How the Spirit Works
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“How the Spirit Works,” New Era, Oct. 2001, 46

How the Spirit Works

Adapted from an October 2000 general conference address.

The war for your soul began in heaven and continues here. When you learn to be guided by the Spirit, you are on the road to final victory.

Elder Douglas L. Callister

In Italy there is a majestic sculpture of Moses with a crack on one of the knees. A tour guide may say that Michelangelo, viewing the masterpiece, hurled a chisel at the sculpture and exclaimed in disdain, “Why doesn’t it speak?”

Unlike the inanimate stone, the true Church of Jesus Christ is filled with life. The voice, Spirit, and power of God are found in our worship services, or whenever the ordinances of the holy priesthood are administered.

Elijah inquired of Elisha, “Ask what I shall do for thee.” Elisha said, “I pray thee, let a double portion of thy spirit be upon me” (2 Kgs. 2:9). He could not have asked for anything greater.

Elder Joseph Fielding Smith has written: “The Spirit of God speaking to the spirit of man has power to impart truth. … Through the Holy Ghost the truth is woven into the very fibre and sinews of the body so that it cannot be forgotten” (Instructor, Oct. 1935, 431). With our confirmation as Church members, the door is opened for us to pursue this heavenly endowment. This should be an urgent and lifelong quest.

As we become more familiar with the Holy Spirit, our lives become refined. The sordid and base have no attraction. It is developed spirituality which separates us from the secular world.

Noticing the beauty of nature

A spiritual-minded man is observant of the beauty in the world around him. As the earth was organized, the Lord saw that “it was good.” Then, “It was very good” (Gen. 1:4, 31). It pleases our Father in Heaven when we, also, pause to note the beauty of our environment, which we will naturally do as we become more spiritually sensitive. Our awareness of grand music, literature, and sublime art is often a natural product of spiritual maturity.

Improving scripture study

As we seek the Spirit, our scripture reading becomes more reflective. We rediscover the virtue of slow reading. There is more reading aloud as, perhaps, the scriptures were meant to be read. Brigham Young said: “All I have to do is … keep my spirit, feelings and conscience like a sheet of blank paper, and let the spirit and power of God write upon it what he pleases. When he writes, I will read; but if I read before he writes, I am very likely to be wrong” (Deseret News Weekly, 19 Apr. 1871, 125).

As an evidence of increased spirituality we become more selective in what we read. J. Reuben Clark said, “My rule now is, never read anything that is not worth remembering” (quoted by Joseph L. Wirthlin in Conference Report, Apr. 1947, 85).

Learning to pray

Another fruit of spiritual maturity is improved prayer. More than 30 years ago, President Spencer W. Kimball called me to serve as a stake president. At the conclusion of a long conference weekend, I inquired if he had counsel for me. He replied: “Go teach the Latter-day Saints how to pray. As a people we must not forget how to commune with our Heavenly Father. That is all.” Most of the profound and important teachings in the Church are simple.

Becoming a spiritual giant

Those who have made it their quest to realize the constant companionship of the Holy Spirit will awaken in the next life as spiritual giants, in contrast to the infancy of others who have lived without God in this world. One of the spiritually advanced was President Joseph F. Smith. Bishop Charles W. Nibley said at the passing of Joseph F. Smith: “Never was man more moral and chaste and virtuous to the last fiber of his being than he. Against all forms or thoughts of licentiousness, he was set, and immovable as a mountain. … As a preacher of righteousness who could compare with him? … [When] the heart of President Smith was attuned to the Celestial melodies—he could hear, and [he] did hear” (quoted in Joseph F. Smith, Gospel Doctrine, 522–25).

The great battle of our premortal estate was a struggle for individual souls. It is the same battle we wage here, which is to become supremely spiritual beings. Spirituality is the sure knowledge that we are winning the struggle for the soul. Sensuality is the realm of self-indulgence. Spirituality is the realm of self-victory.

I attended a church class in which the instructor asked what counsel we would give our children in the closing moments of life. I answered: “First, keep your covenants. God keeps His. It will mean much to stand before your Father in Heaven and report: ‘I am home. I am clean. I have done all I covenanted to do.’”

“Second, seek the Spirit of God. The scriptures plead: ‘Quench not the Spirit’ (1 Thes. 5:19). ‘Grieve not the … Spirit’ (Eph. 4:30). It will not come to impure hearts or minds. It comes quietly and without drama. A listening ear can hear the faint rustle of a wing. If we do not listen, it will leave.”

I testify that the workings of the Spirit are real and are found in this Church. I also testify of Christ, the Redeemer, and the work He has instituted in this dispensation.

Photography by Jed Clark. Posed by model

Photography by Steve Bunderson. Posed by model