Episode 28. August 7, 2016. Today I want to talk about the blessings and possibilities associated with being perfectly obedient to the Spirit of the Lord.
When my dad passed away in 1998, I decided that to honor him I would wear one of his old ties each year on the Sunday closest to his birthday (Nov 30th). So it was on November 25, 2012 that I selected one that best matched my suit (actual picture of the tie on the left) and headed to my meetings. I was serving in a stake calling at the time and in the morning I had the impression I should attend sacrament meeting that afternoon in our stake’s Young Single Adult ward. Right before walking into the chapel I glanced down at my tie. As I did so I had an amazing experience. I had an immediate and complete impression that I would need to speak in sacrament meeting and I knew exactly what I needed to talk about. The inspiration came in a burst and took only a millisecond. It was like experiencing what Joseph Smith described as “pure intelligence flowing into you” (Teachings p.151). As I sat on the stand before the meeting and contemplated the experience I had just had, I began reading Moses 6. In particular I was drawn to these two verses (underlining added):
27 And he heard a voice from heaven, saying: Enoch, my son, prophesy unto this people, and say unto them—Repent, for thus saith the Lord: I am angry with this people, and my fierce anger is kindled against them; for their hearts have waxed hard, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes cannot see afar off;
36 And he beheld the spirits that God had created; and he beheld also things which were not visible to the natural eye; and from thenceforth came the saying abroad in the land: A seer hath the Lord raised up unto his people. (underlining added)
The spirit had already confirmed to me that I needed to talk about the choices my father had made and the consequences of those choices and that I had been free to choose a different path. I could now see clearly how to combine the burst of inspiration I had had with these two scriptures to make the contrast between those who could only see in the moment versus Enoch (and others) who could see things not visible to the natural eye. We all need to be able to see with our spiritual eyes about who we can become. I could clearly understand why this message was so important to these young single adults.
As the meeting progressed, I began to second-guess myself. I knew what the Spirit had revealed to me, but I began wondering if there would be time. The first speaker went long and the second speaker took his allotted time. We had a rest hymn and there were 15 minutes left in the meeting – and one more speaker, a returned sister missionary named Alissha. When she arose and stood at the pulpit, she began to speak about her mission and how her experiences related to the topic she had been given. Immediately I thought, there is no way there will be time for me to speak. This is a well-spoken, well-prepared returned missionary and she will take at least 15 minutes. The bishop was out that day so I had already whispered to the first counselor I would like to say a few words if there was time, but now I was thinking it wasn’t going to happen.
Seven minutes into her talk, this spiritual, intelligent and articulate returned missionary quickly bore her testimony and sat down. I was stunned. She was in the middle of her talk and just ended it abruptly. The clock showed 7 minutes left in the meeting.
As I stood at the pulpit, the burst of inspiration coupled with the two scriptures mentioned above became a powerful 7 minute sermon on agency and our determination to take action and to not feel stuck because of choices of our parents or siblings. I was in awe of the words that flowed so easily. It was as though I was a spectator rather than a participant. It was a glorious experience. As I returned to my seat, I marveled how my earlier prompting literally unfolded before my eyes. It was absolutely clear to me that the Lord had a message for someone or someones in that ward.
Weeks later I conducted a temple recommend interview for John, a young single adult man who told me he felt I was speaking to him that day. His parents had divorced while he was still very young and he had nearly convinced himself to not ever marry because he didn’t want his children to go through what he had gone through. He said that day was a turning point for him. I am happy to report that on March 19, 2016, this young man was married to a beautiful and worthy sister in the Houston Texas Temple.
A few weeks after meeting with John, Alissha, the returned missionary sister who was the
concluding speaker that day came in for a temple recommend interview. She told me it had been a strange experience for her. Right in the middle of her talk she felt like she needed to end and sit down, so she did. I told her the rest of the story and we both rejoiced in the goodness of God. You might also be interested to know that Alissha was also recently married in the Houston Temple to a wonderful young man.
From this experience I learned first hand just how finite my own understanding is of the things of God. This quote from Brigham Young sums it up for me.
“There is a vast store of information that exists for the faithful saints. It cannot be understandingly exhibited by an individual, even by an angel, to the people any further than they are able to receive and comprehend it….. This principle is inherent in the organization of all intelligent beings, so that we are capable of receiving and receiving and receiving from the inexhaustible font of knowledge and truth.”
How grateful I am for the endless knowledge, understanding and insight that is available to us through the Spirit of the Lord.
It is no coincidence that leading up to this experience I had been working very hard to hear and obey the still small voice of the Lord. I have come to know that this is the great emerald key (as a friend recently called it) to unlocking the greatest blessings available to us while here in mortality. I am talking about blessings that many of us do not fully comprehend and certainly blessings that are not commonly discussed. I know that I don’t comprehend them fully, but I know that what I experienced that day was just a small glimpse of the possible. We are taught from a very young age that we must keep the commandments for in this there is safety and peace. And that is absolutely true. But obedience goes way beyond just keeping the commandments.
President Packer taught that to learn the Spirit of God, we must learn to listen with our hearts. “The Spirit is a still, small voice—a voice that is felt rather than heard. It is a spiritual voice that comes into the mind as a thought put into your heart.” He went on to say that “Inspiration comes more easily in peaceful settings. Such words as quiet, still, peaceable, Comforter abound in the scriptures: ‘Be still, and know that I am God.’ (Ps. 46:10) And the promise, ‘You shall receive my Spirit, the Holy Ghost, even the Comforter, which shall teach you the peaceable things of the kingdom.’ (D&C 36:2).”
President Monson emphasized the second important part of this formula and that is to act, without delay, in accordance with the spiritual promptings we receive. He stated: “We watch. We wait. We listen for that still, small voice. When it speaks, wise men and women obey. Promptings of the Spirit are not to be postponed.”
I want to share with you three recent experiences to illustrate this. The first was while I was in Singapore a couple of weeks ago. Singapore is a beautiful, clean and safe city. I was walking across the footbridge at Clarke Quay that spans the Singapore River and passed by a small piece of paper someone had dropped. As I walked past it, I felt, more than heard, an impression to pick it up and toss it in a garbage can. I passed by it and the feeling persisted so I went back and picked it up. When I did so I noticed another piece of paper a few steps further that I had not seen before. As far as I could tell, they were the only two pieces of trash on that entire bridge. I picked them both up and threw them in the garbage bin as I left the area.
My second experience was in a coaching session with a colleague at work. He had fallen on some hard times and was trying to get back on his feet. This was a follow-up meeting to a difficult conversation we had had a month ago. He was upbeat, motivated and clearly making progress. During that discussion I had a clear prompting that I needed to share the gospel with him…in some way…because clearly he was humble, teachable and working very diligently to have a great attitude and do the right thing. He even opened the door by mentioning God. In this case I dismissed it. I told myself I couldn’t because I was a senior leader and there were boundaries that I could not cross. As I have reflected on this over and over I have realized how small my thinking was and how could I possibly understand what the God of the universe already knew about this man. I know I needed to trust that if the Spirit said to bear my testimony, then that is what I should do, regardless of the consequences.
My third experience was after an early morning basketball game. Our driver had parked at the LDS church building across the street from the Gym. As I made my way to the car, I noticed a man with two small children, the youngest without a diaper. As I watched, his wife approached with a small bag from the store that had some bread or a muffin in it. I felt prompted to give them some money, but I was still in the process of accessing the situation. It appeared they had placed themselves in front of the church in hopes that someone might give them money or food. But they clearly were not actively begging, so I wasn’t exactly sure what was going on. I walked past them and to the car, which was parked directly behind the fence where they were standing. The prompting intensified so before getting in the car, I pulled out some money, reached through the fence, tapped the man on the shoulder and gave it to him. When I opened the car door, my non-member driver immediately said: “I knew you were going to give them money”. He had been watching them for over an hour and already anticipated what he thought I would do. In that moment there were multiple facets of my gratitude.
My point with these three stories is to illustrate the types of situations where I am convinced the Spirit of the Lord was trying to influence me to do good. In the case of the paper on the ground, the stakes were low, and I have wondered if it was a test. In the other two cases, the stakes were much higher.
Before I close today, I want to invite each of my listeners to join with me in this quest to be obedient by first making a commitment to themselves, and then to the Lord, to listen more carefully for these promptings and then to act without delay. I promise there are great blessings, blessings we do not yet fully comprehend, associated with making and keeping this personal covenant with the Lord.