I thought I was going to drown. I was bodyboarding on the north shore of Oahu, but one after another, humongous waves kept spiraling me into underwater cartwheels. I was in trouble, and I didn’t know what to do. While I was spitting out mouthfuls of sand, the voice of the Spirit spoke to me quietly—not with words, exactly, but with a message that came to me as clear as a voice.
Let me try to put it into words: “When a wave gets near you, just dive straight into it.”
I got it. I put that advice to the test, and it worked! Brim with confidence, I dove into wall after wall of water, popping up each time on the other side of the turmoil with a big smile on my face. I had just discovered the key I needed to thrive in unpredictable waters.
I had learned this same lesson earlier in life, though I didn’t realize it at the time. When a friend told me about the Church when I was 17, I immediately experienced personal revelation, though I didn’t know what it was at the time. It came in what I’ll call “streams of light” that seemed to shine down from heaven. Though I had been raised in a religious home and had faith in God, I’d never seen or felt anything like this before—the beginnings of a testimony, “the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1).
“For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance” (1 Thessalonians 1:5).
I was super excited to share these spiritual experiences with my parents, but when I did, let’s just say they were less than thrilled at the idea of me having anything to do with the Mormon church. They were determined to straighten me out, as any good parents would be, and part of their solution was to hand me a pile of reading material that was rather critical of the Church, its history, and its doctrine. Stacked together, the books and typewritten tirades eventually grew to over a foot tall. I had never experienced this level of criticism of anyone or anything before. I knew something big was at stake.
Unfazed and hopeful, I dove headfirst into my prefaith crisis. I read most of what my parents gave me and found other material on my own. I tried to be fair minded, though I was put off by the pervasive and overwhelming negativity.
“And that which doth not edify is not of God, and is darkness” (Doctrine and Covenants 50:23).
I learned about a lot of things from these materials that aren’t often discussed in the Church. I found these voices to be accusing, dark, contradictory, confusing—in a word, leaden. The darkness was in direct contrast to the streams of light I’d felt at the beginning of my journey. If, as Paul wrote, “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, [and] meekness” (Galatians 5:22–23), this was a very different kind of fruit.
After a few weeks of treading chilling waters, a light dawned on my soul, that familiar voice once again, the still, small one you have to listen to carefully to hear, but one that speaks peace to heart and mind. The light came as a kind of spiritual code that I was slowly beginning to grasp. “Go toward the light,” it seemed to say. “That’s where you’ll find peace.”
Those words felt right. They felt true. I followed that counsel and soon found that the more I followed the light, the more it followed me.
“Put your trust in that Spirit which leadeth to do good—yea, to do justly, to walk humbly, to judge righteously; and this is my Spirit . . . which shall enlighten your mind [and] shall fill your soul with joy;
“And then shall ye know, or by this shall you know, all things whatsoever you desire of me, which are pertaining unto things of righteousness, in faith believing in me that you shall receive” (Doctrine and Covenants 11:12–14).
Well, personal revelation was critical to my understanding and progress. It was all I needed to shake off the chains of others’ doubts and step into purer waters, the waters of baptism. From that time forward, I began to discern light from darkness more distinctly, which made my path clear and plain to me. I learned that when I turned to squarely face the light, all shadows fell behind me.
“It is given unto you to judge, that ye may know good from evil; and the way to judge is as plain, that ye may know with a perfect knowledge, as the daylight is from the dark night.
“For behold, the Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil; wherefore, I show unto you the way to judge; for every thing which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ; wherefore ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of God” (Moroni 7:15–16).
In time the voice of the Spirit became my personal compass. Recognizing revelation has required plenty of trial and error on my part, but over time it’s become easier for me to get answers consistently. And along the way I learned that my concerns and questions are my responsibility and no one else’s. They’re up to me to resolve. As I’ve pursued them over the years, I’ve found a high success rate in getting the answers, or at least the peace of mind I need while waiting for them to arrive.
“Doubt not, but be believing, . . . and come unto the Lord with all your heart, and work out your own salvation with fear and trembling before him” (Mormon 9:27).
I’ve learned the meaning of “ask, and it shall be given you” (Matthew 7:7), the clear difference between light and darkness, how to listen to the assuring voice of the Spirit, and why I can trust that voice completely. I’ve had to dive through many waves of uncertainty in the years since, but because of what the Spirit taught me early on about facing trials and questions, I’ve learned how to come up smiling on the other side.