Personal Online Journal

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Enabling the Power of the Holy Ghost

My dad suggested this talk to me. Here are some of the things that stood out to me.  ("The Truth of
All Things" Ryan Holmes, BYU Devotional, May 07, 2013, YouTube)

Said to Ryan Holmes by his mission president as he was leaving his mission.
“You see things more clearly now than you will until midlife.” Well, here I am twenty-five years later, at midlife, finally understanding what he meant. He meant that as missionaries we had been in a special situation where our personal righteousness and our desire to do God’s will aligned in a way that is difficult to achieve outside the mission field. Consequently we had enjoyed the influence and companionship of the Holy Ghost more fully than we would again until midlife. And he was right. You come home and pursue your education; you worry about your finances and your social life; and then come your spouse, your children, and your career. It’s a struggle to manage all the priorities and all the distractions.
I also learned that I had to explicitly ask for specific guidance. Let me repeat that: explicitly ask for specific guidance. You have to ask because God is no respecter of persons—He loves all His children and has repeatedly told them, “Ask, and ye shall receive”;3 “seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.”4 Asking is an important part of the law that governs receiving. And not only should we ask, but we should ask for specifics. Like President Thomas S. Monson has often said, “When we deal in generalities, we rarely have success; but when we deal in specifics, we rarely have a failure.”5 As a missionary I learned to pray for very specific things.
In the Doctrine and Covenants the Lord repeatedly counsels missionaries to “open your mouths and spare not” and to “speak the thoughts that I shall put into your hearts,” with the promise that “it shall be given you . . . in the very moment, what ye shall say.” I believe there is a key here to enabling the power of the Holy Ghost. When we are doing our best to keep the commandments, then our first thoughts and first impressions are often the inspired ones.(emphasis is mine)
Alma explained the process of spiritual growth this way:
It is given unto many to know the mysteries of God; nevertheless they are laid under a strict command that they shall not impart only according to the portion of his word which he doth grant unto the children of men, according to the heed and diligence which they give unto him.
And therefore, he that will harden his heart, the same receiveth the lesser portion of the word; and he that will not harden his heart, to him is given the greater portion of the word, until it is given unto him to know the mysteries of God until he know them in full. (Alma 12:9-10)
Heed and diligence are like the Lord’s encryption technology.
So let’s recap a little: We need to be righteous so that we have a valid claim upon the companionship of the Holy Ghost. We need to ask for specifics in our prayers and ponderings. We need to recognize and act upon the enticings of the Spirit, which are often given as our first impressions “in the very moment” of need.
But still there are some who blame God or deny His existence because of the suffering and injustice they see in the world. They lack the proper perspective and understanding of the central role that agency plays in the plan of salvation. My experience has been that the hardest questions in life—questions about cruelty, war, injustice, inequality, abuse, disability, death, and all of these tough situations—are best understood in the context of man’s agency, both individually and collectively. In Doctrine and Covenants 58 the Lord said:
I command and men obey not; I revoke and they receive not the blessing.
Then they say in their hearts: This is not the work of the Lord, for his promises are not fulfilled. But wo unto such, for their reward lurketh beneath, and not from above. (D&C 58-32-33)
We believe in God’s omniscience, that all things are present before Him and He sees them all.19 But we do not believe in determinism. We believe that the dominant feature of mortality is the agency of man, and it drives the show here on earth and in the eternities.
Receiving Eternal Truth is like a transaction.
We mostly skip along the surface, rarely diving deep into a matter, because the sheer volume of information we are processing dictates such behavior. There just isn’t time. And the relevance of the content—as it is usually referred to now—is judged solely by what is “most popular” or “most recent.”
But real truth has never been judged on those merits. Eternal truth is a view of things as they really are.23 It is also transactional—meaning that there is an attached responsibility to act upon it, to integrate it. Remember the HD encryption technology the Lord uses: Heed and Diligence! It’s built into the system. We cannot hope to have more truth than we have now unless we apply what we already know.
Besides information glut, there are other potential challenges to enabling the power of the Holy Ghost that I didn’t face twenty-five years ago. I have a theory about the general shape of the learning curve—something I recognized as a college student. It is shaped like an S.

On a graph, this S-shaped learning curve shows the relationship between the amount of continuous, uninterrupted time we devote to something and the output quality of that endeavor. Whenever we undertake a task or begin a project or an assignment, there is a certain amount of start-up time required to get acclimated (the bottom of the S). Then we eventually get into “the zone” (the middle to the top of the S), where every unit of time we spend yields more output (i.e., new knowledge) than was possible during start‑up mode. In the zone we dive deep, and we become totally immersed in focused thought. The key is to get into the zone quickly and stay there as long as possible. But in today’s connected world we are constantly interrupted by buzzing, beeping, and ringing notifications that we assume require an immediate reaction. Hyper attention to digital noise causes us to slide right back down the learning curve, forever stuck in start‑up mode—the area of the learning curve where our efforts are the least productive. 
We are being conditioned to react in a certain way to digital stimulus, and this rewiring of our brains is not without consequence. We are developing a form of societal attention deficit disorder. A recent study revealed that the average person checks their phone 150 times per day, or every six and a half minutes.
In conclusion, I’d like to tell you something Joseph Smith once said about the gift of the Holy Ghost:
I have an old edition of the New Testament in the Latin, Hebrew, German and Greek languages. . . .
. . . I thank God that I have got this old book; but I thank him more for the gift of the Holy Ghost. . . .
. . . The Holy Ghost . . . is within me, and comprehends more than all the world; and I will associate myself with him. (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith, 349–50; HC 6:307–8; The King Follett Sermon)
We might say in our hearts something similar: I have this smartphone in my pocket. It can do some amazing things, and I am thankful for it. But I am more impressed by and thankful for the gift of the Holy Ghost. He is smarter than all the world, and I will associate myself with Him.

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