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In the 1969 speech “The Loneliness of Leadership“, Gordon Hinckley discusses the loneliness that leaders feel-both spiritual leaders and secular leaders and how true leaders stand up for what they believe to be right regardless of consequences. Examples he uses include Jesus Christ, Joseph Smith, and recent converts to the Church who are ostracized and cast out for their belief.

He concludes with the following:

I like these great words of the Lord given to those who would go out and teach this gospel:

I will go before your face. I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up. [D&C 84:88]

I think that is a promise to each of us. I believe it; I know it. I bear testimony of its truth to you this day.

After reading this, I thought about times in my life when I’ve had to stand up for what I believed to be right, according to what I felt that God had put in my heart.

Joining the Mormon Church

When I was 9 years old, my parents divorced and I moved with my mother to another state. We had been raised members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormon), but after the divorce we gradually quit attending church.

I remember my mother inviting people over and having study sessions on why the Mormon religion is false and although I don’t think she knew I was listening, it did have an affect on me. Also, she confided in me a lot of negative information about my father that influenced my opinion of him as a person. He remained a practicing Mormon, so as a child, I blamed the Mormon church as well as all of the negative things that I heard in my home about Mormons. I hated Mormons.

At school I would bully them. Tease them. Gradually, it evolved into where I was not only teasing Mormons, but all people of faith. I was very young-11 years old- but I was getting involved in drinking, vandalism, and heading down a very negative path.

One day my mother came to me and told me that I should go and visit my father as I hadn’t seen him in 2 years because of my hatred for him and his religion. I told her I didn’t want to go, but she told me that legally I needed to and also it would be good for me. Looking back, I think she recognized a lot of the negative things in my life and thought I needed a father figure.

Before I left, she sat me down in the my bedroom that was in the garage of our old house and told me that when I visited my father that he would try and make me go to church with him. She told me that I didn’t have to go and to make sure that whatever I do I didn’t become Mormon. I looked at her confused and wondered why she would even worry about that because that was the last thing I wanted to do. I just wanted to have the 2 week trip over with.

To make a long story short, I visited my Dad. I noticed a very peaceful feeling almost immediately when I was in his home. Something I didn’t realize I had been craving. I also noticed that he wasn’t as bad as I had been told and that he was actually a very sincere and fun person to be around. He had remarried and my new step-mom was very kind and patient.

The other thing I realized was that the Mormon church wasn’t bad. In fact, I felt peace there that I hadn’t felt anywhere else (when we left the Mormon church, we went “church shopping” to a bunch of churches like Baptist, Presbyterian, Lutheran, non-denominational, etc). After only a short time, the Holy Spirit shared with me a vision of my life and what would come of it if I stayed with my mother in that situation at the time, or moved in with my Dad. It was clear to me and I feel blessed that the Lord put it into my heart that I needed to join the Mormon church and also live with my Dad.

When I had the conversation with my mom, I knew that if I came back home with her, I was too weak at the time to stand up for what I had felt in my heart and I would fall back into my bad friends and behavior. I told her I was staying with Dad. She and I had a big blow-out conversation on the phone that ended with her telling me that if I went back to the Mormon church and my Dad she wouldn’t talk with me again. That hurt me deeply, but I knew what God had put in my heart and I had faith that I should follow that. So I chose to stay with my Dad.

Years later, after I had experienced a lot of psychological and emotional pain (which I wrote about in my book Discovering Light: 12 Steps to Overcoming Anxiety and Depression without Medication), I realized I needed to make amends with my mother and forgive her. Funny thing was that she put the blame back on me by saying I imagined that she had said that. I’ve forgiven her regardless and I’m very glad that I made that difficult decision years ago because it has changed my life a lot.

Other Experiences

Since becoming a Mormon, I have had to walk a lonely road at times. I haven’t been perfect by any means, but largely the Lord has blessed me.

There were times in college when young ladies wanted to sleep with me and I turned them down because of what I believe.

There were times in Europe when I was working after having served a mission in Germany where I was ridiculed and cast out of a home I was staying in because I wouldn’t drink with them.

In my career, I’ve found that people are very accepting for the most part, of my beliefs and I’ve made some great friends as I don’t shy away from my faith, but stand up for it. I’ve found that for the most part, people are drawn to that.

Most importantly, I’ve found that I feel the Lord’s comfort and Spirit come over me in a way that I can’t describe as I’ve been all alone and decided to stand up for what I feel is right. I’ve found that Heavenly Father surrounds us with love when we do this and we come to know Him as a father more deeply in these times.

Your Turn

I’ve shared a few examples of standing up for truth and your beliefs and how God blessed my life.

I’m sure that you have some stories as well. We would all love to hear them, so please share.

Periodically I read the blog Musings on Mormonism.  It is a blog from a former LDS member who is juggling family and spirituality and posts blogs that for the most part appear to be sincere.

The other day I read the post entitled “Can our Hearts be Trusted“.   She describes how praying and receiving an answer from God isn’t legitimate because our hearts can decieve us.  She then goes on to state the only thing we can trust is God’s word and nothing else.

This statement was very amazing to me for a number of reasons.  First, how are we to know God’s word if we can’t recognize and discern his voice?  Next, in my opinion it is borderline blasphemy to say that God can’t answer prayers and speak to our hearts through not only feelings, but in our minds and through scriptures as well.  Finally, I feel that it is a tool from Satan to deceive us into thinking that we do not need to pay attention to the feelings and promptings God gives us.  It states in scripture that God speaks to us in our minds and in our hearts through feelings, visions, scriptures, and other means such as prophecy.

The question then is how do we learn to discern between what our desires are and what God’s desires are?  Furthermore, if one claims to be a prophet and speak when moved upon by the Holy Ghost as the prophets of the New Testament did, how are we to know if what they are saying is truth?  Many people may answer this by saying to look it up in the Bible and that will confirm the truth.  However, how is one to know what truth is when reading in the Bible or any other scripture for that matter?  Clearly the answer is through the Holy Ghost.  But once again, the question arises how do we know if what we are feeling is from God or just our own desires?  Worse yet, how do we know what we feel isn’t Satan trying to deceive us?

These thoughts caused me to reflect on a post I wrote about 2 years ago called “Receiving and Recognizing Answers to Prayers.”  In this post and especially in the comments by other readers, there are common threads on how we can live our lives in tune so we can receive and recognize answers to our prayers.

In one of the threads, it discusses how God will send us the Holy Ghost through feelings accompanied with a positive conviction.  Personally, I feel that all inspiration we receive should be backed up, as our “musings” friend alludes to with the scriptures.

From my own personal experience, I know this is a truth: God speaks to us through His Holy Spirit and we feel this many times as a burning in the bosom, or exceeding joy that is more than just our own made-up desires that confirms all truth.  We do need to learn and practice to discern from our own feelings and God speaking to us though. 

Personally, I feel that our friend over at Musings has it 1/2 right.  We do need to test our answers to the Word of God and not soley rely on a desire…especially if we’re not sure if it’s from God or not.  We shouldn’t rely soley on just our feelings and also it is important to have had a witness of what scripture is truth and this will come through an answer from the Holy Spirit as well.

I know we can learn to recognize and discern between Heavenly Father’s promptings and our own desires. 

What are your thoughts on this subject?

I’ve alluded in previous posts to problems I’ve dealt with as a result of issues from my early childhood.  One of my most often read posts is the one I wrote last year about overcoming anxiety and depression.  I’m grateful that God has been able to reach so many people through my experiences and I hope that the reference in this post will help as well.

Along with dealing with the depression that I previously wrote about, I was dealing with certain addictions (which, I feel were a trigger for depression I was having).  I won’t go into detail about the addictions I had to overcome, but I will discuss the process I went through in overcoming them.

As a young child I had some traumatic events in my life that affected my views on various things in life.  Unintentionally I formed addictions later in life as a result of these early experiences.  The funny thing is that I knew what I was doing was wrong but I would seem to always revert back to my addictive behavior over and over again.  It affected my self-esteem and the way I viewed the world and it went on for many years.

Overcoming the addictions I dealt with were a process.  First, I was in denial and I would put the blame on others such as my parents or the people involved in my addictive habits.  However, after a few years and a serious wake up call I realized I had a problem and needed to overcome it.  The only problem was that I couldn’t stop myself from the habits that had been formed even when I knew they were wrong.

To make a long story short, God helped me through blessing me with determination, patience, and guidance from the Holy Ghost for a number of years.  One day as I was driving the Holy Spirit told me in my mind to contact an old friend I hadn’t talked with in years.  When I called her I thought I was going there to help her on an errand from God but soon found out that she had recently gone through an addiction recovery program.  She became my sponsor for the program which was a major part in my addiction recovery. 

Looking back on it, I am deeply grateful that God knew me personally and cared for me deeply enough to guide me to the right program.  For me, it was very helpful and worked in the end.  However, I did feel a bit of a void especially when talking with my church leaders.  I would have loved to have been in a session with people who had similar views on God but I don’t think the leaders were properly trained or aware that the LDS church has an addiction recovery program.

The other day I came across this LDS reference and thought it would be very helpful for people to know about. 

Here they have support groups, counseling services and publications for addictions dealing with the following issues:

  • Alcohol
  • Drugs (both prescription and illegal)
  • Tobacco
  • Coffee and tea
  • Pornography
  • Inappropriate sexual behavior
  • Gambling
  • Codependency
  • Disorders associated with eating
  • I encourage those of you who are either dealing with any of these issues or are in a leadership or counseling role to help others with these issues to use this website as a reference.  I think if I had known of this before-hand it could have saved me some time and I could have overcome the issues with much more support.

    If anyone else has ideas of good references for those dealing with addictions please feel free to share.

    Over a year ago, I wrote a post called “Why do People Leave the LDS Church?”  It has since become one of my most frequented posts and recently received a comment from a sincere seeker of Jesus who has just left the LDS church.  She has started a blog called Musings on Mormonism that shows her sincerety as a seeker of Jesus and her story of being a Mormon and chosing to leave the LDS church, yet devoting herself to following Jesus.  I respect her choice and also commend her for following her heart and pray that she brings people closer to Jesus.

    Her experience was very similar to the experience the experience of Shawn McCraney’s.  Recently I read his book called “I was a Born Again Mormon.”  In this book, he describes his experience as an LDS elder and missionary and also is conversion to Christianity and leaving the LDS church.  I didn’t agree with a lot of what he wrote, but one thing I did agree with was that it is important to be born again.  His definition of what a born again Mormon is and mine are drastically different, but I do agree with him in the fact that we as Mormons (and everyone for that matter) need to be born again.

    I feel that it is unfortunate that many of our fellow Christians feel that we are not truly born again and believers in Jesus.  No one is perfect, but if we are not doing things out of the love we have for Jesus, then we need to repent and become truly born again. 

    In John, chapter 3,  Jesus tells Nicodemus one must be born again to see the kingdom of God.  In the Book of Mormon in Alma, chapter 7 it states we need to be born again through repentance and baptism as well.  There are many other scriptures in the Book of Mormon and Bible for those who want to study being born again.  Clearly it is something necessary and something that we as LDS should be talking about and thinking about.

    In 2007, Elder Bednar, one of the Apostles for the Church of Jesus Christ, gave a great sermon called “Ye Must be Born Again.”  In this sermon, he discusses the importance in being born again and accepting Jesus:

    We are instructed to “come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny [ourselves] of all ungodliness” (Moroni 10:32), to become “new creature[s]” in Christ (see 2 Corinthians 5:17), to put off “the natural man” (Mosiah 3:19), and to experience “a mighty change in us, or in our hearts, that we have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually” (Mosiah 5:2). Please note that the conversion described in these verses is mighty, not minor—a spiritual rebirth and fundamental change of what we feel and desire, what we think and do, and what we are. Indeed, the essence of the gospel of Jesus Christ entails a fundamental and permanent change in our very nature made possible through our reliance upon “the merits, and mercy, and grace of the Holy Messiah” (2 Nephi 2:8). As we choose to follow the Master, we choose to be changed—to be spiritually reborn.

    I would like to share with you when I experienced a “mighty change in heart” and was born again as a new creature in Jesus.

    During a proselyting mission in Frankfurt, Germany I had had many discussions with non-believers and people who challenged my faith of if there was a God and if Jesus was real.  I struggled with my faith for awhile and questioned if there was a God and if Jesus was really the Savior.

    During this time, I would sometimes feel angry with myself for feeling this way and viewed myself as a hypocrite.  I concluded that if I really wanted to know Jesus I would need to immerse myself in His word and pray, which is exactly what I did.  In order to know Jesus, I decided I would read the book Jesus the Christ, by James Talmage along with the New Testament.  I studied and prayed for over 8 months and learned a lot, but never did receive a “born again” experience.  I actually wasn’t really looking for a sign and had the faith that God would reveal truth to me in His own time and way.

    One morning, it happened.  As I was praying, I felt completely overcome with a love and joy for Jesus that I had never felt before.  Words to a poem, which I may share at some later point entitled “I’m With You ’til the End” came to mind and I dictated as the Spirit of God spoke to me through my writing.  As I watched the words fall onto the paper describing who Jesus is and what His mission in life was and how He’s always there to help me, I felt my heart change and my love and desire to share the good news of the gospel overcome me.  I wept in gratitude as God had answered my prayers.

    That experience was more than 12 years ago now, but it is etched into my heart.  I’ve made many mistakes since then, but I am a drastically different person since becoming a new creature in Jesus than I was before.  I know that I have the opportunity to daily give my heart to Jesus and that He’ll lead me in all I do.  As I try daily to give my heart to Jesus then I notice that I gradually become more like Him in my desires to serve others and to love as He did.  Life, relationships, and everything becomes more meaningful. 

    Those of us who are members of the Church of Jesus Christ should always remember that in all we do nothing matters unless we do it unto the Lord.  Our fellow Christian brothers and sisters should never feel that we as Mormons are not born again and new creatures in Jesus, for without Him, nothing else matters.

    If you are a Mormon, how would you describe your “born again” experience?

    Also, if you are a fellow non-LDS Christian, feel free to share your born again experience as well.

    For more good posts on Mormons being born again visit:

    Begging for a Remission of Sins

    LDS Alive in Christ (this one is a beautifully written testimony by the author of the site of how he became born again.  Highly Recommended)

    One of the key components to LDS theology is that of scripture being an open canon.  According to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’ Bible Dictionary, scripture is defined as follows:

    The word scripture means a writing, and is used to denote a writing recognized by the Church as sacred and inspired. It is so applied to the books of the O.T. by the writers of the N.T. (Matt. 22: 29; John 5: 39; 2 Tim. 3: 15). For an account of the process by which the books of the O.T. and N.T. came to be recognized as scripture, see Canon. Latter-day revelation identifies scripture as that which is spoken under the influence of the Holy Ghost (D&C 68: 1-4).
    According to this definition, this leaves things pretty wide-open as to what scripture really is and can be difficult for many people, especially those from other faiths to comprehend.  Basically anything that is spoken by someone under the influence of the Spirit can be interpreted as scripture.  However, this also places great responsibility on everyone to be in tune with the Holy Spirit so they can interpret by the spirit and know if things spoken are essentially the word of God. 
    As I pondered this, I thought about the scriptures that the LDS currently use commonly called the “Standard Works.”  These scriptures include the Bible, Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price.
    Most Christians claim that the Bible is infallible and that every single word written therein is exactly what God wants us to have and there can be no more scripture.  This is very hard for LDS people to fathom because they believe otherwise.  Why are such scriptures as the Song of Solomon considered to be considered infallible scripture? Who was it that had the authority to declare that the Bible should be the only scripture?  If the experiences and prophecies in the Bible are the only authorized scripture, what scriptures were the apostles and prophets of the Bible using at the time?
    On the other hand, Christians firmly believe that it is heretical to have any additional scripture other than what is in the Bible.  They may have questions and concerns about anyone else who claims to add scripture is a false prophet and therefore their writings and words should be avoided.
    Athiests and Agnostics choose to avoid the scriptures altogether because of flaws and condradictions found within the scriptures.
    As I contemplate these issues and questions, I’m very grateful for the following scriptures about the Holy Ghost:
    Moroni 10:2-5
    2 And I seal up these records, after I have spoken a few words by way of exhortation unto you.
      3 Behold, I would exhort you that when ye shall read these things, if it be wisdom in God that ye should read them, that ye would remember how merciful the Lord hath been unto the children of men, from the creation of Adam even down until the time that ye shall receive these things, and ponder it in your hearts.
      4 And when ye shall receive these things, I would exhort you that ye would ask God, the Eternal Father, in the name of Christ, if these things are not true; and if ye shall ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, he will manifest the truth of it unto you, by the power of the Holy Ghost.
      5 And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.
    John 16: 7;13
    7 Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you.
    13 Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come.
    In the first scripture, there is a promise given that one can know if the things written in the Book of Mormon are true.  However, the promise extends further in verse 5 in that the Holy Ghost will not only help one receive a witness of the Spirit if the Book of Mormon is true, but also know the truth of all things.  Also, in the Bible Jesus says when he leaves the Holy Ghost will show them the truth of all things as well.
    If one is to read certain parts of the Bible (such as the Song of Solomon) and if one is to read certain parts of the Doctrine and Covenants (such as the polygamy revelation) it can be hard to feel the Spirit confirm it as truth.  Also, Joseph Smith’s Lectures on Faith used to be “cannonized” scripture but were removed in the early 1900’s.  Furthermore, when Joseph Smith spoke about the Book of Mormon he said that it was the most correct book of scripture written.  But didn’t say it was completely flawless.  I’ve read that the Book of Mormon has been changed and edited over 4,000 times. Also, authors within the Book of Mormon acknowledge their weakness in writing
    Acknowleding flaws and/or errors in scripture can be a huge thing for both LDS and Christians to accept.  They both believe that scripture is flawless. Due to the weaknesses of men in writing and translations, etc. and the LDS view of having an open cannon, it is very important–essential–that one maintains a close relationship with the Lord so they can be led by the Holy Ghost to know the truth of all things that are found in the scriptures.
    However, this can lead to discrepencies and to people claiming that “the Spirit told them” to say and/or do certain things and believe certain doctrine.  The LDS comeback for this answer would be “that’s why we have prophets and apostles.”  However, the questions then arise: How are we to know if they are indeed prophets and called of God?  How can we know if what they’re speaking is truth?  The answer: the Holy Spirit.
    It would take a whole other post to write about how to recognize the Holy Spirit speaking truth to you, but some posts I’ve previously written on this topic include:”Effectively Using the Sword of the Spirit,” “Learning the Mysteries of God,” and “Questions to Know if you’ve Experienced the Holy Ghost.”
    I especially like this quote by Gordon B Hinckley:
    How do we know the things of the Spirit? How do we know that it is from God? By the fruits of it. If it leads to growth and development, if it leads to faith and testimony, if it leads to a better way of doing things, if it leads to godliness, then it is of God. If it tears us down, if it brings us into darkness, if it confuses us and worries us, if it leads to faithlessness, then it is of the devil” (Jordan Utah South regional conference, 2 Mar. 1997)
    I would like to let those who read this know that I’ve felt the Holy Spirit confirm truth to me on numerous occasions throughout my life and that I’m grateful for this.  As I’ve prayed about various scriptures I have felt the Spirit witness truths to me that are found in the Bible, Book of Mormon, and other writings both LDS and otherwise.  I know that I’ve felt the Spirit confirm that there is a God that watches over each one of us and that cares for us.  I’ve felt His love and Spirit as I’ve prayed about big and small decisions in my life and know that he will lead us into the right paths and help us find truth in all things.  I know that God will reveal the truth of all things to everyone if we ask in humility and faith.

    The student of the New Testament should be primarily an historian. The centre and core of all the Bible is history. Everything else that the Bible contains is fitted into an historical framework and leads up to an historical climax. The Bible is primarily a record of events. (History and Faith by J Gresham Machen)

    In the previous quote Mr Machen defines history as a main framework for building faith.  Similarly, the people over at Living Hope Ministries in Brigham City Utah feel the same way.  They recently made a video that strives to discredit the Book of Mormon due to lack of historical evidences found to support the Book vs. the Bible that has many historical evidences to support it.  

    As a counter-attack, people at the FAIR LDS site have put out a video on how many things in the Bible can not be historically proven while acknowledging that most things in the Book of Mormon can not be supported historically. (As a side note, there is an interesting site called The Nephi Project where George Potter traces Lehi’s trail through the Arabian desert by using the Book of Mormon as a reference.)

    The question then is: Does one need historical evidence to believe and have faith?

    My initial response is that one doesn’t need to have historical evidence to believe.  The definition of faith, according to the Bible in Hebrews 11:1 is that it is the “substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen.”  The Bible doesn’t support history as something needed to build faith.

    Secondly, I feel that Even if something can be historically proven, one still has to have the witness from the Spirit in order to believe on it.I’m reminded of the classic Book of Mormon scripture in Moroni 10 that says “by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things.”  Therefore, it appears that a witness from the Holy Spirit is the most essential element to one’s faith. 

    I’ll admit that I’ve struggled with my faith when I try to reason with both Bible and Book of Mormon stories that seem to have no “evidence.”  However, I always fall back on the witness I’ve received from the Holy Ghost that both books are true and they come from God.  I know they are both true because I’ve felt and seen the fruits of the Spirit in my life as I’ve read and applied principles found in both books.  As historical “evidences” appear they are an added bonus to my faith, but not the main source.

    What has your experience been with either the Bible or the Book of Mormon?  Do you feel historical evidence is necessary to have faith?

    This scripture is in 1 Nephi 2:16:

    And it came to pass that I, Nephi, being exceedingly young, nevertheless being large in stature, and also having great desires to know of the mysteries of God, wherefore, I did cry unto the Lord; and behold he did visit me, and did soften my heart that I did believe all the words which had been spoken by my father; wherefore, I did not rebel against him like unto my brothers.

    Just a little preface for those who may not be familiar with this scripture.  Nephi’s father, Lehi had just had a vision that was difficult for his family to understand.  In this example, Nephi turns to the Lord rather than to science, other men, etc. to learn the Lord’s mysteries.  As a result, the Lord visits him and softens his heart.  This experience serves as a building block for the rest of Nephi’s life as one reads through the Book of Nephi and sees how strong Nephi is in the Lord throughout his life.

    As I read over this again this morning I thought about my own life.  What are the “mysteries” that I’ve experienced and what are some that I’ve seen others struggle with?  Examples include: is there a God? Which church is true? Is the Book of Mormon true?  The Bible? Why am I sick? What job should I take? Who should I marry? What school should I go to? Why do we have temples and what is the meaning of what we do in temples? How can I experience God’s love?  How can I love my enemy? How can I trust in something I can’t see (Jesus, God, etc.)? Why did I lose my job? Why don’t I feel happy?

    I could go on, but the point is that “mysteries” to me are basically anything we don’t understand (which is about 99% of life!).  Since there are so many things in life that are incomprehensible, that makes it even more important to turn to the Lord. 

    In the very next verse (1 Nephi 2:17) Nephi describes how we can know the mysteries of God, which is through the power of the Holy Ghost.  Other scriptures state that the Holy Ghost will “teach us all things,” and by the power of the Holy Ghost we’ll “know the truth of all things.”

    Receiving an answer and recognizing the answer from the Lord through the Holy Ghost may not come all at once.  It didn’t for Nephi, but eventually the Lord visited him and said in 1 Nephi 2:19:

    Blessed art thou, Nephi, because of thy faith, for thou hast sought me diligently, with lowliness of heart. 
     

    Notice that the Lord didn’t simply give Nephi an answer, but it was because Nephi was:

    1. Humble (i.e. didn’t rely on the philosophies of men and science but relied on the Lord)

    2. Never gave up (he didn’t just ask once and call it good and then blame the Lord for not answering.  He diligently sought)

    3. He had faith (he believed the Lord would answer him)

    I encourage all of us to follow Nephi’s pattern when we have a question or do not understand something whether it be gospel or spiritually related or something else in our lives such as our children, job, friends, spouse, or anything else. 

    One thing I’d like to add in conclusion.  Although we can apply this formula to virtually any question we have in our lives, these scriptures are specifically referring to the “mysteries of God.”  People ask questions such as “Was Joseph Smith really a Prophet?” “Is the Book of Mormon a true Book?” “Did Jesus really exist and atone for the sins of the world?” “Is there a God?” “How do I recognize answers to prayer?” “Why does God allow bad things to happen?”

    Whatever questions we are asking ourselves, I hope we can apply these principles in our lives and turn to the Lord rather than man or science.  I don’t know much about God’s mysteries and many of life’s mysteries, but the little I do know has been revealed to me through the Holy Spirit when I follow this pattern to know the mysteries of God. 

    One of the most prevelant gifts of the Spirit is that of speaking in tongues.  In the LDS Topical Guide under the topic “Holy Ghost, Gifts of,” one of the most, if not the most prevelant gift of the Spirit discussed is that of speaking in tongues.  I counted seven scriptures in the Bible, Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants, and Pearl of Great Price that talk about speaking in tongues in the Topical Guide. 

    Reading these scriptures (especially the one in 2 Nephi 31:13 that talks about speaking with the “tongue of angels”) reminded me of a talk given in General Conference last year by Jeffery Holland called “The Tongue of Angels.”  I love this talk and I recommend reading it.  As I read it again today, this small section of his talk impressed me:

    “In all of this, I suppose it goes without saying that negative speaking so often flows from negative thinking, including negative thinking about ourselves. We see our own faults, we speak—or at least think—critically of ourselves, and before long that is how we see everyone and everything. No sunshine, no roses, no promise of hope or happiness. Before long we and everybody around us are miserable.”

    I have struggled at times in my life with negative thinking about myself and have found that when I have negative thoughts about myself it trickles into other areas of my life such as negative thoughts about others, society, God, my family, the church, other churches, work, God, etc…and pretty soon I’m looking at everything in a negative and depressed state.  I want to share with anyone who may be able to benefit from this and may be struggling with negativity in their lives.  The following things have helped me (and continue to help me) overcome negativity:

    1. Remember what it felt like when I was positive.

          For me, this is the first step…much like Alma’s talk in Alma 32 about having a desire to believe.  I must have a desire to become more positive and remembering what it felt like being positive helps me. 

    2. Trace my thoughts back to where I first started thinking negatively.

           Most of us have heard the Proverb “as he (or she) thinketh so is he (or she)”.   I’ve found that many of my problems can be traced back to negative thoughts about myself and others.  Thoughts (negative and positive) are like seeds and they’ll grow.  This can be good if it is a positive thought, but if it’s a negative thought we’ll want to catch them before they grow too big.  If I think a negative thought about something or someone long enough eventually I’ll act on it either by something I’ll say or do.  If I feel down or if I’m saying things or doing things in a negative way, I’ve found that most of the time I can trace my actions back to a negative thought. 

    3. Once I’ve identified the negative thought, replace it with a positive thought or something else uplifting

          About a year ago, I was having some problems with negative thoughts.  One of my friends suggested some cds by James Cox called “Becoming Spiritually Centered.”  I HIGHLY recommend these to anyone who may be struggling with depressive or negative thoughts.  Listening to these and applying the lessons has greatly helped me.  I found that when I traced my thoughts back to an original negative thought and then identified something to replace it with when it popped in my head again, I was able to gradually over time become a more positive thinker. 

    4. Keep a journal

        This is kind of in conjunction with number 2, but for me, it is very helpful to get all the negative thoughts out into a journal.  Once they’re all out there I can then identify ways to combat the negative thoughts.

    5. Pray for strength

       I want you to know that God will answer your prayers and help you.  I’m very grateful for this in my life. 

    6. Talk with good friends, family, and spouse

       If I’m struggling, I’ve found that talking with friends, family and spouse is very helpful.  Rather than hiding things and trying to cover them up.  If they (family and friends) know you struggle with negativity I’ve found they’re more likely to help and it’s good to have support.

    7. Avoid Comparing myself to others

        When I’m feeling down if I compare myself to other people who seem to never be down, I get even more frustrated and hard on myself.  Comparing myself to myself and my own personal goals are essential to progressing in a more positive course. 

    8. Always keep trying

       Overcoming negativity/depressive thoughts can be a difficult thing.  It takes time and effort.  I’ve found that patience and practice makes perfect…well, I’m not perfect, but you get the idea : )

    It has been my experience that as I’ve learned to control my negative thoughts I become more receptive to the Holy Ghost.  As I open myself up to more positive thinking and the Gifts of the Holy Ghost, I find my words and thoughts about myself, others, and the world around me are closer to what Elder Holland and other prophets are referring to by “speaking with the tongue of angels.”

    I know this is somewhat of a personal topic, but if you feel comfortable sharing your thoughts on what has helped you overcome negativity and be able to have better dialogue with yourself and others, I think there are many people who could benefit from this.  If you don’t feel comfortable sharing, I hope this helps you and you can share this with others.

    A few months back I was in stake conference and someone gave a talk on the gift of the Holy Ghost.  In the talk, the person shared parts of a talk by Truman G Madsen, where he lists 20 questions to ask yourself in order to identify if you’ve felt the power and gift of the Holy Ghost.  I tried to write most of them down, but may be missing them.  In addition, I have had a hard time coming across the Madsen talk, so if you have more information that would be great!

    20 Questions

    1. Have you ever had the Spirit overwhelm you with gratitude?

    2. Have you ever spoken beyond your means?

    3. Have you ever given a talk and had people say “you said exactly what I needed to hear”?

    4. Have you ever been filled with “liquid fire” in response to prayer?

    5. Have you ever been given words to pray?

    6. Have you known you’d be called upon to pray or serve in a particular calling?

    7. Have you been prompted to share your testimony, or witness of the gospel?

    8. Have you felt the overwhelming sense of peace that comes from the Spirit?

    9. Have you ever given a blessing or received a blessing you needed?

    10. Have you ever been healed by a blessing?

    11. Have you had the experience of having the veil thin?

    12. Have you been in the temple and the “flood gates open” and light pours into you?

    13. Have you had experience knowing there were angels in the temple?

    14. Have you had the experience where scriptures seem to “leap off the page” and give you answers?

    15. Have you been lead to find names in family history to do geneology and temple work?

    16. Have you ever had flashes of insight, or “pure knowledge”?

    17. Have you ever sat in sacrament and felt wounds lifted from your soul?

    18. Have you ever felt changed from partaking of the sacrament?

    19. Have you felt changed from the atonement?

    20. (I missed the last one)

    Madsen then goes on to explain that when we have these experiences it is when we’re either serving someone else in our family or community, praying, and reading our scriptures…basically doing what it takes to receive a witness.  He suggests it requires softness of heart, meekness, humility, and lowliness of heart.

    I agree with many of these statements in that I’ve had amazing spiritual experiences in the temple, during prayer, in sacrament, and while giving and receiving blessings. 

    However, my question I pose is whether one necessarily needs the gift of the Holy Ghost (meaning having received the laying on of hands after baptism) to experience these things, or if anyone can experience these things?  For most of my life, I’ve been an active member of the LDS church and don’t really know what it may be like for those who don’t recieve the laying on of hands.  I’d be interested to hear from everyone, but especially those who have been baptized members of the LDS church and recieved the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost.  Did you experience an added measure of the spirit after receiving the laying on of hands and what are your thoughts on these 20 questions?  Did you, or could you experience this w/o having the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost?

    Last Sunday I was over at my inlaw’s house and watched a good little John Bytheway DVD called “Standards Night Live.”  I really don’t know much about John Bytheway except for his fun, but corny songs about being a Mormon and missionary, etc.  However, I really enjoyed this DVD and something he said in it has caused me to reflect all week.  

    He discussed the famous and important scripture in Ephesians 6  about putting on the full armor of God.  He also mentions that of the things Paul suggests to have in defending against Satan, there is only one item suggested to use as an offensive weapon and that is the sword.  In Ephesians, Paul says the sword of the Spirit is the word of God .  John Bytheway goes on to discuss the tactics of Satan are to get us into situations where we loose the Spirit so we won’t have any offensive weapon against Satan. 

    As I have pondered this, I’ve thought of a few things.  First, I thought it was interesting how Paul describes the Spirit (word of God) as a sword and I thought of other scriptures that have this imagery.  Next, I contemplated instances in my life when I have “let my sword down” and wondered what I could have done differently.  Finally, I wondered about how one can recognize the Spirit and have it return once it is gone.  I will share my thoughts on each of these areas.

    The Spirit (Word of God) is as a Sword

    Some scriptures that come to my mind that have the imagery of the Spirit being as a sword include:

    Acts 2:37: “Now when they heard this, they were apricked in their bheart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, cwhat shall we do?”

    Hebrews 4:12: “For the aword of God is bquick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged csword, dpiercing even to the dividing asunder eof soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a fdiscerner of the gthoughts and hintents of the heart.”

    Helaman 5:30: “And it came to pass when they heard this avoice, and beheld that it was not a voice of thunder, neither was it a voice of a great tumultuous noise, but behold, it was a bstill voice of perfect mildness, as if it had been a whisper, and it did pierce even to the very soul—”

    3 Nephi 11: 3: “And it came to pass that while they were thus conversing one with another, they heard a avoice as if it came out of heaven; and they cast their eyes round about, for they understood not the voice which they heard; and it was not a harsh voice, neither was it a loud voice; nevertheless, and notwithstanding it being a bsmall voice it did cpierce them that did hear to the center, insomuch that there was no part of their frame that it did not cause to quake; yea, it did pierce them to the very soul, and did cause their hearts to burn.

    Each of these examples include similar characteristics.  I’ll highlight a few of them.  First, the Spirit (or word of God) is described as being able to pierce (or prick).  Second, each example states it doesn’t just pierce lightly, but to the soul (or heart).  The questions then arise what is the Spirit piercing and why is it important to be pierced all the way to the soul?  We could go into many details just on these two questions, but some of the thoughts I have on this include the Spirit is piercing through the pride, passions, prejudices, “hardness of heart,” and sin of the natural man.  Some people call this “being born again” or “putting off the natural man.” It is important to pierce us to the soul because if it just touches our physical senses or our mind it won’t leave as lasting of an impression on us.  As seen in following verses in Acts 2, the Spirit touches their souls and they feel moved to action by being baptized.  In our own lives, once we feel the Spirit, I feel it is prompting us to action as well…maybe visit a friend, or help a family member.  In my experience it has always been to do something good. 

    Another similarity in three of the four examples is the fact that many of the people don’t even realize they are feeling the Spirit and when they do, they don’t know what to do.  This also is a whole other discussion, but I simply want to point out that it is important to be able to recognize the Spirit.  I know many times in my life I haven’t recognized the Spirit because I’ve been too busy or prideful to listen.  If we humble ourselves and quiet our own spirits as these people did, we will not only feel the Spirit, but recognize it as well.  This is crucial in our spiritual development.

    Letting our Sword Down

    Most recently, I posted on Steps to Avoiding Apostacy, which in my mind are steps to avoid loosing the Spirit.  I feel that all of us are in a “state of apostacy” so to speak in that we all sin and come short of God’s glory.  If we work on these steps we can continuously feel closer to God’s Spirit and keep our swords up.  It is important to note that we will always come short of the glory of God and that it is through His mercy that we are able to be granted the Spirit.  It is our duty to do everything we can through the knowledge we’ve been given to keep the commandments and stay close to the Lord.   

    The scriptures say that if we “withdraw ourselves from the Spirit of the Lord” we are left to our own devices and led by the “evil one” because God doesn’t dwell in “unholy temples” (Mosiah 2: 36-37).  Further scripture states the Spirit withdraws when we try to cover our sins and not confess them, become prideful, and harden our hearts

    The scriptures show many examples of people who both let their sword down and who kept the sword up.  The consequences are like night and day.  Examples off the top of my head for those who let their sword down include: King David, Solomon, Sampson, the Saducees and Pharisees, and there are many others.  Those who kept the sword up include: Joseph (coat of many colors), Paul, Stephen, and Jesus.

    If we were to compare each of these examples, again it is like night and day.  Joseph kept the sword of the spirit up and denied Potiphar’s wife.  He became more confident in the Lord and eventually a great ruler.  David and Solomon both let the sword down and led lives led lives contrary to the Lord.  David was very repentant, but could have avoided much heartache had he kept his sword up.  The Saducees and Pharisees are very good examples for those of us who profess belief in God and the scriptures.  They were so focused on the word of God and the letter of the law that when the new law came through Jesus they didn’t recognize it and crucified the very One whom they had been waiting for.  This again is another topic, but how often do we get too focused on something other than the Lord and/or put ourselves in a situation to loose the Spirit and therefore “crucify the Lord afresh” as stated in Hebrews.  

    As I contemplate my own life and wonder what I could have done differently to keep the Spirit in my life, I firmly believe turning to the Savior’s example is the best way.

    For instance, when I feel tempted to do something I know is wrong rather than “tarrying” like David did and contemplating the sin and rationalizing it, whatever the sin is or however big or small it is, if I simply say “get behind me Satan,” like Jesus did I will be much better off.  When people tried to logically prove things or twist Christ’s words in many instances, he kept silent in quiet dignity rather than try to prove his point or why He was right.  He remained humble, prayerful, grateful, and was a perfect example of what we need to do to keep the Spirit. 

    However, we’re not perfect and we’re going to let our swords down at some point.  This means we need to know what to do in order to get the sword back up.

    Getting the Sword back Up

    Obviously since the “sword of the Spirit is the Word of God,” it is imperative to “get into” the Word of God in order to receive the spirit.  However, it’s a catch 22 because if we’re reading or hearing the word of God without the Spirit, we won’t recognize it.  I feel there are a few steps involved in getting our swords back up.  First, we need to recognize the Spirit is gone.  Secondly, we need to relax and put ourselves into a position to recieve the Spirit.  Third we need to repent.  Finally, we need to make efforts to put our guard back up. 

    What did people in the scriptures do to get the Spirit back?  I mentioned King David as one who fell away, but he returned again to the Lord.  He recognized his sin and became very humble and contrite for the rest of his days.  He relaxed and invited the Spirit of the Lord when he wrote many Psalms unto the Lord and prayed.  When praying, he repented of his ways and made effort to not commit the same mistake again, which he didn’t. 

    Another example is the anti-christ, Zeezrom in the Book of Mormon.  He was deceived and openly rebelled against the people of the Lord.  However, when he opened his heart and allowed the Spirit to penetrate his heart, he was able to get the sword back up and he preached repentance the rest of his life.  Other examples in the scriptures that are similar to this include the sons of Mosiah, Alma the younger, and Saul (Paul) in the Bible. 

    Some things I do to get the Spirit back into my life once I realize it’s gone include: prayer, scripture study, go to the temple, visit nature, listen to music, write music, serve others, and think of things I’m grateful for.  Once I’ve recieved the Spirit, I note what I did to lose the Spirit and make plans as to how to avoid the situation again.

    In conclusion, I hope these things I’ve learned and contemplated help whoever comes across them.  If you know of additional scriptures or experiences of people in the scriptures, your own personal life, or other stories, I’d love to hear your thoughts on what you do to maintain the sword of the Spirit in your life.

    Cleanse your Soul with Grace for Grace “Spiritual SOAP”

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