This week Steven gave a great lesson for family home evening. (You can tell it's a good one when you still remember it days later!) Anyway, he chose the topic prayer/personal revelation from the new Duty to God book. The first thing he noticed was that they went together. You couldn't pick just "prayer" or just "personal revelation" and that in itself is something to ponder.
Part of the assignment in learning more about the subject was to compile a list of questions someone might ask as you taught them what you learned. I thought the older brothers might appreciate knowing those questions, and the answers we came up with. And feel free to add your own thoughts.
Question #1: How can you tell if it's your thoughts or promptings from the Holy Ghost?
Answer (from Michelle): It doesn't really matter. If it's an idea to do something good, just do it. It doesn't matter if you thought of it all on your own or not. Remember that everything that is good leads to more good.
Answer (from Mom): You practice and practice and practice listening. And you do what Michelle suggested. Eventually you'll learn how the Holy Ghost speaks to you and it will quite obvious. And if it isn't, that doesn't really matter either (see Michelle's answer and Moroni 7:16).
Answer (from Dad): If you totally understand what you're thinking, but can't explain it to another person, it's likely personal revelation meant just for you and no one else.
Question #2: What do you do if you pray and pray and don't get an answer?
Answer (can't remember who said what but it includes): Don't give up. Remember that stupor of thought is an answer. Remember that "not now" is an answer. Make sure you're asking the right questions. (Have you done your part to study and make a decision?) Remember this quote from Brigham Young:
"If I ask him to give me wisdom concerning any requirement in life, or in regard to my own course, or that of my friends, my family, my children, those that I preside over, and get no answer from him, and then do the very best that my judgment will teach me, he is bound to own and honor that transaction, and he will do so to all intents and purposes." (DBY, 43 or Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young, 46)
And then I found a more current quote on the same subject as I read an article by Elder Christofferson in the October New Era this morning. He was quoting Elder Richard G. Scott:
"What do you do when you have prepared carefully, have prayed fervently, waited a reasonable time for a response, and still do not feel an answer? You may want to express thanks when that occurs, for it is an evidence of His trust. When you are living worthily and your choice is consistent with the Savior's teachings and you need to act, proceed with trust. As you are sensitive to the promptings of the Sprit, one of two things will certainly occur at the appropriate time: either the stupor of thought will come, indicating an improper choice, or the peace of the burning in the bosom will be felt, confirming that your choice was correct. When you are living righteously and are acting with trust, God will not let you proceed too far without a warning impression if you have made the wrong decision." (April 2007 general conference)
I find those two quotes quite comforting.
Next up: some examples of this put into practice. (Hmm. I'm revisiting this years later and realized I never wrote part two. I guess it's not too late to do so!)