“Things of the Spirit need not–indeed, should not–require our uninterrupted time and attention. Ordinary work-a-day things occupy most of our attention. And that is as it should be. We are mortal beings living in this physical world. Spiritual things are like leavening. By measure they may be very small, but by influence they affect all that we do.”

Boyd K. Packer

Many, many years ago I attended a seminary in-service meeting where I learned a gospel principle in a way that’s made a tremendous difference in my life. With the prophet’s recent counsel to do better at hearing Christ, which means recognizing when the Spirit is teaching us, I thought it was time to actually finish and share this post that I started many moons ago.

Once we invite the Spirit to be our companion, as long as we do nothing to offend him, he’ll stay near. As part of our baptismal covenant, we have the promise of the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost, but we need to make him feel welcome. If we read or watch or say or do or listen to, or even think, something we shouldn’t, he’ll leave. We’ll have to repent and change and invite him back before he’ll return.

To help my students understand this principle, at the beginning of each year, I’d share the chart that was shared with me, and we’d work together to fill it in. Different activities were listed and then the class filled in the boxes with examples of what invites the Spirit, what offends the Spirit, and what really does neither. How would you fill out the chart? What other categories would you add?

Invites the Spirit

Neutral

Offends the Spirit

Books

“Book of Mormon”

 “Little Men”

“Catch 22”

Speech

Music

Movies

Magazines

The idea is that if you invite the Spirit first thing (with personal prayer in the morning), then you can move into the “neutral” category (regular school day activities) and still have the Spirit with you, until you do something that offends it (get mad at your mother).  Missionaries may spend 24/7 in the “invite the Spirit” category, but we don’t, and this really made an impact on me. If I took the time to pray and study the scriptures early in the day, then I didn’t need to feel that my ordinary daily activities (housecleaning, shopping, fixing meals, volunteering at the school, playing a board game, swimming, watching a movie, taking a nap, visiting a friend, teaching a piano lesson, etc.) were impeding my personal spiritual improvement. They were part of it! In addition, I knew what I’d have to do when I did slip up and do something I shouldn’t have done.

I remember one seminary class when one student really didn’t want to be there. He arrived late (after the opening hymn and prayer), and was argumentative and rude to everyone. We all noticed the departure of the Spirit. I can’t remember if he was asked to leave, or if he just became less confrontational, but I do remember having a second hymn and prayer to invite the Spirit back before continuing on with the lesson that day. Whether in a seminary class or in our home, this principle really does work.

Here’s one excerpt from a conference talk by President Henry B. Eyring which does a great job of explaining how we can have the Holy Ghost to be our constant companion.

For many reasons, we need the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost. We desire it, yet we know from experience that it is not easy to maintain. We each think, say, and do things in our daily lives that can offend the Spirit. The Lord taught us that the Holy Ghost will be our constant companion when our hearts are full of charity and when virtue garnishes our thoughts unceasingly (see D&C 121:45).

For those who are struggling with the high standard needed to qualify for the gift of the Spirit’s companionship, I offer this encouragement. You have had times when you have felt the influence of the Holy Ghost. . . . You can treat those moments of inspiration like the seed of faith that Alma described (see Alma 32:28). Plant each one. You can do that by acting on the prompting you felt. The most valuable inspiration will be for you to know what God would have you do. If it is to pay tithing or to visit a grieving friend, you should do it. Whatever it is, do it. When you demonstrate your willingness to obey, the Spirit will send you more impressions of what God would have you do for Him.