What a blessing we have, when given the Gift of the Holy Ghost. Though he can inspire and enlighten anyone (which is how testimonies are gained), once we’re baptized and have been given this incredible gift by the laying on of hands, we have the most amazing promise: He can be our constant companion.
Of course, as we all know, the only thing that can obstruct this phenomenal partnership is ourselves. Through disobedience and unrighteousness, we can drive him away. And many of us picture this as willfully breaking commandments and doing things that would make the Holy Ghost uncomfortable in our company—should we steal, lie, take drugs, go to a strip joint– the obvious stuff.
But many of us who live life in the mainstream of the church ( serving, accepting callings, attending the temple, raising families, striving to improve ourselves) still manage to drive him away every day. Over and over.
If we’re basically good, law-abiding people, how does this keep happening? We all wish he could be with us every minute, and we long for frequent personal revelation and guidance. So why do we have so many moments when we can’t feel the Spirit close by?
I think we’ve miscalculated how it works. Some of us have fallen victim to the check-list mentality. We imagine the temple recommend questions, and we think we’ve earned his companionship because we pay our tithing, believe in the prophet, attend our meetings, etc. We have a check mark beside all those tangible measurements of faithfulness.
But I think it takes more than that. I think we need to remember what so many of our prophets have told us: We will be judged by the very thoughts we think. And the Holy Ghost, being an omniscient member of the Godhead, will not linger with someone whose thoughts are not worthy of his presence.
Elder Boyd K. Packer spoke of taking control of our thoughts, by driving evil ones off the stage of our minds. Many leaders have urged us to think of a hymn, or of righteous desires and goals, to replace Satan’s insidious messages.
Over and over Christ has told us to “Look unto me in every thought…” (D & C 6:36). In 3rd Nephi 12:27-79 he said, “Behold, I give unto you a commandment, that ye suffer none of these things to enter into your heart.” And he inspired King Benjamin’s clear and pointed counsel, when he said, “…watch yourselves, and your thoughts…” (Mosiah 4:30)
Each week when we take the Sacrament, we pledge to “always remember him.” This doesn’t mean we think solely of Christ and his life, unable to work or communicate with others. Of course we have to turn our attention to the demands of daily living. But there should be an underpinning, a foundation of Christ in all we do. As we go about the demands of each day, our thoughts and behavior should be consistent with Christ’s teachings. We should hope—and pray—that our actions and thoughts please him.
You may have discovered that this is extremely difficult to do. I know I struggle to keep that focus when so many distractions compete for my attention. But I also know that when I manage to do it, I feel the Holy Ghost with me. Those are the times when inspiration comes, and revelation happens.
President George Albert Smith spoke of this often. He recalled hearing Dr. Karl G. Maeser say, “Not only will you be held accountable for the things that you do, but you will be held responsible for the very thoughts that you think.” This stayed with him and shaped the course of his life as he realized, “Why, of course, you will be held accountable for your thoughts because when your life is complete in mortality, it will be the sum of your thoughts. That one suggestion has been a great blessing to me all my life, and it has enabled me upon many occasions to avoid thinking improperly because I realize that I will be, when my life’s labor is complete, the product of my thoughts.”
And President Ezra Taft Benson wrote a stirring First Presidency message called “Think on Christ” (March 1989 Ensign), filled with the admonition to keep our thoughts Christlike.
To truly have the Holy Ghost with us at all times, we need to do more than refrain from breaking major commandments. We need to raise the bar for our very thoughts. When we find ourselves thinking puny, judgmental thoughts about others, when we drift into prideful selfishness or self pity, when we envy, when we zone out in laziness or self-indulgent wastes of time, we can be sure the Holy Ghost will not endorse our frame of mind, and will not see this as a moment to whisper comfort or direction to us.
But with speed that cannot even be measured, he will return to our side the moment our thoughts are Christlike again– we have genuine love for others, a real desire to lift and help someone else, and an honest hope to share the gospel. Those are the sweetest moments of life, when we know our hearts are pure, and he is there again. At last.
Watch the music video of Hilton’s song, What Makes a Woman, from her new musical, The Best Medicine (with music by Jerry Williams). Her books are available on her website, here. Hilton currently serves as a Relief Society President.