Thursday, December 21, 2017

How Do I Know I'm on the Right Path?

In holy scripture we are warned that in the last days even the very elect will be deceived.  I just searched for that scripture reference on LDS.org and found listing upon listing of conference talks that are peppered with the phrase "even the very elect shall be deceived".

(I got distracted from this post for a while, reading a few that caught my eye.)

(This brings me to the reason why I've been absent from blogging for a while.  After conference I had a realization:  what more can I say then has already been said by a general authority during a conference talk or devotional?  Not much, right?  Not at all.  But recently I realized something: I'm writing for more than just whoever happens upon these posts.  I'm writing for me and my posterity.  So, if I consider this my online journal where I record my thoughts and things the Spirit teaches me as I ponder, and if anyone else happens to benefit from these thoughts, that's a bonus. So, back to the post.)

I've spent a long time thinking about personal revelation and getting deceived over the past few months.  More than anything, I don't want to disappoint Heavenly Father.  I want to do His will and keep His commandments and seek His son and serve Him with all my heart.

So what if I get off track?  What if I start down a path that isn't going in the direction He needs me to head?
Ohh...suddenly bells start to go off.... the idea of going in a direction He doesn't need me to go reminds me of repentance.  And repentance isn't a bad thing.  Not at all.  I think sometimes we get the idea that we try the best we can and when we fail, after all we can do, then we pull out the Repentance card and muster up our Humility and Repent.  And that is all true.  But it is also true that Repentance is Joyful!  It's a time to rejoice in the goodness and grace of our Savior and His Atoning sacrifice that makes Repentance possible.  In fact, repentance is so good for us, I feel we could do it daily, even hourly.  Repenting brings us to a humble, clean, pure state where the Holy Ghost can dwell with us in full measure.  Repenting is very good.

I am not suggesting that we stop trying to discern whether we are heading in the right direction though.  Repentance is a wonderful and powerful tool we can use to help us continue moving in the right direction.  As we repent daily we are filled with the Holy Ghost and He helps us discern our best direction and velocity.

The concept of Repentance takes away some of the fear I've felt about being deceived.  This is good.  Angels in scripture are always advising their audience to "Fear Not".  I believe this is so the intended audience can fully receive the angelic message. Fear and Faith are opposites and cannot both reign in a single mind or heart.  One must lead out over the other.  In order for us to fully feel the Spirit, we need to have Faith be at the forefront.

I asked Heavenly Father for some basic guidelines to help me gauge if what I am learning is in line with His will and gospel.  And what I received from Him will not shock you.

 (Surprised?  Usually internet headlines scream shocking news on every hand. But Father isn't really shocking.  He's the same today, yesterday and forever. This constancy is something I am grateful for.)

Here's the basic guidelines I felt prompted to write down.  (You may have additional insights and I'd be grateful if you shared them.)

1. Compare Personal Revelation to the Scriptures.
Search them.  They are packed with treasures, both hidden and in full view.  They could not have been written by any mere mortal, the way they contain so many layers of teachings, comforts and warnings, ready and waiting for us to desire, seek and find.

2. Compare Personal Revelation to the Prophets.
Search the words of the apostles.  Conference talks are scripture given to us in our day, for our time, by our prophets who can see far ahead.

3. Counsel with my Husband.  He's a voice of reason in my life and less likely to be swayed by new ideas and viewpoints.  I'm a very flexible and sympathetic soul and can usually instantly understand where someone is coming from and why. Sometimes their ideas are so compelling I try them on for a while.  Usually this isn't a problem, but sometimes, I can get off course by looking beyond the mark.
This is wise counsel from Heavenly Father.  If I am considering ideas that I'm not comfortable sharing with my spouse, or my bishop, do I want to give these ideas equal time?

4. Temple Time.
Seek a second witness in the temple.  If I've received personal revelation that isn't urgent or life-threatening, take it to the temple to ask for insight about it in a protected place.

Here's the last basic guideline.

5. Seek to feel the Spirit every day.  If you feel the Spirit every day, you know that you are on the right track.  He can not dwell in unholy places.  His presence sanctifies and justifies and purifies.  So, if you are feeling the Spirit every day you know you are on the right track.  Continue holding to the rod, feasting upon the word, exercising your spiritual gifts and seeking to know and do the will of the Father.