Thursday, May 8, 2008

How Little Children Feel the Spirit

I sat in fast and testimony meeting at my sister's ward last Sunday and heard the testimonies of many adults and children. I was particularly touched by the testimonies of the children, which tended to sound like this: "I know my Heavenly Father lives and that He loves me. I know that the Book of Mormon is true. I know that Thomas Monson is a prophet of God. And I'm thankful for my family. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen."

I was so touched by these simple witnesses, and realized how much more pure they were than the many sermons and travelogues that the adults in our wards sometimes give. It might be tempting to think that these children are simply saying their words and do not really know what they mean. But I learned early on in my life, and continue to believe, that little children can definitely feel the Spirit and that they respond to those promptings (sometimes even more readily than the adults do).

Adult members of the Church who have received the Gift of the Holy Ghost are so accustomed to having these and the many other blessings of the Holy Ghost with them that they may tend to take them for granted—that is, until they lose this gift by some means. When the gift is gone it becomes very clear to them that they are missing a great blessing. But little children who are touched with the feelings of the Spirit are immediately aware that they feel differently in a very special way.

My earliest memory of life is lying on a wooden pew with my head in my mother’s lap during a sacrament meeting in the mid-1950s. I was then only five or six years old. As I lay there listening to her sing the sacrament hymn, I looked up at my father sitting on the stand as a counselor to the bishop of that ward. I was filled with a wonderful warm glow that penetrated every part of my little body. It was years later that I realized what it was—a manifestation of the Holy Ghost. We make a mistake if we think that little children do not feel the Holy Spirit, even at a very young age, because I felt it very distinctly, and I remember the feeling to this day.

Boyd K. Packer said, “The Holy Ghost speaks with a voice that you feel more than you hear. It is described as a ‘still small voice.’ And while we speak of ‘listening’ to the whisperings of the Spirit, most often one describes a spiritual prompting by saying, ‘I had a feeling.’ Revelation comes as words we feel more than hear.” (In Conference Report, Oct. 1994, 77).

No person in these latter days has received more revelation through the Spirit than the Prophet
Joseph Smith. His words on this subject are interesting and instructive:

“A person may profit by noticing the first intimation of the spirit of revelation; for instance, when you feel pure intelligence flowing into you, it may give you sudden strokes of ideas, so that by noticing it, you may find it fulfilled the same day or soon; (i.e.) those things that were presented unto your minds by the Spirit of God, will come to pass; and thus by learning the Spirit of God and understanding it, you may grow into the principle of revelation, until you become perfect in Christ Jesus.” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, Joseph Fielding Smith, sel. [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1976], 151).

We learn over the course of time to discern when these whisperings to our minds are of God, in particular when they are accompanied by the manifestations of the Spirit to our hearts (D&C 8:2). And little children are particularly pure and therefore particularly adept at feeling such promptings.

1 comment:

Shirley Bahlmann said...

You are so right. I remember my young son turning to me once and saying, "I feel like crying, but I'm happy." His face was perplexed, so we had a brief discussion on the Holy Ghost. It was nice to hear about you lying on your mother's lap in church, because I used to lie on my mother's shoulder. It was very comforting.