A Lesson I Will Not Need to be Taught Twice


Since the first great step to spiritual greatness is learning to hear the voice of revelation, I invite you to leave comments on your experiences with learning this principle. I know many of you have taken the voice of Christ as your guide. It is not a difficult concept, but it can be a very challenging process. It takes both obedience and failure to learn to listen. I would like to hear a few of your stories. It comes to me that your testimonies, or your comments at this time would serve as a pillar of strength to the rest of us in the Un-Blogosphere. If you are comfortable doing so, share with us both your successes and your learning process.

One of the hardest things to understand about revelation is that in the beginning it is rarely a voice. There are rarely words. Most often it comes as ideas, thoughts or impressions. To the spiritual pilgrim, these things all sound alike. We learn to judge these things initially less by their sound than by their outcome. We “search diligently in the Light of Christ” for those things that are good. After a while, probably a long while of sorting through and identifying the voice of truth, we find it has a flavor, a spiritual essence, which becomes delicious and welcome. When we begin to hear and consistently obey, the voice changes, it becomes stronger, more informative, and begins to use words, visual images, complete sentences or paragraphs of truth come to us.

Many years ago, just after I had written FTL, I was invited to speak at a fireside in a home. The gathering was mostly friends of my younger sister. We met in this beautiful new home, and with the happy assistance of the Spirit, we began to explore this voice of revelation that we all have.

I was explaining similar principles to this group when this one sister raised her hand. She said, “Last fall I put my kids to bed and retired to my own bed to read. I like to read with a scented candle burning by my bed, and have done this for most of my life.” She stopped to look at her hands a moment.

“That night, I had a feeling that I should not light the candle. I couldn’t figure out why. I always close my door when it is lit, and I never forget to blow it out before going to sleep. The feeling came again, stronger, but I lit it anyway. The urge came to me to blow it back out. I didn’t, but began to read. For some reason my reading didn’t last long, and I fell to sleep with the candle still burning.

“Sometime during the night, my two-year-old came into the room, probably to ask for a drink of water or something. He saw the candle, and took it back to his own room. On the way, he dropped the candle when the hot wax touched his fingers, and ran to his room. The flame spread to the carpet, then the walls, and ultimately burned our home down.”

She began to weep. “Do you mean to tell me that it was Jesus Christ who was telling me to not light the candle that one night? Are you telling me that it wasn’t my two-year-old who burned down our home, that I did it?” She was incredulous, but she wanted to understand.

I asked her a few questions. “Was what the Spirit told you that night right? Was it the truth?”

“Yes!”

“Was it good?” I asked.

“It would have been if I had listened.”

“Did it bring you closer to Christ?” I asked her.

“Our family has rejoiced and rejoiced that none of us were lost in the fire. We have considered it a tender mercy that we all survived, even our kitten survived. It has definitely brought us closer to Christ,” she indicated softly.

I read from Moroni 7, that anything that is good, that teaches us to love and serve one another, and that brings us closer to Christ, is inspired of God.

She seemed accepting but startled that God would use such dramatic and potential lethal means to teach her this lesson.

I felt the Holy Spirit move in my heart, and replied this way, “I am very certain that prior to that night, Jesus Christ had spoken to you many times and in many ways, and that you would have eventually learned this lesson, though probably not nearly as dramatically. I don’t believe Jesus Christ burned your house down to teach you this principle. I think your son came into your room with the randomness and thoughtlessness of children, saw the fire and decided to play with it contrary to his training. But, knowing that your two-year-old’s agency would result in your home burning down, Jesus Christ warned you again and again, even though He knew you wouldn’t obey.”

“But why!?” she demanded through her tears.

“To turn this most difficult event into the most powerful lesson you will ever learn.”

“Do you really think that learning to listen to the Holy Spirit is that important?” she demanded.

“It appears for you, at that time in your life, that learning this lesson was second only to sparing your lives.”

She wiped away her tears. “It is a lesson I will not need to be taught twice.”

Brother John

About John Pontius

I am a lover of truth.
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7 Responses to A Lesson I Will Not Need to be Taught Twice

  1. Cory says:

    I know this comment comes very late to this post, but I have recently had an experience that fits very tightly into this topic. Last weekend I felt impressed to visit my neighbor across the street. He was the type of non-LDS neighbor everyone loves to sit out on the porch and talk with. He was like family to me and my family, and we loved him and his sweet wife dearly.

    That weekend I had multiple promptings to visit my neighbor friend, and finally resolved to visit him Sunday afternoon. That afternoon I also invited a friend over for dinner who’s family was out of town. As a result, I didn’t end up visiting my neighbor, even though I even contemplated going while my friend was over.

    Monday morning I awoke to banging on my front door. When I answered the door, Donna, my neighbor’s sweet wife, frantically told me she thought her husband, James was dying. I rushed over to their house, helped get a comstose James onto the floor, and began administering CPR until the EMTs arrived.

    Donna had James taken off of life support the next day, as he had zero brain activity after suffering from massive kidney failure and being deprived of oxygen for too long while Donna tried to get help for him. Even though I may not have been able to do anything to stop James from dying, the thought that I may have at least been able to say goodbye before he left, if I would have followed the Spirit’s voice, hurts. I had been praying for help in hearing the voice of the Spirit just prior to that incident, and I was taught a lesson that is now seared into my soul. I hope to be more obedient in the future.

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  2. Renee Stout says:

    Dear John,
    I am 64 years old and have struggled my whole life to hear the promptings of the Spirit. Ten years ago the Lord really tested me. This may sound silly to you but it was very enlightening to me. I was at a Burger King in Salt Lake and I saw a girl walking nearby with rainbow colored hair. The thought came to me-that may be a rather crazy thing to color your hair like that but it is very pretty. The thought came to me “Tell her”. She then went into the Burger King and came out a few minutes later and sat on the grass right in front of our car. The thought came again “tell her”. I just couldn’t do it-I am very shy that way. Then she got up, left and walked to the train station which was right in my view. She walked back and forth as if waiting for me. The thought came again, “tell her.” I still could not do it. She then turned and walked in the opposite direction to who knows where. The disappointment in myself for not obeying the prompting was very hurtful. As a result I went years without receiving a prompting such as this. Last year we received what we thought was a prompting to move to the missionfield and help do something to build a small branch. We decided to put our house up for sale. It took about 4 months and it sold. We moved to Iowa but that didn’t work out. We tried to find another place and doors closed right and left. We ended up in Northwest Missouri somehow on a farm in a small branch that needed any help it could get. We have doubted many times that we did the right thing and we have asked but have not received an answer of whether this was the right thing. Then I read in the scriptures that we must pass a trial of faith before we may know. We have had the refiner’s fire here, almost more than we could bear but I won’t go into that. Anyway, I just wanted to thank you for your unblog-it is helping me so much. I have read your books as well and am trying very hard to hear the Voice of the Lord. Thank you for being willing to be an instrument in the Hand of the Lord in the lives of so many.

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  3. Lisa Curtis says:

    John,
    I love your blog! Since you invited people to comment on lessons learned about revelation, I took that as a personal invitation to analyze some experiences and see what I am learning. Sometimes as I try to flesh out how the process works and doesn’t work. I don’t always know if I come up with the right answers. Getting the details right seems like it can be a slow process for me.

    This is long, I wouldn’t expect it to be post-able,but if you have any thoughts on whether your experiences corroborate (or don’t corroborate) what I have been learning, I welcome feedback.

    I have been trying to learn to follow the Spirit, and could mention some profound experiences that leave me without a doubt that God is there. I can testify to that truth. But while I am trying to learn there seem to be so many seeming inconsistencies, and that is what I am trying to figure out right now. There are all kinds of thoughts in my head. Which ones amount to promptings? I frequently think things like “I should visit So and So” In fact the more I think them and act on them the more they come. However, I see times when to act on such a prompting means I need to leave some kind of service to my own family undone. There are so many good things to do for others, but sometimes I occasionally find myself being run ragged by what seem to be promptings. It seems like balancing ongoing day to day responsibilities with sudden promptings can become a problem. I have tried to give my life over wholly to the Lord, but sometimes I wonder if some promptings are more a part of a frenzied mind.

    One day recently I was driving through town. I came to an intersection. I was heading away from home to visit an elderly sister. Suddenly as I waited at the intersection a thought flashed into my mind. If I put words to it it would be something like “your house on fire”. It was a shocking change of my thought process. I was not thinking any such worried thoughts–just going about my day. So I paused to feel my heart. Do I need to go home? Is my home in danger? I did not feel any urgency to go home. Also I could not think of any dangers that I had left unattended, so I proceeded on my way, wondering what it meant. Where had the thought come from. It was so out of the blue. I went and visited the sister as planned and returned home. My home was fine. But the thought lingers. Where do such thoughts come from? Sometimes, too, I might have a similar warning-type thought and act on it, but I am often unable to see what purpose the prompting or thought had. Did I really avert some impending disaster, or is it just my own brain?

    In conjunction with this, I am reminded of the time our son, who was 16 did not come home when we expected him to. This never had happened before (or since). He rode his bike to the library, which closed at 9 pm. We expected him home by 9:30 at the latest. That time came and went and we became concerned. Another hour and then most of another. We had no way to reach him and didn’t know how to find him. We did all the usual things: call his friends, etc. On a couple of occasions, more than an hour after the library closed, I asked my husband to just drive down and look for him, but he thought there would be too many possible routes home from the library, which would he take? He thought it was like a needle in a haystack. That made sense, we could hardly imagine him just standing at the library for that long. Throughout the night we prayed many times, seeking guidance and understanding. and even though we felt concerned (based on the logic of our son not being home) we didn’t really feel anxious or scared. We felt he was OK. We felt calm. Still, when it was almost 11 pm we felt we had to have help locating him and called the police. It seemed like the good parent thing to do.

    The police came, we described our son, not only physically, but the kind of person he was (we couldn’t imagine he would ever run away, he never went anywhere without telling us, didn’t have the kind of friends where he would just spend the night and not tell us etc. …he was pretty much the perfect kid) etc. By 11:15 pm the officer was ready to call an Amber alert, because he was convinced about the type of person our son was, and thought there must be trouble. We just wanted help locating our son. We still weren’t beside ourselves with worry, we were calm, but it seemed the only way we could get help looking for our son who was so long past due. The officer went to his car to get approval for the amber alert and just then up rode our son on his bike. You know the scene, not sure whether to be angry or joyful. So we just listened to him. A lonely, very talkative, handicapped man had started talking to him inside the library. When the library closed he kept talking. Matthew tried to break away to go home many times but the man would always plead with him to just let him talk to him about 1 more thing. Unsure of how to handle it and unaware of how very much time was passing by, he would listen to one more thing. Then, ready to ride away, the man would plead for more time. Our son simply had no idea how to handle the bind he found himself in. Once we had the explanation we knew why we had not felt that something dire was happening that needed to be addressed. (We also realized there were some social graces that still needed to be taught).

    These experiences make me wonder if this is a reliable measure of knowing the spirit is speaking. Is it reliable to trust that you will know in your mind and in your heart if a prompting is from the Spirit? I don’t know whether I should have handled this differently. In retrospect, driving to the library would have been a better option than we realized at the time. Was it wrong to call the police? Did it show lack of faith? Despite the calmness, I don’t know how long I could have continued to feel comfortable (in my logical brain) to not call in help, even though the Spirit was calming both my husband and I. I also know that sometimes people might feel very anxious or fearful about something that is happening and how do you tell the difference between that anxiety and a feeling in your heart. I tend to be pretty calm in emergency situations, and I actually wonder if this natural tendency could possibly mask a prompting that I need to feel. I would like a clear cut way to know if it is worry or a Divine warning.

    Today when I woke up I was thinking of this same elderly sister I mentioned before (it is a widow that I visit teach). I determined that I would visit her during the day some time. I was taking care of the many things that need to get done at home. Pretty soon I began to think more and more about her and I began to feel more and more urgent to go visit her. I dressed as quickly as I could and drove to her home. We visited. She was fine. How urgent was it, really, I wonder? Was I really following a prompting? Who can know? I told the Lord that I am trying to learn to follow whatever prompting He gives me and asked to be forgiven if I don’t always get it right. On another occasion (previously), it was a Saturday, and though I usually make visits to people on other days of the week so that I may focus on my family’s needs on the weekends, I felt the same kind of urgency to visit this same sister . When I arrived she was very distressed because her son in another state was in critical condition in the hospital. I comforted her, and at that time I knew it was the right thing for me to have been there for her. It was partly because of this past experience that I felt an urgency today when she was in my thoughts. Sometimes I wonder if I will ever sort out what constitutes a prompting. I wonder if I get it right even half the time?

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  4. Michelle says:

    Well,let me start with a big FAIL so that I can show you how that has impacted my life for the last 20 years.
    My husband and I were young,only having been married for about a year and a half.We decided that we didn’t like the perfectly fine car that the Lord had provided for us.It was too hard to put our little baby in the back since it was only a two door ( all that bending!),it didn’t have any bells or whistles,oh the humanity! How could we be made to suffer when others were able to have so much nicer? We deserved what others had(never mind that we were still going to school and barely making enough money to cover the basics). So,down to the local car lot we went.To make a long story short,we found a car,we knew that we shouldn’t buy the car.The spirit was practically screaming at us that it was a bad,bad thing.The car was way over our budget.We kept getting message after message from the Spirit that it was way over our heads. We persisted because it was what WE wanted and we were full of false pride and an attitude of keeping up with the neighbors.I knew when my husband brought the car home that it was a bad thing but I refused to listen. Well, that car turned out to be nothing but trouble. It was a lemon through and through. We bounced checks in our attempt to meet all of our obligations,it just quit working years before we ever paid it off.I could go on and on. It took years for us to recover from this.We got so behind and it was such a burden to us,that until it was paid off and sent to the junk yard we really couldn’t move on. On the bright side, we did allow ourselves to be taught from this colossal fail.I only wish that our pride and selfishness had not been the cause of so much hardship for us and especially our children.

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  5. Mckay says:

    Just before leaving on a trip to see my daughter who lived halfway across the country, rushing around, I took a final glance around and saw my old missionary Bible. The thought popped into my head ” Take it with you”. I have been familiar with John Pontius’ book “Following the light of Christ into his presence” for several years now and have tried very hard to learn to recognize the promptings of the Holy Ghost and obey them as they come. So, I contemplated whether this was God’s prompt or not. Just to be on the safe side, something I find myself doing more often, I caved in and packed the book. On the flight I sat next to Joe Jackson, an evangelist preacher and former professional football player for the New York Jets.  I pulled out my Bible, handed it to him and asked him to teach me something. After 2 hours of religious interchange he had a very different idea about Mormons, and their beliefs. God’s voice is very subtle. My rule of thumb, if a prompt enters your head and it’s not wrong do it.

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  6. Kelly Brad Cox says:

    Even though I was born into a member family and I served a mission for the church I have always struggled to live the gospel fully. I fell away from the church for many years and then returned to full activity about 4 years ago. In about the middle of 2009 I decided to start reading the Book of Mormon regularly. I decided to read it using the 4 volume Doctrinal Commentary on The Book of Mormon (CotBoM) by McConkie, Millet and Top. As I was reading these volumes the spirit began to work an amazing transformation on me. I would read every day for about an hour sometimes longer and as I read many times I felt the spirit bearing witness to me that these words were from God and that they are true. Other times I would feel an incredible desire to repent and become righteous and I would cry out and ask God to help me to gain eternal life. As I read I would have these experiences almost every day where I would feel the spirit and it was wonderful. After reading I would feel an incredible desire to pray and I would pray for long periods sometimes for over an hour and I would feel like I was being given the words to pray and I would not repeat what I was saying very much just like it is spoken of in the Book of Mormon. About a month or so into this experience I started getting impressions that I needed to repent and start keeping the Sabbath day holy. This was quite a challenge to me because it was around the start of the NFL season and I had loved watching NFL football for many years. I knew if I was to follow this impression I would have to give up watching Football completely since almost all of the games are broadcast on Sundays. Since I had been having these experiences where I was desiring to repent and gain eternal life I knew I had to do this. I talked to my wife and she agreed it was right and so we decided to stop watching television on Sundays and to only do activities that would develop our spirituality and that we felt were appropriate for the Sabbath. I felt this was an amazing miracle because before this time I had thought that I could never give up watching the NFL but it turned out to be not that hard with the power of the spirit. As I continued to read the spirit gave me another impression that I needed to give up reading Science Fiction and Fantasy novels. This time I struggled with the idea of giving up reading these novels because I have loved reading SciFi and Fantasy since I was a young child. I rationalized that this was coming from me and not the Lord. That this was fanatical and that I shouldn’t be a fanatic. As I continued reading each night the impression continued and became stronger. I struggled with it for a few weeks and then decided I needed to do it so I tried to stop reading these novels. Just at this time a new novel of one of my favorite series that I had been following for many years was released and I struggled with not reading that latest novel eventually I gave in and read it and I felt terribly guilty. As I was reading in the BoM each night many times I had questions arise in my mind on various topics and several times as I was reading a few days after a question had arisen I would find the answer to that question in the Book of Mormon. When this happened I would feel the spirit very strongly and many times it would say I have answered your question now you need to obey the impression I have given you. After this happened several times and each time my determination to do as the spirit had requested increased till finally an answer to a question came with incredible force and power one night and I determined to follow the impression from that time. I decided to only read books on gospel topics. About this time I feel the spirit started leading me to various books on Gospel topics. One of these was “Following the Light of Christ into his Presence” by John Pontius. When I read this book I felt the spirit so strongly and it testified to me with incredible power that the doctrines taught in that book were true and they applied to me. The spirit then led me to the book “Joseph Smith Rough Stone Rolling”. Once again the spirit was so strong as I read this book. My testimony of Joseph Smith increased by an incredible amount through the witness of the spirit through this book. As I was feeling the spirit so often it was changing my character and desires. Throughout my life I have always been very critical and judgmental. I thought it was something I could never change. This has caused a lot of problems in my life with my wife and children but through the spirit the critical thoughts and feelings were taken away. This was an amazing miracle to me. After several months of this process I had about 6 experiences where I would wake up around 4 am in the morning and I would hear a voice lecturing me. The things that were told to me sounded a lot like scripture. I would say it was similar to the Doctrine and Covenants where the Lord is giving revelations to various individuals. In this case the revelations were to me. There were amazing concepts and doctrines that were taught to me. This occurred about 6 times over a few month period and then stopped. I am disappointed it stopped and worry that I wasn’t righteous enough or I did something to offend the spirit and that is why it stopped. I am working on becoming as righteous as I can in the hope that I can receive revelation in this manner again.

    Kelly Brad Cox

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  7. Victoria says:

    A perfect example!

    Learning to hear the voice of the Lord is something I am always working on–to listen more intently and follow more immediately. It’s as you said above, that it changes and increases in clarity as you endeavor to consistently obey. I was thinking about a couple of different examples that demonstrate this.

    One is from many years ago. We had been wanting to add a sunroom onto the back of our house. We had a very big family in a not-that-big house, and the extra space would be really helpful. We were saving up the money to buy one when I happened to see an ad from someone who was selling theirs at an amazingly low price. I went and looked at it. It was very nice, and also one that could be dismantled into large pieces fairly easily and reconstructed. It was perfect. I told them I’d talk to my husband and that we could pick it up the next day. Because my husband trusts my absolutely incredibly wonderful judgment (a little joke there) =o) I knew that if I went home and said, “We should do this” that he’d say okay.

    For some reason though, I felt uneasy about it. But still, I was convinced that we definitely should do this. We had the money, it was perfect for what we needed, and it would make a huge difference to our family to have this extra space. By that evening, I still hadn’t said anything about it to my husband though. I specifically remember going into my bedroom alone to think about how I was feeling, and saying to myself, “If this was about anything else, I would think this was the Spirit telling me not to do this. But this is the perfect answer to our situation.”

    Then I knelt to pray, pondered the issue a few moments more and then finally said, “Okay, Father. I know what this feeling is. It just didn’t to me seem like I would be having it about this. We won’t get this sunroom.”

    And we didn’t. Good thing, too, because two days later, we had a minor emergency come up that we needed that money for–and the emergency wouldn’t have been that minor if we hadn’t had it. He is SO helpful and kind!

    My contrast with that situation is a very simple one from this morning. Nothing dramatic or life-changing. Just one of those ongoing promptings He blesses with that make life fall into place a littler easier when we listen.

    I was up at 5:00 AM (because my husband gets up then to play racquetball before work and the kids would be getting up for seminary soon anyway, NOT because I’m an early morning type by choice!) Anyway, I was putting together an email I needed to send out to someone when I was told, “Stop what you’re doing right now and go down to the laundry room.” Okay. I did, but I wasn’t sure why. When I got there, I found a load of laundry in the washer waiting to be dried that I had promised my son I would do for him so he could wear some things from it today. Because I went right then, it was dry by the time he needed it. No big deal. He’s a sweetheart and wouldn’t have made a fuss about it. But I had promised him I’d have it done for him, twice actually, and then something had come up last night and I had forgotten about it. Not that it was really here nor there, but I do try to keep those little promises to our kids to let them know they’re important to me. So I was very grateful. And so was he. =o)

    The main point here though, is that this wasn’t simply an “uneasy/negative/bad” feeling vs “positive/spiritual/good” feeling. It was very clear and specific. Clear words with specific directions–and done over something relatively minor. The fact that the Lord does such things constantly in our lives is truly a wonderful blessing, one that I’m very, very grateful for.

    (Sorry this is so long. Feel free to edit it as much as you would like.)

    Victoria

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