We watched that episode during dinner, and then we were responsible! We turned off the TV, and I finished my talk just in time to watch the third episode of Psych. And then we had so much fun watching that we watched the next two episodes, keeping us up an hour past our weekend bedtime of eleven o'clock.
Then today was church, and I gave my talk, and I figure since I posted Athena's talk when she gave a talk, I should post my talk...so let me just go get that.
About two and a half weeks ago, Brother H called and asked if I would give a talk today. He gave me a topic, and I thought, “Great! That's exactly what I need to learn about! This is a good opportunity!” ...And then I promptly forgot what that topic was. But I did remember that it had to do with the Holy Ghost, and that it was about “what we can do.” The part I couldn't quite remember is whether it was supposed to be about what we can do to prepare ourselves to receive revelation from the Holy Ghost, or what we can do to recognize the promptings of the Holy Ghost. After preparing this talk, I realize that the two topics go hand-in-hand, because you can't learn to recognize promptings from the Holy Ghost if you never receive them.
I remember a cartoon I used to love as a kid called Muppet Babies. In case it was before everyone's time, it was about Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy and their friends when they were babies...or more like toddlers or six-year-olds, but the point is they liked to play make-believe. And whenever they played make-believe, their nursery would really become a jungle, for example. For the longest time, I thought that I didn't have a good imagination or something, because when I played pretend, everything around me still looked the same. It took me forever to learn that the Muppet Babies were more of the exception than the rule.
I had the same problem with personal revelation. I always knew that very few people had dramatic revelations like the First Vision, or Saul's experience on the road to Damascus, but my whole life I'd heard stories about how someone heard the Spirit whisper to them, and they knew exactly what to do. Even the “I had a feeling I should...” stories were beyond me. There was a point when I resigned myself to the possibility that I was just deaf to the Spirit (which is really very silly, now that I know better).
It wasn't until this latest General Conference that I realized that I'd probably been receiving and following personal revelation without even knowing it. In Elder Bednar's talk this last General Conference, he compares revelation (in most cases) to the sun coming up. It happens gradually, so you only notice a very little at a time, until the sun is up completely and you see the light. He also said that sometimes, revelation is like the sun coming up on a cloudy day, so that it's impossible to tell exactly when the sun came up, but you still have enough light to carry on.
President Uchtdorf said something similar in his talk, “Waiting on the Road to Damascus.” In this case he was talking about testimony, but since the Holy Ghost testifies of the truth, I believe the same principle applies to revelation. He said that testimony often comes like a puzzle that we receive one piece at a time. The pieces don't always make sense by themselves, but as we put them together, the picture becomes clearer, “Then, looking back on our experience, we see that the Savior had indeed come to be with us—not all at once but quietly, gently, almost unnoticed.”
It's the “almost unnoticed” part that really hit me, because that's exactly how I received a revelation about this talk. I was sitting on my bed with my scriptures out, thinking about how to approach this topic, and the thought occurred to me, “I bet the 'True to the Faith' manual would really help me out here.” For anyone who doesn't know, this is exactly what it calls itself: a gospel reference. So basically, if there's something where you're like, “Hmm, I wonder what the Church says about this,” you can probably find something about it in this book.
At first, it just seemed like a great idea, but when I thought about it later, I wondered if I would have remembered the True to the Faith manual on my own. After all, I hadn't seen it in so long I had to pray for help to find it. But find it I did, and when I turned it to the section on revelation, I was like, “Well, there's my whole talk right here.”
Obviously it wasn't my whole talk, or I wouldn't have taken so long leading up to it, but right in this book it has great instructions on how to prepare ourselves to receive revelation through the Holy Ghost. I decided that I probably shouldn't just read the whole section straight from the manual--that felt like cheating or something--so I'm going to put a little of my own spin on each of these tips.
The first thing it says we need to do is pray for guidance. Heavenly Father knows exactly what we need and what we need to do to get it, but part of the whole point of the plan of salvation is for us to choose to follow Him. In other words, He's not going to give us advice unless we ask for it. But if you do ask Heavenly Father in humble prayer, you can eventually “receive revelation upon revelation, knowledge upon knowledge, that though mayest know the mysteries peaceable things--that which bringeth joy, that which bringeth life eternal.” (D&C 42:61)
Second, we need to be reverent. I admit, when I read that, the first thing I thought was, “I need to be quiet and thoughtful in church? I agree that's important, but I kind of get the impression you mean 'all the time.'” So I used this same handy-dandy reference and looked up “reverence.” It explains reverence like this: (read quote from book)
Third, we need to be humble. Being humble means recognizing that our way isn't always the right way. I have a recent story about how being humble helped me listen to the Holy Ghost. A friend online started talking to Athena and me about downloading Japanese comic books illegally. We're against it, but she said the people who do it feel like they have to, because otherwise they have to wait forever for it to be available legally. We argued a little, suggesting she was only bringing it up to defend her guilty conscience. (This is evidence of how pride only makes arguments worse.) She said no, because we work in this particular industry, she was telling us because we have connections, and can tell the publishers that they need to change their business practices. We were pretty sure that, like us, the publishers had heard it all before and were doing what they can, and I thought about telling her that. I also thought about pointing out all the flaws in her argument.
Fortunately, because this was taking place online, I had some time to calm down and think about a response. The thought occurred to me that I should agree to do what she suggested. I was pretty sure it would be a waste of time, but I didn't know it was--maybe she was right and the publishers needed to be informed. So we promised to inform the people we could. It was really hard not asking her to make a promise in return, but I swallowed my pride, and left it at just our one promise. The argument ended, and she even promised to stop reading illegal Japanese comics.
Fourth, we need to keep the commandments. There are plenty of things the Holy Ghost has already told the prophets that we need to do to reach the Celestial Kingdom. If we aren't going to listen to those instructions, how will we be ready to receive new ones?
Fifth, we need to partake of the sacrament worthily. We don't receive the gift of the Holy Ghost until after we are baptized, which means we're not ready to receive the gift of the Holy Ghost until after we're baptized. Partaking of the sacrament renews the covenants we made at baptism and helps us to stay ready to receive revelations through the Holy Ghost.
Sixth, we need to study the scriptures every day. They saying goes, “If you want to talk to God, pray. If you want God to talk to you, read your scriptures.” True to the Faith says, “As you read and ponder, you may receive revelation about how certain scripture passages apply to you or about anything else the Lord desires to communicate to you.” One time several years ago, I was in a bad place, and I was wondering if I was really just a terrible person. But then I read something in the scriptures that helped me realize that I wasn't a bad person, and it gave me comfort. I don't think that scripture would have stood out to me if it hadn't been for the Holy Ghost.
Seventh, we need to take time to ponder. I know that sometimes it's hard to be left alone with our own thoughts, and it's easier to always have the TV or the radio playing so we don't have to face that. But if we don't turn off the noise so we can listen to our own thoughts, it will be extremely difficult to hear the still, small voice.
When we specific guidance, we need to study the matter out in our minds. I feel like I don't even need to go into this one, because I've heard it so many times. I think that if we want to be like Heavenly Father, we need to learn to make our own decisions. The Lord will tell us if our decisions are right through the Holy Ghost, but if we don't put forth the effort to figure things out for ourselves, we'll never develop that ability, and we won't be able to grow and progress.
Finally, we need to patiently seek God's will. As I mentioned early, revelation comes gradually, like the sunrise or like a puzzle. The Lord will let us know what we need to know, when we need to know it. I remember a story our own stake president told. I heard this a long time ago, so hopefully I remember it right. He had a feeling he was going to be called to be Stake President, so he prayed to the Lord to tell him who his counselors should be. He worried about it for a long time, but he didn't receive even the tiniest sliver of an impression until, on the day he was called to be stake president, the general authorities who issued the calling told him he had a little bit of time to come up with the names of the men who were to be his counselors. Then, finally, Heavenly Father revealed the names to him, and let him know that He didn't tell him the names sooner, because he didn't need to know them before that moment. You can't rush revelation; it doesn't work that way.
So now that we've gotten all these ideas on how to better prepare to receive revelation, we come back to the question of how to recognize it. As it says just about everywhere, the Holy Ghost whispers to us in a still, small voice. Once in Relief Society, someone suggested praying to the Lord to let us recognize and know how He speaks to us, because it can be different for everyone. In my case, usually what happens is a great idea occurs to me, and I realize later that it must have been inspired. It also comes to me as...it's kind of hard to describe, but it's similar to the feeling you get when you get a nice hug. I know that that's the Spirit, because, as it points out in True to the Faith, the Holy Ghost brings peace.
One question remains, though. How do you know if a feeling or a great idea is from the Holy Ghost, or from yourself? The answer, I think, can be found in Moroni, chapter 7, verse 13: But behold, that which is of God inviteth and enticeth to do good continually; wherefore, everything which inviteth and enticeth to do good, and to love God, and to serve Him, is inspired of God.
In other words, if the idea or feeling inviteth and enticeth to do good, it's revelation.
I know that the Heavenly Father loves us, and knows what's best for us, and I know that He is eager to help us in any way He can to return to Him. I know that He gave us the gift of the Holy Ghost to guide us through our lives, and I know that if we follow these instructions and stay close to the Lord, we will be able to return to Him someday. I leave my testimony of these things with you in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.
When I was done giving my talk, I was so happy, especially because I knew I wouldn't have to give another talk for a while. But then! then! Brother H stopped by after church to tell me I did a good job, and he said, "I should have the two of you speak more often." And we were like, "Erk!"
Ah well. For today, at least, we don't have to worry about it, and we can spend a nice, restful Sunday, not stressing about talks or work. Maybe we'll watched Tangled.
Today I'm thankful for all the help I received on my talk, being done giving a talk, Page still having a good amount of energy after getting her shots, Athena discovering that you actually can adjust text color on our Disney photo editing software (these are the things you find out when you let someone with more patience for photo editing do the actual designing), and the gift of the Holy Ghost.