Following are several responses to this question.**
If you have thoughts you want to share on this topic, please feel free to share them in the comments section.
Melissa: Learning to recognize the Spirit is such a personal journey. Not only do impressions differ from person to person, they differ with each experience. I would assume I’m like many–wanting to learn how to recognize the Spirit and invite the Lord more fully into my life.
The times I’ve felt most influenced by the Spirit have been when reading or watching something and part of the content hits me with particular force. Sometimes when praying about a problem I’ll have an image or memory come to mind. It’s still hard for me to differentiate the Spirit from the workings of my own mind, but I’m trying to learn.
Cheryl: I like Melissa’s response. I, too, have had an image or memory come to my mind when seeking an answer.
When I was younger, the Spirit tended to manifest truth to me through the “burning of the bosom” –but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve found that mostly it has come through words and thoughts –that clarity of thinking. I think it’s wonderful that as we change and grow, the Spirit changes the way we can hear/feel Him. Since our circumstances, education, growth, and desires mature and change, it makes sense to me that the way I’ve heard/felt the Spirit has changed, too.
Emily: We had a Family Home Evening lesson on this topic with our children. My then-five-year-old daughter was worried because she says she’s never felt the Spirit before. I’m pretty sure she has, but did not realize it yet.
One of the things we talked about is that learning how the Spirit speaks to you is a lifelong process. It is important to seek the Spirit, to learn about how the Spirit can work so you recognize it.
For my kids, for this lesson, I compared the Spirit/Comforter to the warmth of a blanket or a quilt. I think that’s a good place to begin.
RoAnn: My personality also seems to be one where clarity of thought and peace of mind about decisions seem to be the ways I most easily recognize the Spirit speaking to me.
I think one of the best ways to help children as well as ourselves to learn to recognize the influence of the Spirit in our lives is to discuss our experiences in the family, and write them down so that we can remember and refer to them.
Most of us have had discernible spiritual experiences: an idea on how to find a lost item; a feeling of relief or forgiveness after repenting of unkind act; a strong feeling of divine love and comfort when we are suffering; a prompting to call or visit a friend; a prompting to refrain from doing or saying something.
Many times (although not always!) we can see good results when we follow the direction of the Spirit, and bad results when we ignore it. Discussing our thought process and how we felt when we made a particular choice, and then reflecting on the consequent results, can help us learn to discern how the Spirit may be working in our lives.
Another Mormon woman said this: The actual Church is responsible to teach only the first four principles of the gospel, which are faith, repentance, baptism, and the gift of the Holy Ghost. Once a person has received the gift of the Holy Ghost, it is the job of the Holy Ghost to teach them all things.
Recognizing the promptings and teachings of the Holy Ghost are necessary for one to progress further in the gospel. The scriptures only become alive through the teaching of the spirit, otherwise IMHO they would simply be words on a page.
Since the Spirit is felt in a number of ways it is hard to limit it by experience for me. I agree with the comment that learning how the spirit speaks to you is a lifelong process. We will progress until we are filled with the spirit and become sanctified by it.
Michelle: For me, personal revelation comes in different ways, and is often dependent on context or the need.
When I’m trying to make decisions about what to do (as in when I was deciding on a major or deciding about marriage), it often comes in a sense of what I call a “‘forward flow” if it’s right and uneasiness or lack of feeling settled.
If it’s about learning more about truth and doctrine, it will usually be with ideas just clicking, or that sense of “pure intelligence” when I know the ideas are not mine. Light really IS discernible (a la a favorite chapter of scripture, Alma 32).
If it’s about getting through a trial, often, I will just feel a sense of peace and comfort (not always immediately, but I have had enough of those anchors to know that peace can only come from God).
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**Please note: The answers in “Ask a Mormon Woman” and reflect the thoughts, perspectives, and experiences of individuals. Although here at Mormon Women, we strive to have our content consistent with the Church’s doctrine and teachings, we do not speak officially for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. For official information about or from the Church, please visit www.mormon.org or www.lds.org.
For more Ask a Mormon Woman questions/answers, please click here.
Do you have a question you would like to submit? Simply include a comment below, or send an email at gmail with the username ‘mormonwoman’
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To hear several members’ experiences with the search for truth and finding answers to life’s questions, see this page at mormon.org.
For more about this topic, see the following articles:
Robert D. Hales, “Personal Revelation: The Teachings and Examples of the Prophets,” Liahona, Nov 2007, 86–89
James E. Faust, “Communion with the Holy Spirit,” Liahona, Mar 2002, 3
L. Lionel Kendrick, “Personal Revelation,” Ensign, Sep 1999, 7
Gerald N. Lund, “Is It Revelation?,” New Era, Jul 2004, 44
Visiting Teaching Message: “Receiving Personal Revelation,” Liahona, Sep 2000, 25
What a good question with great answers, showing that the Spirit works differently in different people. Having the gift of the Holy Spirit is the most important blessing in my life.
Hey I really liked this post because is shows how different people have different interactions with the Holy Ghost. We are not cookie cutter people and God who made us, must understand that and has given us a perfect teacher who can adapt His methods to our personalities.
When I feel the Holy Ghost testifying to me of truth, I typically cry.
When I feel the Holy Ghost warning me, He puts words into my mind.
When I feel the Holy Ghost comforting me, I’ll feel peace and happiness despite my previous distress or I’ll be given a larger perspective on the situation.
What a great post!
I also have experienced different means of communication through the Holy Ghost. I have had all the information I needed to deal with a particular challenge within seconds of learning of the new challenge, as if it was downloaded instantaneously into my brain like a computer program. I have had thoughts come into my head that I knew could not have come from me. I have certainly felt a burning in my bosom. I often randomly flip open my scriptures after praying about a particular problem and have had the answer stare me in the face through scripture verses more times than I can count. I have also had an actual vision pertaining to a challenge that was particularly difficult and painful. I don’t know how I could possibly navigate my life without these answers that come to me via the spirit and am so grateful that I dont’ have to.
We were having a lesson on this very topic yesterday in Relief Society. The sister was sharing a life experience, when an answer came to me about one of the sisters we visit teach — the Spirit pointed it out so strongly the sister next to me felt it, too!
As I listened to various sisters describe how they felt the Holy Ghost, I realized that what another sister had said was true — the Spirit speaks to us in different ways in different situations: a still, small voice for some, a strong voice of warning for others, a “burning in our bosom” testifying of truth, a peaceful calm when we need it, an enlightening as we study and pray for answers, etc.
I realized that I had actually felt the Spirit in many of those ways — and that others were striving to be able to hear it better, too!
Isn’t Heavenly Father’s plan for teaching and helping us, His children, wonderful!
I heard a talk a few months ago and in it, the speaker suggested that: People who want to understand that what they are feeling is the Holy Ghost should go to a quiet, peaceful place and say aloud things that they believe. The feelings or experience they have is the Holy Ghost “speaking” to them (whether is be words, visions, feelings, etc.), and that is a way to know how the Holy Ghost communicates with you.
For me personally, I don’t have words come to mind. Just thoughts for warning. I feel confusion is something I’m trying to make a decision on isn’t right. If I don’t feel that confusion, I know that it is right. Sometimes I feel a warmth in my stomach when I am hearing something testified of that is true.
I hope my thoughts make sense. It’s hard to put down in writing!
I actually listened to an MTC devotional by David Bednar. He said to quit worrying about whether or not you “feel” anything and press forward. You can receive council and guidance from the holy ghost without realizing it, just as Nephi was getting the brass plates and said, “And I was led by the Spirit, not knowing beforehand the things which I should do.”