By J. Kenneth Doty
I became aware of the keys to this knowledge through the voluntary instruction from Elder S. Dilworth Young of the Quorum of the Seventy. He had been assigned to visit Portland in connection with the Utah Symphony that was doing two performances in our city. It was the privilege of the Doty home to house him over two nights and to be his host and chauffeur. Since his only required assignment was to make introductory remarks at the concerts each of the two evenings, it became a challenge to provide something of meaningful activity for him during each of the two days.
I worked at finding some interviews that he could conduct with and for some of the Stake Presidents in the area and also took him to visit our stake dairy farm and the Church Welfare Center that was then under construction, but this took little of his time.
So, on the morning of the second day, he invited us (my wife, Corinne, and our youngest son, Kevin) to participate with him in a gospel discussion. It was his question to us that instigated the training, which gave rise to my ability to speak with greater understanding of this subject.
His question was, “Brother Doty, why is it that there are so many young people, born and raised in the Church by good and well-intentioned parents, who stray from active status?”
I could offer no specific answer. So he began his explanation. “Get your scriptures, and let us study this together.” Then he added, “I believe the problem lies in the lack of understanding of how inspiration and revelation works in their lives.”
So it was that we began to search the scriptures that Elder Young suggested. We began with the Book of Enos in the Book of Mormon, verses 5 and 10. One only has to read the first few verses (1-4) to get an understanding of the source of these key words. It is where Enos is praying for confirmation, through the Spirit, of the things his father had taught him. He had cried unto the Lord in mighty prayer all day and all night. And then verse 5, “And there came a voice unto me saying: Enos, thy sins are forgiven thee, and thou shalt be blessed.”
Now, there are some valuable explanations from the Lord to Enos in the following verses which can be helpful to all, but for the purposes of this discussion, we will move forward to verse 10: “And while I was thus struggling in the Spirit, behold the voice of the Lord came in to my mind again…”
The fact that Enos uses the word “again” indicates to us that is how the Lord spoke to him in verse 5, and how He speaks to most of those to whom He communicates – speaking to our minds. Lets keep this thought in mind as we move to another consideration.
We turn now to 1 Nephi 17:45. You will recall the setting. Nephi is preparing to build the ship that will take him to the promised land. His brothers are in opposition; so much so that they are threatening to kill him. Then came the words of Nephi in this scripture: “Ye are swift to do iniquity but slow to remember the Lord your God. Ye have seen an angel, and he spake unto you; yea, ye have heard his voice from time to time; and he hath spoken to you in a still small voice, but ye were past feeling, that you could not feel his words.”
Isn’t it interesting that when speaking of hearing the Lord, Nephi says they could not feel his words? What is the meaning of this? We go to another scripture. Doctrine and Covenants 8:2-3 reads, “Yea, behold, I will tell you in your mind and in your heart, by the Holy Ghost, which shall come upon you and which shall dwell in your heart. Now, behold, this is the spirit of revelation; behold this is the spirit by which Moses brought the children of Israel through the Red Sea on dry ground.”
So there it is. Thoughts, or words, form in your mind and are accompanied by a feeling. That is inspiration. That is revelation. Now, the most significant thing that Elder Young explained to me then, is the fact that each of us may have our own peculiar feeling. Imagine that! As Elder Young said, “It could be in your heart, your breast, your kidney, your liver, your spine, or any other part of one’s anatomy.” The key then is to identify your feeling. Think back upon those most special spiritual occasions and recall that feeling you had. You will begin to know how the Spirit works to give you information, wisdom, guidance, and answers to your prayers.
However, this does not happen if you are not prepared. Think of the problem that Nephi’s brothers had. If one is rebellious, skeptical, or involved with sin, then one cannot feel the Spirit’s message.
I have always been impressed with the experience that Oliver Cowdery had when he first heard of the Gospel. He was teaching school in Palmyra, and as was custom in those days, the teacher received much of his compensation through the families of the students he taught by accepting room and board. When it became his turn to stay at the Smith home, the family told him of their son and brother Joseph Smith and the work he was doing in translating the Book of Mormon. This story touched Oliver’s heart. He went to his room that night and, on his knees, sought the Lord for the confirmation of what he had heard. He received a divine manifestation attesting to the truthfulness of Joseph Smith’s work. Apparently, this so moved Oliver that he went immediately to Harmony, Pennsylvania to meet the prophet.
In that meeting the Prophet gave Oliver a revelation. I can almost imagine the skepticism that crept into Oliver’s mind as he heard a mortal man saying, “Thus saith the Lord.” So to give further proof of the divinity of the work, the prophet said some things that confirmed it to Oliver. I quote from Doctrine and Covenants 6:16, 20, 22-24. “Yea, I tell thee, that thou mayest know that there is none else save God that knowest thy thoughts and the intents of thy heart. Behold, thou art Oliver, and I have spoken unto thee because of thy desires. Therefore, treasure up these words in thy heart. Be faithful and diligent in keeping the commandments of God, and I will encircle thee in the arms of my love. Verily, verily I say unto you, if you desire a further witness, cast your mind upon the night that you cried unto me in your heart, that you might know concerning the truthfulness of these things. Did I not speak peace to your mind concerning the matter? What greater witness can you have than from God? And now, behold, you have received a witness; for if I have told you things which no man knoweth, have you not received a witness?”
Some key points in this scripture are:
1) Only God can read your mind, Satan cannot.
2) God expects us to keep his commandments when he has bestowed such divine guidance upon us.
3) Peace to our minds is the greatest confirmation we can receive.
I bear witness that this principle is true. I have experienced inspiration, both in thought and feeling. I leave you with my testimony of these principles, that they will work in your life and that they have in mine. It is my prayer that we can always be worthy to receive such gifts when they are most needed.