Gordon E. Limb, director of BYU’s School of Social Work, explored the difference between emotions and promptings from the Holy Ghost at Tuesday’s devotional.
“While I don’t have a complete and easy answer … I would like to discuss with you some of the things I have learned about recognizing and responding to the promptings of the Spirit,” he said.
“When we communicate with Heavenly Father, we do so through prayer. When He speaks to us, He does it through revelation. This two-way divine communication is critical to our understanding of the process of receiving personal revelation,” said Limb.
Referring to various scriptures, Limb said, “when Heavenly Father speaks to us through the Spirit, in its most familiar form, it most often comes to us through our thoughts and feelings.”
Quoting Elder Boyd K. Packer, Limb said, “The Holy Ghost communicates with our spirits through the mind more than through the physical senses. This guidance comes as thoughts, as feelings through promptings and impressions. We may feel the words of spiritual communication more than we hear, and see with spiritual rather than with mortal eyes.”
Also, we need to avoid those things that negatively impact our ability to feel the Spirit, he said. “What are the influences in your life, and mine, that negatively impact our ability to feel the Spirit? And what are the ways we can better understand the Lord’s pattern of communicating with us?”
Quoting Elder Bednar, Limb said, “many of us typically assume we will receive an answer or a prompting to our earnest prayers and pleadings. And we also frequently expect that such an answer or a prompting will come immediately and all at once … however, the pattern repeatedly described in the scriptures suggests we receive ‘line upon line and precept upon precept,’ or in other words, many small answers over a period of time.”
Limb shared two experiences from his own life to demonstrate this process.
He spoke of a job opportunity that was presented him as he was graduating with his doctorate. He prayed and felt good about the decision so he pursued the job. However, his final presentation did not go well and he did not get the job. In this moment, Limb said, “why is it that after praying and feeling good about this job, things didn’t work out?”
However, he was able to take another job working at Washington University in St. Louis, and it ended up being a great opportunity and provided him with a foundation for where he is today.
Of his experience, he said, “Sometimes what we perceive to be a positive answer followed by a negative outcome is later followed by a new, unsuspecting better answer (i.e., opportunity) if we will but trust in the Lord and keep moving forward. The Lord knew what I did not.
“That first experience prepared me to listen closer to the Spirit the next time, to have an increased level of gratitude for how the Lord works in our lives, and to remember ‘that all things work together for our good [in the Lord’s timeframe] to them that love God.’ So in summary, sometimes the right choices or blessings come through promptings that are often not recognized until after they are acted upon and in the Lord’s time,” said Limb.
He also spoke of his decision to marry his wife. “That confirmation did not come all at once during a single heartfelt prayer of desperation,” said Limb. Rather he spoke of how he came to that decision through reflection and prayer over a period of time.
In speaking of receiving and responding to promptings of the Spirit, Limb suggested a few ways to better increase one’s capacity to follow the Spirit.
He spoke of the importance of living worthily of the Spirit. “If you are not now worthy, repent and become worthy,” said Limb.
Furthermore, sincere prayer and scripture study invite the companionship of the Holy Ghost. “Scriptural immersion provides us with a unique insight into how others received and responded to the promptings of the Spirit,” said Limb.
Service is also another important part of inviting the Spirit. He spoke of how in most cases the Lord uses us to answer the prayers of others.
Limb said it is important to take time to pause and listen to the Spirit. “In our fast paced, immediate gratification world, we become so preoccupied with good things, that we neglect the most important things,” said Limb. He asked, “are we so focused, so busy, that we neglect the promptings of the Spirit?”
Limb closed his talk with his testimony, stating, “our Heavenly Father has a plan for us—a perfect plan of happiness, and I testify that as we learn to better recognize and respond to the promptings of the Spirit, we will find answers to our prayers and have increased capacity to know how and whether those promptings are from the Holy Ghost.
“I further testify that as we learn and understand the Lord’s pattern for communicating with us that those small, melodic tones of the Spirit will … lead us back into his sight, where we may stay to share eternal life,” said Limb.
Writer: Stephanie Bahr