I love the word, “inspire.” It comes from Latin, and means “to breathe in.” What beautiful imagery, reminding us that inspiration penetrates our souls and becomes a part of us. We don’t just observe from a distance; we inhale and embrace righteous messages.

Some of these communications are from the Holy Ghost, who can prompt or inspire us to take essential actions. He can warn us of danger, teach us, or direct us to help others in need. Seeking His companionship and heeding His messages should be a top priority for all of us.

But first I want to talk about mortals who can inspire, and this includes you. If we follow the counsel in the For the Strength of Youth pamphlet, we remember to seek inspiring friends. If we don’t choose friends wisely, we miss out on an invaluable opportunity to improve and become our best selves.

Likewise, we should strive to be that kind of friend to others—a great listener, someone who looks for the good and forgives the bad, a person who cheers on their friends and helps them triumph. John Quincy Adams said, ““If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” And you are an excellent friend.

When we inspire others, it’s often not by words and directives, but by quiet example. I find this hard to remember, because I’m chatty. I want to ask questions, share my opinions, analyze theories, even debate because language is fun to me. But in actuality, it’s our actions—not our words–that show others what we value and what we believe.

We’ve all seen people explode in anger. When you witness this and someone—even the target of their rage—reacts with quiet calm, we instantly admire that beautiful example of meekness, and even compassion. We wish we could always be like that.

Such examples are all around us. Watching a weary mother rise from her bed to comfort a frightened child we see true selflessness. When someone stops to help an elderly person load her groceries into the car we are witnessing someone whose priorities are noble—someone who puts people ahead of schedules and convenience.

Those who inspire us need not be friends or relatives—they can be strangers we catch doing marvelous acts of goodness. And it resonates with our souls because it’s Godly. I saw one definition of “inspire” that said, “to fill with animating, quickening, or exalting influence.” When we feel motivated to be more Christlike, we have been inspired.

The best inspiration, of course, comes from our Heavenly Father. Elder Marion  D. Hanks once spoke about our conscience being “the voice of God speaking to us, inspiring moral obligation. Washington called it ‘that little spark of celestial fire.’ It is true that we can desensitize our conscience, as it were. In the Book of Mormon we read of a group to whom God had spoken ‘in a still small voice, but ye were past feeling’ (1 Ne. 17:45)…As we can desensitize a conscience, so to speak, so we can prepare ourselves better to hear the voice of the Lord by stripping off what the poet called the layers of ‘muddy vesture and decay,’ by ceasing to sin and learning to obey. There is the privilege of learning true values and living to them.”

This is a good reminder that we really can fine-tune our ability to listen to spiritual promptings. As we draw closer to the Lord, as we strive to repent and obey, we clear that channel.  

Sometimes heavenly inspiration gives us artistic creativity. Elder Boyd K. Packer said, “…the greatest hymns and anthems have not been composed, nor have the greatest illustrations been set down, nor the poems written, nor the paintings finished. When they are produced, who will produce them? Will it be the most talented and the most highly trained among us? I rather think it will not. They will be produced by those who are the most inspired among us. Inspiration can come to those whose talents are barely adequate, and their contribution will be felt for generations; and the Church and kingdom of God will move forward just a little more easily because they have been here.”

Inspiration can help us parent. I once said to a son, “I have no idea why Heavenly Father doesn’t want you to go to that party. I was going to say ‘yes.’ But I know in my heart that this is His answer and we need to follow it.” So many times we get promptings in this arena. It may be to apologize to a child, to hold a child accountable, to call and check on one who’s babysitting, read a particular scripture with a child, or just listen to their side of things.  We are wise if we heed these nudges.

I was recently considering giving some pointed advice to one of my grown children. Then I was prompted to find a particular post on Instagram. It was a quote of President Howard W. Hunter’s which said, “Those who are filled with the love of Christ do not seek to force others to do better; they inspire others to do better.” I cannot call that a coincidence. And yes, I held my tongue.

Our church callings are also the result of inspiration. When we’ve been in leadership where we have to pray about and recommend someone for a certain position, we discover how very much the Savior cares about his children, and which ones should be given which assignments. As a Relief Society President I often paired up ministering partners whom my mortal brain would never have put together, but who blossomed and worked miracles because of that companionship. God definitely knew what I didn’t.

We live in a world of swirling inspiration. It’s all around us, like radio waves that we can’t hear unless we have an instrument to tune in. Unless we become an instrument that tunes in. Trying our best to live Christ’s teachings, and earnestly seeking higher spiritual ground can open the door to whisperings that will astonish us. We really can be tools in God’s hands. And when He knows we’ll listen and follow His urgings, it only makes sense that we’ll hear more of them.

In Mosiah 2:21 we are reminded that God created us from the beginning and preserves us “day to day, by lending you breath.” Think of simplicity of breathing. Being inspired and breathing are equally basic and remarkable. Recently Elder David A. Bednar has taught us that we should be in a constant state of revelation and inspiration, and that the lack of it should catch our attention and make us examine why it retreated.

Praying for a testimony, praying to resolve doubts, praying for closeness to God, all of these heartfelt desires can result in distinct inspiration. And when we hear it, let us all remember to “breathe in” and make those messages part of us.

Hilton’s books, humor blog, and Youtube Mom videos can be found on her website. She currently serves as an Inter-Faith Specialist for Church Communications.