Discerning

One spiritual gift I feel that I’ve always lacked is the gift of Discernment. I’ve tended to be a horrible judge of people – often trusting everyone – to the point where it is easy to be taken advantage of. (That being said, don’t try to ask me for my social security number or anything because I’ve gotten wiser over the years!) Naturally, discernment is a skill that I’ve been wanting to develop.

Another thing that I’ve wanted to improve is my ability to listen to the Spirit. I feel like they are both related. If we become better at listening and following to the Spirit, perhaps our ability to discern will be better because we will then be able to hear and feel his still small voice in all situations. However, I find that there are times when I am bogged down questioning myself – is this the Spirit? Is it just me? Is it a temptation?

I read the following scripture this morning:

“And I said unto him: To know the interpretation thereof—for I spake unto him as a man speaketh; for I beheld that he was in the form of a man; yet nevertheless, I knew that it was the Spirit of the Lord; and he spake unto me as a man speaketh with another.” – 1 Nephi 11:11

Nephi makes the clarification – he knew he wasn’t speaking to a man. He knew he wasn’t speaking to an angel. He knew that he was speaking to the Spirit of the Lord that was in the form of a man. I’m not completely sure how Nephi knows it (he doesn’t delve into that), but I know that he knew it, and I have no reason to doubt his testimony.

This makes me think of Korihor, who had another type of “spiritual” visitation:

“But behold, the devil hath deceived me; for he appeared unto me in the form of an angel, and said unto me: Go and reclaim this people, for they have all gone astray after an unknown God. And he said unto me: There is no God; yea, and he taught me that which I should say. And I have taught his words; and I taught them because they were pleasing unto the carnal mind; and I taught them, even until I had much success, insomuch that I verily believed that they were true; and for this cause I withstood the truth, even until I have brought this great curse upon me.” – Alma 30:53

For some reason, Korihor had been confused by the personage/spirit/angel that appeared to him. Obviously, this “angel” was pretending to be a heavenly messenger (kind of – which doesn’t make sense. Why would there be angels and no god?!), but he was no heavenly messenger. Korihor did not discern between truth and error. Of course, at some point Korihor made a choice. I think that his statement, “I taught them because they were pleasing unto the carnal mind; and I taught them, even until I had much success, insomuch that I verily believed that they were true” He eventually decieved himself into thinking that both the message the angel delivered and the angel itself were good.

Still, you could think – well, what’s the difference, how would Nephi know, and Korihor not know? I don’t think that’s really a good question, by the way. There is so much we don’t actually know about each situation. However, there is probably one more example that could help us to shed a little light on both Nephi’s and Korihor’s experiences.

In Moses 1 we can read, in great detail, of the events that transpired when Moses spoke with God.

  • 1. Moses was caught up into an exceedingly high mountain. The same happened to Nephi.
  • 2. Moses sees God and speaks to him face to face. In order to do so, however, he is transfigured.
  • 3. Moses receives an uplifting revelation where he learns that he is a son of God in the Similitude of God’s Only Begotten. Heavenly Father testifies of Christ. Moses also recognizes, right away, that this was a Heavenly Experience. He learns that in comparison to God, man is nothing – as he had to be transfiguired to be in God’s presence. Moses knows that this was a spiritual experience and that Heavenly Father was the author of it.
  • 4. After his initial experience with Heavenly Father, Moses is then visited by Satan who is masquerading as God. Immediately Moses can tell the difference. Satan has no glory. Satan’s message is a lie. Satan tries to deceive, and when Moses will not be deceived, Satan tries to bully Moses into worshipping him. Moses, calls on God in the Name of Christ, and is able to overcome Satan’s temptation.

Because of Moses’ example, we learn that an experience with the Spirit and a temptation are two vastly different things. Satan is smart. He knows that he can’t always come off as Satan – or people would probably reject his temptation. Instead, he mimics God. He pretends to be a Heavenly being. He says things that are “pleasing unto the carnal mind.” He pretends to have glory. But he can’t pull it off.

So, Nephi is cool. He knows that he is having an experience with the Spirit of the Lord. Even though he doesn’t go into the same details that Moses describes, there are many parallels. Above all, we can see that the message Nephi received was good: it testifies of our Savior; The message doesn’t justify our sins or encourage us to make more; The message gives us hope through the Salvation of Christ. The Spirit doesn’t lie: He teaches, testifies of Christ, and uplifts. Nephi’s experience is a wonderful example and testimony of how the Holy Ghost works.

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