The laundry room of my three-story apartment complex is in the basement. Some have nicknamed it, “The bat cave.” It’s a harsh name, but it is certainly suiting of the dreary dungeon.
The room is almost completely covered in pure concrete. The floor, walls, and even most of the ceiling. It is also without any windows. I would consider myself a heavy cell phone user, and whenever I do my laundry, my signal drops to zero. I’m fairly accustomed to this by now, and I’ve just accepted the fact that I’ll have to wait to go upstairs before my phone becomes functional once again.
As I was separating my lights from my darks, one day, I received the distinct impression, “Call Ariel.” That was it, and then it was gone. I can’t even really describe how the feeling came. I couldn’t decipher whether it was a thought or a feeling, or what. But I was certain that it wasn’t my own thought, because at that moment, I was not thinking of Ariel. I was thinking about how I didn’t want to have to run all the way up to the third floor to grab the fabric softener that I had forgotten.
Excited that I had just received an impression from the Spirit, I ran upstairs and began dialing Ariel. My excitement then turned into doubt, as I realized that I didn’t have the slightest idea of what I was going to say. The Spirit hadn’t given me that much. But that didn’t matter. Ariel and I were close enough that a phone call “Just to say ‘Hi’” wouldn’t be unusual.
She answered the phone and said, “Hey! How are you?” I replied with, “Great! Um…so are you doing okay? Do you need anything? I just felt like I should give you a call.” She assured me that everything was fine. After a minute or two later, we hung up, and I went back to doing my laundry.
I was really bummed. I was positive that I had received a prompting from the Spirit, but that it turned out to be nothing. Regardless, I felt good that I had listened to the Spirit, and maybe that was all that the Lord wanted for me to learn at that point.
Switching my laundry from the washing machine to the dryer, I pushed ‘Start’, and then went back to my apartment for a half an hour to do homework. Plopping down on my bed, my phone began to vibrate. I pulled it out. Guess who was calling?
“Hello?” I said. On the other end, all I heard was crying. “Could…you…come over?” Only five minutes had passed since I had last talked to her. I was surprised to hear that something was wrong. I drove over to her apartment and held her while we talked. She unloaded it all onto me. Her stresses with work, with school, her family back home, dating, roommates, bills, and just about every other thing that a college student might have to go through.
In that moment, I thought about “Spiritual Signals.” Although man-made cell phone signals couldn’t penetrate the concrete barriers of my apartment complex, spiritual signals could. And even more than that, they could penetrate my hard head and huge ego.
I’ve often reflected on that experience and wondered to myself, “How many other promptings have I received in my life that I haven’t noticed?” Or more than that, what other times in my life have I been confused about whether what I was feeling truly was a prompting or not?
With lots of thought, I may have found an answer: Many of the daily decisions that we make have very little eternal impact. Usually, they are between two or more options, both of which are acceptable decisions. When a prompting is not clear to me whether or not it is of my own self or from the Spirit, I take comfort in knowing that Heavenly Father gave me great tools to make decisions: my mind, great friends, incredible parents, and my own talents. As long as the choice that I make allows me to come closer to my Father in Heaven, to serve others, or allows me to be happy, why should I even care what the source of the prompting is?
But when I’m making very important and critical decisions, I often try and use the scripture in D&C 8:2 as my guide: “I will tell you in your mind and in your heart, by the Holy Ghost.” Generally, if the prompting both makes sense in my mind, and feels good in my heart, I take confidence that it was from the Lord. If the two options don’t quite match up in my mind and my heart, then I’ll stop, take a step back, reconsider my options, and then remake the decision.
At times, I have wanted so much to be guided by the Holy Ghost that I’ve forgotten that the Lord will not make decisions for me. I’ve had times in which I have been at a complete stand-still trying to discern whether what I was feeling was “the Spirit” or “just my thoughts.” Regardless of where the thought originated, it’s up to me and my agency to consider my options, and choose the best course. Although it’s difficult, through repeated steps of faith into complete darkness, I feel that the Lord will trust us more with spiritual experiences, and we’ll gain the ability to recognize the whisperings from the Spirit.