Some years ago, my in-laws generously took their entire family to the island of Oahu for a family vacation. We enjoyed an incredible week of snorkeling, parasailing, hiking, sea kayaking, and making amazing memories together.
On the final day of our trip, we spent the morning packing our things. We were busy cleaning up the massive home that we had all stayed in together. While we were making our final preparations to leave, I discovered that my oldest son, who was four-years-old at the time, was missing. I began asking family members if anyone knew where he was, and my concern quickly turned to panic when I realized no one had seen him in over half an hour. I remember two of my husband’s brothers, their faces reflecting the same alarm I was feeling, running out the back door to check the beach. All of us were concerned that perhaps he had wandered down to the water alone and had drowned.
Learning to Listen
While all of the family was scrambling to find my lost boy, I had a crystal clear prompting from the Holy Ghost. He urgently whispered, “Run to the car!”
It seemed somewhat counterintuitive to move in the opposite direction from the water. But I quickly obeyed the prompting I received and ran to the car we had rented. When I got there, I found my son, locked in the backseat. Thinking it was time to leave, he had gone out to the car, climbed into his car seat, and was then unable to get himself out. It was approximately 85 degrees outside, and the temperature inside the car had soared to somewhere between 110 and 120 degrees.
My tiny son was dripping with sweat; having the appearance of having been submerged in water. His face was fire-engine red, and he was lethargic. I quickly removed him from the vehicle, let our family know I had found him, and then took appropriate measures to get his body temperature back down to a reasonable level. Later, I tortured myself by Googling information about how long it takes for a child to die in a vehicle that hot. My research concluded we were incredibly blessed our sweet boy was not more seriously hurt.
From this experience, I learned how imperative it is to listen to the Holy Ghost and to obey quickly. Had I not immediately acted on the prompting I received, my son would not be alive today. I have reflected on this experience dozens, if not hundreds of times, and I have an overwhelming feeling of gratitude to the Lord for directing me in the right way to save my child.
A Still, Small Voice
This experience taught me in a very real and dramatic way the importance of following the promptings I receive through the Holy Spirit. I have come to learn over the subsequent years such promptings are relatively uncommon. Though many people may have an isolated example of the Holy Ghost speaking to them in such a direct way, I have learned that most of the promptings we receive are much more subtle.
I have come to understand that usually, the Holy Spirit speaks to me by giving me “good ideas.” These are thoughts urging me to do good: to write a note to a friend, make a treat for a neighbor, speak in a kind voice to my child, or give a compliment to a stranger in the grocery store. Most often, the Holy Ghost directs me to action and activity, but it is through a very quiet, very still voice.
Boyd K. Packer once said:
The Spirit does not get our attention by shouting. It never shakes us with a heavy hand. The Spirit whispers. It caresses so gently, indeed, that if we are preoccupied, we can’t feel it at all. Occasionally, the Spirit will press just firmly enough or often enough for us to pay attention; but from my experience, most of the time, if we do not heed the gentle feeling…the Spirit will withdraw and wait until we come seeking and listening…”
When these “good ideas” come to me from the Holy Ghost; I need to act, in the same way, I was impelled to action that morning on Oahu. If I choose to ignore these small promptings, then the Spirit withdraws from me. Oh, how I need the Holy Spirit each day! I cannot afford to ignore him and be left alone!
Act on the First Prompting
Recently, Ronald A. Rasband counseled that we should act on the first prompting that we receive from the Holy Ghost. He said,
We must be confident in our first promptings. Sometimes we rationalize; we wonder if we are feeling a spiritual impression or if it is just our own thoughts. When we begin to second-guess, even third-guess, our feelings—and we all have—we are dismissing the Spirit; we are questioning divine counsel. The Prophet Joseph Smith taught that if you will listen to the first promptings, you will get it right nine times out of ten.”
I have learned the importance of listening when I first receive a prompting and acting immediately. I know that as I do this, my Heavenly Father will recognize that he can trust me, and He will give me more promptings through the Holy Spirit. I’m grateful for the Holy Ghost in my life, not just for the major, life-changing, or life-saving promptings I have received, but just as much for the subtle, quiet whisperings, I can receive every single day.
2 thoughts on “Learning to Listen”
What an amazing story. Thank you for sharing that. It seems all too often I get so wrapped up in my work and lose ground with the spirit and get what I call the 2×4 effect because it seems I go from one wake up call to the next never seeming learn how to be in touch with the spirit as it is still and small. I get so frustrated and sometimes angry with myself because I just can’t seem to find the right balance of things in life.
I love the visual – the 2×4 effect – we all feel like that sometimes I think. Sometimes learning what the spirit is trying to teach us is a painful process!