Sunday, June 19, 2016

Lesson 12, Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson

Chapter 12: “Seek the Spirit in All You Do”
Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Ezra Taft Benson, (2014), 156–66

“We must remain open and sensitive to the promptings of the Holy Ghost in all aspects of our lives.”

When we act, we need to be able to distinguish between just whatever pops into our heads as a result of our own bias, prejudice and random thoughts from what God would have us do.
In order to do that, we need to realize that it often takes effort.

When President Ezra Taft Benson counseled other General Authorities about serving in the Church, he often said, “Remember, Brethren, in this work it is the Spirit that counts.”1 

The lesson manual gives us the following example:

“After praying, interviewing, studying, and praying again, Elder Benson asked if I knew who the new president would be. I said I had not received that inspiration yet. He looked at me for a long time and replied he hadn’t either. However, we were inspired to ask three worthy priesthood holders to speak in the Saturday evening session of conference. Moments after the third speaker began, the Spirit prompted me that he should be the new stake president. I looked over at President Benson and saw tears streaming down his face. Revelation had been given to both of us—but only by continuing to seek our Heavenly Father’s will as we moved forward in faith.”3

          How does this example illustrate the principle of both being open to the Spirit and that seeking the Spirit requires active involvement on our part?

President Benson shared the following counsel:
“I have said so many times to my brethren that the Spirit is the most important single element in this work. With the Spirit and magnifying your call, you can do miracles for the Lord in the mission field. Without the Spirit you will never succeed regardless of your talent and ability.

“You will receive excellent instruction in the next three days. Handbooks will be distributed, responsibilities and procedures will be discussed, policies will be analyzed, and all this will be most helpful to you. But the greatest help you will ever receive as a mission president will not be from handbooks or manuals. Your greatest help will come from the Lord Himself as you supplicate and plead with Him in humble prayer. As you are driven to your knees again and again, asking Him for divine help in administering your mission, you will feel the Spirit, you will get your answer from above, your mission will prosper spiritually because of your dependence and your reliance on Him.”4

President Benson extended this counsel to all members of the Church, including young children.5 He said: “In this work it is the Spirit that counts—wherever we serve. I know I must rely on the Spirit. Let us obtain that Spirit and be faithful members of the Church, devoted children and parents, effective home teachers, edifying instructors, inspired ward and stake leaders.”6

How do we apply this?

“How do we obtain the Spirit? ‘By the prayer of faith,’ says the Lord.”
One sure way we can determine whether we are on the strait and narrow path is that we will possess the Spirit of the Lord in our lives.
Having the Holy Ghost brings forth certain fruits.
The Apostle Paul said that “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, [and] temperance.” (Gal. 5:22–23.)

How often do we look at ourselves and ask:
·        How gentle am I with others?
·        How meek am I with others.
·        How kind am I?
·        How do I define peace and longsuffering?

This relates to true spirituality.

The most important thing in our lives is the Spirit. I have always felt that. We must remain open and sensitive to the promptings of the Holy Ghost in all aspects of our lives. … These promptings most often come when we are not under the pressure of appointments and when we are not caught up in the worries of day-to-day life.8

Spirituality—being in tune with the Spirit of the Lord—is the greatest need we all have. We should strive for the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost all the days of our lives. When we have the Spirit, we will love to serve, we will love the Lord, and we will love those with whom we serve, and those whom we serve.
Several years after Joseph Smith was martyred, he appeared to President Brigham Young. Hear his message:

“Tell the people to be humble and faithful, and be sure to keep the spirit of the Lord and it will lead them right. Be careful and not turn away the small still voice; it will teach you what to do and where to go; it will yield the fruits of the kingdom. Tell the brethren to keep their hearts open to conviction, so that when the Holy Ghost comes to them, their hearts will be ready to receive it.” …
How do we find time to be open and how do we keep our hearts open?

One reason we are on this earth is to discern between truth and error. This discernment comes by the Holy Ghost, not just our intellectual faculties.
Is it important to seek the Spirit and not just rely on our own thoughts in the assumption that whatever we feel or think must be what the Spirit tells us?
When we earnestly and honestly seek for the truth, this beautiful promise finds fulfillment: “God shall give unto you knowledge by his Holy Spirit, yea, by the unspeakable gift of the Holy Ghost.” (Doctrine and Covenants 121:26.)10
If we are humble and sensitive, the Lord will prompt us through our feelings.
How do we know if we are humble and not prideful?  How do we earnestly seek the Spirit rather than our own will?

Ponder matters that you do not understand. As the Lord commanded Oliver Cowdery: “Study it out in your mind; then … 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.” (D&C 9:8, italics added.)

Did you notice that last phrase? “You shall feel that it is right.”

We hear the words of the Lord most often by a feeling. If we are humble and sensitive, the Lord will prompt us through our feelings. That is why spiritual promptings move us on occasion to great joy, sometimes to tears. Many times my emotions have been made tender and my feelings very sensitive when touched by the Spirit.
The Holy Ghost causes our feelings to be more tender. We feel more charitable and compassionate with each other. We are more calm in our relationships. We have a greater capacity to love each other. People want to be around us because our very countenances radiate the influence of the Spirit. We are more godly in our character. As a result, we become increasingly more sensitive to the promptings of the Holy Ghost and thus able to comprehend spiritual things more clearly.12

How important is humility?

How do we tell if we are humble or if we are proud?

How do we tell if we are tender?  Does it relate to being kind?

How do we obtain the Spirit? “By the prayer of faith,” says the Lord [D&C 42:14]. Therefore, we must pray with sincerity and real intent. We must pray for increased faith and pray for the Spirit to accompany our teaching. We should ask the Lord for forgiveness.

Our prayers must be offered in the same spirit and with the same fervor as were the prayers of Enos in the Book of Mormon. Most are familiar with that inspiring story, so I will not repeat the background. I only want to draw your attention to these words. Enos testified: “I will tell you of the wrestle which I had before God, before I received a remission of my sins.” He clarified that wrestle with God. Note the fervor in his petition:

“My soul hungered.”
“I kneeled down before my Maker.”
“I cried unto him in mighty prayer and supplication for mine own soul.
“All day long did I cry unto him.”
Then Enos testified, “There came a voice unto me, saying: Enos, thy sins are forgiven thee, and thou shalt be blessed. … Wherefore, my guilt was swept away.” When he inquired of the Lord how this had been accomplished, the Lord answered him: “Because of thy faith in Christ … thy faith hath made thee whole.” (Enos 1:2, 4–8; italics added.).

How often do we believe that we really need to repent? Can we find the Spirit if we do not believe that we need to repent?

If you want to get the spirit of your office and calling … try fasting for a period. I don’t mean just missing one meal, then eating twice as much the next meal. I mean really fasting, and praying during that period. It will do more to give you the real spirit of your office and calling and permit the Spirit to operate through you than anything I know.14
How does fasting fit into seeking the Spirit?

Take time to meditate. Meditation on a passage of scripture—James 1:5—led a young boy into a grove of trees to commune with his Heavenly Father. That is what opened the heavens in this dispensation.

Meditation on a passage of scripture from the book of John in the New Testament brought forth the great revelation on the three degrees of glory [see John 5:29;D&C 76].

Meditation on another passage of scripture from the Epistle of Peter opened the heavens to President Joseph F. Smith, and he saw the spirit world. That revelation, known as the Vision of the Redemption of the Dead, is now a part of the Doctrine and Covenants[see 1 Peter 3:18–204:6D&C 138].

Ponder the significance of the responsibility the Lord has given to us. The Lord has counseled, “Let the solemnities of eternity rest upon your minds.” (D&C 43:34.) You cannot do that when your minds are preoccupied with the cares of the world.

Read and study the scriptures. The scriptures should be studied in the home with fathers and mothers taking the lead and setting the example. The scriptures are to be comprehended by the power of the Holy Ghost, for the Lord has given this promise to His faithful and obedient: “Thou mayest know the mysteries and peaceable things.” (D&C 42:61.)
How does meditating and thinking on scripture occur if we do not study the scriptures?  How does it work if we do?  How should we study?
The following statement by President Spencer W. Kimball illustrates how we may develop more spirituality in our lives:
“I find that when I get casual in my relationships with divinity and when it seems that no divine ear is listening and no divine voice is speaking, that I am far, far away. If I immerse myself in the scriptures the distance narrows and the spirituality returns. I find myself loving more intensely those whom I must love with all my heart and mind and strength, and loving them more, I find it easier to abide their counsel.” …
That is great counsel which I know by experience to be true.
The more familiar you are with the scriptures, the closer you become to the mind and will of the Lord and the closer you become as husband and wife and children. You will find that by reading the scriptures the truths of eternity will rest on your minds.16

The adversary does not want scripture study to take place in our homes, and so he will create problems if he can. But we must persist.17
We cannot know God and Jesus without studying about them and then doing their will. This course leads to additional revealed knowledge which, if obeyed, will eventually lead us to furthertruths. If we follow this pattern, we will receive further light and joy, eventually leading into God’s presence, where we, with Him, will have a fulness.18

Let me talk about obedience. You’re learning now to keep all the commandments of the Lord. As you do so, you will have His Spirit to be with you. You’ll feel good about yourselves. You can’t do wrong and feel right. It’s impossible!20

The temporal promise for obedience [to the Word of Wisdom] is: They “shall receive health in their navel and marrow to their bones; … [they] shall run and not be weary, and shall walk and not faint.” (D&C 89:18, 20.)

I have always felt, however, that the greater blessing of obedience to the Word of Wisdom and all other commandments is spiritual.

Listen to the spiritual promise: “All saints who remember to keep and do these sayings, walking in obedience to the commandments, … shall find wisdom and great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures.” (D&C 89:18, 19; italics added.)

Some have thought this promise was contingent on just keeping the provisions of the Word of Wisdom. But you will notice we must walk in obedience to all the commandments. Then we shall receive specific spiritual promises. This means we must obey the law of tithing, keep the Sabbath day holy, keep morally clean and chaste, and obey all other commandments. When we do all this, the promise is: They “shall find wisdom and great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures.” (D&C 89:19.)