Jan 26

“How can I tell when God is trying to tell me something?”

(From a talk I prepared a while back, which I’ve been feeling impressed to share)

Recognizing the Lord’s voice in our daily lives


I’d like to share some thoughts about learning to recognize the Lord’s voice in our daily lives.  

When I was younger, I really struggled with this. I occasionally would feel that warm feeling testifying to me that something was true, but I didn’t have as much confidence as far as understanding how to receive guidance in my daily life; I hadn’t yet figured out how to recognize promptings from the Spirit, and distinguish them from my own thoughts.  It was frustrating. I remember just crying to my mom one day about how “I don’t know how to recognize if Heavenly Father is answering my prayers.” 

It wasn’t until later on as a teenager that I began to recognize when the spirit was trying to tell me something.  I was working as a waitress at a small family restaurant, and I remember I was earnestly trying to seek to recognize the spirit more at this time in my life.

I remember at work, occasionally I’d have a very subtle feeling to do something. For instance, one time I felt impressed to go back to check on one of my customers, even though I had just checked on them. I felt a little sheepish, but I decided to just go with it, figuring, why not, it can’t hurt, and hey- what if it’s a prompting? It was really interesting because as soon as that customer saw me coming back around the corner he said something like, “Oh, I’m so glad you came back!” and it turns out that he had been hoping I would come back because he had forgotten to mention something, confirming to me that what I had felt to do may have been a prompting. And that’s just one example–there were lots of other little experiences like that, as I began to ‘experiment’ my faith. This was the beginning of when I started to realize that I might be recognizing the spirit.

Now that may seem silly or trivial to some, but I believe that Heavenly Father can use small and simple things as a “training ground” for us to learn about the workings of the spirit, so that we can be more prepared for more important promptings down the road. He’ll prompt us in the little simple everyday matters where the consequences aren’t as huge. If we’re looking only for great and miraculous instances where we are guided in some super important thing, we may be missing the mark. At least in the beginning, when we’re just trying to get our spiritual footing.


President Russell M. Nelson has repeatedly pleaded with us to increase our spiritual capacity to receive revelation, and to “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.”


10-day social media fast

About two and a half years ago President Nelson challenged the women of the church to take a 10-day fast from social media, and from any other media that brings negative and impure thoughts to our mind. He specifically encouraged us to pray about which influences to remove during our fast. When I prayed I felt impressed to take a break from my favorite news site, which surprised me, because I think it’s a good thing to be informed, and I had never thought of that as being something that might be distancing me from the spirit.

But as I accepted that challenge, I noticed that I was feeling the influence of the Holy Ghost more, and I began to recognize that some of the online media I had been consuming on a daily basis, had been filling my heart with some negative emotions, such as anger and anxiety – It was getting me all fired up and preoccupied with the matters of the world. And taking up a large portion of my mental and emotional energy and bandwidth.

president nelson 10-day social media fast invitation

In her recent conference talk, Michelle Craig said “The distractions and noise that fill the world and our homes and our lives can make it more difficult to hear His voice. These distractions can so occupy our minds and hearts that we leave no room for the gentle promptings of the Holy Ghost.” 


Strong Emotions and The Spirit

holy ghost overcome by strong emotions like jalapeno

Richard G. Scott also shared an insight that I believe is absolutely filled with truth, and a super important principle to understand:


“The inspiring influence of the Holy Spirit can be overcome or masked by strong emotions, such as anger, hate, passion, fear, or pride. When such influences are present, it is like trying to savor the delicate flavor of a grape while eating a jalapeño pepper. Both flavors are present, but one completely overpowers the other. In like manner, strong emotions overcome the delicate promptings of the Holy Spirit.”


 spirit like a candle lds

I’ve often thought how the still small voice of the spirit is like a candle; it is easily extinguished by strong winds. We have to be careful not to let strong emotions or distractions override it. Galatian 5:22-23 reminds us that “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance”. When I’m feeling these emotions, I know I’ve tapped into the right spirit.


I’ve noticed that when I’m truly feeling the spirit, it actually tempers my strong emotions, even in things that matter and that I would normally get worked up about. Rather than hardening my heart, contributing to my own stubbornness, it softens it. Rather than filling me with a sense of anxiety and urgency, it stills me. It fills me with hope and light and peace, even love. And gives me a peaceful calm assurance of what steps to take and what I ought to do, which is most often not accompanied by strong negative emotions. 

 president nelson holy ghost

President Nelson has warned us that the advances of the adversary are increasing and that “in coming days, it will not be possible to survive spiritually without the guiding, directing, comforting, and constant influence of the Holy Ghost.”


Satan desires to distance us from the spirit. In Elder Owen’s talk in the October 2019 general conference, he warned us that the adversary “will bring things to your attention that seem urgent but in reality aren’t that important. He would have you become so ‘troubled about many things’ that you neglect the ‘one thing [that] is needful.’ ”  


Subtleness of the Spirit’s promptings

We should never underestimate how subtle the voice of the spirit is. 


Elder Boyd K. Packer taught:

“The Spirit does not get our attention by shouting or shaking us with a heavy hand. Rather it whispers. It caresses so gently that if we are preoccupied we may not feel it at all…

“Occasionally it will press just firmly enough for us to pay heed. But most of the time, if we do not heed the gentle feeling, the Spirit will withdraw and wait until we come seeking and listening”


Many voices in the world compete for our attention, and they can easily drown out spiritual impressions if we are not careful.


The prophet Elijiah had experience with this. He saw “a great and strong wind rent the mountains…but the Lord was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake: And after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice. (1 Kings 19:11-12)


Sometimes we talk as if the stronger the prompting is, the more legitimate it is. Like, “I felt this undeniable, overpowering prompting from the spirit.” Or, “I had the strongest feeling.” But I’ve noticed in my own life, that some of the most powerful experiences I’ve had with spiritual impressions have actually been the more subtle ones. The ones that were easiest to second guess or to brush aside. And I think that’s because it takes more faith to act on those promptings. And greater faith brings greater miracles. 


Having an Open Heart


A couple years ago, I felt impressed about a course of action I should take having to do with my son’s education. It was so subtle that almost brushed it aside, especially because it went against a very strong opinion I had about what was best for my son. It was a very subtle nudging idea that would occasionally come into my mind. I eventually recognized that this gentle nudging thought might be a prompting. Since following it, we have been blessed in ways I could never have anticipated. A lot of the concerns that I had originally harbored, actually ended up being resolved, or becoming non-issues because of factors that I could never have foreseen, and it has confirmed to me that Heavenly Father was indeed guiding me in this direction.


But it was interesting to me that I had to be super deliberate about not brushing it aside, and I nearly missed it. It made me wonder how many other promptings I’ve been neglecting because I’m so preoccupied with other things or because I’m so stuck in the rut of my own opinions.


Michelle Craig said: “Do we miss or dismiss personal errands from the Lord because He has prepared ‘a way’ different from the one we expect?”  


How many times do we inadvertently put parameters on what the Lord is trying to tell us? Because we’re not willing to think outside the box and let him lead us in a different direction than the one we were expecting?


Trusting in the Spirit more than on Physical Evidences


Richard G. Scott: “I witness that as you gain experience and success in being guided by the Spirit, your confidence in the impressions you feel can become more certain than your dependence on what you see or hear.”


 An Experience on my Mission

learning tagalog native companion

As a missionary in the Philippines, I was struggling to learn the Tagalog language. Although I had studied hard in the MTC and felt confident in the language, when I first arrived in the field, the people talked so rapidly that I couldn’t understand hardly anything. Sometimes I could pick out a few words here and there, other times I got nothing. I wanted so badly to be able to help these people and understand what they were saying, and I felt like having to learn a second language was really holding me back and hindering me from fulfilling my purpose as a missionary. But now looking back I realized that it actually was a huge blessing, because it forced me to rely more on the spirit, than on what I could tangibly see or hear.


One time, my companion and I were teaching a lady. I could tell by the tone of her voice that she was expressing a concern about the gospel, but I couldn’t understand what she was saying. I had such a strong desire to help her, and to help resolve her concern, but I didn’t know what she was so concerned about. At that moment, I had a scripture from the Book of Mormon come clearly into my mind, that had to do with the Restoration and the Prophet Joseph Smith. I knew instantly where it was located and had the impression that I needed to share it. But I was afraid that it wouldn’t match her concern and that it would be totally unrelated and awkward. And what was my surprise when my companion, who could understand exactly what was going on (as she was a native Filipina fluent in Tagalog) turned to the exact scripture, even the exact verse, that I had been impressed to share — It was a huge testimony to me that God knew what that lady’s concern was, and that the language barrier didn’t need to be a barrier, because the Lord could pour into my soul what she needed to hear.


And later on in my mission, when I could fully understand the language, and everything the people were saying, I leaned back on this experience in learning to trust in the spirit. There were several times when I was teaching someone who seemed to be fine, but the spirit would help me discern things that were unspoken concerns or needs. And I knew from previous experiences to rely on the Lord to guide me another way.  My mission trained me to rely more on the spirit than on physical evidences of things I could see or hear.

tagalog missionarylds missionary phllippines


President Monson’s Incredible Experience

monson peter mourick elder asay story

President Thomas S. Monson had an incredible experience related to this that I’d like to share. It was when he conducted at the dedication of the Frankfurt Germany Temple. He said:


“On Saturday we had a session for our Dutch members who were in the Frankfurt Temple district. I was well acquainted with one of our outstanding leaders from the Netherlands, Brother Peter Mourik. Just prior to the session, I had the distinct impression that Brother Mourik should be called upon to speak to his fellow Dutch members during the session and that, in fact, he should be the first speaker. Not having seen him in the temple that morning, I passed a note to Elder Carlos E. Asay, our Area President, asking whether Peter Mourik was in attendance at the session. Just prior to standing up to begin the session, I received a note back from Elder Asay indicating that Brother Mourik was actually not in attendance, that he was involved elsewhere, and that he was planning to attend the dedicatory session in the temple the following day with the servicemen stakes.


As I stood at the pulpit to welcome the people and to outline the program, I received unmistakable inspiration once again that I was to announce Peter Mourik as the first speaker. This was counter to all my instincts, for I had just heard from Elder Asay that Brother Mourik was definitely not in the temple. Trusting in the inspiration, however, I announced the choir presentation and the prayer and then indicated that our first speaker would be Brother Peter Mourik.


As I returned to my seat, I glanced toward Elder Asay; I saw on his face a look of alarm. He later told me that when I had announced Brother Mourik as the first speaker, he couldn’t believe his ears. He said he knew that I had received his note and that I indeed had read it, and he couldn’t fathom why I would then announce Brother Mourik as a speaker, knowing he wasn’t anywhere in the temple.


During the time all of this was taking place, Peter Mourik was in a meeting at the area offices in Porthstrasse. As his meeting was going forward, he suddenly turned to Elder Thomas A. Hawkes Jr., who was then the regional representative, and asked, “How fast can you get me to the temple?”

Elder Hawkes, who was known to drive rather rapidly in his small sports car, answered, “I can have you there in 10 minutes! But why do you need to go to the temple?”

Brother Mourik admitted he did not know why he needed to go to the temple but that he knew he had to get there. The two of them set out for the temple immediately.


During the magnificent choir number, I glanced around, thinking that at any moment I would see Peter Mourik. I did not. Remarkably, however, I felt no alarm. I had a sweet, undeniable assurance that all would be well.

Brother Mourik entered the front door of the temple just as the opening prayer was concluding, still not knowing why he was there. As he hurried down the hall, he saw my image on the monitor and heard me announce, “We will now hear from Brother Peter Mourik.”

To the astonishment of Elder Asay, Peter Mourik immediately walked into the room and took his place at the podium.

Following the session, Brother Mourik and I discussed that which had taken place prior to his opportunity to speak. I have pondered the inspiration which came that day not only to me but also to Peter Mourik. That remarkable experience has provided an undeniable witness to me of the importance of being worthy to receive such inspiration and then trusting it—and following it—when it comes. I know without question that the Lord intended for those who were present at that session of the Frankfurt Temple dedication to hear the powerful, touching testimony of His servant Brother Peter Mourik.”

learning to recognize the holy ghost promptings

I think it’s so inspiring that President Monson was so acquainted with the spirit’s voice that he was able to trust in it more than what he could see or hear. And I know that that can be true for all of us, as we seek to become more familiar with the voice of the Holy Ghost.

But how do we do this?


In a recent general conference talk, Michelle Craig said, “As you..carve out time every day to draw close to God’s voice, especially in the Book of Mormon, over time His voice will become clearer and more familiar to you.”   What a powerful promise! I know that the Holy Ghost is real. It has helped so many times in my life, that I could never deny it.

I know that as we earnestly seek to draw closer to his voice and immerse ourselves in the words of the Lord, especially in the Book of Mormon, it will make a huge difference in our ability to be led by the Spirit. Because we will be more familiar with His voice. Not that the promptings we receive will get any louder or stronger, but that our ability to discern them will increase.