the Lord explained the importance of giving heed to the prophets words:

Wherefore, meaning the church, thou shalt give heed unto all his words and commandments which he shall give unto you as he receiveth them, walking in all holiness before me;

 For his word ye shall receive, as if from mine own mouth, in all patience and faith.

 For by doing these things the gates of hell shall not prevail against you; yea, and the Lord God will disperse the powers o darkness from before you, and cause the heavens to shake for your good, and his name’s glory. (Doctrine and Covenants 21:4-6)

Every six months we have the opportunity to listen to the teachings and warnings of the prophet of the church today, President Thomas S. Monson, the Twelve Apostles and other general authorities of the church. That opportunity will be here again next week. Sessions of general conference will be available on KBYU-TV and on the Internet at

I invite you to tune into as many sessions of general conference as you can and see for yourself if they are watchman on the tower and are warning us of things to come and telling us what we need to do to protect our families from the evils of the world today.

I testify that those who speak are prophets and apostles and they have been sent by the Lord to be a watchman on the tower and listening and heeding their warnings will bring us blessings and protect us from evil.

Your comments and questions are welcome

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Recognizing and Responding to the Holy Ghost

Last week I discussed the difference between the Spirit of the Lord or the Light of Christ and the gift of the Holy Ghost. Today I want to share my thoughts on recognizing and responding to the promptings of the Holy Ghost.

One of the most frequent questions that Elder David A. Bednar is asked when he is speaking to students is “how can I tell the difference between my emotions telling me what I want to hear and the Holy Ghost telling what I need to hear?” (“Receiving, Recognizing, and Responding to the Promptings of the Holy Ghost”, Ricks College devotional address, August 21, 1999). This is one of the most important questions we can ask as we grow closer to the spirit and receive promptings from the Holy Ghost. One of the first things we need to understand is how the Lord communicates with us. During the month of September 2013 I discussed these methods of communication and will not take the time today to discuss it. I would encourage you to click on the blog archive to the right and go to those topics and read them.

Gordon Limb spoke of five ways to increase our capacity to receive and respond to the promptings of the spirit in a devotional talk at Brigham Young University. They are:

1.        Obedience to the commandments
2.        Sincere prayer
3.        Scripture study
4.        Service
5.        Taking the time to ponder and listen to the spirit

Obedience is the first principle because if we are not obeying the commandments of God we will not be worthy to have the Holy Ghost to dwell with us and we will not be in the frame of mind that will allow his promptings to come. Brother Limb said:

“First, living worthily invites the constant companionship of the Spirit. If you are not now worthy, repent and become worthy. For those who are endowed, go to the temple—the Lord’s classroom—and keep your covenants. I’ve heard students ask, “How can I tell if this is the Spirit I’m feeling?” If you are living worthily, Paul’s letter to the Galatians tells us that the fruits of the Spirit are “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance” (Galatians 5:22–23). These are all examples of what we feel when the Spirit is present.
“In striving to live worthily I am also encouraged by the discussion in section 46 of the Doctrine and Covenants about the gifts of the Spirit. Verse 9 states that “they are given for the benefit of those who love me and keep all my commandments” (emphasis added). Well, I love the Lord, but I don’t always keep all of the commandments. The last part of this verse adds an additional element of hope: “and him that seeketh so to do.” I am thankful that as I make mistakes and neglect to heed promptings but “seeketh so to” keep the commandments, a loving Father in Heaven and Savior are always there to help me get back on course if I will but keep repenting and keep trying.“ (Recognizing and Responding to the Promptings of the Holy Ghost”, Gordon Limb, BYU Devotional, March 5, 2013)

The second principle in helping us recognize the Spirit is sincere prayer and expressing gratitude. In his devotional talk Brother Limb quotes President Gordon B. Hinckley and Elder Richard G. Scott:

“The trouble with most of our prayers is that we give them as if we were picking up the telephone and ordering groceries—we place our order and hang up. We need to meditate, contemplate, think of what we are praying about and for and then speak to the Lord as one man speaketh to another. [TGBH, 469]
“Another key element in sincere prayer is gratitude. When was the last time you said a prayer and only expressed gratitude? About learning to recognize answers to prayer, Elder Richard G. Scott said:
“I have saved the most important part about prayer until the end. It is gratitude! Our sincere efforts to thank our beloved Father generate wondrous feelings of peace, self-worth, and love. No matter how challenging our circumstances, honest appreciation fills our mind to overflowing with gratitude.(“Recognizing and Responding to the Promptings of the Holy Ghost”, Gordon Limb, BYU Devotional, March 5, 2013)

Third, making scripture study part of our daily activities will increase our ability to recognize the promptings when they come. Brother Limb continues:

“Third, immersing ourselves in the scriptures invites the constant companionship of the Spirit. “Studying the scriptures trains us to hear the Lord’s voice” and recognize His Spirit (David M. McConkie, “Gospel Learning and Teaching,” Ensign, November 2010, 15). Scriptural immersion provides us with a unique insight into how others have received and responded to the promptings of the Spirit. Elder Bednar gave a great CES fireside talk entitled “A Reservoir of Living Water” (4 February 2007)—that I highly encourage you to read or reread—in which he talked about feasting on the word by searching the scriptures for connections, patterns, and themes. In our Church callings we have a handbook of instructions that tells us how to fulfill our callings. In living the gospel, our handbooks of instruction are the scriptures and the revealed word of God through His prophets.”  (“Recognizing and Responding to the Promptings of the Holy Ghost”, Gordon Limb, BYU Devotional, March 5, 2013)

The fourth and fifth steps in helping us recognize the promptings of the Holy Ghost, according to Gordon Limb, are providing service and taking the time to ponder and listen for the spirit. He says:

Fourth, service invites the constant companionship of the Spirit. Do you realize that as others are seeking the Spirit to receive answers to their prayers, often the Lord uses us to answer those prayers? We had a Relief Society president in my ward who would often pray and ask, “Father, help me to be an answer to someone else’s prayer today.” Then, as she was going into work or coming home, she would drive around the ward enlisting the Spirit’s prompting to determine if there was a sister who needed her help. Numerous times as she was driving by a sister’s home or thinking of a particular sister, the Spirit would prompt her to stop by, bring dinner, or ask to watch the sister’s children. That Relief Society president knew what it meant to follow the promptings of the Spirit and be an answer to someone else’s prayer. That is Christlike service.
Finally, taking time to pause, ponder, and listen invites the constant companionship of the Spirit (see Caryn Esplin, “Recognizing and Increasing Personal Revelation,” BYU–Idaho devotional address, 31 July 2012). In our fast-paced, immediate-gratification world we can become so preoccupied with good things that we neglect the most important things. I have found that early in the morning, when things are quiet and my mind is focused, I am most receptive to the promptings of the Spirit.” (“Recognizing and Responding to the Promptings of the Holy Ghost”, Gordon Limb, BYU Devotional, March 5, 2013)

So now that we are doing these five things to cultivate the spirit, how can we recognize that a prompting is coming from the Lord and not our own thoughts? One of the ways is the feeling that comes with the prompting. The scriptures tell us that we will feel a burning in our bosom when it is from the Holy Ghost:

But, behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right.

 But if it be not right you shall have no such feelings, but you shall have a stupor of thought that shall cause you to forget the thing which is wrong; therefore, you cannot write that which is sacred save it be given you from me. (Doctrine and Covenants 9:8-9)

When we pray to know what to do, if the feeling is a warm burning we can know we are on the right course. If the feeling is confusion or another negative feeling then we are not getting the answer from the Lord. James P. Porter shares an experience he had with negative feelings:
“One of my earliest recollections of a personal experience with recognizing the Spirit came when I was a missionary in Korea. I had the responsibility to present a lesson about something to the missionaries at an upcoming zone conference. I felt strongly the desire to teach something that would motivate, uplift, and help the missionaries in our zone. I remember the weight I felt on my shoulders as I pondered, prayed, and prepared for that lesson. It wasn’t a pleasant weight. It was a heavy weight that burdened me as I struggled to find the right idea for the lesson. Then one day I had a burst of inspiration. Thoughts came into my mind and almost instantly I knew what to teach. I knew it was right because the heavy burden that had weighed me down was lifted. Instead, I felt exhilarated. I guess you could say I felt peace. I remember thinking, “This must be what it feels like to be prompted by the Holy Ghost.”

“In subsequent personal experiences with the Spirit I have noticed something. The peace that comes from the Spirit is often more recognizable when it comes in juxtaposition to a period of struggle and uncertainty. Perhaps the work and struggle on our part to study and ponder before receiving an answer is necessary because it makes the difference between our feelings of uncertainty and the feelings of peace offered by the Spirit distinct enough to be recognizable.” (Receiving and Recognizing the Holy Ghost”, James P. Porter, BYU Devotional, March 22, 2011)

Another way to recognize the spirit is when we pray to know what to do; we sometimes need to make a decision and act on that decision. If we are doing what the Lord would have us do, then the peace and assurance will come. If doubts and confusion fill us, then a course correction is needed: Elder Dallin H. Oaks shares this experience of Elder Bruce R. McConkie:

“When he spoke on the BYU campus some years ago on the subject “Agency or Inspiration,” Elder Bruce R. McConkie stressed our responsibility to do all that we can before we seek a revelation. He gave a very personal example. When he set out to choose a companion for eternity, he did not go to the Lord and ask whom he ought to marry. “I went out and found the girl I wanted,” he said. “She suited me; . . . it just seemed . . . as though this ought to be. . . . [Then] all I did was pray to the Lord and ask for some guidance and direction in connection with the decision that I’d reached” (Speeches of the Year, 1972–73 [Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press, 1973], p. 111).
“Elder McConkie summarized his counsel on the balance between agency and inspiration in these sentences:

“We’re expected to use the gifts and talents and abilities, the sense and judgment and agency with which we are endowed [p. 108]. . . .

Implicit in asking in faith is the precedent requirement that we do everything in our power to accomplish the goal that we seek [p. 110]. . . .

We’re expected to do everything in our power that we can, and then to seek an answer from the Lord, a confirming seal that we’ve reached the right conclusion.” (“Revelation”, Dallin H. Oaks, BYU Devotional, September 29, 1981)

I know that if we follow these principles to be worthy to have the Gift of the Holy Ghost to dwell with us and we recognize the feelings when they come we can know when the promptings are from the Lord. The next step then is to follow the promptings and go and do what the Lord asks us to do. When the Prophet Samuel in the Old Testament was young he was taught how to recognize the spirit and then to respond. After the spirit woke him three times and not know it was the Spirit of the Lord, he went to Eli, when Eli figured out that it was the Lord he told Samuel:

Go, lie down: and it shall be, if he call thee, that thou shalt say, Speak, Lord; for thy servant heareth. (1 Samuel 3:9)

If we will have the desire to hear the Lord when he speaks, we must also be willing to take the time to listen and then to get up and do the thing he would have us do.

Your comments and questions are always welcome.