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Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson Lesson 12: Seek the Spirit in All You Do

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Strive for Constant Companionship

There are advantages to having the Spirit’s companionship with us constantly.

The Apostle Paul said that “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, [and] temperance.” (Gal. 5:22–23.)

The difficulty in receiving these fruits of the Spirit is that we have to remain sensitive to his influence. This sensitivity is dulled by stress, sin, noise, confusion, and strife. The remaining sections of the lesson talk about how to gain and maintain sensitivity to the Spirit in our lives so we are able to hear the whisperings of the Spirit, even in times of chaos and tumult.

Prompting Comes Through Feelings

How often have you heard the Lord condemn someone for having a hard heart? It is all over the place in the Bible and Book of Mormon. People who have become so caught up in the cares of the world, the confusion and war of opinions, and in the striving for power or gain, lose the ability to feel the gentle nudging of the Spirit. Their hearts are set on the things of the world and have become hardened.

It is when we humble ourselves and allow ourselves to be led by the feelings and urges to do good that come from the Holy Ghost that our hearts are softened and we can feel the instructions that come from the Spirit. These are often the impulse we receive to do good in a given situation. My mother always said that I should never argue with my first impulse to do good, because that is the prompt I am receiving from the Holy Ghost. If I argue with it, it may go away, leaving me to myself, without any direction.

When the Lord knows that we will act on the first impulse to do good, we can be led to do great things through the many little acts of kindness that will flood our lives. Honoring these impulses to do good softens our hearts and makes them tender. The results are that we start to change from the inside out. President Benson tells us that when we follow the Spirit and become more tender in our feelings, these things will follow.

We feel more charitable and compassionate with each other. We are more calm in our relationships. We have a greater capacity to love each other. People want to be around us because our very countenances radiate the influence of the Spirit. We are more godly in our character. As a result, we become increasingly more sensitive to the promptings of the Holy Ghost and thus able to comprehend spiritual things more clearly.

Just as sin causes us to enter a downward spiral that takes us further and further away from God, so doing good causes us to enter an upward spiral that brings us closer and closer to God.

Sincere Prayer and Fasting

If we are talking about a permanent change in our ability to feel the Spirit, it will require repentance. This means that the prayers we offer and the fasting we do must be meaningful, and heartfelt. This is no half-hearted effort.

President Benson compares the intensity of our yearning and prayers to that of Enos in the Book of Mormon. Now Enos prayed and wrestled with God in might prayer all day and into the night for the welfare of his soul before he was forgiven of all his sins and his heart was changed within him. For most of us, we will never experience that one defining moment when it all happens at once. For most of us this experience will happen over the course of years of consistent effort to do and be better, to repent and change to bring our lives into line with the desires of the Lord.

But whether it happens in a day or over years of effort, the result is the same. When we teach, are we asking for the presence of the Spirit to teach us and direct us so we do and say those things that will be most beneficial to those in the room? Are we pleading with the Lord to soften our hearts so we can do and say those things that will bless the greatest number of lives?

The point is that we need to start somewhere. That point is always where we are currently at, and then moving gradually upwards. Once we start getting serious about having the Spirit’s influence in how we perform in our callings, that is when we start to magnify our callings and receive the promised blessings from the Lord for doing so. Just as evil feeds off of evil, so too does good feed off of good to make things much better.

Learning to fast correctly, and humbly, will magnify our efforts at increasing the influence of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Prayer and fasting were meant to go together and done at the same time. Fasting, without prayer, does little more than give you a good cleanse. When we combine the two in sincerity, we introduce a power to our fast that did not exist before.

Setbacks and Success

Softening our hearts brings us closer to God. Don’t expect Satan to take that process lightly, nor lying down. He will do his best to make sure we have difficulties and distractions that lead us away from what we are trying to accomplish. To counter these attempts to derail us on our journey, the Lord has given us some ammunition of his own.

The power of daily scripture study cannot be over stated. We have already been told in previous lessons the infusion of the Spirit we will receive as we study the Book of Mormon every day. And let’s not forget the power of pondering or meditation. As we yearn and search for understanding of what we read and on the ideas that enter our minds and hearts as we study, we are actually building a bridge of communication that reaches all the way to God. It was pondering and meditating on what he read that led Joseph Smith into the woods to pray. Taking time to think deeply about what we study will prepare our minds to be enlightened by the Spirit.

We are promised that as we read, study, pray and fast, and our lives begin to change for the better, this is when we begin to see the fruits of the Spirit enter our lives in greater abundance. Consistent efforts will bring us the peace that can only come from Christ, so that even in times of adversity and turmoil, we will have the inner peace that will allow us to feel and follow the promptings of the Spirit.

The more familiar you are with the scriptures, the closer you become to the mind and will of the Lord and the closer you become as husband and wife and children. You will find that by reading the scriptures the truths of eternity will rest on your minds.

What a glorious thing it is to have the Spirit with us in times of trial and suffering. But to get his help, we need to learn to follow him first during the times when life is not so hard. We need to learn to recognize how he speaks to us and prompts us. It will be slightly different for each person, and sometimes a little nudge will do, while sometimes he has to hit us over the head to get our attention. But as long as we listen and obey once we realize we are being prompted, he will persevere until he gets our attention.

Read President Benson's teaching at LDS.org.

Kelly likes to keep the gospel simple. For more of his articles and lesson helps go to his website, http://mormonbasics.com.

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