President's Pen 2-8-16 (Feeling & Recognizing the Spirit)

As missionaries in the Texas Houston South Mission, we know our purpose is to invite others to come unto Christ,  by helping them receive the restored gospel through faith in Jesus Christ and His Atonement, repentance, baptism, receiving the Gift of the Holy Ghost and enduring to the end. We do this through our constant efforts to find, teach, invite, retain, and activate God’s children; we love it, we live it, and we do it! We begin with the “End in Mind”, and see God’s children as he does. We are Disciples of Jesus Christ and the best missionaries in the world!

Dear Elders & Sisters,

We love you and feel so blessed to work with you.  I'm am still basking in the glow of President Russell M. Nelson's visit.   I pray that you are desirous every day to have the Savior's name on your lips and that we, the unlikely, are achieving the impossible!

Last week I asked you to share with me your thoughts on what might be helpful to you in our upcoming zone conferences.  There were many good topics recommended that I'd love to add to the agenda, but unfortunately our time will be limited to focus on just a few.  One of the more frequent topics brought up that I'd like to address today is how do I feel and recognize the Spirit.  Many are desirous to better understand not only how to feel it in their own lives, but how to help others feel and recognize it as well.  

The first thing I would have you consider is that the gospel is plain and simple.  Why is this important to know when we try to understand how to feel and recognize the Spirit?   I think many of us over complicate the way the Spirit works, our expectations of how we should feel it, and how it directs and guides us.  If the gospel is indeed simple, would you think that our ability to feel and recognize the Spirit should be complex, difficult, and out of reach?  The truth is we can learn to feel it and recognize it and there are innumerable ways the Spirit can speak to you.  

With this understood, I want you to think about the simplicity of how the Liahona worked for Nephi and family and how it is symbolic of how the Holy Ghost works for us.  In1 Nephi 16:28 we are taught that the Liahona workedaccording to the faith, diligence, and heed they gave to it.  In other words, if you want to feel the Spirit guide and direct you, you must have faith in the Savior, you much be diligent (work), and you must give heed (pay attention).  The Liahona was a curious workmanship that had pointers and writing to guide the way.   Similarly, we have two channels given to us to feel and recognize the Spirits promptings; feelings to the heart and thoughts to the mind to direct and guide us. (D&C 8:2-3)

Starting with faith in the Savior.  Elder Bednar teaches that faith is a principle of action and power.  Faith in the Savior requires us to believe that He lives, He Atoned, and that He will come again.  This faith in Him leads us to act according to his will and so we repent, take upon His name, remember Him, and keep His commandments (make covenants).  This action allows the Spirit to come into our lives so we can have another witness that He is indeed lives.  Our faith leads to action and our action leads to receiving power from on high.  The simplicity in this teaching is that if we will just believe and act, we will come to feel God's power.  In turn, the more we feel of God's power, the more we act, and the more we believe.  Faith ultimately leads to a perfect knowledge of what we have put into action. I think of the great faith that Nephi had regarding his experience with Laban…  I will go and do.  He didn't know what would happen, but he believed and knew as he acted the Lord would provide a way.  This action came from a whispering of the Spirit to his mind.

Diligence is described as conscientiousness, hard work, application, concentration, effort, care, industriousness, rigor, meticulousness, thoroughness, perseverance, persistence, tenacity, dedication, commitment, tirelessness, indefatigability, doggedness.  A precedent to feeling the Spirit is our own hard work and effort to receive direction and inspiration.  This is well defined in two passages in the Doctrine and Covenants.  The first is D&C 9:8-9 where the Lord instructs us that we have to study things out in our minds before the Spirit can confirm our decision.  The second is found in D&C 58:26-28 where we are taught that we are agents to act and that we should be anxiously engaged in a good cause.  The Lord expects us to use the talents he's given us so we can learn and grow.  Imagine if the Spirit constantly told a us what to do and where to go without any thought for ourselves.  We would never learn, never grow, never progress.  It is incumbent upon us to act first, work first, study first, before we can receive divine guidance.  I think of the hard work of Nephi as he built the ship… He went unto the mount oft, and did pray oft (1 Ne 18:3), found ore, fashioned bellows, gathered timbers and the Lord had him build a ship that was exceedingly fine.  I also like this example as you see the Spirit working along side of him throughout the process.  He worked and was guided and he was guided as worked.  

To give heed means to pay attention to, take notice of, take note of, attend to, listen to, bear in mind, be mindful of, mind, mark, consider, take into account, follow, obey, adhere to, abide by, observe, take to heart.  This is where the channels of the heart and mind need to be dialed in to the sweet and still voice that the Spirit uses.  If our channels are cluttered by unworthiness, disobedience, lack of faith and diligence, the communication from the Spirit will be difficult to receive.  If we don't take time to ponder, pray, read, reflect, and separate ourselves from the world, it will be difficult to receive the direction we desire.  Note that to take heed means we really have to dial in our senses so that we can have thoughts come to the mind and feelings to the heart.  Any type of media, be it music, books, movies, TV, social media or others that fill our minds with trash can be a significant deterrent to how we feel and recognize the Spirit.  In the example of Nephi with Laban, Nephi actually tried to push out the prompting of the Spirit, but he gave heed and although difficult, he moved forward with the direction he was given.  

What I love about the three qualifiers for the Spirit to work in our lives is they are all about action.  Faith is action, diligence is action, and giving heed is action.  In all cases the Spirit will work best through us and for us as we act.  Note the scripture in Moroni 7:13, "But behold, that which is of God inviteth and enticeth to do good continually; wherefore, every thing which inviteth and enticeth to do good, and to love God, and to serve him, is inspired of God."  To invite (act), entice (act), do good (act), love God (act), and serve Him (act), will be inspired.  In other words, doing our best to act by inviting, enticing, doing good, loving, and serving, will allow for the Spirit to inspire us and give us the direction we need.  

So if we understand that faith in the Savior, diligence, and giving heed will allow for the Spirit to guide us and that we will receive these promptings in our hearts and minds, how should we expect to feel?  I like what Elder Bednar teaches on this point… "Some revelations are received immediately and intensely; some are recognized gradually and subtly."  Occasionally the Spirit will speak to our hearts and minds quickly and clearly so we can act on those promptings now (think about being in a lesson when an idea comes to mind).  Other times the Spirit comes gradually so we can learn line by line, precept upon precept (perhaps as we study or learn a new principle).  In most cases it will be subtle so we shouldn't expect intense manifestations of the Spirit on a regular basis.  

So how should this feel?  The truth is that there is a long list of ways that the Spirit can come to both heart and mind.  Consider what you are taught on pages 96 & 97 in PMG.  Feelings of love, peace, joy, goodness, gentleness, enlightenment, strength, remembrance, comfort, guidance, truth, ability to perceive or discern, edification, etc. etc. etc…  Note that it is not one language, but many languages that might come to your heart and mind.  This is not a foreign language that is difficult to master, but one that should be familiar and recognizable as we seek it.  You can simply ask, do the feelings prompt you to act, do good, love God, serve God? Are they in alignment with God's will and the teachings of prophets and apostles, if yes, they are from the Spirit, so act.  The more you act, the more the Lord will trust you to receive more promptings, and as a result, the more in tune your heart and mind will be to the Spirit.  

How might you feel the Spirit in your missionary work?  PMG (pg. 10) tells us that the Spirit will work through you as you testify, that it will tell you where to go, what to do, and what to say.  Let's apply the three qualifiers to these desired outcomes, faith in the Savior, diligence, and giving heed.  How will the Spirit testify to people through you? It will come as you have faith in the Savior and His work, as you diligently study, plan, and prepare to testify of the truths we teach, and as you pay attention to investigators needs, listen to their concerns, and take note of what you feel.  You will become this conduit, vessel, and instrument that you desire to become as described by Elder Bednar in the missionary conference.  How will you know where to go, what to do, and what to say?  As you plan each week and night to find you'll know where to go, as you plan each night and week to help people progress you'll know what to do,  and as you study, treasure up, and role play you'll know what to say.  
As you do these things, thoughts will come to your mind and feelings to you your heart.  You might say, well this seems to simple, but shouldn't it be if we do our part?  

How do you then help investigators feel and recognize the Spirt?  Same process… help them increase their faith in the Savior (believe and act), have them be diligent (keep commitments), and share with them how to give heed (recognize) to how the Spirit will speak to their hearts and minds.  This isn't complicated, the Gospel of Jesus Christ isn't meant to be and all it takes is our willingness to believe, act, and pay attention.  

Remember that the Lord won't command you in all things.  You are an agent, not an object to be acted upon.  As for how we recognize and feel the Spirit, this principle of being an agent tells me that the Spirit won't act upon me if I don't do my part.  I can't expect to have my mind enlightened and my heart touched if I stand idly by.  Please recognize that you feel the Spirit much more than you realize.  It is subtle, but it is there.  What I hope you are coming to recognize more fully is when the Spirit is with you versus the times when it's not.  The ability to discern the difference of when you feel it and when you don't is a great blessing and is a good indicator that you are well on your way to having the Spirit be your constant companion.  

I pray that the Spirit has testified to you as you have read my email today, so you will know that you do feel and recognize the Spirit and that you can help others do the same.  Please take some time to study chapter 4 of PMG.  Write a lesson plan on how you might help others feel and recognize the Spirit.  Take a moment to write down how you have felt and recognized the Spirit by studying the scriptures on pages 96 & 97 in PMG.  Be clean, be worthy, act in faith, diligence and give heed and just like the Liahona, the Spirit will guide and direct you to the promised land!

Mission Update

We're off to a great start for the month of February.  We have only a few weeks left in the transfer and I'm hoping you still keep you Vision to Baptize top of mind.  Continue to lose yourself in the work, do all you can to find, teach, and invite all to come unto Christ!  We love you!

Abrazos y saludos, have a great week!

President Hall