Jun 10

One of the Most Important Pieces of Counsel the Prophet Ever Gave

June 20, 2020

I want to talk about what is (in my opinion) one of the most important, and perhaps overlooked, pieces of counsel that our prophet President Nelson ever gave.

Back in January of 2016, I attended a devotional for young adults, where President Russell M. Nelson spoke. It was an amazing talk! One thing that stuck out to me was this specific warning/directive that he gave. As he talked about preparing to meet the challenges in the latter days, he urged all in attendance to:

“Plead with the Lord for the gift of discernment. Then live and work to be worthy to receive that gift so that when confusing events arise in the world, you will know exactly what is true and what is not.”

*He was the president of the quorum of the 12 apostles at the time (which means, he held the office of “prophet, seer and revelator.”)

I remember when he said that, his wording intrigued me. “Confusing events?” I wondered what that could possibly mean:  In fact, I remember talking it over with my husband at the time, as we pondered what “confusing events in the world” might be coming down the road.


And then, oh my goodness- In the past few years, I personally feel like we’ve started to see his prophecy beginning to be fulfilled, right before our eyes. 

Politics, anyone? Remember last election cycle? It was unlike any we’ve ever experienced. I remember that being a very confusing time! It was hard to know what was true and what was not. What was hype and what was accurate. Who we could trust and who we couldn’t. And what was the best course of action to take in casting our votes. It was frustrating and bewildering on so many levels.

And now again with Covid-19! I feel like these past few months have also been confusing in a lot of ways. News media on both sides are saying different things. There are so many different opinions about how serious this pandemic really is and how we should be approaching it. There are conspiracy theories gaining momentum. There are “experts” saying one thing, and other “experts” saying the opposite. It makes it hard to know what you should believe! What is really going on? What is true and what is not?


(BTW, it is my belief that there are errors on both sides of the spectrum. The truth is somewhere in between, and not something we’ll be able to discover through our own research and observations alone, but is only to be fully discovered with the help of the gift of discernment. I know that the gift of discernment is real! And that it’s one of the things we most need to develop, especially with everything that’s going on in the world right now).


Honestly, I kind of wish I had taken his advice more seriously at the time & implemented it earlier. And it gives me a greater desire to apply his future counsel with more fervor. It strengthens my testimony of the divine foresight of prophets, in discerning things coming down the road. I’ve learned that when President Nelson urges us to pray for the gift of discernment because we’re gonna need it, we’d sure better listen, because chances are, he is spot on!  I’m grateful for a living prophet.

Let’s delve a little deeper into his directive and what it entails:

The directive:
“Plead with the Lord for the gift of discernment. Then live and work to be worthy to receive that gift”

The promise:
“When confusing events arise in the world, you will know exactly what is true and what is not.”


Wow, what an incredible promise!

I want that, don’t you?

I think it’s telling that he didn’t say: make sure you’re tuning into the right news sources. No, he said plead with the Lord for the gift of discernment. 

In my opinion, this is because that’s the only way we’re going to know for sure what is true and what is not. We won’t be able to rely on our own discernment and rationale to make sense of things. The deception is going to be that good, that the only way we’re not going to make errors in our discernment is if we’re able to get our answers from a higher source. 

 *      *      *       *      *      *      *      *      *       *      *
I believe President Nelson foresaw that “confusing events in the world” are going to increase and that deception is going to reach a whole new level. I believe this is one of the reasons why he has been so emphatic the past couple years about our need to learn how the Holy Ghost speaks to us individually and to really hone that skill. In order that we might be prepared for what’s currently happening and for additional things coming down the road.

I’m grateful that God calls prophets and apostles, “that we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine.” (or by every wind of news media coverage, or trending post on social media)



What is the Gift of Discernment?

It is a spiritual gift (see 1 Corinthians 12).

“The gift of discernment consists of the spiritual quality or skill of being able to see or understand, especially that which is hidden or obscure.” 


I didn’t always understand what was meant by the “gift of discernment.” I sometimes assumed that having the gift of the Holy Ghost automatically means that you have the gift of discernment. But I’ve since learned that the gift of discernment is kind of a separate thing on top of that. It is given through the power of the Holy Ghost, but just because you have the gift of the Holy Ghost, doesn’t automatically give you the ability to discern things to the level that having the ‘gift of discernment’ gives you. (Though becoming very attuned to the spirit’s promptings lends itself to also being able to receive the gift of discernment, as it’s kind of a prerequisite).3

But we need to seek it. The scriptures teach us to “seek earnestly the best gifts.” For instance, the prophet Moroni pointed out that the gift of charity (the greatest of all spiritual gifts) only comes if you “pray with all the energy of heart.”  I feel like such earnest seeking applies to this gift as well.

I believe that the gift of discernment is one of these “best” spiritual gifts, that each one of us ought to seek earnestly to obtain.

The Gift of Discernment vs. Our own Discernment

As humans, we naturally pick up on patterns that we see; we’re good at connecting dots and forming hypotheses based on our own observations. But that’s not necessarily the same thing as having the gift of discernment. I feel like it can be easy to assume that because we feel like we’re picking up on things, we must have this gift. But not so fast. It is something God-given, that takes earnest seeking, mighty prayer, and living worthily to obtain in its entirety. (And to maintain this gift, too!)  And..just because we are given the ability to discern something on a particular occasion, doesn’t necessarily translate to us being a possessor of the gift of discernment in all things across the board. It takes continuing effort and worthiness.


I love this definition:

Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught that the gift of discernment can help us (1) “detect hidden error and evil in others,” (2) “detect hidden errors and evil in ourselves,” (3) “find and bring forth the good that may be concealed in others,” and (4) “find and bring forth the good that may be concealed in us” 6


I also love this quote by Charles Spurgeon: 

“Discernment is not knowing the difference between right and wrong. It is knowing the difference between right and almost right.”


It is being able to detect the difference between 100% on course, and a very slight .0001 off-course direction, that if bought into, subtly, imperceptibly and gradually leads us off course and to an entirely different destination than the one we were planning on. (see Elder Utchdorf’s talk on this subject– it is amazing!)

And yes, the gift of the Holy Ghost helps you to discern between right and wrong, but I believe that it takes the gift of discernment to detect between right and “ever so slightly off.” I believe that Satan often wraps his lies in a bundle of truths, hoping that it will blind us to the little lie that is hidden somewhere in the middle. Detecting hidden error requires the gift of discernment.


uchtdorf quote lds


In his talk, President Nelson pointed out that throughout history evil has often been very difficult to detect. I love what he says:

“You don’t have to wonder about what is true. You do not have to wonder whom you can safely trust. Through personal revelation, you can receive your own witness. . .I urge you to stretch beyond your current spiritual ability to receive personal revelation. . .Oh, there is so much more that your Father in Heaven wants you to know. As Elder Neal A. Maxwell taught, ‘To those who have eyes to see and ears to hear, it is clear that the Father and the Son are giving away the secrets of the universe!’ ”

I know that this is true! Our Heavenly Father is eager to pour down knowledge and spiritual gifts to bless and help us. They are for the asking! But we do have to do our part.

But how? 



How do you obtain the gift of discernment? What are the steps?

Elder Bednar of the quorum of the 12 apostles, gave an excellent talk on this very subject.

Here is one interesting insight he shared:

1. Being “quick to observe”

“Being quick to observe is a prerequisite to and a preparation for the gift of discernment. We can only hope to obtain that supernal gift of discernment and its light of protection and direction if we are quick to observe.”

See his entire talk for more context into what it means to be “quick to observe.” 


2. Being sensitive to impressions from the Holy Ghost


Referring to the gift of discernment, President Stephen L. Richards said:

“I believe that this gift when highly developed arises largely out of an acute sensitivity to impressions—spiritual impressions.”

In other words, learn how the Holy Ghost speaks to you, and become very familiar with and attuned to that still, small voice. Here are a few excellent talks about learning to recognize promptings from the Spirit, as well as a few of my own thoughts:

How to Obtain Revelation and Inspiration For Your Personal Life, By Elder Richard G. Scott 

Revelation for the Church, Revelation for our Lives, by President Russell M. Nelson

 How I Learned to Recognize Promptings of the Holy Ghost


 3. Pray for it! And live worthy of it.

“And whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in my name, which is right, believing that ye shall receive, behold it shall be given unto you.”  (3 Nephi 18:20)


 “Seek the gift of discernment which comes by prayer and living the commandments of God”   (President Ezra Taft Benson)


As President Nelson said, we must “Plead with the Lord for the gift of discernment. And then live and work to be worthy to receive that gift.” It requires a willingness to follow the Savior’s teachings and keep ourselves pure and unspotted from the world, by striving with all our might to keep His commandments in our daily lives. 





Why is the gift of discernment so important?


1. Helps us detect hidden dangers 


The gift of discernment can warn us about things we may not be able to see with our natural eyes.

I love this:

“As we are blessed with eyes to see and ears to hear, the Holy Ghost can increase our capacity to look and listen when we may not typically think we need to look or listen or when we may not think anything can be seen or heard.”  (Elder David A. Bednar) 

That is the gift of discernment!

 a warning is most needed when we do not think we need to be warned


2. Helps us to detect evil and protect ourselves against it


“One of the gifts of the Gospel which the Lord has promised to those who enter into covenant with Him is the gift of discerning of spirits—a gift which is not much thought of by many and probably seldom prayed for; yet it is a gift that is of exceeding value and one that should be enjoyed by every Latter-day Saint. . .

Now, the gift of discerning of spirits not only gives men and women who have it the power to discern the spirit with which others may be possessed or influenced, but it gives them the power to discern the spirit which influences themselves. They are able to detect a false spirit and also to know when the Spirit of God reigns within them. In private life this gift is of great importance to the Latter-day Saints. Possessing and exercising this gift they will not allow any evil influence to enter into their hearts or to prompt them in their thoughts, their words or their acts. They will repel it; and if perchance such a spirit should get possession of them, as soon as they witness its effects they will expel it or, in other words, refuse to be led or prompted by it.” 10  (George Q. Cannon)


3. Helps us to read under the surface and uncover hidden truths:

This includes helping us to see the good  that we may not otherwise be able to see!

 gift of discernement see things not visible

President Stephen L Richards said:

“First, I mention the gift of discernment, embodying the power to discriminate . . . between right and wrong. I believe that this gift when highly developed arises largely out of an acute sensitivity to impressions—spiritual impressions, if you will—to read under the surface as it were, to detect hidden evil, and more importantly to find the good that may be concealed.  The highest type of discernment is that which perceives in others and uncovers for them their better natures, the good inherent within them.”  11


4. Protects us against deception


 “Wherefore, beware lest ye are deceived; and that ye may not be deceived seek ye earnestly the best gifts, always remembering for what they are given.”  (Doctrine & Covenants 46:7-8)


President Richards continues:

“Every member in the restored Church of Christ could have this gift if he willed to do so. He could not be deceived with the sophistries of the world. He could not be led astray by pseudo-prophets and subversive cults. Even the inexperienced would recognize false teachings, in a measure at least. . . . We ought to be grateful every day of our lives for this sense which keeps alive a conscience which constantly alerts us to the dangers inherent in wrongdoers and sin.”

Helps you detect wolves in sheep’s clothing- (Remember, it was to his most faithful and devoted disciples that Christ issued the warning to “take heed lest any man deceive you.” 12 I believe that some of the latter-day deceptions are going to be so clever, and so good, that even the elect will not be able to detect them without the gift of discernment. It will be nearly impossible).


But not only that – it can help us discern the good in people who we might be naturally inclined to criticize.13 The apostle Paul prophesied that in the last days, there will be many “despisers of those that are good.” 14 Ancient prophets have warned followers of Christ not to fall into that boat: “Wherefore, take heed, my beloved brethren, that ye do not judge that which is evil to be of God, or that which is good and of God to be of the devil.” 15


5. Helps us make correct decisions

To possess this gift is to receive divinely revealed understanding of opposing spirits–the spirit of God and the spirit of the devil. Persons possessing such a gift also correctly perceive the right course of action (D&C 63:41). 16


6. Helps us discern the thoughts and intents of others


Not only can the power of discernment distinguish good from evil  (Moroni 7:12-18), the righteous from the wicked  (D&C 101:95), and false spirits from divine  (D&C 46:23). .but its more sensitive operation can also make known even the thoughts and intents of the heart of other persons (Hebrews 4:12, D&C 33:1). 17

Think Ammon and King Lamoni. Ammon had the gift of discernment!


There may be times and reasons when we will need to be able to see into someone else’s heart, in order to be able to help them, or to protect ourselves or those we love.


I know that the gift of discernment is real and it comes from God to benefit his children. He loves us, and will not leave us alone in the dark! Spiritual gifts are available to help us navigate through life. They are ours for the asking, and are worth every effort to obtain.

With all my heart I urge everyone reading this to follow President Nelson’s counsel and seek for the gift of discernment! Pray for it and strive for it! The best place to start is by refining our ability to recognize the whisperings of the Holy Ghost. We absolutely need to have this spiritual gift in these turbulent times in which we live. As President Nelson recently warned: “It has never been more imperative to know how the Spirit speaks to you than right now.” 18





  1. Ephesian 4:11, 14
  2. Encyclopedia of Mormonism, see also 1 Corinthians 12:10
  3. See Stephen L. Richards quote under the 2nd point (“Being sensitive to impressions from the Holy Ghost”)
  4. Doctrine & Covenants 46:8, 1 Corinthians 12:31
  5. Moroni 7:48, 1 Corinthians 13
  6. “Quick to Observe,” Liahona, Dec. 2006, 19.
  7. Doctrine & Covenants 42:61
  8. “Quick to Observe,” Liahona, Dec. 2006, 19.
  9. Watchful Unto Prayer Continually” (Elder David A. Bednar)
  10. Gospel Truth: Discourses and Writings of George Q. Cannon, comp. Jerreld L. Newquist (1987), 156–57.
  11. In Conference Report, Apr. 1950, 162–63
  12. Mark 13:5
  13. Many of the scribes and pharisees were inclined to criticize Jesus because he went against their traditions, which were based on their incorrect interpretation scripture (i.e. Mark 3)
  14. 2 Timothy 3:3
  15. Moroni 7:14
  16. Encyclopedia of Mormonism
  17. Encyclopedia of Mormonism
  18. “Hear Him”, President Russel M. Nelson, Conference Address, April 2020
    President Nelson has repeatedly warned us that learning to receive personal revelation is essential to our spiritual survival in these latter days. “We live in a world that is complex and increasingly contentious. The constant availability of social media and a 24-hour news cycle bombard us with relentless messages. If we are to have any hope of sifting through the myriad of voices and the philosophies of men that attack truth, we must learn to receive revelationIn coming days, it will not be possible to survive spiritually without the guiding, directing, comforting, and constant influence of the Holy Ghost. My beloved brothers and sisters, I plead with you to increase your spiritual capacity to receive revelation. . .Choose to do the spiritual work required to enjoy the gift of the Holy Ghost and hear the voice of the Spirit more frequently and more clearly.” (emphasis added)
    Here are a few additional tips he shares on how to increase our spiritual capacity to receive personal revelation from the Holy Ghost: “What will your seeking open for you? What wisdom do you lack? What do you feel an urgent need to know or understand? Follow the example of the Prophet Joseph. Find a quiet place where you can regularly go. Humble yourself before God. Pour out your heart to your Heavenly Father. Turn to Him for answers and for comfort. Pray in the name of Jesus Christ about your concerns, your fears, your weaknesses—yes, the very longings of your heart. And then listen! Write the thoughts that come to your mind. Record your feelings and follow through with actions that you are prompted to take. As you repeat this process day after day, month after month, year after year, you will ‘grow into the principle of revelation.’ “

2 pings

Comments have been disabled.