5 Quotes Plus Discussion-Promoting Questions
See also Teaching Helps
Elder Stevenson answers one of our members’ most significant, common questions. What is the Spirit, and how do you feel it? Feeling and recognizing the Spirit takes practice. This makes a beautiful class discussion and review for the most experienced Saints and the ones seeking to understand more.
You can find his full talk here. Unless you opt to spend a lot of time on a particular quote, try to pick around 2 questions per quote. Choose the questions that resonate the most with you and make a meaningful discussion for your group of personalities. These highlights and questions fit with Lesson Template 1 or Template 2. You can also check out several other General Conference Talks with 5 Highlights.
All blue quotes by Gary E. Stevenson (unless otherwise noted).
- Please don’t worry if you only get through a couple of quotes. Spiritual discussion is golden; it resonates and teaches more than a lecture covering all points will.
- If the discussion gets too secular, pull it back to the quotes and a spiritual tone…naturally and with tact.
- Encourage discussion by accepting all reasonable answers. Validate people for participating and be thankful they spoke up. Engage with the answer in a conversational way whenever it feels natural. Never say, “We haven’t got to that part of the lesson yet.” Roll with it.
- Teacher Master Copy (quotes and questions)
- Small Group Discussions, quotes and questions for A,B,C, and D.
- All 5 Quotes (No questions)
Quote #1 (intro)
Keep the intro short. There are a lot of quotes and discussions for this lesson.
Looking through a gospel lens, God endows His children with many spiritual gifts, making them spiritually gifted people…What are the fruits of exercising spiritual gifts? They include promptings from the Spirit that help us face our daily needs and show us what to do and say and blessings of peace and comfort. As we listen and act on spiritual promptings, the Holy Ghost magnifies our abilities and capacities to far exceed what we can do on our own. These precious spiritual gifts will help us in every aspect of our lives.
The constant companionship of the Holy Ghost is one of the greatest spiritual gifts Latter-day Saints enjoy.
Possible discussion questions: Who is eligible to have the Spirit? Why is having the Spirit vital to you?
Lesson Organization Notes
This next section is divided into three groups (A, B, C, and D). You can choose between traditional whole-group discussions like you did for Quotes #1, or small-group discussions.
Well-structured small-group discussions are an excellent way to effectively cover a lot of material in a short amount of time. If you have 12 or more people, please consider them. Even introverts enjoy small-group experiences when well-structured (more tips at the end of quote #2).
Quote #2 (four principles)
Instructions: If using whole-group discussion, read quotes A, B, C, and D aloud together and discuss the questions after each one is read.
If using small groups, divide the class into several groups of 3-5 people now. Let each group direct their own discussion. Tell them they can pick any or all of the four quotes together and discuss them as a group. Don’t worry about which ones they pick – what your class needs to talk about most will rise to the top. (More detailed instructions at the end of quote #2)
No matter which discussion style you choose, ensure everyone has a copy of the four quotes (and questions if using small groups). [Printable PDF download at the end of this article.]
A – Let me offer four guiding principles that may be of assistance to you in inviting and recognizing the promptings of the Spirit.
Our temples and homes are the most sacred of these dedicated spaces. In them we more easily invite and recognize the Spirit. Other holy places include meetinghouses, seminary buildings and institutes, and Church history sites and visitors’ centers. Stand in holy places.
Question A: What happens to us when we stand in an “unholy” place? What helps you turn your home into a holy place? Why is it important to make our home a “bastion” from the world?
bastion: someplace or something that gives protection against attack. (like a fortress)
B – The Spirit cannot be restrained from attending a gathering of holy people. If you hope to feel the Spirit, be with people with whom the Spirit can easily dwell. The Savior said it this way: “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” Choose to be with people and go to places where righteousness is found. Find your strength in numbers. Find good friends. Be good friends. Support one another wherever you are. Stand with holy people.
The First Presidency Letter from October 6, 2018, also encourages us to get together to study the gospel. “Informally, and as organized by those who so desire, young single adults, single adults, single parents, part-member families, new members, and others can gather to enjoy sociality and to strengthen one another through gospel study.”
Question B: Why would Elder Stevenson encourage groups? Could you increase the time and effort to be with good friends and be a good friend to others?
C – Third, testify of holy truths as often as you can. The Comforter always shares His voice when we testify with our voice. The Spirit bears witness to the speaker and listener alike. As you seek and take opportunities to share your testimony with others, you will create moments to recognize the Spirit for yourself.
Help your class take the apprehension and stiffness out of testifying. One year ago at General Conference, Elder Stevenson reminded us that bearing and testifying can be very natural, conversational sharing and doesn’t always mean closing “in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.” Here’s the quote:
“You bear your testimony when you share spiritual feelings with others. As a member of the Church, you have opportunities to bear your spoken testimony in formal Church meetings or in less formal, one-on-one conversations with family, friends, and others.
“Another way you share your testimony is through righteous behavior. Your testimony in Jesus Christ isn’t just what you say—it’s who you are.
“Each time you bear vocal witness or demonstrate through your actions your commitment to follow Jesus Christ, you invite others to “come unto Christ.”
“We testify when we love, share, and invite, even online. Your tweets, direct messages, and posts will take on a higher, holier purpose when you also use social media to show how the gospel of Jesus Christ shapes your life.”
Question C – Outside of a testimony meeting, what informal ways can we bear and testify of the gospel and of Jesus Christ? What is your favorite way to share gospel truths?
D – The final principle is to listen to the Holy Spirit. He can be our constant companion, but He speaks in subtle, quiet tones. The noise, clamor, and contention prevalent in the world may overpower still, quiet impressions of the Holy Spirit. Find a quiet place, a holy space where you can seek to receive direction from the Spirit.
Question D – Could anyone share a time they strongly felt the Spirit? What did it feel like, and what inspiration did you receive? What kinds of things can crowd the Spirit out?
Follow the outline above. Because there is so much material, I usually give everyone their copy to read. You only need to include the actual quotes, not the questions. If you can, pass out quote assignments earlier in the week or before Sacrament meeting. This allows people to absorb them before reading them aloud and upgrades the quality of the discussion!
[See a PDF download at the end of this article.]
Do not read quotes A, B, C, or D as a class together. Let the individual groups handle that part. Have people split into smaller groups (3-5). Instruct them to skim the quotes independently, share their favorite parts, and discuss the questions together as a group. The questions and quotes can be addressed in any order and do not all have to be covered.
It takes about 7-12 minutes. You will likely have to stop the conversations, and that’s okay!
Essential preparation for introvert-friendly small groups: Give each person their own copy of the quotes and questions to look at. Also, walk around and listen to each group for a bit without directing their conversation. Validate and nod. Only jump in if they are highly challenged, and no one is talking.
At the close of the discussion time, have each group elect a spokesperson to summarize their group’s ideas. Allow others to add comments as you go along. Expect about 15-20 minutes total for Quote #3.
Quote #3 (cautions)
Here are several cautions that Elder Stevenson shares when interpreting the Spirit from our feelings:
Suggestion: For emphasis, have 3 different people read these three cautions (in a row) and discuss them after the third quote.
Confirm your spiritual impressions. For example, impressions from the Spirit will align with the scriptures and the teachings of the living prophets.
Be certain that the feelings you receive are consistent with your assignment. Unless you are called by proper authority, impressions from the Spirit are not given for you to counsel or correct others.
Spiritual matters cannot be forced. You can cultivate an attitude and an environment that invite the Spirit, and you can prepare yourself, but you cannot dictate how or when inspiration comes. Be patient and trust that you will receive what you need when the time is right.
Amen. The tendency to tell others when they should be feeling the Spirit is a mistaken cultural teaching (i.e., during someone’s Sacrament meeting talk or a Sunday school lesson). The Spirit decides when and to whom it testifies. That is not for anyone else to say for anyone else. Different people will feel the Spirit at other times. Don’t feel left out if someone says the Spirit is present and you didn’t feel it. Just be ready, and you will have those experiences often enough.
Possible discussion questions. Which of these cautions stood out to you and why? Why does stewardship matter? Do we decide for anyone else when they should feel the Spirit?
Quote #4 (best judgment)
Can you go overboard with any gospel principle? Yes, and I’ve watched this happen more than once. Thank you, Elder Stevenson, for including this next bit of counsel.
This is not an exaggeration; I’ve had friends who pray over every tiny bit of anything and claim every daily event, action, and choice (like which brand of tuna fish and how many cans) is “the Lord’s will” or “the Lord said.” Sometimes, several times a day. It’s put forth as some high-level achievement of spirituality. It’s not believable. With those kinds of people, eventually, some choice or series of choices they claim are the Lord’s end catastrophically.
Not even Joseph Smith could claim that much personal revelation. The same Joseph Smith who had more than 130 unique heavenly visitors. The same Joseph Smith who wrote 14,000 verses as a prophet of God. The Lord required Joseph Smith to work through and solve many significant problems independently. Including, even, how to fund the first publication of the Book of Mormon. Which happened with great difficulty and failed attempts. That’s an important historical lesson.
The Lord is in the business of growing a strong, gifted people. He blessed you with intellect and judgment. In the same way, we can be too full of ourselves and not turn to the Lord enough – we can also be too empty of ourselves and want to create an unbalanced, over-dependence. That’s not spirituality.
Does the Spirit sometimes influence seemingly small decisions? Is it okay to pray daily over your concerns? Yes!! So, what is the right balance? Elder Stevenson gives a perfect guide.
Use your own best judgment. Sometimes we want to be led by the Spirit in all things. However, often the Lord wants us to use our God-given intelligence and act in ways that are consistent with our best understanding. President Dallin H. Oaks taught:
“A desire to be led by the Lord is a strength, but it needs to be accompanied by an understanding that our Heavenly Father leaves many decisions for our personal choices. … Persons who try to shift all decision making to the Lord and plead for revelation in every choice will soon find circumstances in which they pray for guidance and don’t receive it. …
“We should study things out in our minds. … Then we should pray for guidance and act upon it. … If we do not receive guidance, we should act upon our best judgment.”
Possible discussion questions: Is picking a tuna fish brand okay without praying about it? Where does our best judgment come from? (accept all reasonable answers – God-given intelligence and our best understanding) When is it okay to use our best judgment after praying about a matter?
Quote #5 (gradual)
Keep at it, don’t give up!
“…Latter-day Saints should be gifted, covenant-keeping people. Nonetheless, it remains for each of us to seek to exercise our spiritual gifts and then to invite and learn to recognize promptings of the Spirit.
Your ability to invite and recognize the promptings of the Spirit will develop a step at a time. “Becoming more attuned to the language of the Spirit is like learning another language. It is a gradual process that requires diligent, patient effort.”
Possible discussion questions: What would be our advice to someone hoping to feel the Spirit more? What have you learned about feeling the Spirit? Why would Elder Stevenson describe listening to the Spirit “like learning another language”?
Summarize class discussion highlights and/or share your testimony and feelings about Elder Stevenson’s talk. Thank your class for their excellent contributions and insights.
This is a wonderful topic and never too basic to discuss as adults. It also allows us to review how often we feel the Spirit. I’m grateful you are preparing and researching this lesson. You help to strengthen and gather Israel when you promote more faithful habits. Teach with confidence, and if you would like some tips on how to feel more confident while teaching – try “9 Tips for More Class Participation.” May the Spirit bless and guide your efforts.