The Book of Mormon is an amazing book of scripture used by members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. If you haven’t read it, you’ll be surprised by what is in it. It is likely very different from what you’ve heard. Some people call the church that uses the book, the Mormon Church, but Mormon is a man who lived long ago and whose story is included in the Book of Mormon. It isn’t his church, it is the Savior’s Church. That is why Mormons use that very long name for their church. When they want to shorten it, they call it The Church of Jesus Christ, because that’s what it is. Mormon is okay to use as a nickname for the people who belong to the church, however.
We’ve been doing a series of articles on what the Book of Mormon says about Jesus Christ. Even I have been surprised by just how many important mentions there are. I’d never really taken a census of the mentions before, even though I’ve read it many times. I’ve skipped a huge number and combined others, and I’m still pretty early in the book.
What kinds of answers will God give me?
Today’s exploration continues the sermon of one of my favorite Book of Mormon people, King Benjamin. This is his farewell address, given when he announced his retirement. In chapter 5, verses 12 and 13, he tells his people:
I say unto you, I would that ye should remember to retain the name written always in your hearts, that ye are not found on the left hand of God, but that ye hear and know the voice by which ye shall be called, and also, the name by which he shall call you. For how knoweth a man the master whom he has not served, and who is a stranger unto him, and is far from the thoughts and intents of his heart? (Mosiah 5:12-13 in the Book of Mormon).
These verses refer to the Lord. Mormons teach that we are all able to access the Lord’s voice through the Holy Spirit. This does not technically mean hearing a voice, although people do from time to time. It refers to the ability to receive guidance directly from God for our personal lives. In the Bible, we see that God sent official doctrine only to the prophet, but everyone is permitted to ask God for help in areas that are their own responsibility. For instance, as a teacher of preschoolers at church, I can learn how to improve their reverence, teach a difficult lesson, or organize our class schedule. I can’t, however, receive revelation about how the entire children’s program works, because I’m not in charge of that.
When my ministry is all over, it will not be any talk that I gave that will be very important in the sight of the Lord; but what will be important to him will be my hearing his voice and responding to his promptings” (“Respond to the Prompting of the Spirit” [an evening with Elder M. Russell Ballard, Jan. 8, 1988], 4, www.ldsces.org).
How do I know it’s really God answering my prayer?
With so many voices, ideas, and thoughts crowding our minds, how do we know if it’s really the Lord speaking to us? Every now and then someone will tell people not to follow the advice of the Mormons, which is to pray to know if something is true. They will explain that there is no way to know who is answering the prayer.
Mormons find that to be a bit unusual if it comes from Christians. After all, the Bible repeatedly tells us to pray and promises that God will answer. (See James 1:5 in the New Testament.) Mormons completely trust God. He says He will answer and so we can presume He will also teach us to recognize His answers as coming from Him.
Verse thirteen really gives us the answer to the question. It says that to recognize the voice of the Lord we need to serve Him and to keep our hearts and our thoughts close to Him. James, in the Bible, said we have to ask in faith with nothing wavering. These verses warn us that just asking isn’t enough. We have to actually do something to get our answers. We have to develop faith, serve God, and keep Him in our hearts.
The more time we spend talking to God and waiting quietly for answers, the easier it becomes to know who is speaking to us. How will the answers come?
Most often they come as feelings or impressions. We study the issue, make a decision, and then ask God if we chose correctly. If we feel a warm, comforting feeling of correctness, we know we have chosen correctly. This may take repeated prayers and patience to demonstrate we are serious about wanting the answer or to allow us additional time to study and prepare.
Sometimes a direct thought comes into my mind. I was trying to choose a writing topic one day. I wanted something very challenging that would help me grow as a writer and as a Christian, and a thought came into my mind. It was a completely unexpected thought and nothing I would have thought of on my own, but because I’ve received these types of thoughts often, I recognized it as being different from when I’m just intellectually making writing decisions and so I acted on it. These are called impressions, and they can be about spiritual truths or practical matters.
Rarely does an actual voice comes to us. This occurred to me when I was in immediate danger from a semi-vehicle about to swing out of control into my car unless I pulled off the road. There wasn’t time for me to think, “Was that an impression or a random thought?” Interestingly, my husband was driving somewhere nearby and had a sudden impression to turn down the street we were on. He saw me parked on the side of the road, shaken by what could have happened, and was able to help me calm down enough to continue the drive.
As we receive answers or possible answers, we can record them, and how they came to us in a prayer journal. Then we can watch to see the final results. In time, we will learn how to tell which feelings and thoughts are of God and which are our own.
Like anything else worth doing, prayer is worth the time it takes to get it right.
Terrie Lynn Bittner
The late Terrie Lynn Bittner—beloved wife, mother, grandmother, and friend—was the author of two homeschooling books and numerous articles, including several that appeared in Latter-day Saint magazines. She became a member of the Church at the age of 17 and began sharing her faith online in 1992.