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Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Discerning the Voices That Influence Us, Part 2

Sometimes, the signals can get so confusing that we aren't able to effectively discern who's signals we're receiving.  We desperately want to do the right thing, and don't want to do the wrong thing.  Is there a way we can filter out all these conflicting signals and discern God's truth for us, personally?

Yes.  As President James E. Faust stated,

"We need to learn how to ponder the things of the Spirit and to respond to its promptings—to filter out the static generated by Satan. As we become attuned to the Spirit, we 'shall hear a word behind [us], saying, This is the way, walk ye in it.'" (First Presidency Message, Liahona, June, 2006;

Here are some filters to consider.  Keep in mind that there are likely other filters out there.  These are just some of the ones that come to my mind first:

Filter 1: The Source Filter

A few times, people have come up to me and began a conversation with these words: “God told me to tell you…” They then proceeded to tell me something I should or should not be doing.

Now sometimes, God has spoken truths to me through other persons. But usually they did not even try to trump their message with the “God card.” In fact, the people who delivered the word from God to me many times didn’t even mention God at all. They simply gave me a suggestion or offered an insight—and the Holy Spirit prompted me to listen.

When someone delivers you a message -- or even if you have a thought in your head you're grappling with -- ask, “Does this message align with what I know about who God is? Is it consistent with his nature and character?”

"… whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things." (Philippians 4:8)

Before you act on a prompting from within yourself or from the lips of another, slow down. Check it out. Does this message sound like it is from God as you know him?

Filter 2: The Scripture Filter

Is the prompting scriptural? 

God will never lead you to do something that is inconsistent with the principles found in His word. Can you imagine someone saying “God told me to cheat on my wife?” God has clearly stated his plan for sexuality in His word—one man, one woman, within the marriage relationship. Any voice that tells us something different is not from God.

One of the surest ways to hear God is to read and apply his Word. When you increase your scriptural engagement, you increase the chances you’ll hear from God, not yourself or Satan.

"It is not just that the Book of Mormon teaches us truth, though it indeed does that. It is not just that the Book of Mormon bears testimony of Christ, though it indeed does that too. But there is something more. There is a power in the book which will begin to flow into your lives the moment you begin a serious study of the book. You will find greater power to resist temptation. You will find the power to avoid deception." (Ezra Taft Benson, The Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1988], 54; emphasis mine).

Check every prompting you receive against the thematic teachings of the scriptures, especially the Book of Mormon.  Messages that contradict scripture are not from God.

Filter 3: The General Wisdom Filter

"O be wise; what can I say more?" (Jacob 6:12)

Is the prompting wise? 

Jesus told his followers to be wise.  God’s whispers rarely go contrary to wisdom and common sense.  The entire book of Proverbs is devoted to dissecting wisdom and all her attributes.  For example:

  • The wise one loves knowledge, while the fool hates it.
  • The wise one practices gentle speech, while the fool uses harsh, incendiary words.
  • The wise one lives blamelessly, while the fool is utterly corrupt.
  • The wise one follows a straight path, while the fool rejoices in the perverseness of evil.
  • The wise one inherits honor, while the fool is held up to shame. 
  • The wise one does not judge another, while the fool judges (even in the name of righteousness).

The scriptures are relentless in exhorting us to be wise in all our dealings, and to be wise in all our ways.  Why?  Because wisdom is the beginning of understanding. And understanding is being open to a process, a divine flow.

Filter 4: The Time Filter

How often do you give the Holy Ghost a chance to weigh in on a challenging problem?

"God reveals Himself 'in his own time, and in his own way, and according to his own will' (D&C 88:63–68). Revelation will probably come to you 'line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little' (2 Nephi 28:30; see also Isaiah 28:10; D&C 98:12). Do not try to force spiritual things. Revelation does not come that way. Be patient and trust in the Lord’s timing." (“Revelation,” True to the Faith, (2004), p. 140-144)

When we give the Holy Ghost an opportunity to guide us, we are not only exhibiting faith (in God) and doing what we've been counseled to do (in the scriptures); we are also acting appropriately (with wisdom).  As we are taught:

"The truth needs a little time to bear its fruits, and after all, by their fruits shall ye know them. In chapter 32, Alma talks about what happens to the seed after we have nourished it and watered it, when it begins to take root and sprout, then the heat of the sun comes and scorches it. What kind of seed is it then? If it is good, and if we have taken care of it, it will withstand adversity, and even grow stronger because of the adversity" (Bruce C. Hafen, “If with All Your Hearts Ye Truly Seek Me,” Ensign, Oct. 1984, p. 71).

As Mother Teresa said, "Without patience, we will learn less in life. We will see less. We will feel less. We will hear less. Ironically, rush and more usually mean less.”

Filter 5: The Godly Counsel Filter

"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.
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.
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; therefore, you cannot write that which is sacred save it be given you from me." (D&C 9:7-9)

D&C 9:7-9 is a very brilliant, concise discourse on spiritual problem solving. In it, we learn that before approaching God, do some research.  Study the issue out in your mind.

Hopefully, that study will involve the scriptures.  But it may also involve seeking the advice of trusted, faithful friends. 

I'm not sure about you, but as for me, there have been many instances in my life where I sought the counsel of trusted friends, who gave me sage, sound advice. This is one reason why friends are truly gifts from God.

"Along with study and prayer, we must seek wise counsel.  When seeking wise counsel, turn to those who have exhibited obedience to the commandments and willingness to follow the promptings of the Spirit in their lives" (Robert D. Hales, “Making Righteous Choices at the Crossroads of Life,” Ensign, Nov 1988, p. 9; emphasis mine).

“Where there is no counsel, the people fall. But in the multitude of counselors there is safety.” (Proverbs 11:14; emphasis mine)

“A wise man will hear, and will increase learning; and a man of understanding shall attain unto wise counsels.” (Proverbs 1:5; emphasis mine)

Whenever you sense that God is speaking to you, find two or three veteran Christ-followers -- preferably people who know you well and who are further down the spiritual path than you are -- and take some time to describe the situation to them in detail.  Humbly ask them, “Do you think God really did speak to me?  Is this the voice of God I’m hearing, or in your estimation did I get my wires crossed?” Then, listen openly and intently to the answers you receive, because they might just save your hide.


  1. this is awesome thank you for this, needed to read this at this time. just know that you and your blog are an answer to a prayer.

  2. Just using "wisdom" as a filter will preclude us from the greater wisdom and prescience the Lord can give us if we trust Him. His wisdom is greater than ours, and with him there is no such thing as probability.

    For instnace, let's apply the above blog post to Nephi and Laban, Peter and the unclean animals, and Abraham and the sacrifice of Issac. Did any of those things seem wise? If they each would have used their own wisdom like the above says, would they have arrived at the "real" wisdom behind the situation?

    In my opinion the above post is a wise use of training wheels to sanitize and take the risk out of following God. These days I am wary of church culture that teaches "comfortable" things; i.e. "just do the unrisky, safe, happy, prudent, enlightening things, and all will be well in Zion...such predictable things are approved."

    Christ's life was risky, the Apostles lives were risky, Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, all the early missionaries, the settling of the Intermountain west, Missouri saints, etc...

    Following the spirit of the Lord is often not warm and fuzzy, nor does it always make sense, because we don't know all things like the Lord.