President Hinckley states that we need to listen to the “whisperings of the Spirit in the middle of the night, and respond to those whisperings.” Of course, the Spirit whispers to us in the daytime too, but His inspiration comes in the nighttime often enough that several of the General Authorities have stated that they sleep with pen and paper next to the bed so they can write down what comes into their heads in the middle of the night.
I have learned from personal experience that if I don’t write down what I wake up thinking in the middle of the night then when I get up in the morning it will be long gone. It has to be recorded at the time.
My personal belief is that during the day we tend to get distracted by the noise and confusion around us, making listening to the Spirit problematic at times. When our minds are at rest and our spirit is relaxed, and at peace, that is when the Spirit is more able to get our attention.
Section 1—The Comforter
The importance of the gift of the Holy Ghost cannot be overstated. He is our teacher and our guide. Only if we listen and follow him with exactness will we ever get the Savior as our comforter. The Spirit reveals new truth to us, reminds us of truths we may have forgotten, and brings the words of the Savior to our remembrance so we know what to do. We cannot make it back to our heavenly home without the help of the Spirit.
Section 2—Our Service
In the lesson, the Spirit is compared to the Lord’s presence while leading Israel through the 40 years in the wilderness. In the day there was a pillar of cloud to lead them and provide shade from the heat of the day. In the night there was a pillar of fire to give them light in the darkness. The point was that the Lord’s presence was always felt, and was always near. He was always giving them something and benefitting them in some way.
This is what President Hinckley is saying about the Spirit. When we try to stay close to the Lord through our obedience, the Spirit is always with us. We become so accustomed to having His influence in our lives that we tend to forget he is there, but he is, and he is always blessing us in some way.
On the subject of humility and the Spirit, we need to stay humble as we go about our church duties. If we teach a class and it goes well we may be tempted to think we did a pretty good job. But it is the Spirit who touches hearts and changes attitudes. We only act as the mouthpiece, not the one who affects the actual internal change. When missionaries boast about the number of their baptism, one has to wonder if they also take credit for the hearts that were changed as well. That is something only the Spirit can do.
This same counsel applies to our families. Parents teach and preach and try to set good examples, but it is the Spirit who actually teaches and changes lives when it comes to all things spiritual. We need to remember who the real influencer for good is in our home.
Does the Spirit always whisper? No. Sometimes he has to shout to get our attention, but those are the rare occasions. Generally speaking, the more accustomed we become to listening to him, the quieter he becomes.
At first, we are a stranger to his ways. It takes a strong witness for us to recognize that the Spirit has witnessed or spoken to us. As we live our lives in harmony with the promptings we receive, his conversations with us become more natural and comfortable. His promptings begin to feel like our own voice in our head. He doesn’t have to “smack” us as often to get our attention.
This comfort level is what we are hoping to achieve. To have the Spirit be a natural part of our thought process, a natural addition to our daily activities where He is just as comfortable being with us as we are with Him.
When President Hinckley uses the story from the Bible of Elijah going into the mountains to seek the Lord his lesson for us is that the Spirit is not found in the tumult of the world around us. It is a still small voice, sometimes described elsewhere in the scriptures as a “voice of perfect mildness.”
Have you noticed that whenever our Father in Heaven speaks to introduce Christ to someone it is in a voice of perfect mildness? It makes me question my own state of spirituality when I think of all the times I was anything but perfectly mild with my family members.
Section 4—Things of the Spirit
The Lord gives us ways to tell us what we receive is from Him. Like most things that come from God, they take practice to learn to read so we have confidence in what we do. When it comes to the Spirit the Lord’s counsel is to look at the fruits or end result of whatever it is we feel prompted to do.
Anything that leads one to do good in any form is of God. Anything that leads us away from God is not from God but is from the devil. Does that mean that we will occasionally make a mistake, thinking what we did or accepted was from the Lord only to find that it led us away from Him? Yes. But that is the point of the practice.
The more we pay attention to the things the Spirit teaches us, the rarer are those occasions that we choose incorrectly. We learn to judge more righteously what is truly from the Spirit and what may have been a selfish motive, jealousy masquerading as sympathy, or some other motive. In other words, with practice, we learn to see ahead and are better able to judge whether a particular course of action will lead us toward or away from the Lord.
All good things will lead to peace and happiness in some respect and to some degree. And the Lord has a unique talent for blessing one person in such a way that the blessing actually blesses everyone else around that person. Both good and evil are infectious. Rarely do either of them stay confined within the soul they enter.
This is why the Lord tells us that even if we choose amiss, he won’t let us go far before the Spirit teaches us that we have made a mistake so we can repent and turn back. Following the Spirit is the process of learning to live and think like our Father in Heaven and Christ. The Spirit is our teacher and guide.
Section 5—Constant Companion
The question arises, “How do I live worthy of the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost?” The answer is that when we keep the commandments we create an inviting atmosphere where He will be pleased to come and reside. President Hinckley put it this way:
"Just live right. Stay away from the sleaze. Stay away from pornography. Stay away from these things that pull you down. The books you read, the magazines you read, the videos you look at, the television programs you look at, the shows you go to, all have an effect on you and will do if you subject yourself to the influence of those titillating kinds of things which are designed to make you poor and somebody else rich. Stay away from them."
That sounds like a pretty simple formula. Just keep the commandments. No secret hidden in the scriptures. No private club that only special people can get into. ANYONE can live worthy of His constant companionship if they will just keep the commandments. We are all special enough that He wants to spend time with us. But he will not stay in unholy places and amid unholy thoughts.
This is the joy of having the Spirit in our lives. He actually wants to be our companion and seeks to be with us once we have received the ordinance of baptism and confirmation. It is up to us to determine how much we let him in and how much influence we allow him to have in our lives. We make that decision every time we choose to obey or disobey a commandment or embrace or ignore one of His promptings.