Imagine being able to consistently get great ideas and solutions to
everyday problems whenever you need them. Wouldn’t it be
wonderful? How would it be to have the Spirit constantly? To get
flashes of understanding as often as required to work with our
children, jobs and church callings?
After twenty years of writing music on a daily basis, I have found that
getting inspiration is more a matter of consistent preparation than
sparse, singular moments of illumination. Receiving inspiration is, in
my experience, a learned skill that can be practiced and perfected,
rather than some elusive, uncontrollable mystery. Since I have had
to learn to get inspiration to create music for so long to provide for
my family, I have had terrific motivation to “get spiritual”.
Set Yourself Up for Success
First of all, it is important to understand that the creative process,
inspiration, revelation, the Holy Spirit, meditation, and prayer are all
part of the same whole, and there is no substitute for the basics of a
noble life rooted in Christ-centered behavior. Our lives must first be in
harmony with gospel principles as much as possible.
The belief that each of us is original, unique, and has something
significant to say and do is fundamental to receiving the level of
consistency of inspiration I am referring to.
I believe we are inspired 95% of the time, but do not take the time to
listen or follow what we’re told. Inspiration is there for the taking, as
much as we want it, if we learn how to get it.
Levels of Communication
In this existence, there are ascending levels of communication with
our fellow beings. The illustration below shows “Body Language” at
the bottom, and progresses in potency to the highest level, that of a
visit from Christ. Speech has the ability to bring the Spirit, but music
can transcend language, and combining visual and aural senses and
music together in film is even more potent. The Holy Ghost can sear
its influence into our very consciousness, while a visit of Christ
requires a near-transfiguration of the body.
An Example of Undeniably Clear Inspiration
As a freshman at Rick’s College enrolled in the music program, I was asked to conduct the music for one of the weekly devotionals, an honor usually reserved for professors. I suppose my teacher thought I was a reasonably good conductor, as I was taking his conducting class at the time. Of course I was flattered and humbled at the prospect of conducting a congregation of 6000, with a visiting General Authority as the speaker.
I found myself in front of an imposingly large audience, but managed to conduct the opening hymn reasonably well without incident. As I sat down following the hymn, I felt a wave of reassuring confidence.
I found myself in front of an imposingly large audience, but managed
to conduct the opening hymn reasonably well without incident. As I
sat down following the hymn, I felt a wave of reassuring confidence.
The General Authority’s talk was wonderful, and the Spirit was
present. The time came for the closing hymn and prayer. The
program listed the song as Abide With Me. I found the page and went
through the hymn in my mind.
As I got up to begin the song, the organist began to play the
introduction to Abide With Me, Tis’ Eventide. Either she or I had the
wrong hymn! There I was, with two seconds before the intro was
over, to find the right page. In the days of the old blue hymnal, those
two songs were not next to each other as they are now in the green
hymnal. Maybe this story is why that was changed! There was no
time to turn to the index in the back and find the right page. What
could I do?
I thought quickly: “Let’s see, one is in 3/4, the other in 4/4,-ok, I can
do this”, so I closed my book and set it down on my chair. I began
conducting as if nothing had happened, trying to lead with assurance,
and watching the audience’s mouths to get the words.
A Horrifying Thought
After the second verse, I was beginning to feel like I was going to get
through this just fine, and not make a fool of myself after all. Then an
absolutely horrifying thought came to my mind: How many verses are
in this song?
If there were three verses, and I kept going to a fourth verse, I would
look like an idiot. If there were four verses, and I stopped after three,
I would look like an idiot. There was no way out! I was doomed to be
the biggest fool in conducting history!
As we began singing the third verse, I wracked my brain for what to
do, all the while smiling and conducting away as if nothing were
happening, I was tortured with panic and began saying a silent prayer
- ”O Lord, pleeeeez help me out of this mess!”
A Voice In My Mind
The singing continued to about halfway through the third verse, when
suddenly a voice came into my mind, as clear as could be, that said:
“There are always people who put their books down early on the last
I was saved! Sure enough, I watched the congregation, and about a
fourth of them closed their books on the last phrase before the song
I finished the hymn, sat down for the closing prayer, and afterwards
my teacher came up and shook my hand, congratulating me for
“memorizing the hymn.” He also gave me an A in conducting class. I
never told him what had really happened!
This was a great example of direct revelation that was undeniably
An Example of Not Following Inspiration
In Paraguay in the depths of my mission, there was a neighborhood that had a retired military officer who still had his gun. He was an alcoholic, and was known throughout the neighborhood for his nastiness, shooting other people’s chickens and dogs that came onto his property. The member family across the street warned us not to knock at his gate, because he hated the missionaries.
He emerged from his hut, drunk as could be, swearing and cussing at
us with words I didn’t even know existed in Spanish. Calling us every
sort of name imaginable, he approached us at the gate.
My ears were burning with his language, and I will admit, I did not
remain calm as the Spirit was telling me to do. As soon as he
paused for breath, I told him in anger:
“Que tenga felizidad in su vida miserable!” (I hope you will be happy
in your miserable life.)
He exploded in rage and began shouting:
“Where’s my gun? I’m going to kill these missionaries!”
As he ran back to his hut to get it, we started walking very quickly
away from the gate. His wife panicked and started shouting:
“No! No! Don’t do it!!!”
We could hear all this commotion going on, and my junior companion
said: “Let’s run!!” But this time I listened to the Spirit and said: “No,
just walk calmly, as if nothing were happening.”
He roared over to the gate, screaming how he was going to kill us, all
the while the wife shouting “No! No!” as the neighbors started rushing
out to see what was happening.
Inches From Death
He lifted his pistol and fired at us. The bullet went inches between
our two heads. Just after it passed, we rounded the corner to safety.
If I had followed the Spirit to begin with, and not gotten angry, I would
probably not have put us in such danger. We reported it to the
mission president, and he told us not to go in that area again for
awhile. Duh. The only hard thing about that was not seeing the
member family across the street.
After a time, we snuck though the back way over to the member
family to get a report on what had happened. The man had been
taken sick, and was lying on his bed for days, apparently near death.
The predominantly Catholic neighborhood banded together and told
him this was his punishment for shooting at the “servants of God”.
He became repentant, and sent word via the members that he
wanted us to come and give him a blessing. We came and found him
pale and helpless, barely able to speak.
We gave him a blessing, and within a day he was completely healed.
Unfortunately, he returned to his drunkenness, and did not join the
church, but he did stop shooting other people’s chickens.
This was a good example of not doing exactly as the Spirit dictated,
by letting myself get angry. I’m glad the Lord still worked through us
in spite of my stupidity.
Next time: How to Be Inspired on Demand (part two).