Recognizing the Spirit
August 1998

“Recognizing the Spirit,” Ensign, Aug. 1998, 71

Recognizing the Spirit

In October 1995 my daughter was baptized and confirmed a member of the Church. In a talk at her baptism, the gift of the Holy Ghost was likened to a door. Before the gift is given, the doorknob is on the Holy Ghost’s side. He can enter when he chooses. After confirmation, a doorknob is added to our side, so we too can open the door and invite in the Holy Ghost.

Brittany, anxious to take advantage of this new gift, struggled in prayer seeking the Spirit. About a week later she came to me crying, “Mommy, I can’t get the door open!”

Too often we take for granted that our children will recognize the Spirit when it comes. Since the Spirit may speak in several different ways, we can help children recognize that which comes from the Spirit.

Thoughts and feelings. We are told in Doctrine and Covenants 8:2 [D&C 8:2], “Yea, behold, I will tell you in your mind and in your heart, by the Holy Ghost, which shall come upon you and which shall dwell in your heart.” Many times the Holy Spirit comes to us in our thoughts—sometimes as a “still small voice” (1 Kgs. 19:12)—and in our feelings. We will recognize the Holy Spirit by the calm and peaceful feelings that come as we seek to make right choices.

Dreams. Sometimes people are directed through dreams, such as the Wise Men, who were warned not to return to Herod after visiting the Christ child (see Matt. 2:12). We have a 20-year-old son with some developmental disabilities. For him, reasoning things out to make a decision is a difficult and tedious task. He was blessed to have a dream that pictured the decision he needed to make. The next morning when he discussed it with me, he felt very certain and very peaceful that he had found his answer. For him, the answer to his prayer through a dream was just the right amount of help.

Discernment. At other times the Holy Ghost enhances our senses that we might discern those things that ordinarily would not be known to us, as did Ammon in the Book of Mormon, who discerned the thoughts of King Lamoni (see Alma 18:16–18). On one occasion my young daughter Carlie fell asleep clutching a small but precious doll her father had given her. As she relaxed, the doll fell out of the car window onto the road. In seconds she realized what had happened, and the tears started. I pulled over, got out, whispered a prayer, and started looking for the doll. Several hundred yards down the road I found myself staring at a clump of weeds. I walked over and saw the doll hidden in them. We used that opportunity to teach the children how the Holy Ghost can help us beyond our own capabilities.

We can help our children learn to recognize the Holy Ghost on their own by doing some of the following:

  • Discuss lessons and stories given during Church meetings. Focus on how the children felt while listening to the various presentations.

  • Bear testimonies during family home evening. This is a great time to provide a safe environment where children can share special feelings about the gospel. Teach children about the calming and peaceful feelings associated with the Spirit’s bearing witness to the truth.

  • Visit older family members or friends and listen to them relate stories about times when they heeded promptings or felt the Spirit.

  • Encourage children to pray over their problems, large or small. Remember that an adult’s perspective and a child’s perspective of what is important may vary. Be sure to focus on the calm and peaceful feelings they receive when they pray rather than on the answer. Sometimes the answer is no.

  • When children are faced with a difficult choice, help them focus on making the choice that will bring them greatest peace rather than the choice that may seem more fun.

  • Help children keep a journal of times the Holy Ghost has prompted or directed them. At times of uncertainty, they can go back and reread some of their own experiences, which will help them remember the feelings they had when they listened to the Holy Ghost.

As we help our children practice opening the door to the Holy Ghost, we give them one of the keys needed to gain a personal testimony and to make good choices that can lead them back to Heavenly Father.—Debbie McPheters, Monmouth, Oregon

Illustrated by Scott Greer