Chapter 7: The Whisperings of the Spirit
Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Gordon B. Hinckley, 2016
From the Life of Gordon B. Hinckley
On June 24, 1995, President Gordon B. Hinckley spoke at a meeting for new mission presidents and their wives, giving them counsel to guide their next three years of service. He told of instruction he received when President Harold B. Lee, then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, set him apart as a stake president:
“I remember only one thing he said: ‘Listen for the whisperings of the Spirit in the middle of the night, and respond to those whisperings.’ I don’t know why revelation comes sometimes in the night, but it does. It comes in the day as well, of course. But listen to the whisperings of the Spirit, the gift of revelation, to which you are entitled.”1
Referring to his experiences as he followed this instruction, he said: “The Lord has spoken quietly. … In the middle of the night, ideas have come into my head which, I think, have been prophetic in their nature.”2 For example, in July 1992 he was in Hong Kong with other Church leaders, searching for a place to build a temple. He went to bed one night feeling unsettled about the decision he needed to make. Then the whisperings of the Spirit woke him up early the next morning.
“Something very interesting came to my mind,” he recorded in his journal. “I did not hear a voice with my natural ears. But into my mind there came the voice of the Spirit. It said, ‘Why are you worried about this? You have a wonderful piece of property where the mission home and the small chapel stand. They are in the very heart of Kowloon, in the location with the best transportation. … Build a building of [several] stories. It can include a chapel and classrooms on the first two floors and a temple on the top two or three floors.’” Having received that revelation, President Hinckley said, “I relaxed and went back to sleep.”3
Today in Kowloon, a densely populated section of Hong Kong, a single building stands where a chapel and mission home once stood. That building, which houses a chapel, a mission home, a mission office, and a sacred temple, is a testament of the whisperings of the Spirit to a prophet of God.
Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley
The Holy Ghost is the Comforter and the Testifier of truth.
The Holy Ghost stands as the third member of the Godhead, the Comforter promised by the Savior who would teach His followers all things and bring all things to their remembrance, whatsoever He had said unto them (see John 14:26).4
The Holy Ghost bears testimony in our hearts concerning the Father and the Son.5
The Holy Ghost is the Testifier of Truth, who can teach [us] things [we] cannot teach one another. In those great and challenging words of Moroni, a knowledge of the truth of the Book of Mormon is promised “by the power of the Holy Ghost.” Moroni then declares, “And by the power of the Holy Ghost ye may know the truth of all things” (Moroni 10:4–5).
I believe this power, this gift, is available to us today.7
We need the Holy Ghost to guide us in our service at home and in the Church.
There is no greater blessing that can come into our lives than the gift of the Holy Ghost—the companionship of the Holy Spirit to guide us, protect us, and bless us, to go, as it were, as a pillar before us and a flame to lead us in paths of righteousness and truth. That guiding power of the third member of the Godhead can be ours if we live worthy of it.8
We need the Holy Spirit in our many administrative responsibilities. We need it as we teach the gospel in our classes and to the world. We need it in the governance and teaching of our families.
As we direct and teach under the influence of that Spirit, we shall bring spirituality into the lives of those for whom we are responsible. …
… Sweet are the fruits of teaching done under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. They feed the spirit and nourish the soul.
May I give a special word of counsel to parents who stand as heads of families: we need the direction of the Holy Ghost in the delicate and tremendous task that is ours in strengthening the spirituality of our homes.9
Listen to the promptings of the Spirit. Be humble. You may be led to someone by the hand of the Lord because of your spirit, your attitude, your feeling, your humility.10
Revelation almost always comes to us through a still, small voice—the whispering of the Spirit.
From time to time, I have been interviewed by representatives of the media. Almost invariably they have asked, “How does revelation come to the prophet of the Church?”
I reply that it comes now as it has come in the past. Concerning this, I have recounted to these media representatives the experience of Elijah following his contest with the priests of Baal:
“And, behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks before the Lord; but the Lord was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but the Lord was not in the earthquake:
“And after the earthquake a fire; but the Lord was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice” (1 Kings 19:11–12).
That is the way it is. There is a still, small voice. It comes in response to prayer. It comes by the whispering of the Spirit. It may come in the silence of the night.
Do I have any question of that? None whatever. I have seen it in instance after instance.11
Such almost invariably has been the word of God as it has come to us, not with trumpets, not from the council halls of the learned, but in the still small voice of revelation. Listening to those who seek in vain to find wisdom and who declaim loudly their nostrums [or cures] for the ills of the world, one is prone to reply with the Psalmist, “Be still, and know that I am God: …” (Ps. 46:10) and with the Savior, “He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.” (Matt. 11:15.)12
The things of the Spirit enlighten, build, and uplift us.
How do we know the things of the Spirit? How do we know that 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.13
You recognize the promptings of the Spirit by the fruits of the Spirit—that which enlighteneth, that which buildeth up, that which is positive and affirmative and uplifting and leads us to better thoughts and better words and better deeds is of the Spirit of God. That which tears down, which leads us into forbidden paths—that is of the adversary. I think it is just that plain, just that simple.14
A scholar once expressed the view that the Church is an enemy of intellectualism. If he meant by intellectualism that branch of philosophy which teaches “the doctrine that knowledge is wholly or chiefly derived from pure reason” and “that reason is the final principle of reality,” then, yes, we are opposed to so narrow an interpretation as applicable to religion. (Quotations from the Random House Dictionary of the English Language, p. 738.) Such an interpretation excludes the power of the Holy Spirit in speaking to and through [us].
Of course we believe in the cultivation of the mind, but the intellect is not the only source of knowledge. There is a promise, given under inspiration from the Almighty, set forth in these beautiful words: “God shall give unto you knowledge by his Holy Spirit, yea, by the unspeakable gift of the Holy Ghost.” (D&C 121:26.)
The humanists who criticize the Lord’s work, the so-called intellectualists who demean, speak only from ignorance of spiritual manifestation. They have not heard the voice of the Spirit. They have not heard it because they have not sought after it and prepared themselves to be worthy of it. Then, supposing that knowledge comes only of reasoning and of the workings of the mind, they deny that which comes by the power of the Holy Ghost.
The things of God are understood by the Spirit of God. That Spirit is real. To those who have experienced its workings, the knowledge so gained is as real as that which is acquired through the operation of the five senses. I testify of this. And I am confident that most members of the Church can so testify. I urge each of us to continue to cultivate a heart in tune with the Spirit. If we will do so, our lives will be enriched. We will feel a kinship with God our Eternal Father. We will taste a sweetness of joy that can be had in no other way.
Let us not be trapped by the sophistry of the world, which for the most part is negative and which so often bears sour fruit. Let us walk with faith in the future, speaking affirmatively and cultivating an attitude of confidence. As we do so, our strength will give strength to others.15
I make a plea that we constantly seek the inspiration of the Lord and the companionship of His Holy Spirit to bless us in keeping our efforts on a high spiritual plane. Those prayers will not go unanswered.16
The Holy Ghost will be our constant companion as we live for this blessing.
It is the Lord who has said that if we keep the commandments, “the Holy Ghost shall be [our] constant companion” (D&C 121:46) to buoy us up, to teach us, lead us, comfort us, and sustain us. To obtain this companionship, we need to ask for it, to live for it, to be loyal to the Lord.17
“How do you keep the Spirit of the Lord with you at all times?” Well, you live worthy of it; you live worthy of the Spirit of the Lord. That is what you do. And you will have it. … Just live right. Stay away from the sleaze. Stay away from pornography. Stay away from these things that pull you down. The books you read, the magazines you read, the videos you look at, the television programs you look at, the shows you go to, all have an effect on you and will do if you subject yourself to the influence of those titillating kinds of things which are designed to make you poor and somebody else rich. Stay away from them.18
You impose upon yourselves each Sunday a renewal of your pledge and covenant to take upon yourselves the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Did you ever think of that, of how important that is, of what it means to take upon yourselves the name of the Lord Jesus Christ with a pledge and a promise to keep His commandments? And He makes a pledge and a promise to you that He will give you His Spirit to be with you. What a wonderful thing that is.19
How great a blessing it is to have the ministering influence of a member of the Godhead, having received that gift under the hands of those who acted with divine authority. If we continue to walk in virtue, we may enjoy the fulfillment of the promise made by the Lord when He said: “The Holy Ghost shall be thy constant companion, and thy scepter an unchanging scepter of righteousness and truth; and thy dominion shall be an everlasting dominion, and without compulsory means it shall flow unto thee forever and ever.” (D&C 121:46.)20
Suggestions for Study and Teaching
Why do we need the Holy Ghost? (See sections 1 and 2.) When have you felt the Holy Ghost teach and guide you? What have you learned from those experiences?
What can we learn from President Hinckley’s explanation about how revelation comes to the prophet? (See section 3.) Why is it important to know that the Holy Ghost usually communicates in “a still, small voice”? What have you learned from your own experiences about recognizing communications from the Holy Ghost?
Review the “fruits of the Spirit” that President Hinckley summarizes in section 4. How can these teachings help us recognize the influence of the Spirit? What are the dangers of believing that “the intellect is … the only source of knowledge”? What experiences have you had with gaining spiritual knowledge?
What are your feelings as you ponder President Hinckley’s teachings in section 5 about the companionship of the Holy Ghost? In what ways have you been blessed by the Holy Ghost?
“When we love those we teach, we pray for each of them. We do all we can to know their interests, achievements, needs, and concerns. We tailor to meet their needs, even if this takes more time and effort. We notice when they are absent and recognize them when they are present. We offer help when it is needed” (Teaching, No Greater Call , 32).
Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley (1997), 556.
Discourses of President Gordon B. Hinckley, Volume 1: 1995–1999 (2005), 441.
In Sheri L. Dew, Go Forward with Faith: The Biography of Gordon B. Hinckley (1996), 481.
“The Father, Son, and Holy Ghost,” Ensign, Nov. 1986, 51.
“Latter-day Counsel: Excerpts from Recent Addresses of President Gordon B. Hinckley,” Ensign,July 1999, 72.
“The Father, Son, and Holy Ghost,” 51.
“The Father, Son, and Holy Ghost,” 51.
Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley, 259.
“Feed the Spirit, Nourish the Soul,” Ensign, Oct. 1998, 2, 4–5.
Discourses of President Gordon B. Hinckley, Volume 1, 440.
“The Quorum of the First Presidency,” Ensign,Dec. 2005, 49.
In Conference Report, Apr. 1964, 38–39.
“Inspirational Thoughts,” Ensign, July 1998, 5.
Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley, 261.
“The Continuing Pursuit of Truth,” Ensign, Apr. 1986, 6.
“Feed the Spirit, Nourish the Soul,” 2.
“Living with Our Convictions,” Ensign, Sept. 2001, 5.
Discourses of President Gordon B. Hinckley, Volume 1, 377–78.
Discourses of President Gordon B. Hinckley, Volume 1, 319.
“Priesthood Restoration,” Ensign, Oct. 1988, 72