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Dear Gramps,

I have obsessive–compulsive disorder(OCD). Sometimes I’m able to control it and sometimes I can’t. It gets to the point that I think it’s the Spirit telling me to do something when it can actually be my mind. For example, I have to go back to my car to make sure that my car is locked even though I know it is locked but I might think the Spirit is telling me to check that is locked so nothing bad happens. How can I differentiate my OCD and the promptings of the Spirit?




What you’re describing is not unique to people with OCD. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard share their concern that what they suppose is the Spirit is really their own “inner voice”, or even their own emotions.

The Spirit speaks with each of us individually, using personalized methods. If you search through the scriptures, you will find many descriptions of the Spirit working on a person. The Holy Ghost reaveals “in your mind and in your heart” and “dwell[s] in your heart” (D&C 8:2). He communicates in such a way that “your bosom shall burn within you”, or through “a stupor of thought” (D&C 9:8-9). He can also speak “peace to your mind” (D&C 6:23), or He may just remind you of occasions where you’ve felt that peace (D&C 6:22). He speaks with “a still small voice” (1Kings 19:9-13), and will cause your heart to burn within you (Luke 24:32).

Did you notice anything about that list of ways the Spirit communicates? Although there is a lot of similarity in the language, there’s also a lot of differences. For you, does the Spirit speak as a still small voice, a burning in the bosom, peace in your mind, religious memories, or some other way? You’ll notice that those D&C references are all different ways that Oliver Cowdery felt the Spirit, so there’s no need to assume that you’ll only feel it one way.

The main point is that you should learn how the Spirit speaks to you. Look for ways to invite the Spirit into your life more so that you can recognize when it is the Spirit speaking and when it is something else. Keep this in mind as the underlying principle while I share a friend’s method.

journal mormonMy friend was concerned that what he thought was the Spirit testifying to him was really his own emotions (sound familiar?). So he started to keep a small notebook with him all the time. He brought it with him to church, when he read the scriptures, and when he prayed (that was his way of inviting the Spirit into his life). Any time he felt the Spirit, he wrote down what he was doing and what the Spirit felt like. Any time he felt emotions that were similar, he would write down the same things, what he was doing and what the emotions felt like. The more he wrote the more detailed he was able to get. He soon found himself able to discern between his emotions and the voice of the Spirit.

This is only one method, you may not need to be so formal and there are a number of other ways to grow in this principle. It’s not unlike being around identical twins. When you first meet them, you’re confused about who is who. After you spend a lot of time around them both, you get to know the subtle differences.


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