“Learning the Language of the Spirit,” For the Strength of Youth, Jan. 2021, 16–18.
Learning a new language can be tough work. If you’ve ever had a language class in school or have tried to learn a language on your own, you might know this from experience! It takes hard work and dedication. I learned Spanish on my mission, which was tough at first, but eventually, with the help of the Spirit, I got the hang of it.
I like to think of revelation as a kind of language—the language of the Spirit—that we each need to learn during our life. President Russell M. Nelson has said, “In coming days, it will not be possible to survive spiritually without the guiding, directing, comforting, and constant influence of the Holy Ghost.”1
When you think about it, learning a new language and learning the language of the Spirit have a lot in common. Take a look at the following similarities—they can really help you learn more about how to receive revelation through the language of the Spirit.
When we’re first learning a new language, different approaches work for different people to get things to stick. For me, studying grammar and writing things down really helped with learning Spanish. Other missionaries preferred to practice speaking with their companion. One approach may help more than another—find what works best for you.
We don’t all feel or hear the Spirit in the same way either. Take my mom, for example. For a while when I was growing up, I was worried that I couldn’t feel the Spirit because I never got promptings the way she did. She would always describe promptings coming as words to her mind. I never had this happen, so I thought I just couldn’t feel the Spirit. But I’ve discovered with time that the Spirit communicates with me mostly through feelings or impressions rather than through words. Feelings of peace, joy, and love are typically associated with my experience of revelation.
Just like with learning styles, one way of feeling the Spirit isn’t better than another. We are each unique, so the Spirit communicates with each of us differently. In the Doctrine and Covenants, we can learn about all kinds of ways the Spirit can speak to us. He may “enlighten [our] mind,” “speak peace to [our] mind,” “tell [us] in our mind and in [our] heart,” or “dwell in [our] heart,” or we may feel a burning in our bosom or “feel that it is right,” as well as many other ways (see Doctrine and Covenants 6:15, 23; 8:2; 9:8).
As we study the scriptures and practice listening to the Spirit, we can recognize how He speaks to us.
When you’re learning a language, it can be really useful to get help from someone who knows the language. Books and other resources certainly help, but it speeds up the process to talk to someone who speaks the language.
When we want to learn more about the Spirit, we can get extra help if we ask people we trust how they do it—family members, leaders, or friends. But most important is to ask Heavenly Father. We might ask Him for things like more opportunities to hear the Spirit or for help recognizing when we receive promptings. If we are humble, ask Him to help us, and have faith that He will help us learn how to feel the Spirit, He will help us.
When you’re learning a language, writing things down can be super helpful too. I kept a small notebook with me throughout the day to write down new vocabulary words I heard, and I would try to journal in Spanish each night so I could practice. We don’t have perfect memories, so writing things down lets us go back to review.
We’ve been invited by our leaders to write down spiritual impressions so we don’t forget them.2 Writing such things down can help us with the Spirit in a couple of ways: (1) It can help us remember promptings and feelings after time has passed. Maybe a past prompting will help you in the future, or it might just remind you that the Spirit really has spoken to you. (2) It is also a great way to keep track of how you have felt the Spirit in the past so you can recognize it better in the future. That way, you can start to identify the Spirit more clearly.
And last but not least, don’t give up. Even with the gift of tongues, it’s very likely you won’t learn a language perfectly overnight. As you keep practicing and working hard, it’ll come, but you have to have faith and keep persevering.
Learning to receive revelation and becoming more in tune with the Spirit really is a lifelong effort. I’m sure if you asked your parents or Church leaders, they’d say that they’re still working on it too. So don’t be discouraged if it feels like it’s taking a while—it’s not just you! We all need time to learn a new language. So be patient, keep trying, and the Lord will be there to help you learn the language of the Spirit.