“What does it mean to seek guidance from the Spirit in our daily lives?” Ensign, Apr. 1978, 41–42
Andrew M. Allison, administrative assistant, Church Missionary Department “The Spirit,” of course, is the Holy Ghost. The very first thing we must do is believe that the Holy Ghost is a real person, and that he actually will communicate with us. Remember that when we were confirmed as members of the Church, we received the gift of the Holy Ghost. But the words of that ordinance are not, “We give you the Holy Ghost,” but rather, “Receive the Holy Ghost.” When we seek and obtain the guidance of the Spirit, we are literally fulfilling that instruction.
The second part of the question—how to do it—is not easy to answer. I do know that we have to prepare ourselves before we can receive direction from the Holy Ghost. We cannot control him, nor should we want to; his direction comes in his own way and in his own time. The Lord knows exactly what guidance we need, and when it will help us most, so we don’t have to worry about that. All we need to do is make sure that we’re ready to receive the guidance at any time.
How do we prepare ourselves to be led by the Spirit? I believe that we must live in constant worthiness, read and ponder the scriptures regularly, and frequently pray in faith. If we do, we will soon come to understand what is meant by the “guidance of the Spirit.” More than that, we will experience that guidance often.
Because “the Spirit of the Lord doth not dwell in unholy temples” (Hel. 4:24), we must be obedient and pure if we are to receive the personal revelation promised the Saints. “To get this revelation,” explained Brigham Young, “it is necessary that the people live so that their spirits are as pure and clean as a piece of blank paper that lies on the desk … ready to receive any mark the writer may make upon it.” (Discourses of Brigham Young, p. 41.)
I mentioned scriptural study. Many times the guidance we need will come right out of the scriptures. Nephi exhorted us to “feast upon the words of Christ; for behold, the words of Christ will tell you all things what ye should do.” (2 Ne. 32:3.) If we are searching the scriptures, we have the assurance that the Holy Ghost will recall pertinent passages to our minds at the very moment we need them. (See John 14:26; D&C 84:85.) I’ve noticed that most of the personal revelations in my own life come in that way.
We need to go directly to the Lord in prayer for guidance in our decisions. “Counsel with the Lord in all thy doings, and he will direct thee for good.” (Alma 37:37.) We all know we should pray—frequently, sincerely, with genuine faith. The problem, though, is learning to recognize an answer. That requires careful listening.
What should we expect to hear? It won’t be something mysterious or unnatural; it may not seem very dramatic. Elder S. Dilworth Young of the First Quorum of the Seventy shares his own experience: “If I am to receive revelation from the Lord … his word will come into my mind through my thoughts, accompanied by a feeling in the region of my bosom. It is a feeling which cannot be described, but the nearest word we have is ‘burn’ or ‘burning.’ Accompanying this always is a feeling of peace, a further witness that what one heard is right.” (Ensign, May 1976, p. 23; italics added. See also D&C 8:2–3; D&C 9:7–9.)
This next point, I think, is very important. We shouldn’t stop listening when the prayer is over! I wonder how many times we’ve knelt and asked the Lord to “lead, guide, and direct” us through the day, only to jump up and rush through our routines without once listening for the “still, small voice” of the Spirit. What might we have heard? How might our lives have been changed—or the lives of others? If not for two missionaries who heeded an impression several years ago to turn down a certain street in Dallas, Texas, someone else would probably be answering your question today. I lived on that street. When I consider where my family and I might be now without their message, I’m so grateful to those two elders for following the whispering of the Spirit.
Just over a year after we were married, my wife and I began to sense an inexplicable urging to move to another state. There appeared to be no justification for it; in fact, our circumstances made a move seem foolish. So we ignored the urging. But the still, small voice became less still over the next few weeks, and we ultimately decided to go. Now, looking back on those days, we marvel at the unforeseeable blessings that never would have come if we had made the “logical” decision.
Have you ever had an impression come into your mind to say or do or avoid a certain thing—a sudden impression that seemed to come just “out of the blue”? That may have been the Holy Ghost speaking to you. The more experience we have with him, the more familiar he becomes. And the easier it is for us to distinguish between the voice of the Spirit and our own thoughts or imaginations.
The Holy Ghost may warn us of danger. A friend of mine is alive today because the Spirit once prompted him to jump off a freight car he was loading. He saw no reason to jump, but had he ignored the impression he would have been crushed to death beneath several tons of falling steel.
Perhaps during a stirring sermon the thought has come to you that it was time to change something in your life. How do you know that that prompting wasn’t the Holy Spirit?
The guidance of the Spirit may function in many ways to help us. Perhaps our own testimonies of the gospel provide the best example; a true testimony is nothing less than a revelation from God. The Holy Ghost will also quicken our understanding of the scriptures; prepare our minds and hearts to receive new Church callings; inspire us to meet the needs of family members and others; comfort and strengthen us during severe trials; and in a thousand other ways bless and enrich our lives.
I know this guidance will come if we are obedient, studious, and prayerful. I know it because I have experienced it many times in my life. We can learn to recognize the language of the Spirit, and the direction that comes to us will be a protection and a source of powerful faith.