Q&A: Questions and Answers


Answers are intended for help and perspective, not as pronouncements of Church doctrine

Sometimes I’m sitting in church and the speaker says, “The Spirit is so strong here today,” and I haven’t felt a thing. Are they just imagining things, or is there something wrong with me?

New Era

First of all, we need to define a few things. The feeling that people refer to most often when talking about the Spirit is the presence of the Holy Ghost.

The Holy Ghost is “the convincing power of God of the truth of the gospel” (Encyclopedia of Mormonism, p. 649). In other words, the Holy Ghost witnesses to the divinity of the Father and the Son and the truthfulness of the gospel. The constant companionship of the Holy Ghost is promised after baptism when the person being baptized is worthy of that companionship.

When you are listening to a speaker in a church meeting, you can know if what that person says is true. In the Doctrine and Covenants 18:18, it says, “Ask the Father in my name, in faith believing that you shall receive, and you shall have the Holy Ghost, which manifesteth all things which are expedient unto the children of men.” [D&C 18:18]

How do you know what that feels like? Perhaps a letter we received from Sister Celia Work, serving in the South Africa Capetown Mission, will help. She wrote, “You do not necessarily need to have a burning in your bosom to feel the Spirit. The fruits of the Spirit are ‘love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith’ (Gal. 5:22). Did you understand the topic? Did you feel good about what you heard? Did you want to rush out and act upon the counsel of the speaker? Sometimes the Spirit will undeniably shake you, but most times it will come quietly and without great notice.”

Many of the New Era readers who answered this question suggested that being reverent and paying close attention to the speaker have made a big difference to them in being able to feel the Spirit testifying of the truth.

If, when listening to a speaker, you feel that what is being said is true, stop for a moment and check how you are feeling. You may feel a comfortable feeling. Or you may feel warm and exhilarated. You may cry, but the tears are joyful. People respond to the Spirit differently.

Missionaries often have to explain to their investigators about this Spirit. Elder W. Craig Judd, in the Arizona Tucson Mission, wrote, “If there is one thing I’ve learned on my mission, I have learned how to recognize the Spirit. Even those who are investigating may feel and recognize the Spirit once we let them know what that special feeling is.” A witness by the spirit of the Holy Ghost can testify to someone of the truthfulness of the gospel before baptism, but the gift of the Holy Ghost, as a constant companion, comes after baptism as long as they live worthily.

Actually, you are on the right path. If you pray, read the scriptures, listen carefully to your instructors and parents, and live righteously, you will receive the righteous desires of your heart.

Readers

I recall sacrament meetings earlier in my youth where I had to fight to keep my eyelids open. This is so boring, I thought. Then I’d notice others who were focused on the speaker or whoever was bearing their testimony. It wasn’t until I started paying attention myself that I actually felt the Spirit.

Elder Paul C. Nielsen, 20 Arkansas Little Rock Mission

You need to search to find how the Spirit is talking to you as an individual. Sometimes just knowing what is being said is true is the Spirit.

Kristina Bryson, 15 Lehi, Utah

Jesus Christ explained to his Apostles about the Spirit in John 15:26 and said that it was the Spirit of truth that would testify of him.

Elder A. Jayabal Singapore Mission

You must surround yourself with good examples and with the Church. If you are in tune with the Lord, you will be able to feel the Spirit.

Liz Kubesh, 14 West Windsor, New Jersey

The Holy Ghost is always there for us and stands as a witness of Jesus Christ, and it is up to us to take time to recognize him in our lives.

Lotis Lisa C. Hitosis, 17 Provo, Utah

The people who said that they felt the Spirit so strongly aren’t imagining things. It just happens that different talks on different subjects touch different people in different ways.

Jamie Williams, 14 Rathdrum, Idaho

The Spirit doesn’t send lightning bolts to strike you and make you pay attention. Instead, it is as though a warm down comforter is placed over your shoulders. It is a keener realization of God’s unfailing love for you.

Cheryl Winder, 15 Sparks, Nevada

Although members of the Church have borne testimonies in order to express their feelings about the Spirit, I never understood them until I exhaustively read the scriptures which explained that the feeling of happiness, peace, and love that burned within my heart is the Spirit.

Elder James Joseph, 20 Canada Montreal Mission

You may not be feeling the Spirit because your mind might not be focused on the thoughts that these people are expressing.

Emily O’Connor, 13 Springfield, Oregon

[photo] Photography by Melanie Shumway

[illustration] When Joseph Smith was wondering how to feel the influence of the Spirit, he found his answer while reading the Bible. The scripture encouraged him to go to the Lord in prayer. That scripture can be your answer as well. If you lack wisdom, ask the Lord to help you. (See James 1:5.)