How do I know whether the thought I have is my own or if it’s from the Holy Ghost?

Elder Dale G Renlund, an Apostle of Jesus Christ, recently spoke to a large congregation of educators and students. The talk was titled “Observation, Reason, Faith, and Revelation” and covered many ways that we can learn and know truth. It was a wonderful message. 

In the middle of that talk was one point I wanted to highlight. It’s a question that is pondered by many seekers of truth. It is a question I have asked and been asked many, many times. I thought this was a wonderful response so concisely delivered. Here is the text from his talk:

At one time or another, many of us have asked ourselves, “How do I know whether the thought I have is my own or if it’s from the Holy Ghost?”

This is a reasonable question. 

Perhaps a better question and certainly more actionable is this, “Should I act on this particular thought?”

The prophet Mormon answered this second question. He taught, “every thing which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ; wherefore ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of God. But whatsoever thing persuadeth men to do evil, and believe not in Christ, and deny him, and serve not God, then ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of the devil…”

These are the criteria whether we should act on a particular thought. It promotes believing in Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. It promotes loving and serving them, and promotes doing good. 

If the thought meets these criteria, does it really matter whether it was planted by the Holy Ghost in that exact moment or if the thought arose thanks to a lifetime of experiences and prior decisions. 

In reality, it doesn’t. 

But observation and reason provide a filter through which we determine whether to act on an impression. 

I do believe that you can decipher between your own thoughts and the promptings of the Spirit. It might be different for you than it is for me. This ability to recognize comes with study, with prayer, with pondering, and with some trial and error.

But until we reach that point of perception, the above advice is really helpful. Rephrase the question as one of action and get moving. 

Should I take this job?

Should I date this person?

Should I move to this new location?

Should I accept this call?

Should I reach out to this person?

Should I return to faith?

Should I accept this doctrine?

Rather than wait and waffle, I believe that God usually wants us to just make the decision and move forward and he will bless our efforts. 

Trust your future self by acting now. 

For those who would like to hear the full talk, you can watch it below or read it here when the text is edited and posted.