Every week when we take of the sacrament, we renew our baptismal covenants. At baptism, we make a covenant with God that if we take His name upon us, keep his commandments, and always remember him, we may always have his spirit to be with us. My cousin Lilly got baptized last week and I was impressed again on how this promise is so simple, yet so profound. What a blessing it is- that we can always have his spirit to be with us! That means that no matter where we are, through our trials and our day-to-day activities, we can feel the spirit guide us, teach us, and comfort us. Though Christ does not physically live among us daily, his spirit dwells within us constantly.
The spirit is the very essence of how God’s work is accomplished on earth. When Christ ascended to heaven, he left behind his spirit, to be our companion through all things.
Said Jesus in John 15: “But when the comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me.” And then in chapter 16, he says, “Howbeit when he, the spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come”
On Friday night I went and did sealings with my parents. The sealer working that day taught us much, but one thing that stood out to me was how we know that the spirit is testifying the truth of something to us. In D&C 8, it says that when we desire knowledge, the spirit will manifest the truth of it first in our minds and in our hearts. He pointed it out that when we have those “aha” moments, it is the spirit that is pure intelligence testifying to our minds that it is true. And then afterwards, we feel him testify to our hearts. Many times in the scriptures we feel this as a “burning in the bosom”. This burning, this desire, is not unlike the burning that came to the men on the road to Emmaus. Luke chapter 24 tells the story of Jesus walking to Emmaus with two men. He dines with them, blesses bread, breaks it, and gives it to them. And then comes this pattern mentioned in D&C 8. Versus 31 says, “And their eyes were opened, and they knew him”- much like the “aha” moment. Then verse 32, they said, “Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures?” His spirit truly works the same way today, by testifying of him to both our minds and our hearts.
I couldn’t find the talk it came from, but recently someone said in general conference that although God’s work is perfect, the people he works with aren’t. The spirit fills every hole left by careless comments, imperfect fellow members, and those moments of doubt that we may often have. When we struggle with a questions about the church, or don’t understand comments made by those in Sunday School, seminary teachers, and those over the pulpit, we have the spirit to testify truth for us.
In my life, I have heard many things that I did not understand at first. Anti- Mormon literature is very easy to find these days, and it is often disguised in veils of false intelligence, so called logic, worldly status, and even the words of a friend. I will not talk specifics now, in case I unintentionally plant seeds of doubt in your own hearts, but I will admit that I was often shaken up by these things. I know I’m not alone in this. There have been times that my faith and my testimony has been called into question, and that can be honestly terrifying. But in my experience, the spirit works in this way. First, I feel comfort that everything is going to be fine. It is ok to have questions. It is ok to not know everything. It is ok that I am not perfect, and that our leaders and prophets and apostles are not perfect. And then I study. I study the scriptures and general conference talks until I have that “aha” moment- this moment of pure intelligence is the spirit. It is in that moment that I come to terms with what is said, and be able to realize what is true and what isn’t true. God is intelligence, and His truth makes sense. The truth will not only feel comfortable to our spirits, but also truly be comfortable to even the most wise and educated of all the men on this earth.
Finally, what I feel is the most important part, is the feeling I get in my heart after all these things. It is that feeling, deep in my soul, that I know the truth. It is the spirit telling me that what I have learned in my head is of an eternal nature. It is more than logic. It is more than the philosophies of men. I think people discredit that feeling a lot. They say that feelings are irrational and unreliable. I disagree. This feeling in my heart is what carries me through the next trial of my faith. I cannot rely purely on what I know, for I am 19 and have achieved the highest ranking of a high school graduate. I do not believe God would have us rely solely on knowledge. If this were the case, many of our poor brothers and sisters who do not have the opportunities for education and study would likewise not be blessed to know the truth. I can rely on that eternal fire that burns within me when I hear the truth. It burns within me when I testify of my Savior and of this gospel. It burns within me when I read the Book of Mormon, the Bible, and the words of our prophets.
While I was in London, I was in a ward with mostly single women from Ghana. These wonderful women had some of the most heart wrenching stories of abuse and hardship that I had ever heard. They were mostly adult converts, and were not well versed or well educated. I learned more from these women than I had from anyone I had known before. It wasn’t their knowledge that taught me, but it was the spirit that they carried with them. They carried Christ with them through all things. They wanted all to know Him. They had courage and were dauntless in their efforts to bring others to Him. Through every one of their trials, they prayed to God, and gave praise to him when they were delivered. I remember one sister’s testimony: she prayed that the rain would stop while waiting for her bus, and it did. It was such a simple thing- and yet, it profoundly affected this sister. Many would write it off as a coincidence, or an unnecessary blessing. Many would probably not think to ask God to stop the rain, as it seems too simple or possibly too out of the way for God to do. But this sweet sister recognized God’s hand in all things, and carried Him with her at all times. As she and many others spoke, I could feel the burning in my heart, as if she was sharing some of her fire. I could feel of God’s love, and it strengthened my testimony on just how much of our lives we owe to God. Every good thing comes from him, and we don’t thank him enough. This is just another way that I have felt the spirit manifest truth unto me. These Ghanan women truly exemplified the life that comes with always having his spirit with them.
Having the spirit with you makes you want to share the gospel with others. It brings a peace that you know that everything is going to be ok. It testifies of truth, and it having the spirit with you will help you teach and testify to others of the same truth.
As a missionary, I will have the opportunity to carry his spirit with me always, to help those who are seeking for the truth to feel it in their very souls that it is true. I am imperfect. I am no teacher, and no great speaker. My family loves to poke fun at the many times that I fumble when I speak. But none of that matters. The spirit is the true teacher. Like many prophets of old, like Enoch and Moses and Joshua, who felt small and slow of speech, neither eloquent nor well liked, we are all asked to do things beyond our comfort zone, things beyond our physical and emotional capabilites. But God, the greatest of all, has provided the atonement for us to overcome these challenges and do all the things he asked us to do. The workings of the spirit know no bounds on how it affects our souls and our bodies.
As for missionary work, D&C has provided a great comfort for me. It says in 100:5-6: “Therefore, verily I say unto you, lift up your voices unto this people; speak the thoughts that I shall put into your mouth, and you shall not be confounded before men; 6. For it shall be given you in the very hour, yea, in the very moment, what ye shall say.”
Let the spirit work in you and let it change you. There is the saying that we often hear that the “spirit is willing but the flesh is weak” meaning, that often times we may have good intentions to do the right work, but our humanity prevents our progression. I do not believe this to be entirely true. If you know me pretty well, you may know that I love science. Especially the study of the brain. I am fascinated by its power and ability. I am of the opinion that the brain is what links our body and our spirit together. Our spirit controls our body, and likewise the body is obedient, for the most part, to the commands of our spirit. Heresay or not, our bodies and our spirits often act as one. Our humanity- being in the flesh on earth is manifest in the spirit. When the atonement acts on us, I believe it literally changes us to the very core. Whether this means that our brains literally change, that the levels of seratonin, dopamine, epinephrine, glutamate, acetocholine, the chemicals that determine our personalities change their proportion, I don’t know. But I do know that when I come unto the Lord with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, humble and ready to subject my spirit to his will, he changes me. His spirit works within me to make me more patient, more understanding, more loving, less addicted, whatever.
These are the fruits of the spirit. When I have the spirit with me, all things are possible. I am enabled to do things beyond myself, and I receive comfort in every attempt. I have felt it still my tongue when I selfishly felt the need to speak, and it has given me the courage to stand up for the right, when I am terrified out of my mind. I challenge us all to try to recognize the spirit more in our lives, and find ways to carry it with us. When we do this, we truly see how much the Lord cares and is mindful for us. I love this gospel and I love my Savior. I know this church is true, and I can’t wait to bring this joy to those wonderful people in Peru. I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.