Lesson Fifteen: Learning to Recognize the Spirit

Family Home Evening Resource Book, (1997), 64


Yea, ye have heard his voice from time to time; and he hath spoken unto you in a still small voice.
[1 Nephi 17:45]

PURPOSE

Help family members to recognize guidance from the Holy Ghost.

FOR THE PARENT

Think about the gifts of the Spirit. Would you like your family to know truth from error? Do you hope your children will learn to recognize answers to prayers? Would you like them to have a knowledge of spiritual things, to receive help in choosing wisely, to receive warnings of dangerous or harmful situations, and to gain the ability to teach and influence others? All of these great blessings and more come through the Holy Ghost (see 1 Corinthians 12:8–12, D&C 46:11–32).

Most members of the Lord’s Church know that they have the right and privilege to the constant companionship and guidance of the Holy Ghost. But many of us still need to learn to make such guidance a part of our daily lives. Sometimes we even fail to recognize experiences that we do have with the Holy Ghost. Motivating your family to seek and listen to the promptings of the Spirit is one of the most important things you can do.

Prayerfully prepare this lesson so that you can receive the guidance of the Spirit as you teach your family. Remember that “the Spirit shall be given unto you by the prayer of faith” (D&C 42:14).

PREPARATION

  1. 1.

    Bring a poster and marker or chalkboard and chalk.

  2. 2.

    Paste a picture of a person on a sheet of paper. Beside the head write, “mind.” Beside the chest write, “heart.”

  3. 3.

    Prepare slips of paper with one of the following phrases on each:

    “Feeling pain,” “Tasting salt,” “Hearing music,” “Seeing the color green,” and “Smelling shoe polish.”

  4. 4.

    Have family members bring their journals.

SUGGESTED HYMN AND SONG

“The Spirit of God” (Hymns, no. 2).

“The Still Small Voice” (Children’s Songbook, p. 106).

SUGGESTED LESSON

Begin with the following story:

Following the Holy Spirit

“I was once saved from death or serious accident because my father hearkened to the voice of the Spirit. If he had not responded instantly to the whisperings of the still small voice, my life might have ended then or had its course totally changed.

“One of my earliest childhood recollections is of riding a horse through an apple orchard. The horse was tame and well broken, and I felt at home in the saddle.

“But one day something frightened my mount, and he bolted through the orchard. I was swept from the saddle by the overhanging limbs, and one leg slipped down through the stirrup. I desperately hung to an almost broken leather strap that a cowboy uses to tie a lariat to his saddle. My weight should have broken the strap, but somehow it held for the moment. Another lunge or two of the stampeding horse would have broken the strap or wrenched it from my hands and left me to be dragged to injury or death with my foot entangled in the stirrup.

“Suddenly the horse stopped, and I became aware that someone was holding the bridle tightly and attempting to calm the quivering animal. Almost immediately I was snatched up into the arms of my father.

“What had happened? What had brought my father to my rescue in the split second before I slipped beneath the hoofs of my panic-driven horse?

“My father had been sitting in the house reading the newspaper when the Spirit whispered to him, ‘Run out into the orchard!’

“Without a moment’s hesitation, not waiting to learn why or for what reason, my father ran. Finding himself in the orchard without knowing why he was there, he saw the galloping horse and thought, I must stop this horse.

“He did so and found me. And that is how I was saved from serious injury or possible death.” (Bruce R. McConkie, “Hearken to the Spirit,” Friend, Sept. 1972, pp. 10–11.)

We Need the Guidance of the Holy Ghost

  • What prompted Elder McConkie’s father to run into the orchard?

  • Why did he respond to the prompting? (He recognized that the Holy Ghost was communicating with him.)

Tell your children that Heavenly Father knows each of us. He knows our names and our talents and he knows what is in our hearts. He wants each person to live his life successfully and to find true happiness. Explain that because of his great love for us, he has sent a special personage, the Holy Ghost, to be with us and help us (see 1 Nephi 10:17).

After we are baptized we receive the gift of the Holy Ghost to be our constant companion and guide if we live worthily and seek his help (see D&C 35:6, 121:46; Articles of Faith 1:4).

The Holy Ghost is a member of the Godhead (see 1 John 5:7, D&C 20:28). That means he works with our Heavenly Father. He wants us to have the same things that Heavenly Father has. It is his job to bring messages to us from our Father in Heaven. If we listen to the messages, we will get the help we need for our lives when we need it. This is why the Holy Ghost is so important to each one of us. He helps, teaches, and protects us so that we will not have to face the trials and temptations of the world alone.

On the chalkboard or poster list some ways the Holy Ghost helps, teaches, and protects us. Have your family name as many ways as they can. Be sure the following ideas are covered. The Holy Ghost—

  1. 1.

    Warns us of danger or evil (as in Elder McConkie’s story).

  2. 2.

    Gives us our testimonies (Alma 5:46).

  3. 3.

    Helps us know and choose the right (D&C 11:12).

  4. 4.

    Helps us understand things (D&C 6:15).

  5. 5.

    Helps us recognize truth (Moroni 10:5).

  6. 6.

    Guides us in important decisions (2 Nephi 32:5).

  7. 7.

    Teaches us (John 14:26).

  8. 8.

    Inspires us (Luke 12:12).

  9. 9.

    Comforts us (Galatians 5:22).

  10. 10.

    Helps us remember things (John 14:26).

  11. 11.

    Helps us understand and communicate with each other (Alma 12:3).

Help your family understand that as they learn to be guided by the Spirit they will begin to perfect themselves.

Learning How the Holy Ghost Speaks to Us

It is through the power of the Holy Ghost that visions, dreams, and prophecies usually come. But most of the time when he speaks with us it is in a quiet, almost unnoticeable way. That is why we often refer to him as the still small voice. (See 1 Kings 19:11–12.)

Show your family the picture you prepared. Explain that the still small voice is not always a voice that we hear with our ears. Instead, it speaks in our minds and in our hearts. When we listen for it we are listening for a thought and searching our hearts for a feeling (see D&C 8:2). The thought and the feeling often come together. The feeling is of peace, right, and sureness. It is a warm, good feeling. (See D&C 9:8–9.) As long as we seek and follow these good thoughts and feelings from the Holy Ghost, we will continue to receive guidance.

Read 1 Nephi 17:45 together. Ask what Nephi meant when he told his brothers that they were past feeling the words of the still small voice. If we ignore the thoughts and feelings that we are given, they become weaker. Finally they cease coming altogether, and we will be left in darkness.

  • What else might interfere with the working of the Spirit in our lives? (Not keeping the commandments [see Helaman 4:24].)

We Can Recognize the Spirit

Have family members select one of the wordstrips that you have prepared. Let each of them imagine they are describing the sensation to someone who has never experienced it.

Afterward, explain that there are some things we can learn only through our own experiences. This is why we must make an effort to look for the guidance of the Spirit in our own lives. We must each learn to be so familiar with it that when we have an important need we will understand how to get guidance and help. The more experiences we have with the Spirit, the more confident we will feel about recognizing his presence.

Tell the following story:

Kevin Listens to the Spirit

Kevin and Todd were brothers. They were also best friends. But lately something was wrong, and Kevin didn’t know what it was. Todd was not at all easy to get along with. He had been very unkind to Kevin. Kevin wondered if he had made Todd angry until he realized that Todd was acting that way with everyone. Kevin tried harder to be kind to Todd, but his efforts were wasted. Todd just didn’t seem to want to be Kevin’s friend anymore.

One evening, Kevin and Todd argued. Kevin felt both angry and ashamed. He felt that Todd was acting impossible, but he also knew that he wasn’t trying very hard himself anymore. He didn’t like things this way. He wanted to be friends again.

That night as he prayed, Kevin asked Heavenly Father to help him improve his relationship with Todd again. He promised that he would rebuild his friendship with Todd if only he knew how. He also told Heavenly Father that he was sorry for the wrong things he had done to Todd.

As he climbed into bed, Kevin thought about the problem. He wondered what Heavenly Father would want him to do. Then he thought, “Go tell Todd that you love him.” Kevin knew he couldn’t do that! Love was shown in his home but not in that way—especially between brothers. He started to push the thought away, but it came again, “Go tell Todd that you love him.”

Suddenly Kevin remembered that the Holy Ghost spoke through thoughts. He wondered if the Holy Ghost was speaking to him. Even as he began to wonder, he had a warm feeling and knew that his prayers were being answered.

Knowing that he must obey, he slipped out of bed and tiptoed to Todd’s room. His heart pounded and he felt tense. He wondered why it should seem so hard to do such a simple thing.

“Todd,” he said.

“What do you want?” asked a gruff voice from the dark.

“Todd, I … I want you to know that I love you.”

For a minute there was no sound. Kevin thought maybe he had made a mistake. Then Todd quietly replied, “I love you, too.”

Kevin felt relieved and happy. He sat down on Todd’s bed, and they began to talk. Soon they worked out their problems and felt closer than ever before.

  • How did Kevin know that he was being guided by the Spirit?

  • Why was Kevin able to get the Spirit? (He cared. He prayed. He thought about his problem. He lived worthy of help.)

Explain that the still small voice came to Kevin as a thought on how to solve his problem. Sometimes it comes as a thought or a feeling that we shouldn’t do something we’re about to do. We may be looking for something and suddenly think of the place to look. Or we may suddenly understand something that has been unclear to us or know that something is true.

Explain that sometimes, even though we have prayed for help, we don’t recognize our thoughts and feelings as coming from the Holy Ghost in answer to our prayer. Discuss how sometimes we might feel confused about what is our imagination and what is the Holy Ghost. We must remember that if the thought is good and tells us to do what is right, then it comes from God (see Moroni 7:13), and we should follow it. Read the first sentence of Ether 4:12 together.

Explain that as long as we do what we really feel is right, we will feel peaceful and happy. As we pray for help and look for it, we will find it easier to recognize the still small voice of the Holy Ghost, and we will become more familiar with it.

Times We Have Been Helped by the Spirit

Let your family share experiences they have had with the Holy Ghost. Relate a personal experience. But remember that spiritual experiences are sacred and should not be talked about unless we feel prompted by the Holy Ghost.

Challenge them to begin to watch for times when the still small voice whispers to them. Encourage them to record spiritual experiences in their journals. Give them a few minutes at the end of the lesson to record any experiences they have had.

Look up Alma 37:37, and read it together. Bring out that we can always be directed in our lives by our Heavenly Father.

  • How does this direction come? (Through the Holy Ghost.)

Bear your testimony of the importance of listening to the Spirit. Point out that they might have felt warm, good feelings during this lesson and that those feelings were from the Holy Ghost telling them that the things they were hearing were true.

ADAPTING FOR YOUNGER CHILDREN

Tell your children that Heavenly Father knows each of them. He loves them and wants them to be happy. He has given us someone who helps us choose what is right and helps us when we have a problem. He is the Holy Ghost. We do not see him or hear his voice, but he can quietly put ideas into our minds and feelings in our hearts. The Holy Ghost is a loving, friendly helper who helps us to choose the right. He can help us in many different ways.

Tell the following stories:

Jamie Is Lost

Jamie was lost. He and his family had gone on a hike. He saw a squirrel and started to chase it. When he couldn’t catch it, he tried to find his family, but they were gone. Jamie was afraid. He remembered that his Primary teacher had told his class to pray if they were ever in trouble or afraid. So Jamie said a prayer and asked Heavenly Father to help him find his family. Jamie didn’t feel so afraid anymore. He felt as though someone was helping him, so he started to walk down the hill. Soon he heard his father calling his name. He called back, and his father came running. Jamie was glad he had prayed, and he knew Heavenly Father had helped him.

Car Trouble

The Holt family left for their vacation. They were excited about taking a trip. After about an hour, their car began to sound funny. Father stopped the car along the side of the road. He got out to see what was wrong. When he got back in the car it would not start. Everyone was worried. The small children started to cry. Mother said, “Let’s say a prayer.” Father asked Heavenly Father in the prayer to help them know what was wrong with the car and to help them know everything would be okay. After the prayer everyone in the family felt good. They knew things would be all right. The children stopped crying. Soon another car stopped and some kind people helped father fix the car. Soon the Holts were on their way again.

In each of the stories someone needed help.

  • How did they get it? (They prayed.)

  • Who helped them? (Heavenly Father sent the Holy Ghost to help them.)

  • How did the Holy Ghost help? (He put thoughts in their mind, made them feel better, or helped them not be afraid. He also prompted other people to help.)

Explain that the Holy Ghost can help us in many different ways. If we need help, we can pray to Heavenly Father, and the Holy Ghost will help us.

ADAPTING FOR TEENAGERS AND ADULTS

Some families have had experiences listening to the Holy Ghost and still do not have a clear understanding of how the Spirit works. The following questions may help you discover and meet the individual needs of your family. They will help you evaluate what needs to be taught. If your family members do have a good understanding of how the Spirit works, use the questions for a discussion. Remind your family to work for the blessings of the Holy Ghost constantly.

Use the questions only to get them thinking of their personal need to learn about the Holy Ghost. Then go on to teach the regular lesson. Be familiar with all of the material in the lesson so that you can give it easily if you observe a need to do so.

  1. 1.

    How often do you have experiences with the Holy Ghost?

  2. 2.

    Do you feel satisfied that these experiences come as often as they should?

  3. 3.

    Do you feel that you receive personal revelation to guide your life?

  4. 4.

    What does having the Holy Ghost as your constant companion mean? (Worthy Church members may rely on the Holy Ghost to help them meet significant problems in life.)

  5. 5.

    Do you feel that the Holy Ghost is your constant companion?

  6. 6.

    Do you feel that having the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost is a realistic goal?

  7. 7.

    Have you ever been through a period of time when you felt that you did have the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost?

  8. 8.

    What can you do to help you be closer to the guidance of the Holy Ghost?

  9. 9.

    How can you tell the difference between the promptings of the Holy Ghost and your own imagination?

  10. 10.

    For what kinds of things do we need the guidance and help of the Holy Ghost?

  11. 11.

    What kinds of things might Heavenly Father expect us to decide and solve for ourselves?

Explain that Heavenly Father has given us the Holy Ghost to help us live our lives successfully. He was not meant to be a reward for when we are perfect. Learning to be guided by the Holy Ghost is, in fact, necessary to help us reach perfection.

Consider using the story of Elder McConkie, making the list of things the Holy Ghost does for us, showing the picture with the indication of mind and heart, and telling the story of Kevin. All of these would be interesting to teenagers and adults if used effectively.

Conclude with the discussion and challenge under “Times We Have Been Helped by the Spirit.”

SUGGESTIONS FOR FUTURE HOME EVENINGS

Understanding the Holy Ghost

Using the book Gospel Principles [31110], chapter 7, “The Holy Ghost,” pages 36 through 39, and chapter 21, “The Gift of the Holy Ghost,” pages 136 through 140, discuss the following:

  • Who is the Holy Ghost?

  • What is his relationship to the Father and the Son?

  • Why is the influence of the Holy Ghost necessary in our lives?

  • What is the gift of the Holy Ghost?

  • How do we obtain this gift?

Family members may wish to find scriptures to help answer these questions. Some scriptures are quoted in Gospel Principles.

Using the Gift of the Holy Ghost

Have family members list some important decisions they will be making in their lives, such as taking a job, deciding on further education, deciding whom to marry, or accepting calls to service. Ask family members to suggest ways of reaching wise decisions about the listed items.

Have someone read Doctrine and Covenants 9:8–9 and D&C 6:22–23. Revise where necessary the family’s earlier suggestions about how to make decisions to include the counsel the Lord gives in these scriptures.

You may wish to read and discuss the following comments by Elder Boyd K. Packer:

“Put difficult questions in the back of your minds and go about your lives. Ponder and pray quietly and persistently about them.

“The answer may not come as a lightning bolt. It may come as a little inspiration here and a little there, ‘line upon line, precept upon precept’ (D&C 98:12).

“Some answers will come from reading the scriptures, some from hearing speakers. And, occasionally, when it is important, some will come by very direct and powerful inspiration. The promptings will be clear and unmistakable.” (In Conference Report, Oct. 1979, p. 30; or Ensign, Nov. 1979, p. 21.)

Recognizing the Promptings of the Spirit

Ask one or more family members in advance to find experiences from the lives of their ancestors or others in which the promptings of the Spirit brought needed guidance or comfort into someone’s life. They could seek such experiences out of family histories, the scriptures, or Church books. Have family members relate these experiences about how the Holy Ghost has led others. You may wish to emphasize the great love our Heavenly Father has for us, which leads him to provide us with this great gift.

Distinguishing between Our Desires and the Promptings of the Spirit

Sometimes our own hopes and desires are so strong that they may seem right and we may mistake them for the promptings of the Spirit. Introduce this idea by telling a story in which someone prays for guidance and then makes a decision in keeping with his own desires, which are obviously not in keeping with the gospel. End the story by asking family members what went wrong. Use this example for a discussion on how we can tell the difference between our own wants and the whisperings of the Spirit.

Have family members suggest some signs of true promptings of the Spirit, besides a burning in the bosom. The suggestions might include—

  1. 1.

    The promptings do not violate any gospel principles, such as the free agency of another.

  2. 2.

    The promptings are in harmony with the teachings of the scripture and of the prophets.

  3. 3.

    The promptings are in harmony with the order of the Church.

  4. 4.

    The promptings bring peace to the soul.

  5. 5.

    The promptings do not raise doubts and questions.

  6. 6.

    The promptings result in lasting happiness when we follow them.

  7. 7.

    The promptings may be contrary to our desires when we have asked for the wrong things.

Remembering How the Holy Ghost Has Helped

Tell the family you are going to give them a short quiz. Then give each family member a blank sheet of paper and let him divide it into four columns. As a heading to each column write, “Number,” “Yes,” “No,” “Not sure.” In the number column have each person list the numbers 1 through 13.

As you read the following questions, have each family member indicate whether he has experienced the feeling described by checking either yes, no, or not sure:

  1. 1.

    Have you ever had a strong inward feeling or witness while reading the scriptures that they were of God?

  2. 2.

    Do you believe strongly that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God or that our present prophet is the Lord’s prophet?

  3. 3.

    Do you feel that the Spirit has guided you to love your friends or members of your family more by helping you to forgive them or to help them?

  4. 4.

    Have you ever felt that you have been given an answer to a prayer and directed in your mind as to what you should do?

  5. 5.

    Do you believe strongly that you lived before you were mortal and that there is life after death?

  6. 6.

    Have you ever been inspired in a talk or discussion to explain a principle better than you could have on your own?

  7. 7.

    Do you have an assurance that Jesus is the Savior of the world?

  8. 8.

    Do you know that he is indeed the Son of God?

  9. 9.

    Have you felt during a general conference, a sacrament meeting, or other Church gathering that your priesthood leaders were influenced by divine power?

  10. 10.

    Have you ever felt the Spirit while someone was administered to, or have you been spiritually uplifted during the sacrament or the performance of a priesthood ordinance?

  11. 11.

    Have you ever felt God’s love for you or experienced a closeness to him at some particular time?

  12. 12.

    During a time of repentance have you felt the witness of the Spirit that you were forgiven?

  13. 13.

    Have you felt a comforting spirit during a time of bereavement, sorrow, or personal difficulty?

Explain that each of these experiences is an example of the promptings of the Holy Ghost. Have family members think about times they have been influenced by the Holy Ghost using these thirteen questions as a guide.

Then ask family members to tell briefly about one of the experiences or to bear their testimony.

Learning to Commune with the Spirit

Commune means to communicate intimately. It includes both talking and listening. Read and discuss the following statement by Elder H. Burke Peterson:

“Listening is an essential part of praying. Answers from the Lord come quietly—ever so quietly. In fact, few hear his answers audibly with their ears. We must be listening so carefully or we will never recognize them. Most answers from the Lord are felt in our heart as a warm comfortable expression, or they may come as thoughts to our mind. They come to those who are prepared and who are patient.” (In Conference Report, Oct. 1973, p. 13; or Ensign, Jan. 1974, p. 19.)

  • How do you pray?

  • Do you ever take time to listen for the Spirit’s answers?

Suggest that, as an experiment during the next week, family members set side a few minutes during or after their morning and evening prayers to listen for the promptings or the influence of the Spirit. Suggest that they ponder the experiences they have. Some may wish to record these experiences in their journals. Suggest that they remember to thank their Heavenly Father in their next prayers for the comforting influence of the Spirit.