I can remember with great clarity sitting in the chair at the front of the chapel. Eight years old and surrounded by the strength and love of my father and other priesthood holders dear to me, the words “receive the Holy Ghost” were pronounced upon my head. And to be perfectly honest, I remember feeling somewhat of a let down as I didn’t experience a great majestic manifestation of the Spirit in that very moment.
It took me a long time to understand that often the Lord isn’t found in the fire, but rather a still small voice.
When I better familiarized myself with the voice of the Holy Ghost as a young adult, I realized in hind sight that the influence of the Spirit had indeed always been with me. I just hadn’t recognized it for what it was.
We spoke so much about “the burning in the bosom” at Church, that as a child I latched on to that idea without understanding that while the Lord spoke to Oliver Cowdery that way, it might not be the way He would speak to me.
Because of my own personal experience, Sister Mary R. Durham’s thoughts on the importance of teaching children in their youth to recognize and understand how the Spirit speaks to them individually moved me deeply. This is such an important topic in a world that is growing distractingly noisy and far from still and small.
Sister Durham gives three ideas for helping teach our children to recognize the Spirit’s presence and manner of communication– but really, these tips could be applied to each and every one of us.
- Bring to our children’s attention when they are hearing and feeling the Spirit
- Prepare our homes and our children to feel the still, small voice in an immersion setting.
- Help our children understand their learning style and how the Spirit speaks individually to them.
As Sister Durham spoke of language immersion programs and their benefits to the student, I immediately thought of my daughter Reilly. Although I studied Spanish seriously for six years and traveled abroad in Spain, at the age of nine she speaks more fluently and with a much better accent than I do. Why? Because she has been involved in an excellent dual immersion program at her elementary school. For half the school day she hears and speaks nothing but Spanish.
What would our fluency in spiritual matters become if we took a similar approach in our homes? The results might just astonish you.
In her address, Sister Durham quotes from an excellent article in the March 1994 Ensign, written by Susan L. Warner, then a member of the Primary General Board, and her husband Terry. Entitled “Helping Children Hear the Still, Small Voice,” it is an excellent and instructive resource for parents and teachers wishing to help the children in their lives recognize and understand the language of the Spirit.
In the April 2010 General Conference, Julie B. Beck said:
The ability to qualify for, receive, and act on personal revelation is the single most important skill that can be acquired in this life.
That is a bold statement– and one that I believe is absolutely true.
Shouldn’t it stand to reason then, that if being fluent in the language of the Spirit is the most important skill that we can gain, teaching it to our children should be one of our highest priorities?
And certainly if we ourselves are not as fluent in the Lord’s lexicon as we would like, we can take steps to increase our own understanding.
In her talk, Sister Durham quotes Richard G. Scott– whom I have personally found to be one of the greatest teachers on hearing and discerning the voice of the Holy Ghost. If you are seeking a deeper understanding of how the Spirit works in your life, I would highly recommend studying the following by Elder Scott:
“To Acquire Spiritual Guidance,” October 2009 General Conference
“To Acquire Knowledge and the Strength to Use It Wisely,” BYU Devotional, 23 Jan 2001
“To Learn and Teach More Effectively,” BYU Education Week, 21 Aug 2007
“Acquiring Spiritual Knowledge,” BYU Education Week, 17 Aug 1993
“Learning to Recognize Answers to Prayer,” October 1989 General Conference
21 Principles: Divine Truths to Help You Live by the Spirit, Deseret Book, 2 April 2013
Another book that has deeply affected my relationship with the Holy Ghost is Following the Light of Christ into His Presence by John M. Pontius.
As parents and teachers, it is easy to get discouraged when you are in the thick of the daily grind. When little ears seem painted on and you may as well be talking to a brick wall than your child. But if we strive to keep ourselves close to the Spirit and create an immersion environment in which they can learn, they may just surprise you one day.
Last year I made the somewhat reckless decision to take all five of my kids shopping with me at Costco.
What can I say? I like to live on the wild side.
Unbeknownst to me, four-year-old Logan had brought Venom– one of his treasured Spiderman Lego minifigures— with him into the busy store. We had nearly collected everything from our lengthy shopping list, when Logan suddenly shouted in a panic that Venom was gone.
We were in the middle of the freezer department, having traversed through aisles upon aisles of the busy warehouse, and my little son was having a come-apart over a missing toy the size of a quarter.
I looked at the crowds in the store and considered the likelihood of finding such a small trinket in the chaos. There was no way I could reverse my steps and search with five children and a cart full of food that needed to get home before it started to thaw. Sadly, I told Logan that I was sorry, but I didn’t think finding Venom was in the cards that day. I chalked it up to a lesson in not taking toys into the store– which he knew he wasn’t supposed to be doing.
I started pushing my cart again when 9-year-old Taylor suddenly stopped and looked at me.
“Mom, I think I know where Venom is,” he said.
I looked at him a little skeptically and probably with some exasperation. But he insisted that he knew where to look for Logan’s missing treasure.
So I acquiesced, and Taylor and Reilly went to search together while I waited right there in the freezer aisle.
Not three minutes later he returned. Venom in hand.
Taylor had found it in a stack of toilet paper, between the wooden slats of a pallet I vaguely remembered telling Logan and Dani to stop climbing. It was hidden completely out of sight. He gave it to his little brother, who immediately sobbed tears of joy.
I looked at Taylor. “How did you know where to look?”
He beamed a shy smile, “I just had this feeling to look there. I didn’t see him drop it, but I knew it was there. It was a feeling in my heart that told me what to do.”
When we do our best to cultivate an environment conducive to the Spirit of the Lord, He will be there with us.
He loves the little children. He loves each and every one of us.
He delights in speaking to us. We only have to listen.
What impressions struck you from Sister Durhams talk?
How will you implement the principles she discussed in your own life?
Next week we’ll be discussing “I Am A Child of God,” by Donald L. Hallstrom. Come and join the conversation!
New to General Conference Book Club? Check out the details here.
I really loved the immersion analogy as well. After reading through your amazing post I have felt a prompting. Instead of disciplining through what society would have us do (yelling,time outs, force an apology, etc etc etc) I’m going to try this spirit immersion program. To be effective in our home starting tomorrow night at family home evening! Wish me luck! Thanks for the inspiration! You are amazing girl!
You are amazing, Nikki! What a fantastic idea. Thank you so much for your thoughts. You inspire me!