Someone typed this phrase into a search engine the other day, and ended up at my Blog.
First, I love seeing that people are out there asking such important questions. For indeed, the ability to discern the promptings of the Holy Ghost is one of the most important attributes I think we can acquire.
There are many answers to this question, but here I’ll make the assumption you’re referring to a confirmation you’re seeking to a question or decision in your life. For this, let’s look at the Doctrine and Covenants (D&C 8:7-9), which addresses this topic head on.
7. Behold, you have not understood; you have supposed that I would give it unto you, when you took no thought save it was to ask me.
8. But, behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; Therefore, you shall feel that it is right.
9. But if it be not right you shall have no such feelings, but you shall have a stupor of thought that shall cause you to forget the thing which is wrong;
Study it out in your mind:
From this scripture, we see the prerequisite command that we must first study it out in our mind, whatever it is we seek.
So often we have our own prejudices, we have our own idea of what we WANT, and we naturally feel fear, or apprehension over certain things. I like to refer to this as emotional baggage, and every decision is fraught with it. If we skip this step, and don’t exercise our own mental capacity to figure it out objectively, then we leave ourselves far more subject to these external emotional influences. Only by studying it out first, are we prepared to transcend that emotional baggage, make a decision based on principles and not prejudices, thereby leaving us open to feel the promptings of the Holy Ghost.
Ask if it is right:
Once we have studied, and have come to our own conclusion, then we’re prepared to ask. But we must ask sincerely and with faith, believing that we shall receive.
If we ask insincerely, without being truly willing to follow the answer we get, then again, we find ourselves more greatly swayed to our own emotions, and all we get is a self-fulfilling prophecy. If we ask without faith, then again, the doubts in our mind will block or blur the clarity of the feelings of the spirit.
Burning or Stupor:
That burning feeling comes as the Holy Ghost bears witness to us that what we’ve asked is right. The stupor, at least for me, isn’t that I suddenly suffer from amnesia, and forget everything, but seems to me more like a confusing feeling, where I struggle to really envision the path that I’ve decided on. On the other hand, if it is right, and the times when I distinctly feel the spirit, the path (whatever it is) is very clear, and you’re motivated and inspired by that clarity, even it isn’t a complete understanding of HOW it might come to pass, you still see that first step clearly. But if it feels somehow indistinct, or blurry, like a concept you can’t quite grasp, then you’re likely feeling a stupor of thought to indicate you need to pursue an alternate course.
Putting it to the test
Within the scriptures, in many cases, we’re told about how a good seed can only bring forth good fruit, and an evil seed will only bring forth evil fruits, hence “by their fruits ye shall know them”.
Alma, in the Book of Mormon teaches the same principle in his magnificent discourse on faith, suggesting that you should experiment upon the word, plant it in your heart, and see if it will grow. And if it grows, then you know that it is good. But if it doesn’t, then you know that it is not good (Alma 32:27-34).
I most commonly use this principle in my decision making process, treating the word, or the seed, as the idea or concept that I am pursuing. In my mind, I study it, I follow the idea through, trying to understand all the likely paths and consequences. I have found that when doing so, if it is good, then I find that the “way is lit” (mentally), and I can see clearly what will happen. But if it is not good, then I stumble around, as though in a “stupor of thought”, and struggle and struggle to try to “imagine” it through, but to no avail. At that point, I try to shake off the emotional baggage that held me to that concept, and then attempt the mental exercise on the opposite course.
This way of “experimenting upon the word” has always been successful to me, so I wanted to share it with you. I hope you (or someone) finds it of some value.
P.S. If this did not answer your question, I’ve also addressed the “feelings” of the spirit to some degree here where I describe that not all emotion is of divine origin, and offer some suggestions as to what it seems witnesses of the spirit do feel like.
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