Receiving the Holy Ghost

Elisabeth Weagel served as our Relief Society Secretary for over year. She finished a Masters degree here in London and I’ll be saying a temporary farewell to her this weekend. I am always amazed by the talents of special women in our Relief Society. Elisabeth has used all of hers to serve the women around her on top of a very heavy courseload at school. I will always be grateful for her example of reaching beyond what she was asked to do: she truly magnifies her calling and brightens the lives of all who she meets. What a woman!

Here’s a talk she gave on the day she was released from her calling.

______________

 

A few moments ago, as our heads were bowed and we ate bread and drank water, the Lord promised anew that if we take Christ’s name upon us, remember Him always, and keep His commandments, we will always have His Spirit to be with us. As baptized and confirmed members of the Church, this companionship of the Holy Ghost is something that we are entitled to[1], but we lose that right and privilege when we act in discordance with the laws of God. As we are taught in Matthew, “No man can serve two masters,” meaning that we cannot both satisfy the natural man within us and respect God’s laws and receive the Holy Ghost.[2] The confirmation blessing intimates this responsibility to create space for the Holy Ghost in our hearts: the person doing the confirmation does not say, “we give you the gift of the Holy Ghost,” rather he says we “say unto you receive the Holy Ghost.” We create space for the Spirit as we keep “an eye single to the glory of God,” through our thoughts, words, and actions.

Creating space for the Holy Ghost is something I’ve been working on particularly, but it was not what I expecting to talk about today. Then last week as I sat in Church, a series of thoughts went from my heart to my hand and in a few minutes I had an outline for a talk on the Holy Ghost. I have learned many personal lessons as I’ve prepared, and I hope that by the same power that constitutes the topic of my message, you will also be taught personally and perhaps glean something from my reflections.

I have been in awe as I’ve read talk after talk about the blessings of this gift.

 

Elder Joseph B. Worthlin said:

 

If [people] would open their hearts to the refining influence of this unspeakable gift of the Holy Ghost, a glorious new spiritual dimension would come to light. Their eyes would gaze upon a vista scarcely imaginable. They could know for themselves things of the Spirit that are choice, precious, and capable of enlarging the soul, expanding the mind, and filling the heart with inexpressible joy.[3]

 

Elder James E. Faust said:

I believe the Spirit of the Holy Ghost is the greatest guarantor of inward peace in our unstable world. It can be more mind-expanding and can make us have a better sense of well-being than any chemical or other earthly substance. It will calm nerves; it will breathe peace to our souls.”[4]

 

Sister Sheri L. Dew said:

 

The Holy Ghost enlarges our minds, our hearts, and our understanding; helps us subdue weaknesses and resist temptation; inspires humility and repentance; guides and protects us in miraculous ways; and gifts us with wisdom, divine encouragement, peace of mind, a desire to change, and the ability to differentiate between the philosophies of men and revealed truth.[5]

 

If this is really what awaits us, why do we so often “live far beneath our privileges?”[6] Elder Worthlin observes that “Some are spiritually deadened and past feeling because of their choices to commit sin. Others simply hover in spiritual complacency with no desire to rise above themselves and commune with the Infinite.”[7] I think there might be some other reasons. Perhaps some of us feel like we are seeking, but God isn’t answering. Or that we have been misguided.

My final year as an undergraduate, I elected to do two massive capstone projects. I didn’t need either one to graduate, but both were things that I wanted to do and what was more I felt like I was being Divinely guided to do them. With the additional burden of these extra projects, my stress levels spiked, my hours of sleep plummeted, and my health began to deteriorate. It was a hard year. One of the projects was a thesis-paper that turned out to be a far cry from what I had envisioned for it. I thought I would write a piece of scholarship that would bring people unto Christ by helping them to think about cinema differently—instead it was something that I was almost embarrassed to put my name on. The second project—a documentary film—I didn’t even finish. Problem after problem arose, my health continued to decline, and the project dragged on—even past the completion of my degree. In the end, I felt like the best thing to do would be to terminate it. This was a devastating blow, not only because I was letting down professors and fellow students, but because I had thought that the work I was doing was a part of my personal mortal mission.

All along the way, I was sure that in the end everything would work out because I was following the Lord’s direction. When everything fell apart, a thought gnawed at my heart: “Was I wrong? Were those feelings actually not Divine communications?” After much prayer and reflection, I feel peace that the feelings I followed were from the Lord. I don’t know to what end I was prompted to do those projects, but I see something now that I didn’t have eyes to see at the time: though I poured out my soul in prayer frequently throughout the day during that year, I was so preoccupied with the overwhelming task before me that I pushed out the source of help that would have made it possible. Prayers were flowing out of me, but there was not sufficient flowing in. I wasn’t allowing myself time for what Elder Yoshihiko Kikuchi calls a “sacred grove moment,” or “devotional time spent in prayer, meditation, and scripture study.”[8] I shared my ideas with Heavenly Father. I pled with Him for direction. I even read the scriptures and went to Church. But in the cacophony of my whirlwind lifestyle, I could not hear that still small voice—I did not create space for the Holy Ghost.

I don’t know how creating that space would have changed the outcome, but my feeling is that regardless of how the projects ended, I would have had more balance, more peace of mind, better health, and more strength to endure had I truly received the Holy Ghost.

The gift of the Spirit’s companionship does not promise an easy course. (The examples of people like Esther, Moroni, and Paul are evidence of that.) We are, after all, here to be tried. We know that being a disciple of Christ will eliminate many trials, but it will not extinguish them all, and it will even introduce some. But the faithful will be buoyed up in all trials—small and great—and our lives will be directed, both in times of joy as in times of sorrow and difficulty.

Before leaving the earth, the Savior promised, “I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you. … The Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, … the Father will send in my name.” I know that as we create space for the Holy Ghost, we will see the evidence of that great gift manifest in our lives.

[1] James E. Faust, “The Gift of the Holy Ghost—A Sure Compass,” April 1989.

[2] Matthew 6:24.

[3] Joseph B. Worthlin, “The Unspeakable Gift,” April 2003.

[4] James E. Faust, “The Gift of the Holy Ghost—A Sure Compass,” April 1989.

[5] Sheri L. Dew, “We are Not Alone,” October 1998.

[6] Joseph B. Worthlin, “The Unspeakable Gift,” April 2003, quoting Brigham Young.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Yoshihiko Kikuchi, “Opening the Heavens,” Liahona August 2009.

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