One day it finally happened. Two young men stood in front of the door of our little apartment.
“What is it?” I asked. After taking a short glimpse at them, I was ready to defend myself. No matter what it was, I wanted them to understand that I did not need anything and that I wanted to be left alone.
Then I took another look at the two young men front of me and found reason to second-guess my first judgment. They were dressed with care. The were clean but not shiny or wealthy. Their eyes radiated dignity and peace. Their gestures were humble but not cheap. Their appearance represented politeness and readiness to listen, self-esteem, and willingness to respect my own right of privacy.
“We have an important message for you,” one them said.
When I have tried, since becoming a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, to describe the appearance of the first missionaries at my door, I cannot help but say they didn’t look like salesmen. They radiated something very different. They radiated the Spirit of the Lord. There is something powerfully strong and very special that radiates from someone who has the Spirit. There was something so strong radiating from these two young men that it became impossible for me to send them away.
Little did I know that from then on my life would never be the same—that I had already set my foot on a path that would eventually lead myself, my wife, and my future children on a road toward faith as a sure knowledge of the Lord, toward repentance and finally baptism—becoming a member of the Lord’s Church.
What is it that converts a person—that changes the course of his life and helps him come unto Christ? Is it the powerful message of the word of God or is it a special approach someone uses to contact that person? Is it the dress? The haircut? The neatness, or something else?
Conversions come only by the powerful influence of the Spirit. The reality of this power is obvious. Its radiation through the humble, righteous missionaries became the instrument of my own conversion, and it is the cause of the growth of the Church in all corners of the world. This power we receive as a special gift from our Heavenly Father as we enter into the covenant of baptism. I feel very enthusiastic about every member who has developed an awareness to concentrate, as a priority, on efforts not only to feel the Spirit on a regular basis, but to be completely immersed in the Spirit during the daily actions of life.
The Lord has given each member this gift that will enable him to carry happily and successfully the burdens and challenges of life. I want to share with you some suggestions about how I feel you can learn to develop and to use this very special gift from our Heavenly Father.
Every person will, when he lives according to the principles of righteousness, feel the Spirit under certain conditions. We learn something very important about this in the scriptures: “And the Spirit giveth light to every man that cometh into the world; and the Spirit enlighteneth every man through the world, that hearkeneth to the voice of the Spirit” (D&C 84:46). The spirit that is mentioned here is the Light of Christ, which makes all possible attempts to help every child of Heavenly Father and to lead them to that life-saving, sacred covenant of baptism.
Immediately after baptism, the gift of the Holy Ghost is given. Having received this gift, we then have the opportunity to learn something very important about the law of the harvest. Someone who will lock the gift of the Spirit up to keep it may lose it. Someone who wants to exercise its power without working to unfold it, does not understand it and his effort will be in vain or will carry little fruit. The Lord has promised us that when we work diligently and learn to obey the principles of the gospel, the Spirit will make us strong, that our lives will bring forth much fruit. But I believe that when we do not show our Heavenly Father our appreciation for this gift by constantly cultivating it and using it, many frustrations, choking challenges, setbacks, and even loss of testimony and righteous joy may result.
May I ask you, my dear young friends, to pause for a moment and try to identify when you last felt the influence of the Spirit in your life? Was it at your last home teaching assignment, at Young Women camp, or at the last fast and testimony meeting? As wonderful as occasional experiences with the Spirit of the Lord are, and as helpful as they are for our testimony and our work for the Lord’s kingdom, we must know that we are eligible—yes, that we have the right—to be under the influence of the Spirit at all times.
The Lord tells us through his prophet what we have to do that the Spirit may be with us: “And the Spirit shall be given unto you by the prayer of faith” (D&C 42:14). The prayer of faith is easy to understand for a person who is in a situation of urgency or sudden distress. But isn’t it clear that we, in some way, may offend the Lord if we come to him in a sincere prayer of faith only in emergencies? It seems obvious that the Lord has a question for some of us: “Why do you not want the closeness of the Spirit every minute of your life? And why do you come unto me in sincerity only when it is either already too late or help can only come after heavy losses or much pain?”
I wish we would open our minds and understand that the Lord is offering to us, through the Spirit, the most powerful life support available. The Lord has given us the instrument to achieve our righteous desires, if we know how to appreciate it and learn how to use it. With the help of this gift, we can learn how to handle our daily affairs, how our righteous motivations can increase, how our fears can be taken away, how to overcome temptations, and how to succeed in the most difficult and complicated tasks. With the help of this gift, every member can experience the unique power that the Lord wants to give those who receive him. “But unto as many as received me gave I power” (D&C 45:8).
Since many of us obviously have a hard time being aware of the spiritual potential in us, sometimes it seems necessary for the Lord to allow us to experience pain or distress. When circumstances are pleasant, we seem to be able to manage the affairs of our lives without him. But why wait until an emergency situation arises to learn how much God loves us and how much he is willing to go the extra mile to help us? There is no greater wisdom than to develop an awareness of the nearness and the love of God in times of plenty. We will be surprised to find how much he loves us, cares about us, and wants us to grow, flourish, and achieve our righteous goals.
As we learn to educate ourselves to listen to and obey the promptings of the Spirit, and as we make a sacred personal covenant with the Lord that we will follow those promptings, we feel a miraculous change in our hearts and minds. It is as if we are relieved from a burden that has darkened our souls. Light and confidence and joy renew us. As we learn to listen to the small, often uncomfortable little promptings of the Spirit, we learn what the Lord suggests about how we can improve and how we can remove an obstacle that has separated us from him. And in all circumstances, we will then learn a deep appreciation for what a gracious gift our Heavenly Father has given us in the gift of the Holy Ghost.
It seems a tremendous loss, that many seem to develop this gift of the Spirit only under the special circumstances of being on a mission, or while doing home teaching or visiting teaching, or in situations where they concentrate on the matters of the Spirit out of desperate need. I know that the individual who concentrates, as first priority in his life, on efforts to listen to the still, small voice all the time, and learns to obey that voice, will not only have a blessed life for himself, but he will be also a constant source of strength to his fellowmen.
I felt the power and authority radiating from the missionaries during their visits to our home some 30 years ago. As I watch young members of the Church today, I think we have much reason to rejoice as we see more and more of them embracing this gift from Heavenly Father and learning to stand firm in these days of challenges. I pray that we may all place our lives on the foundation of Christ through living close to the Spirit and following it always.