It is given by the Holy Ghost to some to know the diversities of operations, whether they be of God” (D&C 46:16). With so many conflicting influences in the world, it is a blessing to have access to those gifts of the Spirit that help us discern whom we should follow and what we can believe.
One of the gifts of the Spirit that helps us recognize truth is the gift of the “diversities of operations.” This gift helps us determine whether an influence comes from God or from some other source (see Hyrum M. Smith and Janne M. Sjodahl, The Doctrine and Covenants Commentary, rev. ed. , 274–75). The gift of diversities of operations enables us to receive promptings from the Holy Ghost that help us recognize when someone is influenced by the Spirit of God. It also gives us the ability to recognize false interpretations of scripture and to avoid influences that would deceive or entice us away from true principles.
Early in this dispensation, some Church members felt they were receiving revelations for the entire Church, even though they were not authorized to do so. Others were teaching false doctrines. A number of members who did not recognize that these manifestations were not of God became confused and fell into sin. (See Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith , 213–15.)
During this time, the Prophet Joseph Smith received several revelations concerning the problem. He learned that if the members of the Church would “ask of God,” the Spirit would testify to them and help them keep from being “seduced by evil spirits, or doctrines of devils, or the commandments of men” (D&C 46:7).
Elder Boyd K. Packer, now President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, said: “We need women … who can view the trends in the world and detect those that, however popular, are shallow or dangerous. We need women who can discern those positions that may not be popular at all, but are right” (“The Relief Society,” Ensign, Nov. 1978, 8).
One sister living in an isolated area was desperate for companionship. She often welcomed a neighbor into her home who was critical of a Church leader. After a while, this sister found herself being persuaded by her friend’s seemingly logical thinking. But one Sunday, while she was thinking about the experience, the Spirit let her know that her friend was in error and that she was dangerously close to losing her testimony. She decided that hour to act and speak and only do those things that would be in harmony with the sweet spirit of the gospel.
In D&C 46:8, the Lord asks us to “seek … earnestly the best gifts.” Among the reasons we should seek these spiritual gifts, he says, is “that [we] may not be deceived.” Our challenge in avoiding deception is to obtain those specific gifts of the Spirit that will best help us identify what is of God and then to act upon that knowledge.
Why is it important to be able to recognize what influences are operating on us?
How has the Spirit helped you recognize truth?