Years ago, as a new missionary, I remember taking my first tour (a nonmember family from Iowa) through the Nauvoo Visitors’ Center. We shared what I thought was a spiritual experience. At the conclusion of the tour I asked them to fill out a referral card. They kindly declined.
As I sadly watched them walk away, I plopped into a large pink chair to ponder. I could still see them walking to their car in the parking lot. As my senior companion knelt down by me to ask how it had gone, the thought came to me, Go after them. Ask them again. I didn’t move. How could I run after them and ask them again? They already said no!
When I told my companion what I was thinking she urgently said, “That’s the Spirit! Go!” So I raced into the parking lot and caught them just as they were piling into their car. Out of breath, more from nerves than energy expenditure, I asked them again if they would permit missionaries to come to their home and teach them about eternal families. Both the mother and father simultaneously said yes.
This was one of my first memorable exchanges with the Spirit. Thankfully, it helped me identify how the Holy Ghost communicates with me personally. I promised the Lord as I walked back into the Visitors’ Center that day that I would act quickly when I heard such whisperings. I was also humbled and very aware that without the help of an experienced companion, I would have dismissed the Spirit’s message.
Live by the Whisperings of the Spirit
Nancy Murphy, author of Whisperings of the Spirit, says,
The Holy Ghost enters every corner of our lives. As we look more closely, we find him everywhere. His voice is constant, if only we have ears to hear (5).
Coming to recognize and respond when we hear the Holy Ghost is one of life’s greatest challenges. We long to be connected to the heavens, yet our relationship with the Spirit often succumbs to our own indolence and weakness. Sometimes we feel so coupled with the Spirit, linked, in-tune and open to God’s smallest instruction. At other times we are so distracted, busy, and consumed with the daily-ness of life that we drift through each day, annoyed by a little tug on our soul that seems to say something is missing.
As I picked up Murphy’s book I realized before I had finished the first chapter that my communication with the Spirit needed improvement. With more effort and a better understanding of how God works through this vital member of the Godhead, I knew I could feel closer to the Savior and more confident in my ability to hear His voice.
I read Murphy’s book intently. I followed the action steps she included at the end of each chapter intended to “deepen [our] relationship with the Holy Ghost” (1). Murphy invites readers to join her on a journey. “Communicating with the Spirit is a process” she says, “not an event” (6). Her promise?
Each step will take you closer to him and lead you to the path where you walk constantly by his side. As you spend a few minutes completing each small task, you will break down barriers, be more aware of his presence, and feel a renewed connection with the Holy Ghost. You will see him more readily in everyday experiences and more clearly be able to hear his voice. When that happens, you will have transformed these simple pages of information into a lasting and very personal experience as you live by the whisperings of the Spirit (2).
Whisperings of the Spirit lives up to Murphy’s promise. I loved the book as well as its process. I learned much about the nature of the Holy Ghost — facts about his attributes and abilities I hadn’t considered before. I came to the invaluable conclusion that when I wonder if it is the Spirit whispering to me ? it usually is! (Her chapter titled, “Is it the Holy Ghost Speaking?” was excellent.) Now I view the Holy Ghost as a more crucial, critical being. Murphy writes,
Just as the Holy Ghost leads us to Christ, it is only through the Spirit that we can truly come to know the Master (14).
She explains further that without the Holy Ghost there would be “no comfort for the sorrowful, no forgiveness for the penitent, no peace for those blown to and fro by the wayward winds of the world” (135).
Certainly, none of us would invite such a circumstance, for “life without the Holy Ghost would truly be no life at all,” Murphy says.
Yet, we often fail to act on the guidance he offers, as if he were simply an optional part of our lives (135).
In this particular “journey,” Nancy Murphy is that seasoned and insightful senior companion we all need ? the one that helps us identify the Spirit. She gently reminds,
The Holy Ghost is always whispering to us. The only real question is, are we listening? (15).
A Scripture Journal
Murphy encourages readers to begin keeping a scripture journal. What is a scripture journal? More than a place to record divine insights during personal scripture study, it is a place for all sorts of impressions, ideas, and thoughts. Murphy cites Doctrine and Covenants 68:4 as her definition for “scripture.”
And whatsoever they shall speak when moved upon by the Holy Ghost shall be scripture, shall be the will of the Lord, shall be the mind of the Lord, shall be the word of the Lord, shall be the voice of the Lord, and the power of God unto salvation.
Basically, any time we receive a prompting or bit of intelligence from the Holy Ghost, it is in fact, our own personal scripture. Once recognized, Murphy exhorts, we must write it down. Recording the Spirit’s voice helps turn promptings into goals that can steer our spiritual growth, it builds testimony twice ? once when received and again when we reflect on the prompting later. It reminds us of our blessings and the Lord’s awareness of us, while giving us confidence and hope for difficult times ahead.
The process of putting feelings into words requires us to contemplate more deeply and define more exactly what each word means to us personally (148).
I have found this to be especially true. Murphy also asks us to examine our motivation for writing it down.
We must be motivated by the desire to remember our promptings from the Spirit, not simply to fulfill a requirement or fill space in a journal. If we write out of duty alone, most likely it will not be a meaningful or satisfying experience, and we will tire of the exercise quickly. Instead we must fill our journal with those things that reflect our spirit ? our thoughts, desires, interests, goals, and dreams (142).
Now pay close attention.
Whenever something makes us stop and think, we must write it down. Whenever we hear something that brings the thought to our mind, “That is really good,” the Spirit is prompting us to record what we heard. It may be a quotation from a … lesson or a thought that comes at a fireside or while we are driving to work or folding laundry.
It may be a motto we want to adopt or a goal we feel inspired to work toward. Whenever we feel our spirit nudged, that is an indication the Holy Ghost is present. We must write down things we feel, think, believe, desire, understand, decide, learn, or know at that very moment, for what we hear with our spiritual ears is instruction directly from God, declared by the soft and still voice we know as the Holy Ghost. The Spirit’s whisperings are never insignificant; they are always given to fulfill the Lord’s purposes. It is up to us to record the moments he speaks so we can more fully understand his will in our lives. (142-143).
Don’t we all second guess our thoughts at times? Is it me or is it the Spirit? Murphy’s book helps clarify such confusion. I am so grateful for her insights, based on scripture and the words of the prophets, which help us identify the Holy Ghost’s presence in our mind and heart.
Finally, after quoting several modern and ancient prophets Murphy states,
We cannot neglect our sacred record. Recording the whisperings of the Spirit is more than a good idea; it is a commandment given by God, and when the Lord speaks, covenant people listen ? and obey (150).
I know this may be easier for those of us who like to write. But as I carried out Murphy’s tasks in each chapter and began my own scripture journal, I realized how easy it is. It is not time-consuming drudgery. It is exciting when you begin to hear and recognize the Spirit. I found it joyful and rewarding to put into words the thoughts that flowed into my mind. It takes only a minute. And keeping a journal is much easier than trying to keep scraps of paper from church, the car or around the computer ? to do what with? Well, I’ve never been exactly sure! So I encourage readers to put Murphy’s suggestions to the test ? they are derived from counsel given to all of us from the Lord himself.
Walk in the Spirit
Paul said to the Galatians, “If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit” (Galatians 5:25). Reading Murphy’s book made me want to “walk in the Spirit.” It made me love the Holy Ghost as an actual personage or being. It made me appreciate his mission, his constant desire to speak with us, and who it is he represents when he comes to us. Murphy writes,
There is no gift more valuable, no friend more needed, no blessing more essential than that of the Holy Ghost (30).
We should read that statement again and again when we feel that little tug on our soul that indicates something is missing. I am learning it is usually the Spirit that is missing in my life, in greater or lesser degrees. A renewed attention towards him and his whisperings brings a satisfying return of joy and meaning to our everyday living.
I appreciated Murphy’s encouragement, the hours of study she put into this work, and her testimony. I hope she will have more to share with us in the future. Whisperings of the Spirit is a much-needed book for our day and our people, with a vision of what mortality can be like when we are open to receiving “all the Holy Ghost has to offer” (161).
Murphy concludes with this excerpt from the scripture journal of the Prophet Joseph Smith:
Great things shall be accomplished by you from this hour; and you shall begin to feel the whisperings of the Spirit of God … and you shall be endowed with power from on high (Joseph Smith History, 2:182).
Nancy Murphy is a popular and inspirational speaker. She attended Brigham Young University, where she met and married major league baseball player Dale Murphy. She served with her husband while he presided over the Massachusetts Boston Mission. They are the parents of seven sons and one daughter and reside in Utah.