When the Comforter is come, . . . even the Spirit of truth, . . . he shall testify of me. (John 15:26)
Several years after Joseph Smith was martyred, he appeared to President Brigham Young. His message for the Saints at that time constitutes the theme of this chapter:
"Tell the people to be humble and faithful, and be sure to keep the spirit of the Lord and it will lead them right. Be careful and not turn away the still small voice; it will teach you what to do and where to go; it will yield the fruits of the kingdom. Tell the brethren to keep their hearts open to conviction, so that when the Holy Ghost comes to them, their hearts will be ready to receive it."(Manuscript History of Brigham Young, February 23, 1847.)
The most important thing in our work in the Church of Jesus Christ is the Spirit. I have always felt that. We must remain open and sensitive to the promptings of the Holy Ghost in this work as well as in all other aspects of our lives.
Bishop John Wells, a former member of the Presiding Bishopric, was a great detail man and was responsible for many Church reports. President David O. McKay and President Harold B. Lee used to relate an experience from his life that is instructive to all of us.
A son of Bishop and Sister Wells was killed in a railroad accident in Emigration Canyon, east of Salt Lake City. He was run over by a freight car. Sister Wells could not be consoled. She received no comfort during the funeral and continued her mourning after her son was laid to rest. Bishop Wells feared for her health, as she was in a state of deep anguish.
One day, soon after the funeral, Sister Wells was lying on her bed in a state of mourning. The son appeared to her and said, "Mother, do not mourn, do not cry. I am all right." He then related to her how the accident took place. Apparently there had been some question--even suspicion--about the accident, because the young man was an experienced railroad man. But he told his mother that it was clearly an accident.
He also told her that as soon as he realized that he was in another sphere, he had tried to reach his father but could not. His father was so busy with the details of his office and work that he could not respond to the promptings. Therefore, the son had come to his mother. He then said, "Tell Father that all is well with me, and I want you not to mourn anymore."
President McKay used this experience to teach that we must always be responsive to the whisperings of the Spirit. These promptings come most often when we are not under the pressure of appointments and when we are not caught up in the worries of day-to-day life.
To have the Spirit in our lives, we should take time to meditate.
Meditation on a passage of scripture-- James 1:5--led a young boy into a grove of trees to commune with his Heavenly Father. That is what opened the heavens in this dispensation.
Meditation on a passage of scripture from the book of John in the New Testament brought forth the great revelation on the three degrees of glory.
Meditation on another passage of scripture from the First Epistle of Peter opened the heavens to President Joseph F. Smith, and he saw the spirit world. That revelation, known as the Vision of the Redemption of the Dead, is now a part of the Doctrine and Covenants.
We should ponder the meaning of the work in which we are engaged. The Lord has counseled, "Let the solemnities of eternity rest upon your minds." (Doctrine and Covenants 43:34.) We cannot do that when our minds are preoccupied with the cares of the world.
We should read and study the scriptures. Everything we learn in the holy places, the temples, is based on the scriptures. These teachings are what the scriptures refer to as the "mysteries of godliness." They are to be comprehended by the power of the Holy Ghost, for the Lord has given this promise to His faithful and obedient servants: "Thou mayest know the mysteries and peaceable things." (Doctrine and Covenants 42:61.)
A statement by President Spencer W. Kimball illustrates how we may develop more spirituality in our lives: "I find that when I get casual in my relationship with divinity and when it seems that no divine ear is listening and no divine voice is speaking, that I am far, far away. If I immerse myself in the scriptures the distance narrows and the spirituality returns. I find myself loving more intensely those whom I must love with all my heart and mind and strength, and loving them more I find it easier to abide their counsel." (Address to Seminary and Institute Personnel, Brigham Young University, July 11, 1966.)
That is great counsel that I know by experience to be true.
The more we are familiar with the scriptures, the closer we become to the mind and will of the Lord. It will be easier for us to allow the truths of eternity to rest on our minds.
We should ponder matters that we do not understand. The Lord commanded Oliver Cowdery, "Study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right." (Doctrine and Covenants 9:8; italics added.)
We hear the words of the Lord most often by a feeling. If we are humble and sensitive, the Lord will prompt us through our feelings. That is why spiritual promptings move us on occasion to great joy, sometimes to tears. Many times my emotions have been made tender and my feelings very sensitive when touched by the Spirit.
The Holy Ghost causes our feelings to be more tender. We feel more charitable and compassionate. We are calmer. We have a greater capacity to love. People want to be around us because our very countenances radiate the influence of the Spirit. We are more godly in character. As a result, we are more sensitive to the promptings of the Holy Ghost and thus able to comprehend spiritual things.
We should take to heart the words of the Savior: "Treasure up in your minds continually the words of life." (Doctrine and Covenants 84:85; italics added.)
My wife's mother, Barbara Smith Amussen, was an officiator in the Logan Temple for twenty years, a widow for forty years, and a woman without guile. I loved her so much that I spent a lot of time with her, because she was a widow and there was no priesthood in the home. In fact, I spent so much time with her that some of my own friends accused me of courting the mother rather than her daughter. She would often make notes of questions as she read the scriptures, and then we would discuss those questions together.
This choice woman knew the exact time she was to depart mortal life. Her husband, a Danish convert and Utah's first pioneer jeweler and watchmaker, Carl Christian Amussen, appeared to her in either a dream or a vision. She admitted, "I'm not sure which, but it was so real it seemed that he was right in the room. He said he had come to tell me that my time in mortal life was ending and that on the following Thursday [it was then Friday], I would be expected to leave mortal life."
Her oldest daughter, Mabel, said, "Oh, Mother, you've been worrying about something. You've not been feeling well."
Her mother replied, "Everything's fine. I feel wonderful. There's nothing to worry about. I just know I'll be leaving next Thursday." Then she added, "Mabel, when the time comes, I'd like to pass away in your home in the upper room where I used to sit and tell the boys Book of Mormon and Church history stories when they were little fellows."
As the time drew near, she attended fast meeting in her ward. The bishop told us she stood and talked as though she were going on a long journey. "She was bidding us all goodbye," said the bishop, "expressing her love for us and the joy that had been hers working in the temple, which was just a few yards away from the chapel." And then she bore a fervent testimony.
The bishop was so impressed that, following her testimony, he arose and announced the closing song, although the ward members had not been together quite an hour.
As the days passed, she went to the bank, drew out her small savings, paid all her bills, and went to Bishop Hall's mortuary and picked out her casket. Then she had the water and the power turned off in her home and went down to Mabel's. The day before she passed away, her son came to visit her. They sat by the bed and held hands as they talked.
On the day of her passing, Mabel came into the room where her mother was reclining on the bed. Her mother said, "Mabel, I feel a little bit drowsy. I feel I will go to sleep. Do not disturb me if I sleep until the eventide."
Those were her last words, and she peacefully passed away.
Spirituality--being in tune with the Spirit of the Lord--is the greatest need of Latter-day Saints. We should strive for the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost all the days of our lives. When we have the Spirit, we will love to serve, we will love the Lord, and we will love those whom we serve.
Spiritual-mindedness does not come without effort. We live in a very wicked world. We are surrounded with propaganda that evil is good and good is evil. False teachings abound that affect us. Almost everything that is wholesome, good, pure, uplifting, and strengthening is being challenged as never before.
One reason we are on this earth is to discern between truth and error. This discernment comes by the Holy Ghost, not just our intellectual faculties.
When we earnestly and honestly seek for the truth, this beautiful promise finds fulfillment: "God shall give unto you knowledge by his Holy Spirit, yea, by the unspeakable gift of the Holy Ghost." (Doctrine and Covenants 121:26.)
We live in a time when the devil is on the loose and is working among the Saints to thwart and tear down the work of God. But he will not succeed. Individuals may fall and there may be those who betray sacred covenants, but the kingdom of God will roll forward until it reaches its decreed destiny to fill the entire earth.
I carry in my calendar book a passage of scripture that I sometimes use to remind myself and others about the eventual outcome of efforts to destroy the Church: "No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper; and every tongue that shall revile against thee in judgment thou shalt condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and their righteousness is of me, saith the Lord." (Book of Mormon, 3 Nephi 22:17.)
The Lord has prospered this work and will continue to do so. He is close to His servants, even within whispering distance of heaven.
While incarcerated in the Liberty Jail, the Prophet Joseph Smith eloquently wrote:
"The things of God are of deep import; and time, and experience, and careful and ponderous and solemn thoughts can only find them out. Thy mind, O man! if thou wilt lead a soul unto salvation, must stretch as high as the utmost heavens, and search into and contemplate the darkest abyss--thou must commune with God. How much more dignified and noble are the thoughts of God, than the vain imaginations of the human heart! None but fools will trifle with the souls of men." (History of the Church 3:295; italics added.)This latter-day work is spiritual. It takes spirituality to comprehend it, to love it, and to discern it. Therefore, we should seek the Spirit in all we do. That is our challenge.