Keeping our hearts open to conviction

In February 1847 Joseph Smith appeared to Brigham Young in a dream and said: “Tell the people to be humble and faithful, and be sure to keep the Spirit of the Lord, and it will lead them right. Be careful and not turn away the small still voice; it will teach you how to do and where to go; it will yield the fruits of the kingdom. Tell the brethren to keep their hearts open to conviction, so that when the Holy Ghost comes to them, their hearts will be ready to receive it. They can tell the Spirit of the Lord from all other spirits; it will whisper peace and joy to their souls; it will take malice, hatred, strife, and all evil from their hearts; and their whole desire will be to do good, bring forth righteousness and build up the kingdom of God. Tell the brethren if they will follow the Spirit of the Lord they will go right. Be sure to tell the people to keep the Spirit of the Lord; and if they will, they will find themselves just as they were organized by our Father in Heaven before they came into the world. Tell the people to be sure to keep the Spirit of the Lord and follow it, and it will lead them just right.”

Brigham Young, vision, Feb. 17, 1847, in Brigham Young Office Files, 1832–1878, Archives of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah. (Spelling, punctuation, and capitalization modernized.)

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Having our wants too high

Let me mention one other common source of great inner noise, often found even among faithful, obedient people. It is what Elder Eyring on another occasion described as “having your wants too high.” When we desperately desire something, it creates a great rush of emotion within us. And high emotion can mask or cover spiritual promptings. Even if the thing we desire is a good thing–such as wanting help for a critically ill family member–our “wants” may be so high that we become unwilling or unable to hear the Lord’s will in the matter.

In summary then, if the voice of the Lord is still and small and it whispers, should it surprise us that his counsel is “Be still and know that I am God” (D&C 101:16; emphasis added). Only as we are still can we learn to hear the still small voice.

Gerald N. Lund, The Voice of the Lord, BYU Devotional, 1997

Giving “diligent heed” with hearts that are open

Alma, chapter 12, verses 9-11 make it clear that our knowledge and understanding of God’s word and His mysteries will be commensurate with the “heed and diligence” we give to Him and His word:

And therefore, he that will harden his heart,

the same receiveth the lesser portion of the word;

and he that will not harden his heart,

to him is given the greater portion of the word, until it is given unto him to know the mysteries of God until he know them in full.

And they that will harden their hearts,

to them is given the lesser portion of the word until they know nothing concerning his mysteries; and then they are taken captive by the devil, and led by his will down to destruction. Now this is what is meant by the chains of hell.

In the 84th section of the Doctrine and Covenants,verses 43-44, the Lord gives us “a commandment to beware concerning yourselves, to give diligent heed (there are Alma’s words – heed and diligence) to the words of eternal life. For you shall live by every word that proceedeth forth from the mouth of God.” Alma’s statement above makes it clear that diligent heed to God’s word is what allows us to understand His mysteries, and that that understanding is dependent upon an open and a humble heart.

In 1 Nephi 16:28 we learn that the Liahona “. . . did work according to the faith and diligence and heed which we did give unto them.”

When the Savior visited the Nephites, he prayed with them. The scriptures record that His words were so great they could neither be written or spoken by man. But the hearts of the people “were open and they did understand in their hearts the words which he prayed (3 Nephi 19:33). Knowing the mysteries of God will likely be the same for each of us. We will know more than we can tell.

As the apostle Paul wrote, the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolisness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned (1 Cor 2:14).

Elder Neal A. Maxwell wrote:

“Even the gospel glimpses are difficult to convey. Brigham Young said, ‘I cannot talk all my feelings, I cannot tell you what I feel and what I see in the Spirit.’ This inability to articulate concerns not only the grand and sacred things but also the simple joys of faith: ‘I cannot say the smallest part which I feel’ (Alma 26:16). Thus it is not only that our eyes and ears have not yet experienced what lies ahead; even if they had, the tongue could not fully express our feelings in the face of such sublime and reassuring things! President Brigham Young’s words remind us of Jacob’s: ‘If I could take away the veil, and let you see how things really are, you would then know just as well as I know, and I know them just as well as any man on the face of the earth need to.’” (That Ye May Believe, p. 200)

Elder Bednar said this about the mysteries of God:

As we ask in faith, we can receive revelation upon revelation and knowledge upon knowledge and come to know the mysteries and peaceable things – that bring joy and eternal life (see D&C 42:61). The mysteries are those matters that can only be known and understood by the power of the Holy Ghost (see Harold B. Lee, Ye Are the Light of the World [1974], 211). David A. Bednar, “Pray Always,” October General Conference, 2008.

The desire to serve brings promptings of the Spirit

We can remember the Savior and that we are blessed to be in his kingdom, and we can have in our hearts the question “How would the Master have me use something from this hour to serve him?” If we ask that in faith, with determination to follow the promptings that come from the Holy Spirit, those promptings will come. We will hear things we would not have heard and feel things we would not have felt.

We will go out from this place with plans to help build the kingdom. We will go out refreshed in our hearts and surer that what our pioneers believed was true: the kingdom of God has been restored and we are blessed as the few among our Father’s myriad children to build it for the Master for the last time.

Henry B. Eyring, “Faith of our Fathers,” BYU Devotional, 20 August, 1996

Then shall greater things be manifest

Reflecting on what I wrote yesterday, it is clear that growth in spiritual knowledge – knowing the mysteries, the “greater things,” – is conditioned not only on our heart, but also on the exercise of our faith in that which we have already received:

And when they shall have received this, which is expedient that they should have first, to try their faith, and if it shall so be that they shall believe these things

then shall the greater things be made manifest unto them.

And if it so be that they will not believe these things,

then shall the greater things be withheld from them, unto their condemnation. (3 Nephi 26: 9-10)

Jesus taught this principle in Matthew 13. He told the disciples, “it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven (see the prior post), but to them it is not given.” He spoke in parables so as to hide from those who had no faith the treasures of His gospel. To those who understood because their hearts were open, “to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath.”

Put simply, the more you believe, the more you will know.

In many ways, the trial of our faith is whether or not we will heed the instructions and revelations we have received into order that we might continue to receive the Lord’s guidance and help for that which lies ahead.

Pondering is what you do after you have carefully read the scriptures

As you ponder—not just read but ponder and meditate—on scriptural passages, the power of the Holy Ghost will distill truths in your mind and heart as a secure foundation in this uncertain time in which we live.
Richard G. Scott, “He Lives! All Glory to His Name!,” Ensign, May 2010

Our humility and our faith that invite spiritual gifts are increased by our reading, studying, and pondering the scriptures. We have all heard those words. Yet we may read a few lines or pages of scripture every day and hope that will be enough.

But reading, studying, and pondering are not the same. We read words and we may get ideas. We study and we may discover patterns and connections in scripture. But when we ponder, we invite revelation by the Spirit. Pondering, to me, is the thinking and the praying I do after reading and studying in the scriptures carefully.
Henry B. Eyring, “Serve with the Spirit,” Ensign, November 2010

The things of God are of deep import; and time, and experience, and careful and ponderous and solemn thoughts can only find them out.
Joseph Smith, History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, ed. B. H. Roberts, 2nd ed. rev. 3:295.

Learning to see the hand of God in our lives

I wrote down a few lines every day for years. I never missed a day no matter how tired I was or how early I would have to start the next day. Before I would write, I would ponder this question: “Have I seen the hand of God reaching out to touch us or our children or our family today?” As I kept at it, something began to happen. As I would cast my mind over the day, I would see evidence of what God had done for one of us that I had not recognized in the busy moments of the day. As that happened, and it happened often, I realized that trying to remember had allowed God to show me what He had done.

More than gratitude began to grow in my heart. Testimony grew. I became ever more certain that our Heavenly Father hears and answers prayers. I felt more gratitude for the softening and refining that come because of the Atonement of the Savior Jesus Christ. And I grew more confident that the Holy Ghost can bring all things to our remembrance—even things we did not notice or pay attention to when they happened….

Tonight, and tomorrow night, you might pray and ponder, asking the questions: Did God send a message that was just for me? Did I see His hand in my life or the lives of my children? I will do that. And then I will find a way to preserve that memory for the day that I, and those that I love, will need to remember how much God loves us and how much we need Him. I testify that He loves us and blesses us, more than most of us have yet recognized. I know that is true, and it brings me joy to remember Him.

Henry B. Eyring, “O Remember, Remember,” LDS General Conference, October 2007.