Imagine. You’ve been praying about an important decision for quite some time. Then, suddenly, a thought comes to your mind. Perhaps it feels like an absolute answer. Perhaps it’s a step to take in one direction or another.
That’s when another thought comes to mind. Is this a prompting from the Lord? Or is it just me? Am I just thinking this because I want something, or do I really want what God wants?
Is this thought from me or from God?
This is a common question! Luckily, the revealed word of God through living prophets has provided us with some direction. Here are just a few things to keep in mind.
The Goal Is to Become Like-minded with Christ
In Philippians, the scriptures speak of being like-minded with Christ. “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus,” it says. A large purpose for our mortal probation is to become like Christ and to gain his attributes. When we do so, our minds and wills begin to align.
If you have done your best to follow promptings, to seek the best solution, and to keep your covenants, take heart. If you have done your best to consecrate your will, then where the good thought originated from does not matter.
God Doesn’t Speak Loudly
Even with the blessing of the gift of the Holy Ghost, the promptings of the Spirit are small and still. When the Lord came to Elijah, he was not in the wind, or the earthquake, or the fire. When we have important decisions or questions, it is natural to want strong and sure affirmations from heaven. However, it is important to remember that God does not often speak loudly.
This means you should not worry if the answer is not perfectly clear or you are not completely certain. We are here to learn to follow the whisperings of the Spirit and God understands that acting on such quiet feelings and thoughts can be an act of faith. If you have felt the push to do something, do your best to follow through! The more we act, the surer we will become. We will also learn more about discerning when God is prompting us and when he isn’t.
God Often Warns, Rather Than Directs
Elder David A. Bednar gave a great sermon to LDS youth about how the Lord speaks to us. Part of his remarks focused on the principle of being warned of bad paths. Elder Bednar taught that no member of the Church who is doing their best to keep their covenants will fail to be warned if we start walking down bad paths.
How does it feel when God warns us? It may be different for every person, but feelings of darkness and confusion are often tell-tale signs. If you’ve had misgivings that won’t leave you, pay attention. No choice will completely be free of risk and worry, but trust your conscience, which Elder Bednar reminds us is actually the Light of Christ.
God Wants Us to Choose
God will never take away our chance to make a choice on our own. More often than not, we make a choice and he will consecrate it. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland reiterated a similar idea, telling a story of when he and his son were lost and came upon a fork in the road. After praying, they felt strong they should go to the right. They found it led to a dead end.
Elder Holland’s son asked why they would have been prompted to go the wrong way. He replied:
“I think that the Lord, His wish for us there, and his answer to our prayer was to get us on the right road as quickly as possible with some reassurance, with some understanding, that we were on the right road and we didn’t have to worry about it, and in this case, the easiest way to do that was to let us go 400 yards or 500 yards on the wrong road, and very quickly know, without a doubt, that it was the wrong road, and therefore with equal certainty with equal conviction that the other one was the right road.”
Is the Thought Good?
At the end of the day, the best way to answer the question, “Is this from me or from God” was given by President Gordon B. Hinckley:
“That’s the test when all is said and done. Does it persuade one to do good, to rise, to stand tall, to do the right thing, to be kind, to be generous? Then it is of the Spirit of God. …
If it invites to do good, it is of God. If it inviteth to do evil, it is of the devil. … And if you are doing the right thing and if you are living the right way, you will know in your heart what the Spirit is saying to you.
You recognize the promptings of the Spirit by the fruits of the Spirit—that which enlighteneth, that which buildeth up, that which is positive and affirmative and uplifting and leads us to better thoughts and better words and better deeds is of the Spirit of God.”