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Recognizing the Spirit

The Doctrine and Covenants teaches that the Spirit gives light to everyone who comes into the world and that everyone who listens to the Spirit's voice will come to God (D&C 84:46-47). The Book of Mormon promises that through the power of the Holy Ghost we may know the truth of all things (Moro. 10:5). How, then, do we recognize the Spirit's promptings?

The Spirit is often described as a feeling: a feeling of peace (D&C 6:22-23) or the feeling that something is right (D&C 9:8). Inspired teaching is said to taste good, to be delicious (Alma 32:28). We should be cautious, however, about reading too much into our feelings at any one moment: emotions can be manipulated, and we can mistake our own desires and misgivings for spiritual promptings. The most reliable signs that we are guided by the Spirit are the fruits our lives bear gradually, over the long term. The Spirit's teaching edifies and brings us into progressively greater light (D&C 50:21-24). The Spirit leads us to do good—to practice justice, humility, patience, and love—and, in so doing, brings us joy (D&C 11:12-13; Mosiah 3:19).

Jesus taught that the Spirit blows where it wills; in one of Joseph Smith's revelations, the Lord says he will lead those whom he calls "whithersoever I will" (John 3:8; D&C 38:33). People who live by the Spirit's promptings can never be certain where they will end up.

 Thy Spirit, Lord, Has Stirred Our Souls   (Hymns 157)

Joseph Smith: This is good doctrine. It tastes good. I can taste the principles of eternal life, and so can you. . . . [W]hen I tell you of these things which were given me by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, you are bound to receive them as sweet, and rejoice more and more.
History of the Church 6:312

Hugh Nibley: "The Spirit bloweth where it listeth"; it does not wait upon human convenience, nor do its manifestations comply with human expectations. Its operations are always surprising—they always catch [people] off guard.

"Three Shrines: Mantic, Sophic, and Sophistic, " The Ancient State
(Salt Lake City & Provo: Deseret Book & FARMS, 1991), 337

Glenn L. Pace: Some truths are revealed gradually over a period of days, weeks, months, or even years. We have to be patient and wait for the witness to come.

Spiritual Plateaus (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1991), 12

Dallin H. Oaks: The Lord will speak to us through the Spirit in his own time and in his own way. . . . Revelations from God—the teachings and directions of the Spirit—are not constant. We believe in continuing revelation, not continuous revelation. We are often left to work out problems without the dictation or specific direction of the Spirit. That is part of the experience we must have in mortality. Fortunately, we are never out of our Savior’s sight, and if our judgment leads us to actions beyond the limits of what is permissible and if we are listening to the still, small voice, the Lord will restrain us by the promptings of his Spirit.

"Teaching and Learning by the Spirit," Ensign, March 1997, 13

Gordon B. Hinckley: How do we recognize the promptings of the Spirit? I don't think that's too difficult, really. When all is said and done it is a matter of a feeling we have in our hearts. . . . Does it persuade one to do good, to rise, to stand tall, to do the right thing, to be kind, to be generous? Then it is of the Spirit of God. . . . You recognize the promptings of the Spirit by the fruits of the Spirit—that which enlighteneth, that which buildeth up, that which is positive and affirmative and uplifting and leads us to better thoughts and better words and better deeds is of the Spirit of God.

Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1997), 260-61

This website is an independent effort to discern the Spirit's voice in LDS teaching. The site is not sponsored by the LDS Church. Quotations from the teachings of any individual should not be taken to imply that the individual does or would endorse this website or other statements made here.