In some cases, warnings may come as thoughts to our mind. In other cases, they will come as feelings. Many times both thoughts and feelings are involved.
Before looking at those examples, however, one point needs to be made. It is a common thing for us to say that we received a premonition from the Spirit, or that we were warned by the Holy Ghost not to do something. And this is not incorrect. However, technically it would be more correct to say that we were warned by God through the Spirit. The Spirit always operates under the direction of the Father and Jesus Christ. So it is the Father and the Son, in their perfect love and perfect knowledge, who actually watch over us and protect us. The role of the Spirit should not be minimized, but let us not forget that it is our Heavenly Father and His Beloved Son who are watching over us.
Modern Examples of Being Warned of God
A Quiet, Peaceful Prompting. A soldier received a last-minute Christmas leave to return home to Idaho from California. It was too late by then to find transportation, so he began to hitchhike. In Nevada, he was picked up by three young men. But once he and his duffel bag were in the backseat and they started off again, he realized that the men were drunk and still drinking. Fearful for his life, he asked them to stop the car and let him out. They refused. Praying for help, he reported that "then had come a very quiet, very peaceful prompting telling me to get down on the floor and put my duffel bag over me." He did so, wedging himself in and pulling the heavy bag on top of him. A few minutes later, the vehicle hit another car head on. The three young men and a couple in the other car were killed, but the soldier survived without serious injury. 2
This is a case where both thoughts and feelings were involved. He described it as a "quiet, peaceful prompting." But for all of that quietness and peacefulness, he received very specific instructions on what to do.
A Very Depressing, Dark Feeling. Here is another case where someone was warned through feelings, but in this instance they were neither peaceful nor quiet. This is another example of how sometimes the feelings we get through the Spirit are negative. Elder Milton R. Hunter, a member of the First Council of the Seventy, was on assignment in Southern Mexico. Finished with their business in one location, they boarded a small, one-engine plane to fly several hundred miles to Tuxtla, in the state of Chiapas. Their route took them over several mountain ranges and one of the densest jungles in the world. The weather was stormy so the pilot took the plane above the clouds. Elder Hunter recorded what then happened.
We had traveled a few hours when darkness came on with the immediacy it does in the tropics. Suddenly, the Holy Spirit told me that . . . if we did not change our course quickly we would all get killed.
I immediately told Bill [the pilot] that we were going the wrong direction. . . .
A very depressing, dark feeling came over me. It was a feeling of gloom and despair. [The pilot] asked, "President Hunter, which direction do you think we ought to go?"
I quickly replied, "Turn immediately to the right and go north."
Bill turned the plane to the right. A sweet, peaceful feeling came into my heart, and the Holy Spirit let me know that all would be well.
They landed safely a short time later. To their surprise, a large group of people were waiting at the small airport. When they asked why so many were there, they were told that another plane with three Mexicans was missing and feared lost. Some time later they learned that the other plane had slammed into a mountain, killing all aboard.3
A Strong Impression. Elder Dallin H. Oaks reports an impression that once saved his life. He was hiking alone in the mountains. He was moving down the mountain toward the road where he had left his car. It was pitch dark and he was feeling his way slowly through the brush and deadfall.
I was relieved when the gully flattened out to a sandy bottom beneath my feet. I picked up my pace for about 10 steps and suddenly had a strong impression to stop. I did. Reaching down, I took a rock and tossed it out into the darkness ahead of me. I heard no sound for a few seconds, and then there was a clatter on the rocks a long distance away. I knew immediately that I was standing on the lip of a sheer drop-off.
[He retraced his steps and eventually got off the mountain.]
The next day I revisited the spot in the daylight and saw my tracks, which stopped just two or three feet from a drop-off of at least 50 feet. I was glad I had heard and heeded a warning. Where did that lead? It saved my life.4
In a process that involves both thoughts and feelings, one common form that revelation takes is a warning or a premonition that something is wrong, that we are in danger, or that we should take a certain course of action, which then helps us avoid that danger.
One other thing should be noted. In almost every one of these cases, a confirmation followed the giving of the revelation. Sometimes it was immediate. Sometimes it came hours or days later. These confirmations came in many different ways, but they did confirm that the warnings had come through the Spirit.
2. Terry J. Moyer, "A Voice in the Fog," 12–15.
3. Milton R. Hunter, "Directed by the Holy Spirit," 4–5.
4. Dallin H. Oaks, "Where Will It Lead?" 3–4.
Lead image from Getty Images
At the beginning of the Doctrine and Covenants, we read of a timeless and universal truth: "The voice of the Lord is unto all men" (D&C 1:2). The heavens are not closed, God is not silent, and each of us can, individually, receive specific and personal revelation from God that can bless us with direction, insight, and comfort.
But though we may recognize the need to have personal revelation to guide us in our life, many of us struggle with some fundamental questions: Do we recognize the various methods God uses to speak to us? Are we familiar with the guidelines that govern receiving spiritual promptings — and how can we really tell that it is the Lord speaking to us? How can we hear the voice of the Lord more clearly, more directly, and more frequently?
In Hearing the Voice of the Lord, Elder Gerald N. Lund provides reassuring and practical answers to these and many other questions.