As I read the comments you write on the Un-Blog, and speak to friends and family, a picture is forming in my mind, which is that all of us, to some degree or another, are struggling to tell the difference between true revelation, and the other voices in our minds. Wednesday evening I met with friends in my home, and we spent most of our time talking about how to really know when we are receiving revelation.
First, let us observe that promptings, both from good and evil, generally sound the same, especially in the beginning. They most often come as ideas or thoughts that enter our mind, and generally don’t involve words. We must carefully judge the good promptings from evil ones by their content, not how they sound.
This is the great dividing line between true revelation and everything else. If it leads us to do good, to be kind, to show love, to give grace or mercy or kindness, if it leads us to Christ, or leads us to help others come to Christ, then it is inspired of God. The scriptures say that we may know with a “perfect knowledge” that such things are from God.
15 For behold, my brethren, it is given unto you to judge, that ye may know good from evil; and the way to judge is as plain, that ye may know with a perfect knowledge, as the daylight is from the dark night.
16 For behold, the Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil; wherefore, I show unto you the way to judge; for every thing which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ; wherefore ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of God (Moroni 7:15-16)
We also hear ourselves think. The easiest way to recognize the voice of our own mind is that it is unsure. It asks questions and ponders things. “Why is this happening”, “What did that mean”, “What should I do now?” are all products of our own mind. The voice of our own mind often uses the personal case such as, “I am tired”, “I’m confused”, “I hate that”.
The voice of evil tries to get us to ignore the voice of Christ. It actually argues against it. The Holy Spirit will say, “Study the scriptures”, and then the voice of opposition rails against it. “It’s late”, “You’re tired, do it tomorrow”, “Better make those phone calls first”. The voice of evil can rarely just give one argument, but seems to prefer to rail against good promptings. It actually helps us tell the difference. Even in temptations, it will most often come again and again, giving us additional reasons to act.
Another hallmark of evil is that it often tries to get us to indulge our flesh, senses and lusts. The voice of evil is the only one that urges us to control other people, to limit their agency, or dominate others.
When we receive a prompting to do something that is on its face neither good nor bad, then we must search diligently to know right from wrong. I believe it is far better to take time to pray, ponder and even fast, before acting, than to blindly obey some prompting that is inspired of evil. I believe it is righteous to pray something like “Father, I just had the feeling that I should . . . I am willing to do anything you ask, but I really need to know if this is from you so I don’t make a mistake. Please tell me again, in a way that I can’t misunderstand”.
Learning to telling the difference is one of the main spiritual processes of mortality. Those who learn to hear His voice, and who obey, are exalted – everyone else is not. (D&C 45:45-47, 84:43-45, 84:46-47, 84:52-53, 93:1)
Over time, and by righteous experience, it becomes easier and easier to tell the difference. There is a definable feeling, or essence, a flavor if you will, that accompanies revelation. With a little persistence it will all become much easier to hear. It never seems to get easier to obey, just easier to tell the true source of the prompting.
It is far better to humble ourselves than to be compelled to be humble. It is far better to let the Holy Spirit teach us obedience through little things, like responding to a prompting to say you’re sorry or to drive the speed limit, than to resist until only a dramatic event can penetrate our hearts and teach us to obey.
The cost of exaltation is obedience, and the cost of obedience is whatever it takes to teach us to hear the voice that we must obey.