Recognizing the Spirit-“What does it feel like”
Story by Aaron Lee Shill-New Era Oct. 1995
Here I am, I thought, three months away from my mission and I don’t even know how to feel the Spirit.
The truth was that I had been a member of the Church for my entire life, and I could never recall a time when I was certain that I had felt the Spirit. I had a firm testimony of the Savior and the prophet, but somehow I didn’t know what the Spirit felt like.
So there I sat in Brother Durrant’s missionary preparation class, as confused as ever. “It’s the Spirit that counts,” he quoted President Benson. Brother Durrant than began to speak of great missionaries like Alma and Ammon, who were successful in their work because they followed the Spirit.
How can I be a great missionary? I thought. I don’t even understand the Spirit. I continued to listen intently, desperately hoping that Brother Durrant could answer my question. I silently prayed that he could relate to me just one important piece of wisdom-how the Spirit felt.
Then my answer came, and not just from the teacher. It didn’t come like an electric shock, and it didn’t come like fire. But my answer did come, with its own gentle feeling only the Lord was capable of giving me. It came when my teacher stopped speaking about Alma and said softly, “I feel the Spirit so much. It makes me so happy. That’s when I know I feel the Spirit, when I’m happy and I know God loves me.”
As I thought about those simple words, I felt all of the confusion settle into a sense of understanding. My chest didn’t roar with fire and vigor, and my limbs didn’t sink without strength. Instead, I felt a clam peace inside, and I realized that whenever I had felt warm inside while singing a hymn in church, I had felt the Spirit. Whenever I felt good after a service project, I had felt the Spirit. And when I had walked out of a Church class feeling peaceful and happy, I had felt the Spirit. The feelings that I was searching for were often there, but I just didn’t know what they were. I had expected the Lord to present to me, in grand spectacle, an instant testimony of his power. Instead, he was gently guiding me to find out for myself.
I have learned that I must make an effort to understand the Spirit and invent that influence into my life. Now, whenever I read the stories of Alma the Younger or King Lamoni, I no longer doubt the power that influenced them. Although I have never felt the dramatic spiritual transformation that Alma did, I now know that the Spirit manifests itself in many different facets and that the Lord communicates with his children in various ways. Then feelings of the Spirit are always there if I am trying to live worthily and if I truly seek them.
In order to feel the Spirit we need to provide the proper environment. How do we provide an environment so the Spirit can reach us?
A consistently serene atmosphere is essential for teaching spiritual things. Because the Spirit speaks in “a still small voice”, it is difficult to discern spiritual feelings amid commotion, especially contention. We parents need to start with ourselves in this matter. By repentance and faith we should strive always to be peacemakers in our families. We should speak softly and respectfully, express love and appreciation, apologize and forgive readily, and be cheerful. Success in these efforts may not come quickly, but home is the perfect place for practicing a better way again and again. Success will come more easily if we rid our homes of worldly influences, including television programs, videos, music and reading materials that offend the Lord’s Spirit.
Once you are prepared to feel the Spirit, you must learn to observe what the Spirit actually feels like. Tell me what the Spirit might feel like?
Revelation is spiritual in nature rather than physical. We can only understand the things of the Spirit by communication with our spirit. The Prophet Joseph Smith explained: “All things whatsoever God in his infinite wisdom has seen fit and proper to reveal to us, while we are dwelling in mortality are…are revealed to our spirits precisely as though we had no bodies at all; and those revelations which will save our spirits will save our bodies.
The scriptures and the prophets teach what this constant companionship feels like. The Lord tells us, “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. Enos stated, “While I was …struggling in the spirit, behold, the voice of the Lord came into my mind.” Joseph Smith said, “When you feel pure intelligence flowing into you, it may give you sudden strokes of ideas. President Henry B. Eyring described the influence of the Holy Ghost as peace, hope, and joy.
Promptings to the Mind
The Scriptures indicate that manifestations of the Spirit come to the mind in a variety of ways. They come as enlightenment, just as scriptures seem to be illuminated with understanding. They may come in the form of instant recall of things or as a clear, audible voice. Sometimes they come by way of counsel from leaders. They come in dreams, visions, and visitations.
Enlightenment. This enlightenment comes as an increase in light, knowledge, and understanding. The Savior instructed Oliver Cowdery, “I did enlighten thy mind; and now I tell thee these things that thou mayest know that thou hast been enlightened by the Spirit of truth”. (D&C 6:15)
Light and understanding. Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon spoke of the vision given to them with these words: “By the power of the Spirit our eyes were opened and our understandings were enlightened, so as to see and understand the things of God” (D&C 76:12). “And while we meditated upon these things, the Lord touched the eyes of our understandings and they were opened” (D&C 76:19)
Prophets, seers, and revelators have described this process of receiving personal revelation through the enlightenment of the mind:
When you feel pure intelligence flowing into you,” said the Prophet Joseph Smith, “It may give you sudden strokes of ideas, so that by noticing it, you may find it fulfilled the same day or soon; (i.e.) those things that were presented into your minds by the Spirit of God, will come to pass; and this by learning the Spirit of God were presented unto your minds by the Spirit of God, will come to pass; and this by learning the Spirit of God and understanding it, you may grow into the principle of revelation, until you become perfect in Christ Jesus.
President Ezra Taft Benson has said: “We hear the words of the Lord most often by a feeling. If we are humble and sensitive, the Lord will prompt us most often through our feelings. That is why spiritual promptings move us on occasion to great joy, sometimes to tears. Such a feeling may be compassion for someone in need, willingness to obey parents or leaders, a prompting to forgive, a desire to make things right when we have wronged someone, or a feeling of gratitude. These spiritual feelings grow clearer and more intense as we become increasingly true to the sense of right and wrong that the Lord has placed in our hearts.
The Holy Ghost causes our feelings to be more tender. We feel more charitable and compassionate with each other. We are more calm in our relationships. We have a greater capacity to love each other. People want to be around us because our very countenances radiate the influence of the Spirit. We are more godly in our character. As a result, we are more sensitive to the promptings of the Holy Ghost and this able to comprehend spiritual things.
---President Ezra Taft Benson
Promptings to the Heart
The Spirit reveals the will of the Lord through the feelings of the heart. We must be in tune with the Spirit and in touch with these feelings. Nephi spoke of the need to have a receptive heart to receive revelations. When he spoke to Laman and Lemuel, he reminded them that an angel had spoken to them: “He hath spoken unto you in a still small voice, but ye were past feeling, that ye could not feel his words” (1 Ne. 17:45)
These feelings may be characterized as peaceful, warm, compelling, or dark or confusing in nature. They will always come in response to sincere, heartfelt prayer if we are prepared to receive them.
Peaceful feelings. Then most frequent confirmation of the Spirit comes to us as peaceful feelings. The Spirit indeed “showeth all things, and teacheth the peaceable things of the kingdom” (D&C 39:6; see also D&C 36:2; D&C 42:61; D&C 111:8)
President Brigham Young quoted these words of the Prophet Joseph Smith: “They can tell the Spirit of the Lord from all other spirits-it will whisper peace and joy to their souls.
Feelings of peace are promptings and proof that the Spirit is bearing witness to us in response to our petitions. The Lord said to Oliver Cowdery through the Prophet Joseph Smith: “did I not speak peace to your mind condcerningh the matter? What greater witness can you have than from God?” (D&C 6:23
Warm, spiritual feeling. The Lord has given us specific instruction that if you ask if something is right and it is right, He will “cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right”. (D&C 9:8)
Mormon described this feeling that came to the Nephites when a small voice spoke to them. He said, “It did piece them to the very soul, and did cause their hearts to burn” (3 Ne. 11:3)
Compelling feeling. A compelling feeling is a pressing feeling. It is characterized by a sense of urgency, a sense of restlessness, and a sense of surety. It was the feeling that Nephi experienced when he was commanded to slay Laban (1 Ne 4:10)
The Prophet Joseph Smith described this feeling when he spoke concerning the principle of baptism for the dead: “That subject seems to occupy my mind, and press itself upon my feelings the strongest” (D&C 128:1).
Dark and confused feeling. When we petition Heavenly Father in prayer, there are times in which He answers us with distinct impression that we have not identified the proper course. The answer will come not as one of peace but as a feeling of darkness. He has counseled that when you ask about something, “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” (D&C 9:9)
The voice of the Spirit is described in the scriptures as being neither loud nor harsh, not a voice of thunder, neither a voice of great tumultuous noise, but rather as still and small, of perfect mindness, as if it had been a whisper, and it can pierce even the very soul and cause the heart to burn.
The Spirit does not get our attention by shouting. It never shakes us with a heavy hand. The spirit whispers. It caresses so gently indeed, that if we are preoccupied, we can’t feel it at all.
Occasionally, the Spirit will press just firmly enough or often enough for us to pay attention; but from my experience, most of the time, if we do not heed the gentle feeling, if we do not listen with those feelings, the Spirit will withdraw and wait until we come seeking and listening, in our manner or our expression
---President Boyd K. Packer
If your success ratio for recognizing the Spirit is low, ask yourself these questions:
1. How well am I living the commandments?
2. Am I studying the scriptures in order that I might be more attuned to Spiritual things?
3. Am I praying with real intent?
4. Have I done my homework, and gone to the Lord with a well-thought-out solution?
5. Have I learned to recognize a stupor of thought?
6. Can I honestly say “thy will be done” and am I willing to take no for an answer?
Ending Story by Ezra Taft Benson
My wife’s mother, Barbara Smith Amussen, was an officiator in the Logan Temple for twenty years and a widow for forty years. She was a woman without guile. I loved her so much that I spent a lot of time with her because she was a widow and there was no priesthood bearer in the home.
This choice woman knew the exact time she was to depart mortal life. Her husband, a Danish convert and Utah’s first pioneer jeweler and watch maker, Carl Chirstian Amussen, appeared to her either in a dream or a vision. She admitted, “I’m not sure which, but it was so real it seemed that he was right in the room. He said he had come to tell me that my time in mortal life was ending and that on the following Thursday (it was then Friday), I would be expected to leave mortal life.”
Her oldest daughter, Mabel said, “Oh Mother, you’ve been worrying about something. You’ve not been feeling well.”
Her mother replied, “Everything’s fine. I feel wonderful. There’s nothing to worry about. I just know I’ll be leaving next Thursday.”
Then she said, “Mabel, when the time comes, I’d like to pass away in your home in the upper room where I used to sit and tell the boys Book of Mormon and Church history stories when they were little fellows.”
As the time drew near, she attended fast meeting in her ward. She bore her testimony, and the bishop said she talked as though she were going on a long journey”.
“he was bidding us all good-bye,” said the bishop, “expressing her love for us and the joy that had been hers working in the temple”) which was just a few meters away from the chapel). And then she bore a fervent testimony.
As the days passed, she went to the bank, drew out her small savings, paid all her bills, and went to the mortuary and picked out her casket. Then she had the water and electrical power turned off in her home and went to Mabel’s home. The day before she died, her son came to visit her. They sat by the bed and help hands and talked.
On the day of my mother-in-law’s death, Mabel came into the room where was resting on the bed. Her mother said, “Mabel, I feel a bit sleepy. Do not disturb me if I sleep until evening.”
Those were the last words, and she peacefully passed from this life to the next.
Then President Benson went on to say:
Spirituality-being in tune with the Spirit of the Lord-is the greatest need we all have. We should strive for the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost all the days of our lives. When we have the Spirit, we will love to serve, we will love the Lord, and we will love those whom we serve with and those whom we serve.