How To Recognize When You Have the Spirit, and When You Don’t

The Five Prepared J. Kirk Richards
The Five Prepared J. Kirk Richards

The Five Prepared – J. Kirk Richards

I remember having a conversation about the Spirit, with my college roomate. He was 3-4 years younger than myself and preparing for a mission. He said something about how it’s not possible to have the Spirit with you all the time. I agreed, but called to his attention those days when everything just seems right. Though everything doesn’t go right, you’re not bothered by it. You’re just a little happier than normal, a little more interested in other people, their joys and problems, and overall just a better person. You rarely recognize these days as their happening, but look back at the end of the day, and think “wow, today was truly a good day.”

He agreed that he’d had those days. I suggested that on those days, the Holy Spirit had been with him throughout most of the day. He was excited and said something to the effect that he’d never thought of it in that way, but that it made perfect sense.

If we’re more aware of those days as they happen, I think we’ll literally “hunger and thirst” after them, as the scriptures say. The Spirit can be addicting after a fashion, because who doesn’t want to feel good and be happy? The only way to help make those days happen more—and avoid days that are opposite of them—is to recognize both, and do better at the things that make those days occur. When we start stringing those days together, one after another, that’s when the Lord can really start to accelerate our personal progress toward perfection. That’s when we truly start to “always have His Spirit to be with us” as we covenant in the sacrament prayers each week.

Here’s an awesome set of parallel lists that help us do exactly that, from the Aug. 1978 Ensign:

When you have the SpiritWhen you don’t have the Spirit
1You feel happy, calm, and clear-minded.You feel unhappy, depressed, confused, and frustrated.
2You feel generous.You feel possessive, self-centered, or resentful of demands made on you.
3Nobody can offend you.You are easily offended.
4You wouldn’t mind everybody seeing what you’re doing.You become secretive and evasive.
5You are eager to be with people and want to make them happy.You avoid people, especially members of your family; and you are critical of family members and Church authorities.
6You are glad when others succeed.You envy or resent the successes of others.
7You are glad to attend your meetings and participate in church activities.You don’t want to go to church, go home teaching, or take the sacrament. You wish you had another church job or no job at all.
8You feel like praying.You don’t want to pray.
9You wish you could keep all the Lord’s commandments.You find the commandments bothersome, restricting, or senseless.
10You feel in control—you don’t overeat or sleep too much; you don’t feel uncontrollably drawn to sensational entertainment, lose your temper, or feel uncontrollable passions or desires.You feel emotions and appetites so strongly that you fear you cannot control them—hate, jealousy, anger, lust, hunger, fatigue.
11You think about the Savior often and lovingly; you want to know him better.You hardly ever think of the Savior; he seems irrelevant to your life, or worse, part of a confusing system that seems to work against you.
12You feel confident and are glad to be alive.You get discouraged easily and wonder if life is really worth it.

If you make this into an awesome poster, let me know, and I’ll share it here on MLH (or if you want it exclusive, still send me a copy so I can hang it on my wall).

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Tevya Washburn

Website Creator at FiddlerStudios
Designer & creator of Mormon Life Hacker. Tevya keeps a personal blog, & another called Sacred Symbolic, about learning the Gospel through symbolism. Currently serving as: YM Secretary.

9 comments on “How To Recognize When You Have the Spirit, and When You Don’t

  1. kramer says:

    Your “When you don’t have the Spirit” list shounds too much like depression.

    1. Glenn Thigpen says:

      ‘Your “When you don’t have the Spirit” list sounds too much like depression.’

      Actually, numbers one, three, five (but only the part about avoiding people), eight, and twelve are, from my own personal experience, descriptive of depression.

      However, I do not subscribe to all of those negative symptoms of not having the spirit with one. There are some days when I am not actually depressed, but yet I don’t have the joyful feeling that comes from the spirit, yet I do not find in myself most of the negative traits that are listed.
      I do think that it is easier to fall prey to those traits if one does not have the spirit with them. But I believe that most of those negative traits are more descriptive of one rebelling against the spirit.


  2. Michael Bess says:

    I think the article provides an excellent insight into experiences of the spirit that we likely do not readily recognize. However, as a social worker I interact with many forms of mental illness (unrelated of course to worthiness), and the list while accurate for the general population seems that it would be somewhat discouraging to those who suffer from depression or mental disabilities. Tevya, what do you think the fruits of the spirit would look like for someone with those illnesses?

  3. Some great points and comments. Thanks to all of you for pointing these things out. I don’t think the list is supposed to be a precise formula for all. I had very severe depression (an sometimes still suffer from it) over many years, combined with social anxiety disorder. I agree that suffering from depression or mental illness does not necessarily mean you’re unable to have the Spirit with you, as a strict reading of the “don’t have the Spirit” list might suggest. I would think things would be somewhat adjusted and applied individually in those instances.

    Doing my best to answer Mike’s question: for me personally it meant that I was better able to cope with my depression and social anxiety. I saw it for what it really was: a weakness given me to help me be humble, but also to strengthen me as I relied on the Lord, and worked to overcome it. When I felt the Spirit, I wasn’t immune to anxiety or depression, but felt empowered like I could function “normally” in-spite of it. I felt like I was winning a battle with Satan, who didn’t want me to achieve my potential, which was being limited by those dual trials. On the other hand, when I didn’t have the Spirit, I felt like it dominated me, like I was unable to operate. I felt a loss of hope, and an inability to face situations I knew would be particularly difficult based on my anxiety. That would be my best to describe somewhat adjusted feelings for those with depression, from my own experience. Anyone else want to add?

    1. Michael Bess says:

      Just a half formed thought. I wonder if a fruit of the spirit, for one who struggles with an emotional or mental disorder, is acceptance of the existence of that disorder. Since this is an area that relies heavily on personal experiences, I’m hesitant to try to categorize it explicitly, but I’m imagining my own struggles and those times where the symptoms would not relent despite all that I could do. It wasn’t until after I met Shiloh, and then years after that where I was finally convinced she accepted me for all my problems, that I was able to accept my own depression. In the moment, depression unrelenting, a fruit of the spirit was to be able to accept that I was thus afflicted and that the low portion of the cycle could pass with time. Its that ‘acceptance’ that I’m proposing as a tasty hidden fruit for the depressed.

  4. Jacob Stimpson says:

    there are some new and really great articles on “light” and the spirit from Elder Bednar

  5. Jenny says:

    Thanks for sharing the list of parallels. Living the gospel, which brings the spirit, certainly does make like much happier.

  6. Jake D. says:

    If you’re going to claim to know when you do/don’t have the spirit you need to test the spirit. When you feel like you have the spirit have someone put your car keys into one of 10 identical boxes. You should be able to use the spirit to discern their location more than random statistics would show.

    If you can do a scientific test like that then we’ll know when the spirit is there.

  7. Laura says:

    I don’t like this list at all! Makes me feel horrible! Please take it off the internet! It’s giving people the wrong idea as to what the Spirit is/ and when He’s with you!

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