How to develop the gift of discernment

The gift of discernment helps us to recognize good and evil, truth and error. We can develop it through the following:

Praying. When we pray, we focus our minds on our Heavenly Father. Prayer is not a chance for us to tell God what we want. It helps us to learn our Father's will.- Searching the scriptures. Through diligent, prayerful scripture study, our understanding of the gospel increases and so does our ability to recognize truth and error. President Ezra Taft Benson said that the Book of Mormon exposes the enemies of Christ, and it does.

Keeping the commandments. When we're obedient, we have the Spirit to be with us. When we're disobedient, the Spirit withdraws.

Listening to your feelings. If a person, thing or idea makes us feel good and want to be more like Christ, then we know it's good.

Acting upon the promptings of the Spirit. If we don't act upon the gift, the gift dwindles. - Janice Leilani Smith, Kingsville, Texas

What we did:

Obey God's laws

There are two scriptures that I value. They do not use the word "discernment," but I feel the development of discernment can come through their application.

"Neglect not the gift that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy, with the laying on of the hands of the presbytery." (1 Tim. 4:14.)

"There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated - And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated." (D&C 130:20-21.)

The scripture in the Doctrine and Covenants was read to me the day I was baptized (age 19), and whenever I feel the need for a blessing or the use of a gift, I try to find out what I need to do to receive it.

Obedience to God's laws sharpens our discernment and guides us to the gift we need and how to use it. - Virginia A. Terribilini, Penngrove, Calif.

Two special gifts

The Lord has blessed us in our lives with the gift of discernment as members of His true Church. We are blessed with two means of discernment - the Holy Ghost and the light of Christ. In Moro. 7:14-19, we are told that the light of Christ is given to all men to know good from evil. As members of the Church, we are also blessed with the gift of the Holy Ghost to be our constant companion. The Holy Ghost bears witness of all truth.

These two special gifts can aid us throughout our lives as we live worthy of them. These powers of discernment grow and develop as we live faithful and act upon their promptings. As we act upon our promptings, we will be able to bless our families and those over whom we have responsibility. These gifts of discernment will aid us in our family decisions, employment, education and Church service. - Tammy Lake, Lake Butler, Fla.

Two-way communication

Any time I am asked to speak at a baptism, I always love giving the talk on the gift of the Holy Ghost. I commonly use the following analogy:

If I called you on the telephone, I would have to identify myself to you before I began to talk. I would have to identify myself each time I called for the next several days. After a month of calling you every morning, I would no longer need to identify myself. After a couple of months of calling you every morning, you would not only be able to recognize my voice, but also you would be able to tell the mood that I am in and many other details.

Developing discernment of the Spirit works the same way. If you pray every day for a month, you will not have a challenge identifying the Holy Ghost from your own thoughts and feelings. After a couple of months you will even be able to understand the details of the messages that He is sending through the "still small voice." It is only by daily prayer with two-way communication that we can ever expect to grow in our ability to discern the Spirit. - W. Denis Murmela, Sun City, Calif.

Prayer in your heart

In order to develop the gift of discernment, you must be in constant contact with the Spirit and have a prayer in your heart the entire day. You must make sure your surroundings are those in which the Spirit can dwell and that your actions are those with which the Spirit can be comfortable. You must always do what the Spirit says, because if you ignore those promptings, they will stop. If you do these things on a daily basis, you will find that your gift will grow and grow. - Candace Salima, Orem, Utah

Warmth, peace, joy

Having the gift of the Holy Ghost does not automatically entitle us to the gift of discernment. If not a natural gift, it can be gained as a gift of the Spirit over a long period of time with practice. The gift of discernment was given to me in my patriarchal blessing, but I still had to fully discover it and learn how to develop and use it. Many years of faithful prayer and scripture study, Church and temple attendance and keeping the commandments are conducive to receiving the Spirit's promptings in our lives. As we follow those promptings, we will find that they come more often, and we begin to recognize when the Lord is inspiring us.

His Spirit is always one of warmth, peace and joy, a feeling of "rightness." Satan cannot counterfeit this peace and warmth, but his temptations come with a dark, confused, anxious or fearful feeling. The Lord's spirit of love casts these out. The more we practice hearing and obeying the Spirit in our lives, the more we can discern the spirit in anything we read, hear, see or do as being good or evil. The main principle by which we can discern is to always do that which will be edifying, uplifting and beneficial to our Father's children in bringing them back home to Him. - Hollye Holmquist, Lancaster, Calif.

All areas of life

Following the Spirit is the key, but living our lives so the Spirit can be with us is the most important. The Lord expects us to discern between good and evil or righteousness and wickedness in all areas of our lives, not just spiritually, but also educationally, politically and socially.

The only way we can discern in any of these areas is to strive to live each day as the Lord would have us live. For example, try a little harder each day to be a little stronger and love a little more - thereby strengthening our love for the Savior and ensuring the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost. - Liz Hardman, Emmett, Idaho

How to checklist:

1 Pray regularly; seek for companionship of Holy Ghost.

2 Study the scriptures, apply them in your life; seek gospel understanding.

3 Act on promptings; exercise gift in all areas of your life.

4 Be obedient; live gospel on daily basis so you are familiar with "still, small voice."


Dec. 2 "How to have the Christmas spirit while coping with death of a loved one."

Dec. 9 "How to keep Christ in your heart and mind all year, not just during holidays."

Dec. 16 "How to help elderly loved ones with their finances."

Dec. 23 "How to feel peace and contentment today, rather than always looking to the future for happiness."

Dec. 30 "How to apply the two great commandments (love of God, love of fellowman) in your life."

Jan. 6 "How to increase gospel knowledge through daily study of the Book of Mormon."

Jan 13 "How to help yourself or a loved one break the cycle of compulsive behavior."

Jan. 20 "How to help young people want to dress modestly and with dignity."

Had any good experiences or practical success in any of the above subjects? Share them with our readers in about 100-150 words. Write the "How-to" editor, Church News, P.O. Box 1257, Salt Lake City, Utah 84110, or send fax to (801) 237-2121. Please include a name and phone number. Contributions may be edited or excerpted and will not be returned. Due to limited space, some contributions may not be used; those used should not be regarded as official Church doctrine or policy. Material must be received at least 12 days before publication date.

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