My wife, Cathy, and I returned this past summer after serving for three years in the California Fresno Mission. It was a life changing experience. As a mission president I was asked many questions by the missionaries. There were three questions, however, that were the most frequently asked, with the first question being by far the most common.
Question #1: “How do I recognize the Holy Ghost?”
Question #2: “How do I know when my sins have been forgiven?”
Question #3: “How do I control my thoughts?”
These are questions that young missionaries think about. They are questions that I think about and perhaps all of us do. Let’s consider the first and most frequently asked question, “How do I recognize the Holy Ghost? How do I know it’s Him and not just what I want to believe or what I’ve heard all my life?”
President Boyd K. Packer gave the best explanation of the Holy Ghost I have ever heard. He said, “The Holy Ghost speaks with a voice that you feel more than you hear. It is described as a ‘still small voice.’ (D&C 85:6) And while we speak of ‘listening’ to the whisperings of the Spirit, most often one describes a spiritual prompting by saying, ‘I had a feeling …’” (October 1994, General Conference).
The Lord told us how He will speak to us. “Yea, behold, I will tell you in your mind and in your heart, by the Holy Ghost, which shall come upon you and which shall dwell in your heart. Now, behold, this is the spirit of revelation…” (D&C 8:2-3) This is the voice that we feel rather than hear.
How will the Holy Ghost speak to our mind and to our heart? Thoughts, ideas, promptings, impressions, and feelings have and do come to us. You have had this experience. Sometimes we are looking in the wrong direction for revelation and guidance from God. Elder David A. Bednar taught this important principle of revelation. He said if we “emphasize marvelous and dramatic spiritual manifestations,” we may overlook the “small and incremental spiritual impressions” that are more common and frequent. (“The Spirit of Revelation,” Ensign, May 2011, 88.)
I encouraged our missionaries to be very careful not to ignore thoughts, ideas, impressions, and feelings. Always write them down. And remember that “for everything 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.” (Moroni 7:16)
I have learned that the Holy Ghost will not compete for our attention. He will not compete with texting, iPads, movies, music, television or other distractions; and this is not to imply that there is anything necessarily wrong with these things. There is good texting, good movies, good music, etc., but He requires us to seek Him diligently, humble ourselves, and commit to be exactly obedient to whatever we are asked to do. Think about it. If we ignore or even delay a spiritual impression, thought, or idea; why would God trust us with additional revelation?
So, as you think about the thoughts, ideas, impressions, and feelings that come to you; what is the Holy Ghost teaching you right now?