Individuals must earnestly seek and follow the guidance of the Holy Ghost, Elder Jay E. Jensen of the Presidency of the Seventy said during the Church Educational System Devotional held in the Marriott Center on the Brigham Young University campus on Sunday night.
“The Holy Ghost is vital and … we should earnestly seek His companionship, guidance and gifts,” Elder Jensen said. “[It is] truly an unspeakable gift.”
Teaching more about the “unspeakable gift,” Elder Jensen focused on three themes — the missions of the Holy Ghost, conditions to receive the Holy Ghost and how to recognize direction from the Holy Ghost.
The missions of the Holy Ghost
“The Holy Ghost is sometimes called the Spirit, appropriately called the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of God, the Spirit of the Lord, and the Comforter,” he said. “The Holy Ghost has certain missions or responsibilities.”
Elder Jensen identified four missions of the Holy Ghost — to testify of the Father and the Son, testify of truth, sanctify and teach.
“During my mission I began a daily study of the scriptures,” he said. “My scriptural knowledge, my testimony and my faith in God and in His Son, Jesus Christ, were strengthened by divine doctrine, by spiritual experiences and personal revelation.”
It is through seeking out the Spirit individuals are able to experience a witness of the Holy Ghost that testifies of truth.
“The Holy Ghost reveals the truth of all things,” he said. “Sincere seekers who read the Book of Mormon and pray and ponder with real intent to know of its truthfulness are promised they will know it is true, ‘and by the power of the Holy Ghost [they] may know the truth of all things' " (Moroni 10:5).
The Holy Ghost also sanctifies and is central to God’s plan of salvation and the gospel, Elder Jensen said. “The word 'sanctify' comes from the Latin and has two roots; 'sanct,' meaning ‘holy’ and 'facere,' meaning ‘to do or to make,’ literally meaning ‘to make holy.’” He said, “In our religious use of the word, 'sanctify' simply means to purify or make free from sin, a central message of the restored gospel. … The Holy Ghost is the sanctifier, and because of Him and through the infinite Atonement we may stand spotless, clean and pure.”
It is also through the role of the Holy Ghost that individuals are able to teach and learn through the Spirit. “The role of the Holy Ghost is to teach,” he said. He is the true teacher. My role is not to cover material or get through the lesson, rather … I am to preach, teach, expound, exhort, warn and invite by the Spirit. My role is to be an instrument in creating an atmosphere for the Spirit to do what He does in the divine process. …
“I witness to you that He has other important responsibilities or missions. He is the Comforter. He restrains or constrains, he leads, He warns and He rebukes.”
Conditions to receive the Holy Ghost
Elder Jensen described some of the conditions required for individuals to receive the Holy Ghost. He said that individuals must have a desire, be worthy, and alert — both spiritually and physically — to have the Spirit of the Lord with them.
“To have the unspeakable gift of the Holy Ghost, we must keep the commandments,” he said. “I believe you know what evils offend the Spirit, and I will not mention them. …
“We live in a very busy world when many things clamor for our time and attention,” he said. “It is by design that we encourage punctuality to meetings, especially sacrament meeting, to listen to the prelude music, prepare to have the Spirit, and receive revelation. We fast, we pray, we ponder, we attend the temple, and we learn to be good listeners and observers.”
Elder Jensen spoke of the desire individuals must have to ask, seek and knock to receive the Holy Ghost. It is through that desire, he said, that they are able to experience the power of God.
How to recognize direction from the Holy Ghost
“I find it difficult to teach how to recognize direction, guidance and spiritual promptings,” Elder Jensen said. “Such experiences are personal and often tailored to the individual and the conditions I just described. There are a few patterns, however, that I have experienced and have learned from others.”
Some of the patterns include: feelings of peace to one's mind, a witness both in one’s mind and heart, a witness from studying things out in one’s mind, and a burning of the bosom. It is through these witnesses of the Spirit that individuals are able to receive direction from the Holy Ghost, he said.
“I believe receiving ‘peace to the mind’ is one of the most common ways to recognize direction from the Holy Ghost,” he said. “Synonyms of peace are serenity, tranquility, harmony and stillness, while its opposites are confusion, anxiety, distraction, stirred up and disharmony. … Revelations to the mind are often specific words, ideas, even sentences, while revelations to the heart are general feelings associated with peace.”
Quoting President Gordon B. Hinckley, Elder Jensen said, “How do we know the things of the Spirit? How do we know if it is from God? By the fruits of it. If it leads to growth and development, if it leads to faith and testimony, if it leads to a better way of doing things, if it leads to godliness, then it is of God. If it tears us down, if it brings us into darkness, if it confuses us and worries us, if it leads to faithlessness, then it is of the devil.”
It is through seeking out, recognizing and acting on impressions from the Holy Ghost that individuals are able to grow in their ability to recognize promptings and follow the will of God.
“I humbly pray that you will desire more earnestly to be worthy of the unspeakable gift of the Holy Ghost; that you may recognize His promptings and grow in ability to do so; that you may be still and know the Father and the Son through the Holy Ghost; and that you will express gratitude for Him and His guidance.”