Chapter 5: The Holy Ghost and Personal Revelation

Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Wilford Woodruff, (2011), 46–56


According to our faithfulness, we can receive the companionship of the Holy Ghost to enlighten and guide us in our lives and to lead us to eternal life.

From the Life of Wilford Woodruff

In October 1880, President Wilford Woodruff told the Saints that he had recently been visited by President Brigham Young, who had died in 1877, and by President Heber C. Kimball, who had died in 1868. “When we arrived at our destination,” recounted President Woodruff, “I asked President Young if he would preach to us. He said, ‘No, I have finished my testimony in the flesh. I shall not talk to this people any more.’ ‘But,’ said he, ‘I have come to see you; I have come to watch over you, and to see what the people are doing.’ Then, said he, ‘I want you to teach the people—and I want you to follow this counsel yourself—that they must labor and so live as to obtain the Holy Spirit, for without this you cannot build up the kingdom; without the Spirit of God you are in danger of walking in the dark, and in danger of failing to accomplish your calling as apostles and as elders in the church and kingdom of God.’”1

This counsel was not new to President Woodruff. His brethren knew him as “a man susceptible to the impressions of the Spirit of the Lord, a man guided by inspiration in the performance of his duty, far more than by any gift of wisdom or of judgment that he himself possessed.”2 He often related an experience he had with the impressions of the Spirit. It occurred as he and his family traveled to the eastern United States, where he had been called to serve a mission. He said:

“I drove my carriage one evening into the yard of Brother Williams [a local member of the Church]. Brother Orson Hyde [of the Quorum of the Twelve] drove a wagon by the side of mine. I had my wife and children in the carriage. After I turned out my team and had my supper, I went to bed in the carriage. I had not been there but a few minutes when the Spirit said to me, ‘Get up and move that carriage.’ I told my wife I had to get up and move the carriage. She said, ‘What for?’ I said, ‘I don’t know.’ That is all she asked me on such occasions; when I told her I did not know, that was enough. I got up and moved my carriage. … I then looked around me and went to bed. The same Spirit said, ‘Go and move your animals from that oak tree.’ … I went and moved my horses and put them in a little hickory grove. I again went to bed.

“In thirty minutes a whirlwind came up and broke that oak tree off within two feet from the ground. It swept over three or four fences and fell square in that dooryard, near Brother Orson Hyde’s wagon, and right where mine had stood. What would have been the consequences if I had not listened to that Spirit? Why, myself and wife and children doubtless would have been killed. That was the still, small voice to me—no earthquake, no thunder, no lightning; but the still, small voice of the Spirit of God. It saved my life. It was the spirit of revelation to me.”3

President Woodruff emphasized the need for all members of the Church to be guided by the Holy Ghost—to seek personal revelation. He asserted, “The Church of God could not live twenty-four hours without revelation.”4

Teachings of Wilford Woodruff

The Holy Ghost is a personage of spirit who bears witness of God the Father, Jesus Christ, and the truthfulness of the gospel.

The Holy Ghost is one of the personages of the Godhead. God the Father and God the Son possess tabernacles [bodies of flesh and bone], and God himself has created man after His own image; but the Holy Ghost is a personage of Spirit, which bears witness of the Father and Son unto the children of men [see D&C 130:22].5

What is the greatest testimony any man or woman can have as to this being the work of God? I will tell you what is the greatest testimony I have ever had, the most sure testimony, that is the testimony of the Holy Ghost, the testimony of the Father and the Son.6

Our eyes and ears may be deceived by the cunning and machination of man; but the Holy Ghost never deceives anybody.7

The scriptures tell us that there is a spirit in man and that the inspiration of the Almighty giveth it understanding [see Job 32:8]. It is upon this principle that we become acquainted with the truth, and the power of the gospel which we have received. The principles of eternal life are manifested unto us by the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, for that Spirit rests upon us, it influences our minds, and if we watch those teachings, having within us the right feeling, we shall comprehend things clearly as they are.8

Each faithful Latter-day Saint can receive the gift of the Holy Ghost, which is the greatest gift anyone can receive in mortality.

Every person who has ever repented of his sins, and has been baptized for their remission, after the order of God, and after the similitude of Jesus Christ, who was buried in water in the likeness of his death, and came forth in the likeness of his resurrection, has a right to the Holy Ghost; it is promised, and it belongs to him; it is the right of all persons to enjoy this, and if they receive the Holy Ghost and [His] gifts they have inspiration, light and truth; they have eyes to see, ears to hear and hearts to understand.9

Now, if you have the Holy Ghost with you—and every one ought to have—I can say unto you that there is no greater gift, there is no greater blessing, there is no greater testimony given to any man on earth. You may have the administration of angels; you may see many miracles; you may see many wonders in the earth; but I claim that the gift of the Holy Ghost is the greatest gift that can be bestowed upon man. It is by this power that we have performed that which we have. It is this that sustains us through all the persecutions, trials and tribulations that come upon us.10

Every man or woman that has ever entered into the church of God and been baptized for the remission of sins has a right to revelation, a right to the Spirit of God, to assist them in their labors, in their administrations to their children, in counseling their children and those over whom they are called upon to preside. The Holy Ghost is not restricted to men, nor to apostles or prophets; it belongs to every faithful man and woman, and to every child who is old enough to receive the gospel of Christ.11

Father counseling son

Worthy Latter-day Saints can receive the Holy Ghost “to assist them in their labors, in their administrations to their children, in counseling their children and those over whom they are called upon to preside.”

We should acquaint ourselves with the still, small voice of the Holy Ghost—the voice of revelation.

There is an appointed way … in which revelation from the Lord for the government of his church is received. There is but one man on the earth, at a time, who holds this power. But every individual member has the privilege of receiving revelation from the Lord for his guidance in his own affairs, and to testify to him concerning the correctness of public teachings and movements.12

What is revelation? It is the inspiration of the Holy Ghost to man. Joseph Smith said to Brother John Taylor in his day: “Brother Taylor, you watch the impression of the Spirit of God; you watch the whisperings of Spirit to you; you carry them out in your life, and [this] will become a principle of revelation in you, and you will know and understand this Spirit and power.” This is the key, the foundation stone of all revelation. … In my own experience I have endeavored to get acquainted with that Spirit, and to learn its operations.13

How many of you have had revelation? How many of you have had the Spirit of God whisper unto you—the still small voice? … I have had many testimonies since I have been connected with this Church and kingdom. I have been blessed at times with certain gifts and graces, certain revelations and ministrations; but with them all I have never found anything that I could place more dependency upon than the still small voice of the Holy Ghost.14

Man is apt to look too high or expect too great things so that they often times mistake the Spirit of God and the inspiration of the Almighty. It is not in the thunder or whirlwind that we should look for the Spirit of God but in the still small voice [see 1 Kings 19:11–12].15

Through the gift of the Holy Ghost, we receive blessings to guide our lives now and to prepare us for eternal life.

You may surround any man or woman with all the wealth and glory that the imagination of man can grasp, and are they satisfied? No. There is still an aching void. On the other hand, show me a beggar upon the streets, who has the Holy Ghost, whose mind is filled with that Spirit and power, and I will show you a person who has peace of mind, who possesses true riches, and those enjoyments that no man can obtain from any other source.16

When we enjoy the Holy Spirit, when we are trying to live our religion here on the earth, we are the happiest people on God’s footstool, no matter what our circumstances may be. I do not care whether we are rich or poor, whether in happiness or affliction, if a man is living his religion and enjoys the favor and Spirit of God, it makes no difference to him what takes place on the earth. There may be earthquakes, war, fire or sword in the land, but he feels that it is all right with him. That is the way I feel.17

Every man who receives that Spirit has a comforter within—a leader to dictate and guide him. This Spirit reveals, day by day, to every man who has faith, those things which are for his benefit. … It is this inspiration of God to his children in every age of the world that is one of the necessary gifts to sustain man and enable him to walk by faith, and to go forth and obey all the dictations and commandments and revelations which God has given to His children to guide and direct them in life.18

Every man should get the Spirit of God, and then follow its dictates. This is revelation. It doesn’t make any difference what the Spirit tells you to do; it will never tell you to do anything that is wrong.19

We are surrounded by … evil spirits that are at war against God and against everything looking to the building up of the kingdom of God; and we need this Holy Spirit to enable us to overcome these influences. …

… This is the Spirit that we must have to carry out the purposes of God on the earth. We need that more than any other gift. … We are in the midst of enemies, in the midst of darkness and temptation, and we need to be guided by the Spirit of God. We should pray to the Lord until we get the Comforter. This is what is promised to us when we are baptized. It is the spirit of light, of truth, and of revelation, and can be with all of us at the same time.20

You will find if ever we seek to do something else besides carrying out the dictates of the Holy Spirit, we will get into the fog and into darkness and trouble, and we shall be ignorant of the way we are pursuing. Every day that we live we need the power of the Lord—the power of his Holy Spirit and the strength of the priesthood to be with us that we may know what to do. And if we will so live before the Lord, the Spirit will reveal to us every day what our duties are; I do not care what it is we are engaged in, we should first find out the will of the Lord and then do it, and then our work will be well done and acceptable before the Lord.21

Through all my life and labors, whenever I have been told to do anything by the Spirit of the Lord, I have always found it good to do it. I have been preserved by that power. … Get the spirit of revelation with you. And when you get that you are safe, and you will do exactly what the Lord wants you to do.22

The thought that we can obey and be sanctified by the gospel, and be prepared thereby to inherit eternal life, is one of the most glorious principles ever revealed to man. … We have a hope that the world knows not of, and it can not enter into their thoughts. Unless they are born of the Spirit of God they can not even see the kingdom of God, and they can not get into it unless they are born of the water and of the Spirit [see John 3:5], hence they can not share in the joyous anticipations and hopes that we possess. Their eyes, ears and hearts are not opened to see and hear and feel the power of the gospel of Christ.23

It is our privilege to follow the dictates of the Spirit of the Lord, and to have it for our guide and companion, and by doing this the blessings of the heavens will be upon us as fast as we are prepared to receive them.24

The constant companionship of the Spirit requires our constant labor and faithfulness.

I am anxious … that we as a people may do our duty, may live our religion, may keep the faith, may so walk before the Lord that the Holy Ghost may be our constant companion to lead us in the days that lie before us. This is my prayer and my desire.25

I know that it requires constant warfare, labor and faithfulness before the Lord in order for us to keep in fellowship with the Holy Spirit, and to live in such a manner that we may obtain these blessings.26

There is nothing that we ought to labor more to obtain while in the flesh than the Spirit of God, the Holy Ghost, the Comforter, which we are entitled to receive by reason of our having obeyed the requirements of the Gospel.27

The great promise which accompanies the preaching of the Gospel, as revealed from heaven in our day, is that the Holy Ghost will be bestowed upon the sincerely penitent who obey its holy ordinances. Through the Holy Ghost a knowledge of things past, present and to come is communicated and the mind and will of the Father made known. In this way the Almighty reveals His purposes to those who obey His commandments and whose lives are pure and acceptable before Him, so that they can be prepared for all the events and trials that may lie in their pathway.

If there are any members of the Church who do not know by their own experience that this is true, they may be assured that they do not live up to their privileges. All Saints should be in close communion with the Holy Ghost, and, through it, with the Father, or there is danger of their being overcome of evil and falling by the wayside.

We, therefore, say to the Latter-day Saints: The Holy Ghost will not dwell in an unholy tabernacle. If you would enjoy the full powers and gifts of your religion, you must be pure. If you are guilty of weaknesses, follies and sins, you must repent of them; that is, you must thoroughly forsake them. In no other way can we please God. “Man of holiness” is His name [see Moses 6:57], and He delights in the efforts of His children to be pure.28

If we do not have revelation, it is because we do not live as we should live, because we do not magnify our [callings in the] priesthood as we ought to; if we did we would not be without revelation, none would be barren or unfruitful.29

Let us lay aside all evil practices, all those habits which will prevent our communing with God. … If these little things have a tendency to hinder our enjoyments and debase us in the eyes of the Lord, we ought to lay them aside and manifest a determination to do the will of our Father in Heaven, and to accomplish that work which is laid upon us to perform. … When I do anything that prevents me from enjoying the Spirit of the Lord, as soon as I ascertain that, I immediately throw it aside.30

We are trying to abide the celestial law of God; we are preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ and endeavoring to carry out its principles. Now the question is, will it pay us to do so? Will it pay us to be faithful? Will it pay us to pass through whatever trials or afflictions, or persecutions, or even death itself, for the kingdom of God, for salvation and eternal life, the greatest of all gifts which God can bestow on the children of men? I say it will, and I hope that the Latter-day Saints, that all men in authority—that we will all be faithful before the Lord, that we will remember our prayers, labor for the Holy Spirit, labor to know the mind and will of God, that we may know the path to walk in, that we may obtain the Spirit of the Lord and the Holy Ghost, and that we may overcome the world and magnify our calling till we get through this probation.31

Suggestions for Study and Teaching

Consider these ideas as you study the chapter or as you prepare to teach. For additional help, see pages v–ix.

  • What do you learn from the stories on pages 46–47?

  • As you have studied this chapter, what have you learned about the Holy Ghost and His roles?

  • Review the second full paragraph on page 49. Why might we consider the gift of the Holy Ghost to be “the greatest gift” we can receive in mortality? Review the final paragraph in the chapter, on pages 54–55. How does the gift of the Holy Ghost prepare us for eternal life, “the greatest of all gifts”?

  • How can President Woodruff’s teachings help us recognize the promptings of the Holy Ghost? (See pages 47, 50; see also D&C 6:15, 22–23; 11:12–14.) Why is it important to remember that the Holy Ghost usually communicates in a “still, small voice”?

  • Read the paragraph that begins at the bottom of page 50. What are some of the “true riches” that we receive when we have the Holy Ghost with us? (See pages 50–53.)

  • Think of an experience when you were guided by the Holy Ghost. In what ways have you been blessed through the companionship of the Holy Ghost?

  • Review the final section of the chapter (pages 53–55). Why must we labor constantly in order to receive the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost? What can prevent us from feeling the influence of the Holy Ghost? What can help us feel the influence of the Holy Ghost?

Related Scriptures: John 14:26; 15:26; 16:13; 1 Corinthians 2:9–14; 1 Nephi 10:17–19; 2 Nephi 32:1–5; Moroni 10:5; D&C 8:2–3; 14:7

Show References

    Notes

  1.   1.

    The Discourses of Wilford Woodruff, sel. G. Homer Durham (1946), 290; see also page 289.

  2.   2.

    Joseph F. Smith, Gospel Doctrine, 5th ed. (1939), 171.

  3.   3.

    Deseret Weekly, September 5, 1891, 323.

  4.   4.

    The Discourses of Wilford Woodruff, 61.

  5.   5.

    Deseret Weekly, September 21, 1889, 393.

  6.   6.

    Deseret News: Semi-Weekly, September 7, 1880, 1.

  7.   7.

    Deseret News: Semi-Weekly, July 30, 1878, 1.

  8.   8.

    Deseret News, June 26, 1861, 130.

  9.   9.

    Deseret News: Semi-Weekly, May 2, 1876, 4.

  10.   10.

    Deseret Weekly, April 6, 1889, 451.

  11.   11.

    The Discourses of Wilford Woodruff, 53.

  12.   12.

    The Discourses of Wilford Woodruff, 54.

  13.   13.

    The Discourses of Wilford Woodruff, 45–46.

  14.   14.

    The Discourses of Wilford Woodruff, 45.

  15.   15.

    Journal of Wilford Woodruff, January 20, 1872, Archives of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

  16.   16.

    The Discourses of Wilford Woodruff, 5.

  17.   17.

    Deseret News: Semi-Weekly, July 20, 1875, 1.

  18.   18.

    The Discourses of Wilford Woodruff, 7–8.

  19.   19.

    The Discourses of Wilford Woodruff, 293–94.

  20.   20.

    Deseret Weekly, November 7, 1896, 643.

  21.   21.

    Deseret News, March 4, 1857, 411.

  22.   22.

    In Conference Report, April 1898, 31.

  23.   23.

    Deseret News: Semi-Weekly, March 4, 1873, 3.

  24.   24.

    Deseret News, December 26, 1860, 338.

  25.   25.

    Deseret Weekly, March 6, 1897, 371.

  26.   26.

    Deseret News: Semi-Weekly, July 20, 1875, 1.

  27.   27.

    Contributor, August 1895, 637.

  28.   28.

    “Epistle,” Woman’s Exponent, April 15, 1888, 174; from a letter written by President Woodruff in behalf of the Quorum of the Twelve.

  29.   29.

    The Discourses of Wilford Woodruff, 51.

  30.   30.

    Deseret News, February 26, 1862, 274.

  31.   31.

    The Discourses of Wilford Woodruff, 129.