If the Holy Ghost bears testimony of the truth of all things, why then do so many people ignore the gospel message? There is more to the equation—faith precedes the miracle.
When the student is ready the teacher will come.
Anyone who has ever taught children knows how wonderful it is to see the spark of knowledge ignite in the eyes of one who “gets it.” Likewise, anyone who has graduated college remembers the struggle, the sweat, and the tears of sacrifice, when all the effort pays off and you receive a diploma. If we are honest, the “ah-ha” flashes of learning, the life-changing lessons of life come when we are humble, submissive, and teachable—willing to lay aside our pre-conceived ideas, our pride, and our prejudice to learn something beyond our understanding. The saying , “When a student is ready the teacher will come,” is credited to the Eastern philosopher, Buddha, but it’s principle is inherent in the gospel of Jesus Christ as well. “Dispute not because ye see not, for ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith.” (Ether 12:6). Alma, in the Book of Mormon also equates faith to a seed. Before it is planted, we must examine the soil—is it fertile enough for the seed to take root? In other words, is the heart of the individual seeking knowledge open to the knowledge given? This condition is vital in order for the Holy Ghost’s message to be heard.
I can look back on my life and see how carefully Heavenly Father prepared me for the gospel message. I started with a firm foundation in Jesus Christ from my former church, but I wrestled with a burning desire to know more and to reconcile doctrinal inconsistencies with the eternal plan that God must have had, a plan I hoped to find in my searching. My questions and my desire to know softened my heart and made me teachable. When I met the missionaries as an adult, I was ready to receive the message. But I was also ready for more than just restored doctrine—my heart was willing to receive a witness from the Holy Ghost.
A witness from the Holy Ghost is a testimony, divine in its very nature. It is a special witness given from God to any of His children who sincerely ask to know eternal truths. It is a spiritual experience, both indescribable and undeniable, because it transcends all earthly understandings.
Have you ever received a witness of the spirit—perhaps a thought came to your mind that you knew wasn’t your own, and yet it was a prompting to do or say something that was absolutely vital for the moment? Or maybe a feeling of clarity came to your mind about a situation you had been struggling with, one that you were about to abandon but now had a crystal clear solution? You may have called them premonitions, coincidences, or maybe even dumb luck—but perhaps they were something more. Can you open your heart to the possibility that a loving God is trying to help you? If so, then you, as the student, are ready and the teacher has been speaking all along.
Some students are late bloomers or they are on the road less traveled.
Not all students are ready when you want them to be—there are late bloomers and those on the road less traveled, who might fail to hear the gospel message when we do because they progress at differing rates. It used to seem odd to me—once I understood the message, why wasn’t everyone else on board with it? But knowledge is a steady progression—we are given what we can handle, line upon line, precept on precept, according to the humility of our heart—and our level of faith. I remember sitting in grade school struggling with fractions. None of us understood at first, and then one by one my classmates stood up and shouted, “Oh! Now I get it!” I was frustrated because I didn’t see what they saw. So I tried harder and didn’t give up. Finally, the light-bulb went off in my head and I understood this higher-level concept. I looked around the room at the rest of the class, watching as each one in turn “got it.” We were simply on different levels.
When it came to the gospel, I was being prepared for decades. I wondered if I had been given the opportunity to hear the message sooner, would I have accepted it. I don’t know. All I know is, I was prepared the way Heavenly Father prepared me for the time I needed it.
Some students ignore—it’s their choice to find their own way.
I think back on our atheist house guest who delighted in challenging my decision the night of my baptism. (From last week’s post.) When he got a glimpse of the gospel message during the few moments I was able to rebuttal, a spark of understanding danced in his eyes. I always wondered why he didn’t look into the church further. The answer is simple now—the Holy Ghost spoke to a man who was not yet ready to hear. The message was true, but since the student was not ready, the message did not sink in. It landed like a splash of ice water on an overheated brow—enough to cool for the moment, but not enough to quench the body. And in a flash it dried in the heat. It was not his time to drink of the fullness of the gospel message.
Thankfully, the messenger is a loving God who will not condemn His children for their circumstances. His ways are not our ways and His timetable is not our timetable. A loving God will patiently wait, and when His children are ready, he will send the message, again and again, through the Holy Ghost.
Some students reject—even Christ couldn’t perform miracles for his own people.
Faith is a powerful component in this equation. The Holy Ghost can testify, but it is the faith of the individual to allow that testimony to sink into the heart of that person. Without faith, even miracles cannot be performed. In the Holy Bible, the gospel according to Mark tells of a time when Christ could not perform a miracle. In chapter six, Jesus is visiting his home town and struggling with the unbelief of his own people. They lacked so much faith, “he could there do no mighty work, save that he laid his hands upon a few sick folk and healed them.” (Mark 6:5). The students were not ready for their own teacher—the Master whom God Himself had sent. Later in the chapter when he was amongst people who knew him and loved him, he was able to perform miracles again. These people were ready to receive from the teacher.
A broken heart, a contrite spirit, and faith to move forward—signs of a student who is ready
In our own stubbornness, we sometimes fall short of listening to the messenger. The process of being a humble student is cyclical, like the seasons. No one ever has a perfect heart all the time. It is part of the human process to learn lessons, even the same lessons, day after day. If we remember that our Father in Heaven loves us enough to send the Holy Ghost—the Comforter, the teacher, we have access to divine truth.
The Holy Ghost is the master teacher—from spirit to spirit—with an undeniable message But it is a message we will hear only when we are ready to receive it.
Nanette O'Neal loves the gospel and is very happy to share her testimony on LDS Blogs. She is a convert to the church and still feels the spirit burn strong within her heart. She graduated from Mason Gross School of the Arts with a degree in music education and has taught children and adults in the private and public sphere for over twenty years. Nanette continues to study the gospel and the art of writing. She writes weekly inspirational articles on her blog and is currently working on an LDS fantasy novel series, A Doorway Back to Forever. You can find her at NanetteONeal.blogspot.com. Nanette has a wonderful husband, talented son, and three beautiful dogs.