Chapter 12: “Seek the Spirit in All You Do”

Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Ezra Taft Benson, (2014), 156–66


“We must remain open and sensitive to the promptings of the Holy Ghost in all aspects of our lives.”

From the Life of Ezra Taft Benson

When President Ezra Taft Benson counseled other General Authorities about serving in the Church, he often said, “Remember, Brethren, in this work it is the Spirit that counts.”1 And when he and these brethren ministered together, he taught this principle by example, showing that the Lord “is close to His servants, even within whispering distance.”2 Elder Robert D. Hales of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles told of a time when he accompanied President Benson to a stake conference in which a new stake president would be called:

“After praying, interviewing, studying, and praying again, Elder Benson asked if I knew who the new president would be. I said I had not received that inspiration yet. He looked at me for a long time and replied he hadn’t either. However, we were inspired to ask three worthy priesthood holders to speak in the Saturday evening session of conference. Moments after the third speaker began, the Spirit prompted me that he should be the new stake president. I looked over at President Benson and saw tears streaming down his face. Revelation had been given to both of us—but only by continuing to seek our Heavenly Father’s will as we moved forward in faith.”3

At the beginning of a conference for new mission presidents, President Benson shared the following counsel:

“I have said so many times to my brethren that the Spirit is the most important single element in this work. With the Spirit and magnifying your call, you can do miracles for the Lord in the mission field. Without the Spirit you will never succeed regardless of your talent and ability.

“You will receive excellent instruction in the next three days. Handbooks will be distributed, responsibilities and procedures will be discussed, policies will be analyzed, and all this will be most helpful to you. But the greatest help you will ever receive as a mission president will not be from handbooks or manuals. Your greatest help will come from the Lord Himself as you supplicate and plead with Him in humble prayer. As you are driven to your knees again and again, asking Him for divine help in administering your mission, you will feel the Spirit, you will get your answer from above, your mission will prosper spiritually because of your dependence and your reliance on Him.”4

President Benson extended this counsel to all members of the Church, including young children.5 He said: “In this work it is the Spirit that counts—wherever we serve. I know I must rely on the Spirit. Let us obtain that Spirit and be faithful members of the Church, devoted children and parents, effective home teachers, edifying instructors, inspired ward and stake leaders.”6

Although President Benson taught this truth publicly and boldly throughout the world, his primary effort to follow it was private and quiet. It began at home, in partnership with his wife, Flora. Flora’s half-sister Julia Dalley once visited the Bensons, and she later wrote a letter to Flora, commenting on the Benson family. “What on earth could be more ideal?” she said. “I admire the simplicity of your mode of living but most of all I was impressed with the fact that in your home there dwelled the Spirit of the Lord.”7

“How do we obtain the Spirit? ‘By the prayer of faith,’ says the Lord.”

Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson

1

We should strive for the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost all the days of our lives.

One sure way we can determine whether we are on the strait and narrow path is that we will possess 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, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, [and] temperance.” (Gal. 5:22–23.)

The most important thing in our lives is the Spirit. I have always felt that. We must remain open and sensitive to the promptings of the Holy Ghost in all aspects of our lives. … 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.8

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 with whom we serve, 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.” …

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.9

We live in a very wicked world. We are surrounded with propaganda that evil is good and good is evil. False teachings abound that affect us. Almost everything that is wholesome, good, pure, uplifting, and strengthening is being challenged as never before.

One reason we are on this earth is to discern between truth and error. This discernment comes by the Holy Ghost, not just our intellectual faculties.

When we earnestly and honestly seek for the truth, this beautiful promise finds fulfillment: “God shall give unto you knowledge by his Holy Spirit, yea, by the unspeakable gift of the Holy Ghost.” (Doctrine and Covenants 121:26.)10

2

If we are humble and sensitive, the Lord will prompt us through our feelings.

Pray to Heavenly Father to bless you with His Spirit at all times. We often call the Spirit the Holy Ghost. … The Holy Ghost helps you to choose the right. The Holy Ghost will protect you from evil. He whispers to you in a still, small voice to do right. When you do good, you feel good, and that is the Holy Ghost speaking to you. The Holy Ghost is a wonderful companion. He is always there to help you.11

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.

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 become increasingly more sensitive to the promptings of the Holy Ghost and thus able to comprehend spiritual things more clearly.12

3

We obtain the Spirit through sincere prayer and fasting.

How do we obtain the Spirit? “By the prayer of faith,” says the Lord [D&C 42:14]. Therefore, we must pray with sincerity and real intent. We must pray for increased faith and pray for the Spirit to accompany our teaching. We should ask the Lord for forgiveness.

Our prayers must be offered in the same spirit and with the same fervor as were the prayers of Enos in the Book of Mormon. Most are familiar with that inspiring story, so I will not repeat the background. I only want to draw your attention to these words. Enos testified: “I will tell you of the wrestle which I had before God, before I received a remission of my sins.” He clarified that wrestle with God. Note the fervor in his petition:

“My soul hungered.”

“I kneeled down before my Maker.”

“I cried unto him in mighty prayer and supplication for mine own soul.

“All day long did I cry unto him.”

Then Enos testified, “There came a voice unto me, saying: Enos, thy sins are forgiven thee, and thou shalt be blessed. … Wherefore, my guilt was swept away.” When he inquired of the Lord how this had been accomplished, the Lord answered him: “Because of thy faith in Christ … thy faith hath made thee whole.” (Enos 1:2, 4–8; italics added.)

Enos was spiritually healed. Through his mighty supplications to God, he experienced what the faithful of any dispensation can experience, do experience, and must experience if they are to see God and be filled with His Spirit.13

If you want to get the spirit of your office and calling … try fasting for a period. I don’t mean just missing one meal, then eating twice as much the next meal. I mean really fasting, and praying during that period. It will do more to give you the real spirit of your office and calling and permit the Spirit to operate through you than anything I know.14

4

Daily scripture study, including meditation on passages of scripture, invites the Spirit.

Search the scriptures diligently in personal study every day. Daily scripture study invites the Spirit.15

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 [see John 5:29; D&C 76].

Meditation on another passage of scripture from the Epistle of Peter opened the heavens to President Joseph F. Smith, and 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 [see 1 Peter 3:18–20; 4:6; D&C 138].

Ponder the significance of the responsibility the Lord has given to us. 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.

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: “Thou mayest know the mysteries and peaceable things.” (D&C 42:61.)

The following statement by President 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.” …

That is great counsel which I know by experience 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.16

“Daily scripture study invites the Spirit.”

The adversary does not want scripture study to take place in our homes, and so he will create problems if he can. But we must persist.17

We cannot know God and Jesus without studying about them and then doing their will. This course leads to additional revealed knowledge which, if obeyed, will eventually lead us to further truths. If we follow this pattern, we will receive further light and joy, eventually leading into God’s presence, where we, with Him, will have a fulness.18

5

The Holy Ghost will abide with us as we honor, respect, and obey God’s laws.

We have been taught that the Spirit will not dwell in unclean tabernacles [see Helaman 4:24]. Therefore, one of our first priorities is to make sure our own personal lives are in order.19

Let me talk about obedience. You’re learning now to keep all the commandments of the Lord. As you do so, you will have His Spirit to be with you. You’ll feel good about yourselves. You can’t do wrong and feel right. It’s impossible!20

The temporal promise for obedience [to the Word of Wisdom] is: They “shall receive health in their navel and marrow to their bones; … [they] shall run and not be weary, and shall walk and not faint.” (D&C 89:18, 20.)

I have always felt, however, that the greater blessing of obedience to the Word of Wisdom and all other commandments is spiritual.

Listen to the spiritual promise: “All saints who remember to keep and do these sayings, walking in obedience to the commandments, … shall find wisdom and great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures.” (D&C 89:18, 19; italics added.)

Some have thought this promise was contingent on just keeping the provisions of the Word of Wisdom. But you will notice we must walk in obedience to all the commandments. Then we shall receive specific spiritual promises. This means we must obey the law of tithing, keep the Sabbath day holy, keep morally clean and chaste, and obey all other commandments.

When we do all this, the promise is: They “shall find wisdom and great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures.” (D&C 89:19.)

What father and mother would not want the inspiration of the Lord in rearing their children? I testify these blessings can be yours. Surely parents would not want, through disobedience, to prevent their children from receiving the Lord’s blessings. All fathers and mothers in Israel should qualify themselves for this promise.

Living the commandments of God is a condition of worthiness for entrance into the House of the Lord. There wisdom and “great treasures of knowledge” are given that relate to our happiness in this life and joy throughout eternity. …

I do not believe that a member of the Church can have an active, vibrant testimony of the gospel without keeping the commandments. A testimony is to have current inspiration to know the work is true, not something we receive only once. The Holy Ghost abides with those who honor, respect, and obey God’s laws. And it is that Spirit which gives inspiration to the individual. Humbly I testify to the reality of this promise.21

Suggestions for Study and Teaching

Questions

  • President Benson said that promptings from the Holy Ghost “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” (section 1). How can we remain sensitive to the Spirit even when we have such pressures?

  • President Benson taught, “If we are humble and sensitive, the Lord will prompt us through our feelings” (section 2). What have you learned about recognizing such promptings?

  • In section 3, President Benson encourages us to follow the example of Enos, as recorded in the Book of Mormon. What are some lessons about seeking the Spirit that we can learn from Enos?

  • For you, what is the difference between reading the scriptures and “meditat[ing] on a passage of scripture”? (See section 4.) Why do you think diligent, daily scripture study helps us be open to the promptings of the Spirit?

  • President Benson said, “The Holy Ghost abides with those who honor, respect, and obey God’s laws” (section 5). Why do you think our ability to receive inspiration is influenced by our efforts to keep the commandments?

Study Help

“As you study, pay careful attention to ideas that come to your mind and feelings that come to your heart” (Preach My Gospel [2004], 18). Consider recording the impressions you receive, even if they seem unrelated to the words you are reading. They may be the very things the Lord wants to reveal to you.

Show References

    Notes

  1.   1.

    Quoted by Thomas S. Monson, “A Provident Plan—A Precious Promise,” Ensign, May 1986, 63.

  2.   2.

    “Seek the Spirit of the Lord,” Ensign, Apr. 1988, 5

  3.   3.

    Robert D. Hales, “Personal Revelation: The Teachings and Examples of the Prophets,” Ensign, Nov. 2007, 87–88.

  4.   4.

    “My Challenges to Mission Presidents,” seminar for new mission presidents, June 25, 1986.

  5.   5.

    See “To the Children of the Church,” Ensign, May 1989, 82.

  6.   6.

    “A Sacred Responsibility,” Ensign, May 1986, 77.

  7.   7.

    Julia Dalley, in Sheri L. Dew, Ezra Taft Benson: A Biography (1988), 128.

  8.   8.

    “Seek the Spirit of the Lord,” 2.

  9.   9.

    “Seek the Spirit of the Lord,” 5; the statement by Brigham Young is found in Manuscript History of Brigham Young, Feb. 23, 1947, 2 vols., ed. Elden Jay Watson (1968, 1971), 2:529.

  10.   10.

    Come unto Christ (1983), 22.

  11.   11.

    “To the Children of the Church,” 82.

  12.   12.

    “Seek the Spirit of the Lord,” 4.

  13.   13.

    Come unto Christ, 92–93.

  14.   14.

    The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson (1988), 331–32.

  15.   15.

    “My Challenges to Mission Presidents,” seminar for new mission presidents, June 25, 1986; italics removed from original.

  16.   16.

    “Seek the Spirit of the Lord,” 2, 4; the statement by Spencer W. Kimball is found in Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Spencer W. Kimball (2006), 67.

  17.   17.

    “A Sacred Responsibility,” 78.

  18.   18.

    “In His Steps,” Ensign, Sept. 1988, 5.

  19.   19.

    Come unto Christ, 92.

  20.   20.

    “Preparing Yourselves for Missionary Service,” Ensign, May 1985, 36.

  21.   21.

    “A Principle with a Promise,” Ensign, May 1983, 54.