A little more than 25 years ago, when I was a relatively new member of the Church, I contemplated starting a new business. This move would involve mortgaging our home and borrowing additional funds, certainly a major decision for our family.
After considerable research, I took the matter to the Lord in prayer. I prayed about it for several weeks. Then on one particular Sunday, our family went to stake conference, and during the meeting this business idea came to my mind. I quickly pushed the thought away as I did not want to contemplate business ventures on the Sabbath day. Again it came to my mind, and again I tried to block the thought. A third time, as we were standing to sing the intermediate hymn, the matter entered my thoughts in an even stronger way. It occurred to me that maybe the Spirit was trying to tell me something. I silently prayed to Heavenly Father, asking Him if it was a good decision for me to start this business. The answer came immediately and powerfully. As the tears ran down my face, I knew with a surety that the decision to start this new business was a correct one. I subsequently went forward with confidence, borrowed the appropriate funds, and commenced operations of the business.
Six months into this new venture, after we had spent nearly all of the money, things started to look bleak. Nothing seemed to be working right. We simply did not have enough customers or sales volume to make the business work.
On a Saturday morning I knelt beside my bed and poured out my heart to Heavenly Father. I did not receive any specific direction, but a beautiful, warm feeling, which only the Spirit can bring, came over me. I knew everything would be fine. I continued working hard, and one week later, the following Saturday, we received the biggest contract I could have ever imagined. That contract was all we needed to start making this venture a successful one.
That experience helped teach me, among other things, to understand and recognize the promptings of the Spirit and to know that blessings do come to those who “list,” or choose, to obey the Lord’s Spirit.
Mormon, in recounting the wars between the Nephites and the Lamanites and those who joined with them, recorded:
“And in one year were thousands and tens of thousands of souls sent to the eternal world, that they might reap their rewards according to their works, whether they were good or whether they were bad, to reap eternal happiness or eternal misery, according to the spirit which they listed to obey, whether it be a good spirit or a bad one.
“For every man receiveth wages of him whom he listeth to obey” (Alma 3:26–27).
The Old Testament story of Naaman illustrates what the Book of Mormon teaches about the importance of choosing to obey the Lord’s Spirit. After Naaman, captain of the host of the king of Syria, contracted leprosy, a young maid from Israel who waited on Naaman’s wife stated that if he were in Samaria, the prophet would heal him. That was an impressive concept, since there was no cure for leprosy at that time.
Naaman decided to heed the maid’s words. He traveled to Samaria and was directed to the house of the prophet Elisha, who sent a messenger to the door and instructed Naaman to wash seven times in the Jordan River. Naaman had thought the prophet would come out and heal him directly. He was so upset that the scriptures record he “went away in a rage” (2 Kgs. 5:12).
Then his servants came to him and said, “If the prophet had bid thee do some great thing, wouldest thou not have done it?” (2 Kgs. 5:13). Naaman realized the truth of what they said. Humbled, he followed Elisha’s direction, dipping himself seven times in Jordan. “And his flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little child, and he was clean” (2 Kgs. 5:14). He had a change of heart, chose to obey the Lord’s Spirit as given through His prophet, and was blessed.
But our story does not end there. Naaman, rejoicing to be rid of his leprosy, returned to Elisha and offered him gold, silver, and clothing as tokens of his appreciation. As we would expect, Elisha declined the gifts.
When Naaman left for home with his servants, Elisha’s servant Gehazi let greed get the better of him. He followed after Naaman and told him Elisha had changed his mind about the offered reward. After Gehazi had gathered the bounty, returned home, and hid it for himself, Elisha said to him, “Whence comest thou, Gehazi? And he said, Thy servant went no whither.
“And he said unto him, Went not mine heart with thee, when the man turned again from his chariot to meet thee? Is it a time to receive money, and to receive garments, and oliveyards, and vineyards, and sheep, and oxen, and menservants, and maidservants?
“The leprosy therefore of Naaman shall cleave unto thee, and unto thy seed for ever. And he went out from his presence a leper as white as snow” (2 Kgs. 5:25–27).
How sad it was for Gehazi when he listed to obey the wrong spirit. We may not see such dramatic and immediate results in our own lives, but as surely as the sun will rise tomorrow, we will receive—perhaps in this life and surely in the next—the wages of him whom we list to obey.
Each of us has countless decisions to make in a lifetime, many every day. Through the promptings of the Spirit, we can attain the assurance that permits us to go forward with confidence and peace, knowing that we have listed to obey the Lord’s Spirit in making our decisions and that we will be blessed in time and in eternity.