I have had several things happen this past week that have made me as the question. “Was that a prompting from the Holy Ghost, or was that just my crazy mind giving me a suggestion.” And then the second question that I have had, is “How can I tell the difference?”
Let me tell you the two stories that prompted the question.
On Monday I was given the task of installing a new computer program. I had the maintenance window scheduled, and had started to do the install. Things did not go as planned. During the install the program would not install correctly, and kept giving me the same error. At that point I thought to myself that I should re-run a script that was ran before to see if that would fix the error. I did not re-run the script, and because of that I worked on it until Thursday. I gave up, and called Microsoft for help. $259 later, and 4 hours of waiting for a call back, the tech told me to re-run the script. The script was re-ran, and it then gave an error message that made everything make sense. The software I was trying to install was the wrong version, and after installing the correct version, everything worked as planned. Man, I wasted 4 days worth of work because I did not listen to the thought I had to “re-run the script”.
Also during the week, I was about to leave the sub-division when I was prompted to go check the tire on the van. We have had a slow leak over the last month on the van, and a little air every couple of weeks fixed the problem. I had not had a chance to take the Van to the shop to get it fix. Well I get to work, and get on the phone with Microsoft for the first issue, whencalls and tells me she has a flat tire. That was the same day I was prompted to check it on my way into work. Her an the neighbor changed the tire, she was able to get to her appointment, and then took it to the shop to get it fixed. There was a nail in the tire. Man, I really let that one go. If I would of listened, and went back to check the tire, I would of been able to change it for and been able to make her day a little easier.
So then the question come to me. “How do you tell if it is the Holy Ghost that is giving you the prompting, or if it is your own crazy thinking?” You will never guess what we were talking about in Elders Quorum Sunday… You guessed it, the difference between the Gift of the Holy Ghost, and the influence of the Holy Ghost. Well, I thought I would ask the other Elders what they thought, and asked that question. Here is what I have learned from the Elders in my ward, as well as from my pondering the question over the weekend.
One of the things that come up was that sometimes even the general authorities my have a hard time recognizing the Spirit. Jeffery R Holland tells the following story in an article entitled, President Thomas S. Monson: Man of Action, Man of Faith, Always “on the Lord’s Errand”. This article can be found in the Feb 1986 Ensign, page 10.
Twenty-three-year-old Tom Monson, relatively new bishop of the Sixth-Seventh Ward in the Temple View Stake, was uncharacteristically restless as the stake priesthood leadership meeting progressed. He had the distinct impression that he should leave the meeting immediately and drive to the Veterans’ Hospital high up on the Avenues of Salt Lake City. Before leaving home that night he had received a telephone call informing him that an older member of his ward was ill and had been admitted to the hospital for care. Could the bishop, the caller wondered, find a moment to go by the hospital sometime and give a blessing? The busy young leader explained that he was just on his way to a stake meeting but that he certainly would be pleased to go by the hospital as soon as the meeting was concluded.
Now the prompting was stronger than ever: “Leave the meeting and proceed to the hospital at once.” But the stake president himself was speaking at the pulpit! It would be most discourteous to stand in the middle of the presiding officer’s message, make one’s way over an entire row of brethren, and then exit the building altogether. Painfully he waited out the final moments of the stake president’s message, then bolted for the door even before the benediction had been pronounced.
Running the full length of the corridor on the fourth floor of the hospital, the young bishop saw a flurry of activity outside the designated room. A nurse stopped him and said, “Are you Bishop Monson?”
“Yes,” was the anxious reply.
“I’m sorry,” she said. “The patient was calling your name just before he passed away.”
Fighting back the tears, Thomas S. Monson turned and walked back into the night. He vowed then and there that he would never again fail to act upon a prompting from the Lord. He would acknowledge the impressions of the Spirit when they came, and he would follow wherever they led him, ever to be “on the Lord’s errand.”
There are two things that I learned from this story. First, always listen when the Spirit talks to you, and Second, anyone can be confused by the promptings of the Spirit.
One of the Elders pointed out two Scriptures. John 14:26 – “But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.” Notice the wording… He will teach you ALL things, bring ALL things to your remembrance. It does not say he will only bring some things, or important things. But his role is for ALL things. D&C 42:17 continues this by stating, “For, behold, the Comforter knoweth all things, and beareth record of the Father and of the Son.” The Comforter (Holy Ghost) also knows ALL things.
So how does knowing this help you recognize the Spirit? It gives you the knowledge that he knows all things, and can therefore prompt you at any time about anything. It does not have to be life altering, religious in nature, etc. It can be about anything, and at anytime. Like the two examples I gave, they are not religious in nature, and would only save me some time. But they were something that the Spirit thought I needed ot know.
Another comment that was made was that if we are in doubt, pray about it. If you have a question about if the prompting you are receiving is from the Holy Ghost, or something you are making up in you mind, you should pray about it. Ask our Heavenly Father if it is truly a prompting from Him. If you believe in prayer, He will confirm the prompting to you.
I hope that these insights help someone feel and understand the promptings of the Spirit. This is something tha I do not do as often as I should, and will be looking for ways to be better at it in the future. I am going to try to listen more intently, and to act on those promptings. Because no matter what the prompting is, little or small, there is a reason for it.