First Presidency Message

Seek the Spirit of the Lord


Ezra Taft Benson

Seek the Spirit of the Lord

One sure way we can determine whether we are on the strait and narrow path is if we feel the Spirit of the Lord in our lives.

Having the Holy Ghost brings forth certain fruits.

The Apostle Paul said that “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, [and] temperance.” (Gal. 5:22–23.)

The most important thing in our lives is having the Spirit. I have always felt that. We must always remain open and sensitive to the promptings of the Holy Ghost.

President David O. McKay and President Harold B. Lee used to relate an incident from the life of Bishop John Wells that is instructive to all of us. Bishop Wells was responsible for many Church reports and so had to devote a great deal of his time to details and statistics.

“Mother, Do Not Mourn”

A son of Bishop and Sister Wells was killed in a railroad accident in Salt Lake canyon. He was run over by a freight train. Sister Wells could not be comforted at the loss. She felt no relief from her sorrow during the funeral and continued her mourning after her son’s burial. Bishop Wells was concerned for her health, as she was in a state of deep anguish.

One day, soon after the funeral, Sister Wells was lying on her bed in a state of mourning. The son appeared to her and said, “Mother, do not mourn, do not cry. I am all right.”

He then told her how the accident took place. Apparently there had been some question about how the accident had happened because the young man was an experienced railroad man. But he told his mother that it was clearly an accident.

Now note this: He also told her that as soon as he realized that he was beyond the mortal world, he had tried to reach his father but could not. His father was so busy with the details of his work that he could not respond to the promptings of the Spirit. Therefore, the son had come to his mother.

He then said, “Tell Father that all is well with me, and I want you not to mourn any more.” (See David O. McKay, Gospel Ideals, Salt Lake City: Improvement Era, 1953, pages 525–26.)

President McKay and President Lee used this experience to teach that we must always be responsive to the whisperings of the Spirit. These promptings most often come when we are not under the pressure of appointments and when we are not caught up in the worries of day-to-day life.

Take time to meditate. Meditation on a passage of scripture—James 1:5—led a young boy into a grove of trees to commune with his Heavenly Father. That is what opened the heavens in this dispensation.

Meditation on a passage of scripture from the book of John in the New Testament brought forth the great revelation on the three degrees of glory.

Meditation on another passage of scripture from the Epistle of Peter opened the heavens to President Joseph F. Smith so that he saw the spirit world. That revelation, known as the Vision of the Redemption of the Dead, is now a part of the Doctrine and Covenants. [D&C 138]

Ponder the significance of the responsibility the Lord has given to you parents and grandparents. The Lord has counseled, “Let the solemnities of eternity rest upon your minds.” (D&C 43:34.) You cannot do that when your minds are preoccupied with the cares of the world.

“Thou Mayest Know the Mysteries.”

Read and study the scriptures. The scriptures should be studied in the home with fathers and mothers taking the lead and setting the example. The scriptures are to be comprehended by the power of the Holy Ghost, for the Lord has given this promise to His faithful and obedient followers: “Thou mayest know the mysteries and peaceable things.” (D&C 42:61.)

The following statement by Elder Spencer W. Kimball illustrates how we may develop more spirituality in our lives:

“I find that when I get casual in my relationships with divinity and when it seems that no divine ear is listening and no divine voice is speaking, that I am far, far away. If I immerse myself in the scriptures the distance narrows and the spirituality returns. I find myself loving more intensely those whom I must love with all my heart and mind and strength, and loving them more, I find it easier to abide their counsel.” (“What I Hope You Will Teach My Grandchildren and All Others of the Youth of Zion,” address to Seminary and Institute personnel, Brigham Young University, 11 July 1966.)

That is great counsel; by experience I know it to be true.

The more familiar you are with the scriptures, the closer you become to the mind and will of the Lord and the closer you become as husband and wife and children. You will find that by reading the scriptures the truths of eternity will rest on your minds.

Ponder matters that you do not understand. As the Lord commanded Oliver Cowdery, “Study it out in your mind; then … ask me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right.” (D&C 9:8; italics added.)

Did you notice that last phrase? “You shall feel that it is right.”

We hear the words of the Lord most often by a feeling. If we are humble and sensitive, the Lord will prompt us through our feelings. That is why spiritual promptings move us on occasion to great joy, sometimes to tears. Many times my emotions have been made tender and my feelings very sensitive when touched by the Spirit.

Radiate the Influence of the Spirit

The Holy Ghost causes our feelings to be more tender. We feel more charitable and compassionate with each other. We are more calm in our relationships. We have a greater capacity to love each other. People want to be around us because our very countenances radiate the influence of the Spirit. We are more godly in our character. As a result, we are more sensitive to the promptings of the Holy Ghost and thus able to comprehend spiritual things.

Take to heart the words of the Savior, “Treasure up in your minds continually the words of life.” (D&C 84:85; italics added.)

My wife’s mother, Barbara Smith Amussen, was an officiator in the Logan Temple for twenty years and a widow for forty years. She was a woman without guile. I loved her so much that I spent a lot of time with her, because she was a widow and there was no priesthood bearer in the home.

This choice woman knew the exact time she was to depart mortal life. Her husband, a Danish convert and Utah’s first pioneer jeweler and watchmaker, Carl Christian Amussen, appeared to her either in a dream or vision. She admitted, “I’m not sure which, but it was so real it seemed that he was right in the room. He said he had come to tell me that my time in mortal life was ending and that on the following Thursday (it was then Friday), I would be expected to leave mortal life.”

Her oldest daughter, Mabel, said, “Oh, Mother, you’ve been worrying about something. You’ve not been feeling well.”

Her mother replied, “Everything’s fine. I feel wonderful. There’s nothing to worry about. I just know I’ll be leaving next Thursday.”

Then she said, “Mabel, when the time comes, I’d like to pass away in your home in the upper room where I used to sit and tell the boys Book of Mormon and Church history stories when they were little fellows.”

As the time drew near, she attended fast meeting in her ward. She bore her testimony, and the bishop said she talked as though she were going on a long journey.

“She was bidding us all good-bye,” said the bishop, “expressing her love for us and the joy that had been hers working in the temple” (which was just a few meters away from the chapel). And then she bore a fervent testimony.

As the days passed, she went to the bank, drew out her small savings, paid all her bills, and went to the mortuary and picked out her casket. Then she had the water and the electrical power turned off in her home and went to Mabel’s home. The day before she died, her son came to visit her. They sat by the bed and held hands as they talked.

On the day of my mother-in-law’s death, Mabel came into the room where her mother was resting on the bed. Her mother said, “Mabel, I feel a little bit sleepy. Do not disturb me if I sleep until evening.”

Those were her last words, and she peacefully passed from this life to the next.

Spirituality—being in tune with the Spirit of the Lord—is the greatest need we all have. We should strive for the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost all the days of our lives. When we have the Spirit, we will love to serve, we will love the Lord, and we will love those whom we serve with and those whom we serve.

Several years after Joseph Smith was martyred, he appeared to President Brigham Young. Hear his message:

“Tell the people to be humble and faithful, and be sure to keep the spirit of the Lord and it will lead them right. Be careful and not turn away the small still voice; it will teach you what to do and where to go; it will yield the fruits of the kingdom. Tell the brethren to keep their hearts open to conviction, so that when the Holy Ghost comes to them, their hearts will be ready to receive it.” (Manuscript History of Brigham Young, 23 February 1847, 2 volumes, edited by Elden Jay Watson, Salt Lake City: Elden J. Watson, 1968, 1971, 2:529.)

The Lord has prospered this work and will continue to do so. He is close to His servants, even within whispering distance.

This latter-day work is spiritual. It takes spirituality to comprehend it, to love it, and to discern it. Therefore, seek the Spirit in all you do. Keep it with you continually. That is our challenge.

I pray that the Spirit of the Lord will be with each of you in your homes and families.

Ideas for Home Teachers

Some Points of Emphasis. You may wish to make these points in your home teaching discussion:

1. The most important thing in our lives is having the Spirit of the Lord with us.

2. Reading and studying the scriptures brings the Spirit into our lives.

3. Taking time to meditate helps us be responsive to the whisperings of the Spirit.

4. We “hear” the words of the Lord most often as a feeling.

5. This latter-day work is spiritual. It takes spirituality to comprehend it, to love it, and to discern it.

Discussion Helps

1. Share your feelings about having the Spirit of the Lord in your life.

2. Are there some scriptures or quotations in this article that the family might read aloud and discuss?

3. Would this discussion be better after talking with the head of the household before the visit? Is there a message from the quorum leader or bishop?

[illustrations] Illustrated by Paul Mann