I do not know if you have seen in the news, but a group of militiamen recently seized a government facility in Oregon. The leaders of this group are LDS and they claimed to have received revelation to do this. (Of course, the Church has condemned their actions) I don’t know if I’m wording this right, but is there a way for us to know when something isn’t correct? Perhaps in a situation less obvious then this it would be harder to discern. Thank you.
This is an important question, and fortunately the answer is yes.
You are right that there will be times in our lives when it is difficult to discern good from evil. Satan is a master of disguise and deception. Often we can look to the words of the Prophets and our other leaders to guide us. Certainly the scriptures are there to help us as well. Those are wonderful tools, and we should make sure we are familiar with them. There still may come times in our lives where the “best choice” or “way” is not clear.
For those times, we need the Holy Ghost, specifically the Gift of Discernment.
“The gift of discernment ‘arises largely out of an acute sensitivity to impressions- spiritual impressions, . . . to detect hidden evil and more importantly to find the good that may be concealed. The highest type of discernment is that which perceives in others and uncovers for them their better natures, the good inherent in them.” Stephen L. Richards (April 1950)
If we have the gift of discernment, we won’t be deceived. We will know the difference between good and evil, but how do we develop this gift?
Consider for a moment that you wanted to learn to play the piano. What would you do? First you would find a teacher (who would give you instruction and a book), next you would practice regularly. The process of receiving spiritual gifts is very similar.
The teacher for the Gift of Discernment is the Holy Ghost. So you start by asking Heavenly Father for this gift. Is it really okay to ask Heavenly Father for such a thing? Yes! In a verse that seems to be directed specifically to you and your question the Lord tells us:
“Wherefore, beware lest ye are deceived; and that ye may not be deceived seek ye earnestly the best gifts, always remembering for what they are given.” D&C 46:8
In an Ensign article called How to Receive Spiritual Gifts, Lane Johnson taught, “It would appear from the scriptures that our Father desires to grant these gifts even more ardently than we desire to receive them.” He also said, “It seems clear then that all who desire exaltation in the celestial kingdom of our Father must receive spiritual gifts.” How to Receive Spiritual Gifts
So yes, be all means, pray for the gift of discernment. But there’s more. We’ve been taught, “We cannot expect the Lord to guide our footsteps if we’re not willing to move our feet.” Elder Wilford W. Anderson Seventy Shares Three Principles For Obtaining the “Faith To Leap”
The Lord expects us to do our part. First we need to study the instruction manual. In this case that is the scriptures and the words of our leaders. Elder Richard G. Scott said,
“We need not be concerned about the validity of concepts contained in the standard works since the Holy Ghost has been the instrument which has motivated and inspired those individuals who have recorded the scriptures.” (The Power of Scripture).
“I say that we need to teach our people to find their answers in the scriptures. If only each of us would be wise enough to say that we aren’t able to answer any question unless we can find a doctrinal answer in the scriptures! And if we hear someone teaching something that is contrary to what is in the scriptures, each of us may know whether the things spoken are false—it is as simple as that. But the unfortunate thing is that so many of us are not reading the scriptures. We do not know what is in them, and therefore we speculate about the things that we ought to have found in the scriptures themselves. I think that therein is one of our biggest dangers of today.” (Find the Answers in the Scriptures)
If you search those, you will find much valuable help in better understanding the Gift of Discernment.
We must also practice the piano if we want to learn to play. But how do we “practice” the gift of discernment? We actually have more opportunities to do this than you might think.
The steps are simple: pray, listen, act, repeat.
Before you pray (privately or publicly) ask the Lord to guide your mind about what you should pray for.
When you share your testimony in Sacrament meeting, teach a class, or even share a comment…pray for guidance.
Each day when you say your morning prayer, pray for guidance on how to best serve the Lord that day. The answer could come through something at work, or with your family, or even a stranger.
When you have a decision to make, pray to be guided.
These are just a few of the daily ways we can invite the Spirit. As you begin to make this a serious effort, more ideas will come to you.
LISTEN and ACT
Carol Lynn Pearson said, “When I hear the voice of the Spirit, it sounds like my own voice only older and wiser.” Sometimes when the need is urgent or the message is crucial, the Spirit will speak to us as an actual voice in our mind. Most of the time though, His voice sounds very much like our own, and we can easily miss it if we aren’t careful.
We can hone our listening ability though by focus. For example, imagine you pray in the morning to do the Lord’s will and be aware of the needs of those around you. Later a thought comes to you that you should call one of your home teaching families. “But I just saw them last week,” might be your first thought. Stop-remember that you prayed for inspiration. If this isn’t inspiration, no harm will come from a phone call. If it is inspiration, then you have just honed your ability to listen, and perhaps been a great blessing to that family.
Just as developing any other talent, the more you desire, and work toward this goal the easier it will be. Elder Bednar gave a wonderful talk that you might want to read. Ask in Faith
Satan does not want you to develop spiritual gifts, so he will try to distract you. So be careful of that. Write your goal down, share it with someone close to you, and keep striving. Doing so will become very crucial to you in the days ahead. I know this because Pres. Packer has warned us:
“No one of us can survive in the world of today much less in what it soon will become without personal inspiration.” Reverence Invites Revelation
You can do this, Nate.