The Spirit of God

Exploring the concept of discernment between good, better, and best choices. Delving into how we can better understand divine guidance in our lives, by examining various spiritual laws, and how to decipher the spiritual voice within us.

The Purpose of Music

My assigned topic for today is the Spirit of God. And I’m going to talk about that, but first, I think we need to take what may seem like a detour, but hopefully, will prove not to be.

Like most of you, I love music. Of course, I’m not convinced that everything streamed into our ears always constitutes music, but much of it, whether it comes from a sacred or a secular source, is good, and sometimes, very good.

I liken music to a vehicle that not only moves us from one place to another, but fills our hearts and minds with deep insights, profound images, poignant memories, and intense feelings. It doesn’t just take us to a destination, but it makes the journey itself more sensational and memorable.

Besides transporting us, it also transforms us. But where does it transport us to and what does it transform us into? Well, we get to choose that for ourselves, with the help of the Holy Ghost.

Good music is a medium that seems to resonate with our internal spirits in a way that can’t be adequately replicated by other means. Music gives our souls a chance to express themselves in both physical and spiritual ways. And when we all come together, as we have today, and combine our voices or instrumental talents together, whether in unison or in harmony, something quite extraordinary happens. It creates a transcendent metaphysical power — a divine force that propels our expressions through space and time and into yonder heavens.

It becomes one of the highest forms of praise and worship we can offer — even if our offerings are sometimes out-of-tune, out-of-sync, off-key, or off-the-wall. Honestly, it doesn’t really matter what we sound like. When our voices — all our voices — combine together — without timidity, but with everything we’ve got — it creates powerful and beautiful music in the ears of our God, who is always yearning to hear from us far more often.

In fact, if you have a hard time praying, try singing. Or if you can’t even carry a tune in a bucket, or aren’t able to speak or sing at all, then play a recording and repeat the words in your mind, sending them up to the heavens as if it was your voice and your prayer. After all, we clearly believe in proxy work.

I’m fairly sure God isn’t thrown off by our lack of musicality. A lack of enthusiasm and commitment is probably more egregious. He doesn’t like half-hearted attempts where we end up lukewarm or sitting on a fence. Like a parent sitting through their child’s beginning band concert, He is always pleased with our efforts, as novice and discordant as they may be. He can’t help but smile when He hears us attempt to communicate with Him in our relatively awkward and child-like ways.

For me, music has always been a critical component of my life, and I can’t imagine being without it. Most of the profound experiences of my life have a soundtrack. Don’t yours? Simply hearing a particular song or a particular performer can’t bring back particular memories.

Whenever I’m in need of positivity or inspiration (and in our troubled days, who doesn’t), I can quickly get into a healthier frame of mind by listening to or trying to create good music.

Notice I didn’t say church music. While church music is undeniably good, so are other types of music. I’m talking about ANY music that is virtuous, lovely, of good report, or praiseworthy — we seek after that type of music. I’ve found inspirational music in almost every genre, in every culture, and in every decade.

But if I’m in need of a spiritual experience, like when I sit down and write speeches or lessons like this one, then I often tune in sacred music. And by the way, that includes music from other churches and faiths too. You see worship music is trans-denominational.

There have been sacred times, brothers and sisters, sitting in this chapel or others like it, when I am alone at the piano or organ, but perceive that the pews are not entirely empty. There are times when practicing a hymn, when a clear thought comes to mind to play something a little different than written, or change the instrumentation a bit, or create an entirely new improvisation, or simply play it again with a different tempo or expression. And when I follow those promptings, even if no one will ever hear that exact performance again, I believe someone else has heard it. And we’re all edified for that effort.

Because I’m a sensitive guy, at times like these there are usually tears involved. Often, it is because I made too many dumb mistakes, but sometimes, it is because something spiritually significant occurred. Something that can’t be sensed with the body, but only felt with the heart. And often, because of my disposition, spiritual experiences often trigger emotional reactions. Spiritual experiences and emotional experiences are different, to be sure, and can sometimes be conflated, but for me, they are often correlated.

Music is a Spiritual Gift

You see, music, both appreciating it or creating it, is a sublime spiritual gift — and one worth praying for and spending a lifetime practicing. It is also one of the main vehicles that Lord uses to teach, expound, export, and testify, which is why it is such an integral part of our meetings and conferences and ordinances. Some things simply cannot be properly expressed by words alone.

My own mother, who is now anxiously engaged in the spirit world, patiently taught me to love and play music. As did her mother, and her mother, probably in an unbroken chain all the way back to mother Eve. And I like to think that this pattern originated in heaven with the mother of our spirit bodies. I can easily imagine all of us spending time together under her divine tutelage, accompanied by the heavenly hosts of past and future great musicians, as we learned one of the most sacred and sublime languages of heaven.

There are other heavenly, artistic languages, to be sure, but they all have one thing in common — they allow us to creatively express something that is otherwise inexpressible. As children of creators, the creative arts are an integral part of each of us, which it why they hold such power over our souls.

This has become increasingly important to me as I’ve gotten older, because I am quickly going deaf. I’ve got about 10% left in this ear, and about 40% in this one, and what is left is constantly accompanied by tinnitus, which in my case, presents itself as an unrelenting high frequency, piercing squeal, not unlike a dog whistle. It’s why when I’m driving, I sometimes growl and bark at others.

I have seven older brothers and sisters, and many of them have been wearing hearing aids for decades. So it’s a degenerative genetic thing, which means I can’t blame it all on my youth when I was wearing my Sony Walkman and blasting the totally awesome hits of the 80s. Ah, I love the 1780s. You know, Handel, Haydn, the Bachs, and that crazy cat Mozart. As soon as I can afford some hearing aids, I’ll pick up a pair, but sadly, some frequencies have been permanently damaged. They are gone forever — at least until the resurrection.

As a church organist, it’s one of the reasons I play the organ so loud at our meetings — it’s because I’m trying to hear the music. There have been times when I can’t hear what I’m playing, especially during particularly chatty preludes and postludes. If you see me frowning while I’m playing, I’m simply concentrating and hoping that I’m not butchering the music.

I’ve resigned myself to the likelihood that one day, soon, I won’t be able to hear, or play, or sing on pitch at all, which makes it all the more meaningful today. It really makes me appreciate what I’ve been taking for granted all my life. It’s definitely on this week’s special gratitude list.

Now how does music and deafness relate to today’s topic of the Spirit of God. Let’s find out. 

Spiritual Awakenings

Now, as I alluded to earlier, music is one of the ways we awaken and quicken our immortal and eternal spirits — the entity inside us that doesn’t have flesh and bones and blood — the entity that isn’t fed by physical sensations, but is fed and nourished and strengthened by spiritual sensations.

This sustenance is wonderfully enhanced by our physical senses, to be sure, but our physical nature often completely overwhelms our spiritual nature, which isn’t a good thing in the long term.

It is why we are assembled here in Church, where we can be spiritually fed, where we can renew covenants, where we can light fires under each other so that our hearts can burn within us. We are here to nourish our eternal spirits so that our spirits can take their rightful place and lord over our mortal, natural, corruptible, unglorified, telestial bodies.

If you’re like me, we desperately need a little role reversal here, so that our spirits can teach our bodies how to live higher and holier laws, so that our spirits can, one day, inherit a glorified body — hopefully a celestialized one.

As we know, all of this is only possible due to the love and grace of our Savior, Jesus Christ and His pivotal role in the plan of our Heavenly Father. But the Lord’s role can only become effective if we pay strict attention to the third member of the Godhead: the Holy Ghost.

The Holy Ghost, because He is a spirit, knows how to talk directly to our spirits without physical interference, without having to be seen with our eyes, felt with our hands, heard with our ears, or reasoned with our minds. As good as those physical processes are in helping us understand and navigate the physical and temporal world, they are wholly insufficient for navigating the things of immortality and eternal life.

While the Holy Ghost and His spirit body can only be in one place at one time, His influence, His guidance, His power can fill the immensity of space, which means it can also fill our souls. And because we have received the Gift of the Holy Ghost, we are entitled to have His direction whenever we seek for it and qualify for it.

The Spirit of Christ

In the sacrament prayer we heard a few minutes ago, we were promised that if we always remember Christ and keep His commandments, we would have His Spirit to be with us. What does that mean, exactly? What is the Spirit of the Lord? Is it the same as the Holy Ghost? Is it the same as the Light of Christ? And where does our conscience fit into all of this?

Let’s review some quick definitions from the Gospel Library app. The Light of Christ is a spiritual medium that is instilled in us by virtue of being born on this planet, a planet created by the Son of God. It allows every man, woman, and child to discern the difference between good and evil, and right and wrong. It is sometimes called our conscience, and when influenced by the Holy Ghost, it helps us align our will with the will of our creator. Ultimately, obeying our creator makes us “very good,” and is how we “fill the measure of our creation” and “have joy therein.”

Let me give you a little more scriptural context. In fact, let’s let the Lord himself explain this concept. It is found in D&C 84:43-47.

“And I now give unto you a commandment to beware concerning yourselves, to give diligent heed to the words of eternal life. For you shall live by every word that proceedeth forth from the mouth of God. For the word of the Lord is truth, and whatsoever is truth is light, and whatsoever is light is Spirit, even the Spirit of Jesus Christ. And the Spirit giveth light to every man that cometh into the world. And the Spirit enlighteneth every man through the world, that hearkeneth to the voice of the Spirit. And every one that hearkeneth to the voice of the Spirit cometh unto God, even the Father.”

Those verses tell us everything we need to know about anything. In my mind, I picture an equation where truth is equal to light, which is equal to the Spirit of Jesus Christ, which we call the Light of Christ, which, according to the Guide to the Scriptures, is manifested as our conscience.

It is the voice of personal revelation that tells us when we attempt to drive out onto 8th North, to not run over the cyclist who just cut us off.

Mormon explained this really well:

“And now, my brethren, seeing that ye know the light by which ye may judge, which light is the light of Christ, see that ye do not judge wrongfully; for with that same judgment which ye judge ye shall also be judged. Wherefore, I beseech of you, brethren, that ye should search diligently in the light of Christ that ye may know good from evil; and if ye will lay hold upon every good thing, and condemn it not, ye certainly will be a child of Christ.”

As believers, we want to be known as the children of Christ. Yes, we are children of God the Father, but we become the adopted children of Christ because He is the one who through His Atonement, gives us the chance to have a new spiritual life through our repentance, participating in the ordinances, keeping our covenants. And because of His Resurrection, we can also have a new physical life as well. These are all free gifts of grace if we choose to accept them and their associated responsibilities.

Therefore, the first step we need to take is to always listen to the Spirit and always choose right over wrong, good over evil, light over darkness, truth over error. Thus, despite all evidence to the contrary, it is wrong and evil to run over a spandex-wearing cyclist.

But if we listen to our conscience, and choose every good thing, it will eventually lead us back to God. Furthermore, if we listen to the Holy Ghost, which often speaks through our conscience, we can be sanctified and purified and receive further light and truth by having direct access to ongoing, personalized revelations straight from the mouth of the Gods.

It’s an amazingly simple and profound gift, but we tend to overcomplicate things and get confused as to whether or not the Holy Ghost is speaking to us.

I love what Elder Bednar told us in 2020 in a Face-to-Face broadcast to the youth. He said, “We overcomplicate and overanalyze this. If you have a thought to do something good, it’s prompted by the Holy Ghost.”

So there you have it. If we are prompted, or to use another scriptural word, enticed, to do something that is good, it is a personal revelation from God, because God is the source of everything that is good. In fact, in Mark we read:

“And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God.”

Semantically, the only difference between those two words, God and Good, is an extra O, which should cause us to say, “Oh,” as in, “Oh, or Ooh, God is Good.”

What is the Best Good?

So now this begs the question as to what exactly is good? And what is the greater good because goodness obviously has various degrees?

Ah, now there you have the stuff of thousands of years of philosophical debate by some of the smartest people on the planet.

But hooray for us, because the children of the covenant have been given a revealed answer that trumps that proposed by all the worldly wise guys. Because the answer to what is good, gooder, and goodest is always revealed to us by God himself through the Holy Ghost and the Light of Christ.

Let me explain what I mean by that. And to do that, I’m going to use a metaphor we are all familiar with, the Plan of Salvation and the three degrees of Glory.

The Plan of Salvation

Our world is currently in a telestial state, inhabited by seen and unseen perditionites, telestialites, terrestrialites, and celestialites. We’re all here. The spirit world is here, albeit in a different plane of existence, whatever that means. Any unresurrected being who has heretofore lived on this earth, are still here. Therefore, this is the home of billions of embodied, disembodied, and unembodied children of God, all trying to figure things out.

It is also the only place, out of the innumerable planets designed by God and brought into existence by His Word, where the Chosen One chose to experience His mortal probation and work out the infinite and eternal atonement, thereby making it the best world ever. On the other hand, because some of our brothers and sisters chose to kill their creator here, and others choose to openly deny the existence of its creator, it is also the worst world.

And we, living in the fullness of times, get to experience both conditions, first-hand, and simultaneously. Yay for us. As Charles Dickens once wrote, by the way his friends called him “Boz,” this truly “is the best of times and the worst of times (A Tale of Two Cities).” The good news is we got front-row seats! The bad news, the late Leo Gallagher’s on stage with his Sledge-O-Matic.

As we know, we all get to choose which kingdom of glory, or non-glory, we will inhabit for the rest of this eternity. Because of our lifetimes of sin and error, we don’t really deserve any degree of glory, but because of the love of our creators, we can be recused, ransomed, rinsed clean, and restored to a state of glory through our redeemer, Jesus Christ.

But since the Lord doesn’t take away our agency, we have to ask Him for help. And the relatively miniscule price we have to pay for His priceless help is to keep His favorite two commandments: the vertical commandment to love God, and the horizontal commandment to love everyone else. Essentially these commandments, and their derivations, simply teach us how to love others the way God loves us.

Furthermore, as the Lord has worked with his younger and less mature brothers and sisters over the millennia, he has adapted those laws to accommodate all types of people and all types of faithfulness. In fact, it seems that He has developed telestial, terrestrial, and celestial laws that will govern life in those kingdoms. Those who choose good things, will inhabit the telestial kingdom. Those who choose better things, will inhabit the terrestrial. And those who choose the best things, will inhabit the celestial.

If we choose not to follow the laws of Christ at all, we are actually choosing to follow the laws of the Devil, and he really only has one commandment, which I call the principle of perdition. And it is this: “Do what thou wilt.”

This satanic statute elevates you to the position of god, with a little g, and you become your own idol, wanting and needing no one else, and being loved by no one in return. It is a lonely, miserable, selfish existence, that always ends with weeping, wailing, and a gnashing of teeth.

But you are completely free to choose it, as has Lucifer and a third of the host of heaven. And lots of people living today are choosing to do that too, but billions have been blinded and can’t see how bad of a choice that really is. Fortunately, just before the second coming, the merciful Father will bring billions of these confused souls back to the spirit world a littler earlier than they expected, where they can finally learn what we were unable to teach them.

But let’s set that perdition principle aside, because we’ve already covenanted not to do those sorts of things. Rather, let’s now focus on the telestial, terrestrial, and celestial laws. Or in other words, the good, the better, and the best.

Every day, and every hour of every day, we are given the choice to choose to do bad or good. If we follow our conscience, the Light of Christ, strengthened by the Holy Ghost, this will help us choose the good. Now it’s a simple matter of sorting out the good, the better, and the best alternatives.

The Voices in Your Head

Now as far as I can tell, if you’re like me, you’re constantly hearing three voices in your head. If you’re hearing four, you’re probably channeling the voice of your spouse. If you’re hearing five or more, you probably need to talk to a professional.

Voice #1

One of the voices is your own internal voice. That’s often the most selfish and obnoxious voice. I call it the “Loud and Proud” voice. It is usually interested in anything that preserves your own happiness and well-being. It usually starts off its dialog with “I” words. “I don’t want to do that, I want to do this. I don’t want to volunteer to clean the chapel, I want to sleep in. I don’t want to visit that person, I want to watch my shows or play a game.” It usually appeals to our mortal sensations. “I’m too tired. I’m too weak. I’m too hungry. I’m too amorous. I’m too addicted. I’m too unworthy.”

Sigmund Freud would call this voice the “Id.” King Benjamin called it the “natural man”. It tends to focus on you and your needs and your desires and your ambitions and your will and your perspectives and your judgments, and — well you get the picture. It is almost always a selfish voice, and as such, it is an enemy to God, or to use a harsher but more accurate word, “anti-Christ.”

This is the knee-jerk reactionary voice whenever your spouse asks you do something you weren’t planning to do. It is instinctive and impulsive. It is the primary source of our myopic “I” disease, spelled with a capital I, and the sooner we can recognize it, and subdue it, the better off we’ll be.

Voice #2

The next voice is the voice of the Spirit, coming at us from God and his representatives. It is still, it is calm, it is quiet, it is clear. We can’t hear it unless we free ourselves from the loud and proud voice, and other earthly distractions, like bad music, inappropriate images, impure thoughts, unworthy entertainment, unbridled passions, and the insatiable drive for more and more.

The Spirit always sounds like an invitation to do something that is good or selfless, and to do it right now. It sounds like:

  • Do the dishes
  • Take out the trash
  • Talk nicely to this person
  • Visit this family
  • Magnify your calling
  • Put down your mobile phone
  • Turn off the computer
  • Go to the temple
  • Fast today
  • Give that person a ride
  • Hold a family home evening
  • Pray right now

It is real-time heaven-sent revelation that is always personal, highly individualized, and extremely relevant to our spiritual well-being. Furthermore, if you obey it, it always produces good results and generates good feelings and the other fruits of the Spirit, such as love, patience, kindness, charity, and peace. It always makes you a better person, because you are actively choosing to listen to the Lord, rather than yourself.

Voice #3

Sadly, whenever the voice of the Spirit speaks to you, you can almost always expect the third type of voice to immediately chime in. Actually, there are usually more than one of these. They are legion. These are the voices of evil, and they come from the unseen voices of the unembodied hosts of heaven who are fighting an unseen spiritual battle with us each and every day of our lives.

These minions are armed to the teeth with deadly weapons they’ve chosen specifically to hurt our spirits. They hate us with a white-hot intensity we cannot imagine. They want us to be miserable like themselves, and become more despondent, devilish, and misuse our bodies for carnal and sensual purposes. The serve up temptations of greed, and avarice, and gluttony, and pride, and power, and fame, and sloth, and lust, and on and on.

They offer up a cacophony of objections to the quiet voice of the Lord. Which is why if you immediately find yourself coming up with multiple reasons to NOT obey the Spirit, you can be certain these are the voices of the devil’s minions.

I don’t believe they can read our thoughts, but it seems like they are constantly and carefully observing our actions and can spot patterns in our behaviors that we can’t see. It also seems like they are allowed to hear the voice of the Spirit and know when we’re being prompted to do something good, because they immediately pounce on us to try to entice us to do something that is not so good, or even do something completely evil if we’re down for it.

So, if you’re confused by the voices in your head, before you act, ask yourself these questions: What are the consequences of doing those different suggestions? What outcomes will result from your choices? What kingdom do they lead you to? Are they advocating for a state of self-worshipping perdition, or a state of glory? And if a state of glory, is it a good telestial state, a better terrestrial state, or the very best celestial state?

Let me expand this idea a bit further by giving you some examples from my own life.

The Telestial Law

If we can characterize the governing principle of perdition as “do what thou wilt,” I would like to say that the highest law of the telestial kingdom, is “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” That’s where we treat others with the same care and respect that we would like to be treated. This golden rule gave birth to the law of reciprocity, upon which all earthly economies are based. The old quid pro quo. It is where if you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours. But notice the principal pronoun at play: it is “I” or “Me”. Therefore, while it is a good law, it isn’t the best.

For example, I love See’s Candies. If someone loved me, they would give me a one-pound box of chocolatey-nutty goodness. A five-pound box would be better, of course. But if I gave that gift to my son, he would die of anaphylaxis because he has a severe, life-threatening nut allergy. A good gift to me would be a bad gift to him. Therefore, I can’t treat him the way I want to be treated. The only bad thing that can happen to me is I get fatter and clog-up my arteries and need a ton of insulin, all of which will shorten my lifespan. Hmm, come to think of it, I wonder if that’s why my family feeds me so many chocolates. They too are tired of my preaching.

The Terrestrial Law

Now a higher law, and let’s call this one a terrestrial law, is to turn the focus away from yourself to those around you. The palladium law would be, “Treat other people the way they want to be treated.” Ah, now this is much better. You are no longer the focus, someone else is. And that’s certainly a step in the right direction. You love someone the way they want to be loved. If they’re hungry, you feed them, even if you have very little to eat. If someone is cold, you give them your coat as well as your thermal underwear. You go the extra mile and treat them better than they deserve.

Here’s another personal example. I’m a thinker. Back when I was in school, when I was introduced to a new teacher, I didn’t care how much they cared, until I knew how much they knew. As you might imagine of any nerd, I love to hide in my home office and study and learn something complex and then turn around and create a simplified educational course that teaches others what I learned. That’s what I do for fun and for a living. If my wife wanted to show me that she loved me, she would give me time and space to do that, and when I finally emerge with a new product, she would take the time to listen and critique my ideas. And she has done that for the past 33 years. It appears that she really does love me after all. It is a wonderful gift.

And if I truly loved my wife, I would respect the fact that she is a people-person who makes decisions with her heart. When she went to school, she didn’t care how much her teachers knew, until she knew how much they cared. A loving gift to her would be spend lots of quality time with her and her loved ones. I would also give her space and time and encouragement to form the relationships that bring her happiness and give meaning to her life. She loves being a mom and a grandma and a friend to those who need friends. It is remarkable to see those who are broken-hearted often gather around her, like bees to a blossom, because she gives love to those who need to be loved. It’s wonderful to behold.

Now if she gave me the gift she desires, like a big party where you were forced to chitchat with friends and relatives, I would be miserable. And if I gave her a massive bookshelf filled with do-it-yourself reference books, she’d be miserable. We need to give each other what the other wants.

To sum up our relationship, I bring to our marriage orthodoxy, or right thinking, and she brings to our marriage orthopraxy, or right acting. Both are important, but I think she wins the contest every single time. After all, if good thoughts don’t lead to good actions, they are completely worthless.

So, the terrestrial law teaches us to try to treat others the way they want to be treated, and even better than they expect. Of course, we can’t love someone, and give them good gifts, gifts that are meaningful to them, unless we truly know them. We can’t be effective ministers or effective teachers or effective leaders or effective parents, if we don’t spend the hours it takes to get to know and understand and appreciate the perspectives of those we serve.

But there are some shortcomings there too. For example, in the name of love, if I gave my children everything they wanted, or removed boundaries and limitations they perceived to be oppressive, they wouldn’t have been on this earth for very long. They would have played out in the busy street or jumped off the roof with their home-made parachutes. It wouldn’t have been pretty.

Only after they have been taught correct principles, then they are free to govern themselves. But until then, I have a responsibility to help them understand the consequences of their choices, which requires good old-fashioned parenting and, dare I say, discipline. Not the whack the mole off your backside discipline, but the form of discipline Jesus required of His disciples. And then once they are autonomous individuals, then we continue to lovingly help them pick up the pieces when things get broken. We treat them better than they deserve. That’s a terrestrial principle.

But there are sometimes when I don’t know how to love them in better ways. How do I know when to cleanse the temple and lay down the law, or when to disregard the rules and run out and meet the prodigal? That’s when we need to transcend the terrestrial law and rise to the celestial law.

The Celestial Law

And that takes us to the law of the celestial kingdom. The highest or the best law of all. I guess that would be the Rhodium Rule, since Rhodium is the most precious metal I know. Which is, “Treat other people the way God wants them treated.” He’s the only all-wise, all-knowing, all-powerful being I know of, except for a few 17-year-olds.

So why not seek out His counsel and His advice on how to treat His children. If we ask, we will receive. But we have to ask. And we have to be willing to sacrifice our desires for His desires, because He knows just what they need right now. And this may be different than what they may need next week, or what the guy down the street needs, or what the person languishing in a prison cell needs from us.

The Iron Rod

And the only way we can have that inspiration and information, is if we hold fast to the iron rod and obey the word of God.

It would be a mistake to picture the iron rod as simply the words of prophets past written down in scripture or in prophets present delivered over pulpits. That’s part of it, to be sure, but there’s another aspect too. That is the living, breathing word of God that comes to us in the form of personal revelation and personal direction.

Like the form of revelation that came to Nephi as he found Laban lying drunk in the streets of Jerusalem. The scriptural law clearly said, “thou shalt not kill.” A law Nephi had been taught in his synagogue. Being told by the Spirit to kill Laban was an appalling thought, and threw Nephi for a loop. Although Nephi probably didn’t know it at the time, another civil law also meted out a capital punishment for breaking other laws like “thou shalt not steal,” and “thou shalt not bear false witness”, and “thou shalt not try to commit murder to get gain.” These are laws Laban broke and Nephi would have been legally justified in taking Laban’s life. But Nephi didn’t know that. He had to summon up the courage to obey the living and breathing words of God. It was one of his Abrahamic tests — tests that we all have to pass someday. Do you obey the established law or obey inspiration? Do you follow the Brass Plates or the Liahona? Do you follow dead prophets or living prophets? It is a conundrum or a paradox where we have to occasionally choose between two good, yet contrary things. Do I eat that forbidden fruit and get kicked out of the garden, or obey but never have a family?

Brothers and sisters, I believe we have two hands for a reason. With one hand we cling to the rod of iron that contains the words of the prophets and their revealed truths, and with the other hand we also cling to the word of God in the form of personal revelation. They are rarely in conflict, and if they appear to be, wait a moment until your perspective changes. In my experience, then tend to ultimately be in alignment with each other. We hold on to the rod with both hands, which means we can’t hold onto anything else that is worldly in nature. We have to give it all up, and cling with everything we’ve got. If we only trust one of those sources and exclude the other, we may find ourselves in jeopardy as the mists starts to gather and obfuscate the goal, which is always Christ.

So that’s how we figure out if something is good, better, or best. That’s how we know which voice to hear and how to hear and understand the voice of God that comes to us through our conscience, to our spirits, and spares us the short-sightedness the comes with “I” disease.

Conclusion

Let me wrap up this awfully long sermon with these thoughts that take us back to idea of overcoming any deafness we may have in our lives so we can hear the voice of the Spirit. If we find ourselves seeking after anything that is virtuous, lovely, and of good report, then we are obeying that voice, whether we recognize it or not.

Then if we surround ourselves with more opportunities to hear and obey that still, small voice, it will become louder and more clear and more insightful with each passing day. Then one day, whether in this life or the next, I suspect we won’t be able to differentiate it from our own voice — but until then we’ve got a lot of self-sacrificing to do before we get to that point.

As I read the signs of the times, I believe it is safe to say that the second coming of the Lord is closer than it has ever been. The sifting of Saints has begun and will continue through the great and terrible things that lie in our not too-far distant future. President Nelson has proclaimed that we will shortly see miracles that have never been seen on this earth before — and there have been some doozies.

The Savior desperately needs us to be actively and intentionally placing ourselves in places and circumstances that are conducive to revelation, and then develop the courage and faith to act on His promptings. We need it for our spiritual and physical survival. We need it for our spiritual and physical thrival.

These promptings will come, but only if we take the time to intentionally listen to them. And they will come, because the Lord has promised that those who keep His commandments shall hear and see Him.

It will often take longer than we prefer, and if that happens to you, there is a reason for that. And I wouldn’t dare trust anyone’s judgement on that matter except for God.

Seek to hear Him, even if you aren’t worthy of having His Spirit to be with you constantly, I’m pretty sure He will still gently smile upon you and give you the very best gifts you need, because He knows us so very, very well. He knows you better than you know yourself, if you can imagine that. Because the veil is not before Him, He remembers your valiant efforts, He remembers how you fought to save those you loved in that missing third part of the heaven. He remembers how you worked to develop talents and gifts that you could use while here in mortality. He remembers how much you loved our heavenly family and desperately wanted to return.

He also knows your weaknesses, your limitations, and your hidden secrets — but in spite of those, he will do everything He can to bring you back home — if you want to come back home, if you decide to choose Him and His ways over choosing you and your ways.

God loves us perfectly, after all, and always has our best interest in heart. So let Him be your personal trainer. Hand over the reins. Let Him take the wheel. Let him pilot the plane. Let him steer the ship. I’m running out of metaphors. Let the Good Shepherd lead you wherever He wants to take you.

I promise you that we will end up in a far better place than we deserve and a far better place than we can hope for and a far better place than can be imagined.

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