Monday, May 3, 2010

Feeling the Spirit

Yesterday our bishop conducted a joint priesthood / Relief Society lesson. At the end he indicated that anyone who had come fasting and was in tune felt the spirit in our meeting.

I'm not one to take the words of my bishop lightly, but as he said that, I was slightly taken aback and thought, "I did?" I had come to the meeting fasting. And I was with him every step of the way in his presentation. But I hadn't (until he said it) really recognized the "burning" witness that I often identify as feeling the spirit.

In that instant, I had some choices: I could have assumed my bishop was wrong. I could have assumed that I was not as in tune as I had thought. Or I could have thought that maybe I felt the Spirit in a way that I hadn't previously identified. All three raced through my mind, and I settled on the third and began to think about the idea that maybe I had felt the spirit in a different way.

I've known for a long time that the spirit speaks to me in different ways sometimes. My knowledge comes from my own experience, coupled with what I've read in the scriptures. Over the years (I've been a member for over forty years – baptized at nearly nine years old), I've felt lots of things that I've identified with the Spirit, and some I've rejected over time and others I've held on to. So it's no surprise to me that I might feel the spirit in a new way.

Here are some ways I've felt the influence of the spirit:

I have felt a burning in the bosom, a warm stirring in my heart.

I have felt clarity of mind regarding particular questions.

I've felt a heart-pounding push to action – to bear my testimony, to speak to someone.

I've had thoughts and words come into my head that I know are not "mine", as when giving a blessing or sometimes when speaking or teaching.

For me, sometimes the influence of the Spirit is also accompanied by an emotional response. I've frankly worked hard to try and separate the emotional from the spiritual, since I also feel emotional responses when I watch movies and see pictures of puppies. (I'm a sensitive guy; what can I say?) So I try to think about an emotional response to spiritual things and to sense if there is more than just emotion there.

In yesterday's meeting, I did feel a noticeable peace as the bishop spoke. And it's a little surprising that I did. He spoke about a subject that is very emotional for me, namely the activity rate of youth in the church, and how we can help young men and women to choose to be active in the church. Because of my own family's experience, I have some bruises on that front, though those bruises have been healing over time as I take a longer and more sanguine view.

But it occurred to me in pondering the bishop's words that perhaps it was the Spirit that comforted me and allowed me to hear the bishop's message, to sense his urgency, and to think about what I could do with his message – for the children who are still in my home and others in our ward – without being weighed down by self pity about choices others of my children had already made years ago.

The bishop didn't deliver any silver bullets for youth activity in his remarks. This problem, like the poor, will always be with us. But feeling the Spirit comfort me while my bishop delivered a message that has been working on him for weeks and weeks (he could not wait for the fifth Sunday, he said, and he preferred to deliver it while the ward was fasting) reminds me that answers are not necessarily universal solutions but individual ones that may move us to touch just one life at a time.

In this case, at least one of those lives so touched was mine

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