I recently attended the funeral of a 39-year-old man. He passed away from cancer and left behind 5 young children and a beautiful wife. At his funeral, both his wife and his parents spoke. Their words were filled with gratitude for a faithful, loving husband and son. Testimonies were shared of a sure knowledge that they would one day be together for all eternity. There were few tears shed. The whole service was filled with a sweet feeling of peace and comfort.
How could there be such a feeling of comfort and gratitude at a time of such deep loss? This family had an undeniable knowledge of Heavenly Father’s plan for us. They knew that, despite the loss of their beloved husband and son, they were an eternal family. Sealed together by one holding priesthood authority. Bound together forever. They understood that, according to God’s Plan of Salvation, their time on earth would be temporary.
Where did this feeling come from? At the time of baptism, hands were laid on their heads, as they were on each of ours. Words were spoken, “Receive the Holy Ghost.” And because of their faith and worthiness, the sacred gift of the Holy Ghost has been realized in their lives. The Holy Ghost, also known as the Comforter, brought peace to their lives as it does for all who have been baptized into the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and who live worthy of his presence.
As part of God’s plan for us, He promised that He would not leave us alone. In fact, He has sent the third member of the Godhead to lead all who will heed his promptings. To all who will live worthy of his presence. To all who understand that there is more to our existence than our temporary sojourn on earth. We are each a son or daughter of a loving father who desires nothing more than for us to return to His presence. For that reason, He has sent a special gift to us- a gift that will guide us safely back to live with Him again if we but listen to the gentle promptings of His special messenger.
The Lord has given us “directions” or commandments that, when followed, will be a roadmap guiding us back to our eternal home. He has promised us that, if we keep His commandments, always remember Him and if we are willing to take His name upon us, then we will always have His Spirit to be with us. (1) His Spirit, the Holy Ghost, has been sent because of God’s love for us. Because He wants us to return to His presence. Because His “glory” is realized through our living worthy to receive eternal life. (2) Our worthiness happens as we receive the saving ordinances of the gospel and make and keep the associated covenants.
A question one might ask is, “What would it be worth to live in God’s presence?” “What would I be willing to give?” We can, in a very real sense, always find ourselves in God’s presence as we live worthy of the Holy Ghost. The Holy Ghost is referred to as the third member of the Godhead. The scriptures teach that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost are one. One in purpose. One in desire. Completely unified to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man. As we live worthy of the Spirit. As we follow his promptings. Then we are acting in accordance with God’s purpose and will. In a very real sense, we become one with God. We feel the daily presence of His Spirit in our lives. We, through the Holy Ghost, live in His presence. We may not see Him with our physical eyes, but as we learn, like Enoch, to see with our spiritual eyes, we will see, to the extent He allows us, to see what He sees. (3)
For us, the challenge is to learn to listen to what the Spirit is saying to us. President Boyd K. Packer taught: “The voice of the Spirit is described in the scripture as neither “loud” nor “harsh”. It is not a voice of “thunder”. But rather, a “still voice of perfect mildness, as if it had been a whisper, and it can “pierce even to the very soul” and cause the heart to “burn”.
He goes on to say that the “Spirit does not get our attention by shouting or shaking us with a heavy hand. Rather it whispers. It caresses so gently that if we are preoccupied we may not feel it at all. Occasionally it will impress just firmly enough for us to pay heed. But most of the time, if we do not heed the gentle feeling, the Spirit will withdraw and wait until we come seeking and listening.”
The Lord taught Oliver Cowdery, “ I will tell you in your mind and in your heart, by the Holy Ghost, which shall come upon you and which shall dwell in your heart”.(4)
Our challenge is to live in such a way that the Holy Ghost can always be with us. We all want to have a feeling of unity with our Heavenly Father, but, at times, we fall short of realizing. What can we do? The scriptures, again, give us direction.
We can repent. Moroni teaches us, “And the remission of sins bringeth meekness, and lowliness of heart; and because of meekness and lowliness of heart cometh the visitation of the Holy Ghost”. (5)
We can be humble. As the Savior testified, “And he shall offer for a sacrifice unto me a broken heart and a contrite spirit. And whoso cometh unto me with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, he will I baptize with fire and with the Holy Ghost.”(6)
We can ponder the scriptures. As Joseph F. Smith bore witness, “As I pondered over these things which are written, the eyes of my understanding, were opened, and the Spirit of the Lord rested upon me…”(7)
We can live virtuous lives. The Savior taught Joseph Smith, “Let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly; then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God; the doctrine of the priesthood shall distill upon thy soul as the dews from heaven. The Holy Ghost shall be thy constant companion, and thy scepter an unchanging scepter of righteousness and truth.”(8)
We can act each time we feel His promptings. At times we may ask, as feelings come into our mind and heart, “Is this really from the Spirit? Or is it just my own thought?” Moroni provides an answer we can always depend on, “…that which are 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.” He goes on to say, “…for every thing which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ; wherefore you may know with a perfect knowledge it is of God.”(9)
As we live worthy of this sacred gift; as we act upon his promptings, we will come to recognize the voice of the Lord, saying to us, “I love you. I sent my Son to break the bands of death that you may live with me someday. I have sent the Holy Ghost to guide you back to me.”
I testify that the Holy Ghost is real, sent by God, to direct us back to Him. I am a convert to the Church. Prior to my baptism, my life’s ambition was to ski. To that end, I moved to Austria. After many months of living what I thought was my dream life, I felt something inside said to me, “Leave”. I didn’t know where this feeling came from. It led me to a friend who was attending Brigham Young University in Provo Utah. He was not a member of the Church.
While in Provo I was introduced to many members. I felt something different. Something that I saw in their lives that were missing on my own. Because of these feelings and the example of Church members I decided to return to Provo. One day, while visiting a friend, I met stake missionaries. They were teaching her about the restored Church. They invited me to be taught as well. That same feeling said, “Listen”. I did so and my life changed forever. I was baptized at age 19. I listened again. The Spirit said, “Serve a mission.” I did and again my life changed. After my mission, the Spirit said, “Find someone to marry.” But I asked who? That same Spirit guided me to my eternal companion. We were sealed in the Lord’s house for a time and all eternity.
Throughout my life, I have tried to listen to that still, small voice. When I have done so, my life has been blessed. There have been challenges. We know we are on earth to experience trials and challenges. But each time, when I have remembered to turn to the Lord, and when I have been humble and patient, I have received either comfort and assurance or specific instruction. I have a firm witness that we are children of a father in heaven who loves us. I testify that He will guide us, through the Holy Ghost, back to His presence. But we must listen. May we always do so.
(1) Moroni 4:3
(2) Moses 1:39
(3) Moses 6:35-36
(4) D&C 8:2
(5) Moroni 8:26
(6) 3 Nephi 9:20
(7) D&C 138:11
(8) D&C 121:45
(9) Moroni 7:13,16