Sister Sheri Dew, in her biography of President Gordon B Hinckley, tells of an experience he had in July 1992, while he was in Hong Kong with other Church leaders, searching for a place to build a temple. He went to bed one night feeling unsettled about the decision he needed to make. Then the whisperings of the Spirit woke him up early the next morning.
“Something very interesting came to my mind,” he recorded in his journal. “I did not hear a voice with my natural ears. But into my mind there came the voice of the Spirit. It said, ‘Why are you worried about this? You have a wonderful piece of property where the mission home and the small chapel stand. They are in the very heart of Kowloon, in the location with the best transportation. … Build a building of [several] stories. It can include a chapel and classrooms on the first two floors and a temple on the top two or three floors.’” Having received that revelation, President Hinckley said, “I relaxed and went back to sleep.”
Today in Kowloon, a densely populated section of Hong Kong, a single building stands where a chapel and mission home once stood. That building, which houses a chapel, a mission home, a mission office, and a sacred temple, is a testament of the whisperings of the Spirit to a prophet of God.
Does this count as revelation? Why or why not? President Hinkley taught – and I think it’s true – that the Holy Ghost can teach us things we cannot teach one another. Galileo said “I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with senses, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use”, and that also rings true. Does the Spirit sometimes tell us things we could already know? Why would our Heavenly Parents tell us things that we could figure out with our own senses, reason and intellect?
Sister Mary N Cook in April 2012 General Conference taught: “God gave you moral agency and the opportunity to learn while on earth, and He has a work for you to do. To accomplish this work, you have an individual responsibility to seek learning. […] “Education … will open the doors of opportunity.” As you follow the Lord’s admonition to “seek learning, even by study and also by faith,” you gain not only knowledge from your study but added light as you learn by faith.”
She shares her experiences throughout the talk of getting a degree and becoming a teacher, and the difficulties she had in knowing what was in store for her life, when she didn’t get married and have children as a young adult. She married a widower with four children when she was 37, and she says:
“I thought I was studying education to teach school and my future children, but I did not know the Lord was also preparing me to teach English in Mongolia on a mission […] I want to assure you that you will be prepared for that great work if you seek learning by study and also by faith.”
How can we make sure we’re not following paths that are too well-defined, and therefore leave little room for the Spirit? How do we balance that with obedience?
President Hinkley taught”There is no greater blessing that can come into our lives than the gift of the Holy Ghost—the companionship of the Holy Spirit to guide us, protect us, and bless us, to go, as it were, as a pillar before us and a flame to lead us in paths of righteousness and truth.”
He lists some areas that we need the influence of the Holy Spirit: administrative responsibilities, teaching the gospel, leading and directing people. He also said “May I give a special word of counsel to parents who stand as heads of families: we need the direction of the Holy Ghost in the delicate and tremendous task that is ours in strengthening the spirituality of our homes.”
How is it delicate to strengthen the spirituality in our homes? Is it also delicate or tremendous to lead, direct, administrate, teach?
Invite sisters to share experiences where they’ve felt the influence of the Spirit in their workplaces, families, friendships, callings and personal decision-making.
President Hinkley’s remarks: “Listen to the promptings of the Spirit. Be humble. You may be led to someone by the hand of the Lord because of your spirit, your attitude, your feeling, your humility.”
How is humility connected to listening for the promptings of the Spirit? Can we only receive guidance when we are already humble? Does this mean that our Heavenly Parents must sometimes compel us to be humble when They want to guide us?
Sister Julie B Beck taught “Just as the Savior invited Mary and Martha of New Testament times to participate in His work, women of this dispensation have an official commission to participate in the Lord’s work. From the earliest days of the Restoration, women were active in helping build up the Church by supporting missionary efforts, contributing to the construction of temples, and establishing communities where the Saints could worship together. The organization of Relief Society in 1842 mobilized the collective power of the women and their specific assignments to build the Lord’s kingdom.”
Joseph Smith, at the founding of the Relief Society “Said he was going to make of this Society a kingdom of priests as in Enoch’s day— as in Pauls day”.
Is this work something in which we can expect to receive the guidance of the Spirit? How can we know when we’re acting upon its inspiration in our callings?
In the last conference, Sister Bonnie L. Oscarson reminded us that “Joseph Smith—Matthew indicates that in the last days even the “very elect … according to the covenant” will be deceived. Those of the covenant include the girls, young women, and sisters of the Church who have been baptized and made covenants with their Heavenly Father. Even we are at risk of being deceived by false teachings.”
How can we ensure that we are listening to the Holy Ghost, and not our own expectations, or even the words of those we love and trust, more than the Spirit?
Bring the conversation back to our Heavenly Parents love for us, in ensuring that we have access to their guidance so that we can return to live with them, and bear your testimony as you feel prompted to do so.