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Thunk! Jen heard the crash against the broad picture window of her living room and sighed. Every time I wash that window a bird tries to fly through it and dies, she thought. Stepping out to the front porch to survey the damage, she caught her breath at the sight of a delicate hummingbird—dazed and confused—but very much alive and resting on the brick window ledge. Recognizing a rare opportunity, Jen hustled into the house to wake up ten-year-old Hadlee, her creature-loving daughter.

For the next forty five minutes, Hadlee held a hummingbird. She reverently cradled the tiny bird in her hands, carefully lifting its fragile wings to check for damage and softly stroking the feathers. The stunned little bird occasionally struggled to flutter, with limited success. Eventually though, the shock wore off and when Hadlee lifted her hands skyward the hummingbird flitted away.


Thankfully my niece, Jen, thought to grab her phone and take a photo, documenting a rare moment in her daughter’s life—for how many times does a person have the chance to hold a hummingbird? Viewing this image on Facebook, I was so struck by the unusual scene that it hovered in my mind throughout the day, prompting me to return to the photo several times. When I finally took a moment to wonder why this picture made such an impression on me I recognized a familiar fluttering at the edge of my mind: the Holy Spirit was whispering, showing me a spiritual parallel.

For me, the faint impressions of the Holy Spirit can be as elusive as a fleeting glimpse of a hummingbird. These impressions rarely stare me in the eye. They’re much more apt to appear as a spiritual flutter in my peripheral vision. While pondering the workings of the Holy Ghost one morning, a new thought occurred to me: he loves us. The scriptures refer to his influence as comforter, revelator, and teacher of truth, but they never state outright that he loves us. Yet, while his role differs from those of the Father and the Son, his work is ultimately the same as theirs: “to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.” (Moses: 1:39) Truly, this is love. It follows then that because he loves us, and because we have been doubly gifted with the light of Christ and the gift of the Holy Ghost, we can be certain he is continually trying to communicate with us for our good, drawing us toward the Savior.

Once this realization dawned, I changed my prayers from “please inspire me to know what to do” to “please help me recognize the inspiration the Holy Spirit is already trying to send me.” When we feel we’re not receiving messages from the Spirit, perhaps it is more accurate to say that we’re not perceiving them. I have known men and women who seem to have the gift of revelation, who seem to recognize and understand promptings from the spirit as if a colorful, tropical bird was perched on their shoulder singing directly into their ear. This is a gift I covet, but it seems my lot is to feel only faint flutterings—much like an elusive hummingbird.

How does one capture the fragile whisperings of the Spirit? I suppose the process is different for everyone since we each perceive the Holy Ghost’s influence in unique ways, or question if we feel it at all. I have benefitted from writing down those faint impressions. Though my attempts to capture such delicate communications in writing have sometimes been an exercise in frustration, even my poorest efforts have proven valuable for they have preserved at least the shadow of a thought or prompting. Other people may be more comfortable capturing the essence of spiritual ideas with a simple drawing, a diagram, or perhaps a voice recording.

I appreciate the wisdom of Elder Gene R. Cook and his family who recorded spiritual moments so they could remember them. “Many of the stories…were just small, everyday experiences. But because we wrote them down, thought about them, and discussed them, they became spiritual experiences. Part of the key to having spiritual experiences is simply to recognize them, value them, and treat them with enough respect to record them.” (Raising Up a Family to the Lord, p. 171)

Personal experience has shown me that to receive even the most fragile communication from the Holy Spirit is a precious gift. How valuable it is to capture it, however imperfectly, before the impression fades. Then we may examine those spiritual thoughts at length and extract the message contained therein. If we don’t record our experiences with the Holy Spirit we may begin to second-guess ourselves as time passes. Did I really hear a whisper from the Spirit? Could something so fleeting be real? But as we persist in seeking, recording, and examining even the faintest spiritual impressions, we will gradually “grow into the principle of revelation.” (History of the Church, 3:381; from a discourse given by Joseph Smith on June 27, 1839)

By photographing her daughter holding a hummingbird, my niece preserved a sweet memory for Hadlee, which will allow her to relive that rare experience each time she views the picture or shares it with a friend. Someday she may even share the photo with her own children so they can taste the sweetness with her.

I have saved the image of Hadlee on my phone to refer to in the future, to remind me of the fleeting nature of spiritual thoughts and the importance of preserving them for myself and my family. And when the Spirit flutters in my peripheral vision again, I’ll remember the day Hadlee held a hummingbird.