“The Holy Ghost can do for us physically, spiritually, emotionally, mentally and intellectually what no man-made remedy can begin to duplicate,” said Sister Linda K. Burton, Relief Society general president, during a Church Educational System devotional on March 2. The broadcast — originating from the Brigham Young University-Idaho campus in Rexburg — was translated into many languages for young adults of the Church around the world.
Just as learning an instrument or a language is a process, learning the language of the Spirit is also a process, one that is vital for everyone to learn, Sister Burton said. It is through recognizing the voice of the Spirit that individuals are able to act and do what the Lord would have them do.
“It is my deepest desire that we will increase in our ability to hear and understand the promptings of the Spirit and act on the promptings that we get from the Holy Ghost,” she said. “In order to do so, we must first learn to recognize His voice.”
During her address Sister Burton invited listeners to share responses, through the social media channel Twitter, to the question, “How can we know if we have heard the voice of the Spirit?” Listeners used hashtags #CESDevo and #SisterBurton, making it one of the top 10 topics mentioned during that period of time on Twitter. There were more than 4,500 Tweets mentioning #CESDevo and at one point there were 300 comments a minute responding to her question via Twitter.
Sister Burton shared nine ways to help individuals on their quest to draw closer to God and to hear His voice speaking to them.
“We can begin by recognizing that our Father in Heaven wants to communicate with us,” she said. “We know this because all latter-day prophets have taught the doctrine of personal revelation. … We do the small and simple things that demonstrate that He is first in our lives and that we want to receive revelation from Him.”
1. Sincerely and humbly pray
“One way to pray sincerely is to learn to formulate sincere and heartfelt questions and humbly take them to the Lord,” Sister Burton taught.
To pray sincerely means individuals ask questions and intend to act on the answer they receive, she said.
2. Act promptly on spiritual impressions
Sharing a video of an incident from the life of President Thomas S. Monson illustrating the vital importance of responding promptly to impressions from the Spirit, Sister Burton spoke of the importance of acting, and following through with those things the Spirit directs.
3. Search the scriptures daily
Impressions and answers come through reading the scriptures, Sister Burton taught. She spoke of the time, at age 20, when she needed to get an answer to heartfelt prayers while wrestling with a difficult decision. Her father suggested she turn to the scriptures to help guide her decisions.
“I followed his inspired counsel and searched the scriptures,” she said. “After some time and continued earnest effort, I was blessed with an unmistakable answer to my prayer. After offering my best thinking and decision to the Lord, I sincerely asked for a confirmation of that decision and felt a quiet, peaceful assurance deep in my heart.”
4. Live the law of the fast
“In order to increase our ability to hear the voice of the Spirit, we would all do well to fast each fast Sunday and freely give our fast offering to help those in need,” she said.
Through fasting comes the spirit of prophesy and revelation, and the opportunity to be counseled by the Lord.
5. Be worthy and worship in the temple
Drawing from the words of President George Albert Smith, Sister Burton said that “Each of us is entitled to the inspiration of the Lord in proportion to the manner in which we live a godly life.”
Sister Burton pointed out that President Smith didn’t say individuals have to be perfect to receive inspiration, just willing to give their best efforts to living worthily.
“Worthiness seems a small price to pay in order to open the windows of heaven,” she said.
6. “Trifle not with sacred things”
Individuals must recognize that revelation from the Lord is a sacred trust, Sister Burton taught. Quoting from Elder Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, Sister Burton said “inspiration carefully recorded shows God that His communications are sacred to us. … Such recording … should be protected from loss or intrusion by others.”
7. Be prepared to move forward in faith
Sister Burton said that when she and her husband were engaged and making plans for the future and faced questions about school and what career to pursue, or wondered when they should start a family, they turned to counsel given by a living prophet who taught they could have children while they were getting an education and work all at the same time.
“We moved forward in faith,” she said. “It wasn’t easy. My husband ended up working three part-time jobs while he was going to school to allow me to begin my new career as a mother and nurturer. That course was in direct opposition to the logic of the world, even at that time. Looking back, we can now see how taking those steps of faith has resulted in eternal blessings, blessings we might have forfeited had we not heeded the voice of the Spirit.”
8. Let the Lord decide the details of what He chooses to reveal and when He chooses to reveal it
“When the Lord’s timing conflicts with our own desires, trust that there might be some preparatory experiences the Lord needs us to have before our prayers are answered.”
9. Heed prophetic warnings
Sister Burton taught that it is through listening to the counsel of prophets and tuning one’s heart to the voice of the spirit that blessings come.
“The voice of the world is loud, unrelenting, persuasive and persistent. Unless we learn to tune our hearts to the voice of the Spirit and refine our ability to seek, receive and act on personal revelation, we are on shaky ground at best. We need the voice of the Spirit to guide us away from all that is filthy, foolish, vulgar, violent, selfish and sinful. We need the Holy Ghost not only to lead us to everything that is ‘virtuous, lovely, or of good report and praiseworthy’ but to help us cultivate a desire for those things in order to resist the pull of the world.”