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.
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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