Several members have shared how difficult it has been for them to receive inspiration or revelation. In this third article in this series, we will first share a word of comfort and hope; and then address the importance of never giving up when it comes to increasing revelatory experiences—these may become an anchor to our souls in times of uncertainty.
At the time I withdrew my Spirit (D&C 19:20b)
There are times when I have felt the Spirit intensely. But most of the time it is through the “still small voice” (1 Kings 19:12). There have been occasions when I have been walking and praying and felt the need to stop and be still (“be still and know that I am God,” D&C 101:16b) in order to discern the delicate manifestations of the Spirit.
Despite the fact that I had received a confirmation of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon (see “I was gathered by the Book of Mormon”), I had the impression that I was supposed to pray about its veracity upon every completion of the book. When I concluded one such prayer after a decade of being a member, I felt the withdrawal of the Spirit. I was now alone. I like to compare it to what happens when one accidentally shuts off a warm shower.
I had experienced profound loneliness before I joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. That is precisely the solitude I felt again since the Spirit departed. All I had left was an intellectual testimony of the truth. Indeed, I could recall having known the veracity of the Gospel, but I no longer felt that warmth in my bosom. Instead, fear entered my heart.
I did not share my angst with my wife, nor with anyone. Through the spiritual vacuum of the next three days I experienced “in the smallest, yea, even in the least degree [what if felt to] have tasted [the withdrawal of the Lord’s Spirit]” (D&C 19:20b, for additional context, see D&C 19:16–20).
On the third day, the Holy Ghost was restored upon me, after supplication to the Father. Once again, I was enveloped by comfort, joy, and peace. How do I explain what happened to me?
I had delighted in the constant companionship of the Holy Spirit for years. When one gets into a jacuzzi, at first one really feels the contrast of the hot water compared with the cold outside air. But when one remains immersed for a while, the body begins to acclimatize to the new temperature. So, what did I learn?
First. It makes sense that I would feel an immense contrast when the Holy Spirit made its presence before I was a member of the Church—before I received the gift of the Holy Ghost to be my constant companion, friend and guide. May I suggest that those who are born in the Church are often the ones who have the greatest difficulty, at first, in discerning the companionship of the Holy Ghost—precisely because they grew up surrounded by the Spirit. I repeat those who are most familiar with the Spirit may at first have trouble recognizing His presence.
Second. Perhaps the Spirit was telling me that I knew the Book of Mormon was true, and that I need not constantly ask about its genuineness. People have very varied and individualized responses from the Spirit regarding this matter. One sister who had planned to read the Book of Mormon and check it off her to-do list received an impression from the Spirit: “You already know it is true. Now, read it again.”
Lest you get the wrong impression from what I have said about the second lesson, President Henry B. Eyring shared these beautiful words: “The answer may not come in a single and powerful spiritual experience. For me it came quietly at first. But it comes ever more forcefully each time I have read and prayed over the Book of Mormon. I do not depend on what has happened in the past. To keep my living testimony of the Book of Mormon secure, I receive the promise of Moroni often. I don’t take that blessing of a testimony for granted as a perpetual entitlement. Testimony requires the nurturing by the prayer of faith, the hungering for the word of God in the scriptures, and the obedience to the truth we have received. There is danger in neglecting prayer. There is danger to our testimony in only casual study and reading of the scriptures. They are necessary nutrients for our testimony” (“A Living Testimony,” April 2011 General Conference).
Before concluding this section, I feel the need to acknowledge that it was not always easy for me to pray and discern the answers from the Spirit. It took years before I gained the confidence to utter prayers that would part the veil on a regular basis. I will share with you a particularly embarrassing story.
When I had been a member of the Church for over a year, I fasted for three days when faced with an important decision in my life. No answer came. This type of prolonged fasting is not wise and certainly not recommended in the Church (that is what I am embarrassed about). In my desperation to receive an answer, I exposed myself to obtaining a response from the adversary.
When I told my bishop about my fasting, he wisely sent me to eat first, and then continued his conversation with me. I guess one positive outcome from this fast was empathy with the Savior’s fast (which was of course much longer). I was so hungry that my mouth dripped with desire at the very stones in my path. I could better comprehend Satan’s attempt to tempt our Redeemer to turn stones into bread (Matthew 4:3).
As I mentioned earlier in this series on prayer and revelation, one of the reasons individuals do not receive answers to prayer is because they want specific answers with a desired outcome—instead of rejoicing in the knowledge that God has heard their prayer. Now I wish to share how prayer can become an anchor to our souls.
Do not Pray for Rain
We had a prolonged drought in Central Chile in 1988, which was particularly devastating to agriculture. I was teaching a labor productivity course at the Sociedad Nacional de Agricultura (similar to the American Farm Bureau), invited by the University of Chile, during one of my Sabbatical leaves from the University of California.
At the time I recalled a similar drought we had experienced in 1976, when I worked at an equestrian center in Napa, California. I had been hired in part because their head trainer was a renown Chilean rider, Camilo O’Kuinghttons.
It was a thorough interview process that lasted most of the day and included my giving a riding demonstration. It looked as if they were going to offer me the job. I felt the need to tell them that I did not work on the Sabbath day. The owners were disappointed and explained that Sunday was their prime business day. They asked if I was willing to make an exception for emergencies, to which I answered in the negative. This was a terrific job opportunity for me, as a dressage rider, to be able to work along two master riders. I was blessed that they still hired me.
At the time Church leaders encouraged the Saints to fast and pray for rain each fast Sunday. Each of these was followed by rain. The owners of the equestrian center semi-jokingly told us to stop fasting for rain as it had a negative repercussion on their business.
The Lord has taught that if we follow in his ways and statutes and keep His commandments we will have “rain in due season” (Leviticus 26:4). Keeping the Sabbath day holy is specifically mentioned among the decrees listed (Leviticus 26:2). In addition, we are told that our testimony of the Lord will increase if we keep the Sabbath day (Exodus 31:13; Ezekiel 20:20).
In Isaiah 58 we are promised that proper fasting and Sabbath day observance will result in many blessings: “And the LORD shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought, and make fat thy bones: and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not” (Isaiah 58:11)”; and that our prayers will be answered: “Then shalt thou call, and the LORD shall answer; thou shalt cry, and he shall say, Here I am” (Isaiah 58:9a).
Nephi was an example of one who offered mighty prayers: “O Lord, wilt thou hearken unto me, and cause that it may be done according to my words, and send forth rain upon the face of the earth, that she may bring forth her fruit, and her grain in the season of grain” (Helaman 11:13).
Through time, I had learned that Father hears our prayers and I was filled with confidence that now, in Chile, He could bring the needed precipitation. I prayed for rain. But the answer surprised me.
The Spirit responded: “Do not pray that it will rain now because it will not rain. Instead, pray to know when you should ask for rain.” It was March of 1988, the beginning of fall in the southern hemisphere.
Month after month went by without rain. Winter was coming to an end. One Saturday I wanted to take my wife and children to a soccer game. I asked my father, an amateur meteorologist if it might possibly rain and if we needed to take umbrellas. My father must have looked at his barometer for he answered that it was impossible for it to rain.
After we came back from the soccer match, later that evening, I was sitting with my parents in the dining room and the topic of the weather came up. My father wanted to visit us in California so he asked, “What sort of weather do you have in California?”
“Father,” I responded. “What type of weather would you like?”
At my affirmative retort he said, “Ah, you have connections?” We all laughed.
“I could not care at all about the weather in California,” he continued. “If you have connections you must pray for rain here in Chile.” So it was, that the time for prayer had arrived. As I knelt by my bed that night I earnestly intreated God the Eternal Father for rain.
The Spirit reproved me. “You have prayed that it will rain soon. If it rains in a week, in a month or who knows when, you will say, ‘Blessed be the name of the Lord for it has rained!’” These words surprised me.
The Spirit continued, “Instead, you must pray that it will rain this very night, that before the night is over it will rain.” I could feel large drops of cold sweat run down my face. I was scared. Was this really the Holy Spirit urging me to so boldly pray for rain when my father had just as boldly announced that it was impossible that it could rain?
I girded up all the courage I could muster through the Lord’s grace and finished praying as I had been instructed. My wife woke me up two hours later. It was pouring. The type of loud rain one hears beating against the roof. It rained in this fashion for ten hours.
I am constantly learning new things about prayer and perceiving the whisperings of the Spirit. And there is so much more I need to learn. In a world were disciples of Jesus Christ are increasingly looked at as a strange people, it is wonderful to have the confidence to accept our calling as a peculiar people (combining the Hebrew and the Greek definitions of this word, President Russell M. Nelson explained that a peculiar people means a “valued treasure selected by God,” April 1995 General Conference, “Children of the Covenant”).
I will always treasure the great witnesses I have received of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and of His restored Church. Among these anchors to my soul, I have a special place for that night when it rained when it was impossible for it to rain. I solemnly testify that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God and our Redeemer. Few things will help us feel the Spirit like daily pondering of the Book of Mormon and earnest prayer. I have felt the Spirit testify with great power regarding these things.