Following is a talk I gave in sacrament meeting in my Sandy ward last week on the help that we can receive from the Holy Ghost.
The Influence of the Holy Ghost
Today I want to focus my thoughts on four roles the Holy Ghost fulfills in our lives and give some examples from the scriptures and from my own life. These four roles include #1 Testifier; #2 Guide; #3 Protector and #4 Comforter.
Let’s start with testifier. The church’s gospel principles manual teaches that “the mission of the Holy Ghost is to bear witness of the Father and the Son and of the truth of all things. The Holy Ghost will witness to us that Jesus is our Savior and Redeemer. He will reveal to us that our Heavenly Father is the Father of our spirits. He will help us understand that we can become exalted like our Heavenly Father.”
Without the Holy Ghost, we could not know that Jesus is the Christ. The Apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 12:3 that “No man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost.”
When Jesus asked his apostles “Whom do men say that I am?” Peter answered, “Thou art the Christ, the son of the living God,” a response that was likely shocking to some of the other disciples as they had been saying that Jesus was a prophet and a teacher. But after Peter bore his testimony of the divinity of his Master, Jesus replied, “Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 16:17). This precious truth was revealed to Simon Peter by the power of the Holy Ghost.
Moroni’s promise at the end of the Book of Mormon says that “By the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things” (Moroni 10:5).
President Joseph Fielding Smith wrote: “When a man has the manifestation from the Holy Ghost, it leaves an indelible impression on his soul, one that is not easily erased. It is Spirit speaking to spirit, and it comes with convincing force. A manifestation of an angel, or even of the Son of God himself, would impress the eye and mind, and eventually become dimmed, but the impressions of the Holy Ghost sink deeper into the soul and are more difficult to erase. Through the Holy Ghost the truth is woven into the very fiber and sinews of the body so that it cannot be forgotten.”
I recall seeing the most frequent power of the Holy Ghost as testifier while I served my mission to Brazil in the early 1990s. People were changed by its powerful impressions, especially as we told them about the prophet Joseph’s experience in the sacred grove where he saw the Father and the Son in 1820. A few months ago, I had the chance to go back to tour my mission 15 years after returning home. It was an amazing and unforgettable experience. The Brazilian saints were so happy to see me and it was a powerful witness to see the flame of testimony still burning bright in their hearts because the Holy Ghost confirmed the words they had been taught.
I will always remember discussion on the restoration of the gospel with Adriana, a woman with three small children who had recently been divorced. She was confused and was looking for the true church. As we taught her the discussion, the spirit was present and then we asked her to pray to know, by the power of the Holy Ghost, if these things were true. She did. And the spirit filled our hearts and minds. It was so powerful, I remember almost fainting during the prayer she offered. It had an indelible impact on all of us. I’ll never forget that experience with the Holy Ghost.
In Psalms 32:8, the Lord says: “I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye.” The Lord uses the power of the Holy Ghost to give us guidance and direction.
We know the spirit can guide our footsteps. I recall the faith of a young Nephi who twice had tried and failed to obtain the brass plates from Laban. His brothers were ready to turn back, but Nephi knew the Lord’s will was for him to obtain the plates for the profit and learning of his descendants in the New World. So he crept back into Jerusalem. First Nephi 4:6 reads: “And I was led by the Spirit, not knowing beforehand the things which I should do.” What faith and trust Nephi must have had! Have you ever been in a situation like that? One where you trust completely in the spirit to guide you. Most of the time the Lord requires us to “study it out in our minds” and then he’ll confirm the decision with a good feeling like a burning in the bosom, or answer no with a stupor of thought. But sometimes, he wants us to show our faith and trust in him and follow his promptings without hesitation.
The Holy Ghost has been a great influence in my life. He’s guided my paths in important decisions such missionary service, marriage, higher education and career decisions. He’s also guided me as I’ve served him in my various callings through the years.
For the past four years, I served as a counselor in our ward’s bishopric in Riverton. A while back, I was out on visits with Bishop Martinsen, who told me that he had the impression that we needed to visit a certain home. He didn’t know why. He didn’t even know what family lived there. When we arrived we were invited into the house and quickly discovered that due to unemployment and sickness, the family had been unable to pay their electric bill and the power company had shut off their power. (It’s amazing how dependent we are on electricity and how difficult life is without it.) The bishop counseled with them and provided some much-needed assistance. With tears of gratitude, the mother in the family asked, “How did you know to come over here when we needed help so much?” The bishop answered that we were led there by the power of the Holy Ghost.
Many have heard the story of President Willford Woodruff who was told by the Spirit to move his wagon and his team. He obeyed this prompting from the Holy Ghost his family was spared from certain death that would have resulted for a tornado that struck the area shortly after he obeyed.
We’ve all heard dramatic stories like this. And while I believe the Spirit can communicate to us in this way, generally, his influence comes as a still small voice. It comes to us as impressions, feelings and inspired thoughts.
I recall feeling a warning prompting as a young boy who had been newly baptized. I had been invited to attend the circus at the old Salt Palace with a friend’s family. I was really excited to go, but then I got this feeling of foreboding, a spiritual impression that I should not go. I fought it for a long time, but finally decided to follow it and I told my friend that I couldn’t go. He didn’t understand, nor did I. Part of me wishes I could say that I found out later that an elephant got loose and caused serious damage and that had I gone, I would have been hurt or killed. But my friend later reported to me that the circus was great and that I had really missed out. Who knows what would have happened? Perhaps I was spared a kidnapping, an accident or harm of some kind. Or perhaps, and more likely, the Lord was simply testing my willingness to follow.
I know from experience that when promptings come, we need to follow. And if we’re unsure if it’s a prompting from the Holy Ghost or our imagination, I recommend following the impression. The Lord won’t fault us for demonstrating our faith and willingness to follow in every circumstance.
One of the most common references to the Holy Ghost in the Doctrine and Covenants is made using the title of Comforter. It shows up more than 70 times in this book of sacred revelations. His role as comforter may be the one with which most of us have had the most first-hand experience.
Several years ago, I dealt with a situation in which I greatly needed the comfort of the spirit. I had lost my job due to budget cuts and the right job seemed elusive. Unemployment is extremely difficult not only due to the loss of income, but also because of the loss of one’s sense of identity and purpose, especially as a man who in this culture is expected to be the breadwinner and provider.
During this difficult time, the Comforter helped me keep a positive attitude. I was led to a scripture in Alma 58:11, which described an experience that the worn-torn Nephites had. It reads: “Yea, and it came to pass that the Lord our God did visit us with assurances that he would deliver us; yea, insomuch that he did speak peace to our souls, and did grant unto us great faith, and did cause us that we should hope for our deliverance in him.” The assurances of deliverance and the peace, hope and faith spoken to their souls came from the Comforter. And the Holy Ghost will do the same for all who diligently seek him.
D&C 42:17 teaches us that “the Comforter knoweth all things, and beareth record of the Father and of the Son.” Since he knows all things as a member of the Godhead, he has the ability to help us answer those questions of what we need to learn from our trials. He can provide us with strength and hope in dark times.
My father Kent Lambert was, in my estimation, a great man with a righteous heart. His death five years ago was the most difficult trial I’ve ever faced. A few years before he passed away, I attended the funeral of a dear friend’s mother who had suffered and died from pancreatic cancer. I said silent prayers during the funeral, thanking Heavenly Father that our family had been spared from this deadly disease. I then looked over to see my mother attending the funeral as well, but without my dad. I approached her after the funeral and asked “Where’s dad?” She told me he was having a biopsy. I didn’t even know what a biopsy was. She assured me that it would probably be nothing and not to worry. A few days later, both Mom and Dad called and said they had some news they needed to give us in person, so we drove over, knowing that news that needed to be delivered in person couldn’t be good. And it wasn’t. It was stage-three, very aggressive prostate cancer.
I remember taking my wife Robin over to Flat Iron Mesa park that cold January afternoon and walking around the track, tears streaming down my face. I couldn’t bear the thought that my kids wouldn’t know him. It was very painful. At that time, I was hopeful that he’d live long enough to see my son Parley go on his mission at age 19. Later, as the cancer progressed and treatment after treatment failed, I revised that down to seeing Parley receive the priesthood at the age of 12. Then I revised it down to seeing Parley get baptized when he was 8. However, it was not to be. Healing blessings, earnest prayers and faith exercised by many did not save his physical life. I’m sure his life was prolonged, but he was not spared. Why not? Why didn’t the Lord spare him? He was righteous. His family needed him. Plenty of faith and prayers were exercised on his behalf.
I testify that the Holy Ghost has comforted me on many occasions related to his passing. It was taught me to focus less on “why” dad passed away, and more on what the Lord wants our family to learn from it. We’re sealed together and have eternity to be a family. The Holy Ghost has born witness of that truth to me. But we still miss him.
However, because of this experience and the comforting power of the Holy Ghost, I have felt a greater closeness with my siblings and my good mother. We’ve had many tender and sweet experiences that have shaped me into a better person. I’ve been comforted not so much with the answer to the question “Why?” but more of an assurance that God is in control. That his righteous will is being done.
The last phrase of one of the sacrament prayers is a plea “that they may always have His spirit to be with them.” What a blessing this would be! To always have his spirit to be with us. This is a tall order and quite difficult to achieve. Three ways to achieve this: strive to live worthily, pray earnestly and create an environment where the spirit can dwell.
The scriptures teach us that we must live worthily for this blessing. It doesn’t mean we’re perfect. It means that we’re striving earnestly to discover the Lord’s will and live it.
Prayer is an essential ingredient in cultivating the Spirit. The Lord has encouraged us to pour out our souls to Him in our closets. He has taught us to cry over the flocks of our fields daily. The more heartfelt, sincere and earnest our prayers are, the more we’ll enjoy the influence of the spirit in our lives.
Finally, we must create an environment where we can feel the spirit of the Lord. The temple is the perfect example of this type of environment. With four young, energetic children at home, recreating a temple-like environment in my home just isn’t practical. But we can make an effort. Music has always been a great way to bring in the spirit of the Lord in my life. From singing in huge choirs in the tabernacle to sharing primary songs at bedtime in a child’s room, I have felt the spirit stronger through music than perhaps any other way.
Each year at Christmas time, we decided as a bishopric in Riverton to go caroling to every household in our ward and give them a Christmas card. It generally took us 5-6 hours over three nights to complete. Yes, there were a few slammed doors, but mostly people were receptive. As we sang these beautiful anthems about the savior’s birth, hearts were softened and tears were shed, not because we were such great singers, but because the spirit testified to the people that we knew the Savior lives. The message of peace on earth and good will toward men permeated many hearts through the power of the Holy Ghost.
Brothers and sisters, the Holy Ghost can have an incredibly powerful influence on us for good. He testifies of our divine heritage and helps us to teach others about the saving truths of the gospel. He guides our footsteps and helps us with the decisions we make. He protects us from physical dangers, evil temptations and unworthy choices if we will only listen to his promptings. He comforts us in our afflictions, eases our burdens and buoys us up when we’re disheartened. He strengthens our resolve to trust in the Lord, come what may. By living worthily, praying earnestly and seeking to create appropriate environments (as the scriptures say, standing in holy place) we can enjoy his influence more abundantly and more consistently, which will lead us back into the Lord’s presence. We will have become what the Lord wants us to become. I pray that we will do so, in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.