Deep End | Prompt and Circumstance: Don’t confuse Dick Nourse’s voice for the still, small one. 

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Here at the Church Information Office, we have been swamped with inquiries about an article that appeared in the Jan. 30 Deseret News. Under the headline, “Pres.Monson makes time for ‘promptings,’” the article revealed that the current Prophet, Seer and Revelator “always acts on promptings, whether it is to make a telephone call or call on someone in person.” n

People (I assume they were Gentiles, since all Mormons are familiar with promptings) wanted to know all about promptings: what exactly a prompting was, how to recognize a prompting when it manifested itself and how to differentiate between a true prompting and a false prompting.

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The minute I read the inquiries on the Prophet’s promptings, I myself experienced a strong prompting to seize the moment and use the inquiries as a teaching moment. I hurried off to get permission from Elder Harold J. Pratt to write an explanatory column on promptings. Elder Pratt, author of the best-selling manual on premature promptings Behold, I Come Quickly, is the general authority who heads up the Department on Prophecy and Promptitude.

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When I got to his office on the top floor of the Church Office Building, I was out of breath and debated with myself whether I should knock on the door or announce myself through his secretary. All of a sudden, however, I was prompted, I know not from whence, to burst right into his office, which unfortunately prompted him to practically jump out of his chair and exclaim, “What the fuck!” just before collapsing on the floor, having suffered what turned out to be a rather massive myocardial infarction.

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There was a temporary delay while an ambulance was summoned, but I finally was able to talk to Elder Pratt’s first counselor, Elder G. Homer Jacobson, who was prompted to give me the green light to provide the following info on promptings. I hope it provides some helpful hints on how to make use of promptings in your own everyday life.

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I am prompted to start by referring to last Friday’s Deseret News article on President Monson’s promptings, after which several readers’ comments were appended, with each reader being prompted to provide his or her particular take on the nature of promptings. Here are a few of their definitions: a feeling that comes to your heart or mind; a thought or feeling you may have unexpectedly; a strong feeling or thought to do something good; a feeling you get inside of you to do something or not do something; your conscience; the voice of the Holy Ghost; the whisperings of the Spirit; an idea the Lord places in your mind through the Holy Ghost; the desire or urge to do something you would not have done the moment the prompting is received; a voice as if someone is standing next to you.

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You get the idea. But for me, the best definition of a prompting came from the Prophet Joseph Smith, who spoke of “pure intelligence flowing into you.” This definition, by the way, clears up the confusion among many commentators about what the prophet’s many wives were referring to when they got together to compare notes on the prophet’s skill in prompting.

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I hope you now know what a prompting is. But how can you tell whether it is a genuine prompting? After all, the voice inside you might not be the whisperings of the Holy Ghost, but rather the murmurings of the Evil One. Not even our General Authorities know of a surety when the voice is real. Back when Elder M. Russell Ballard, of the Quorum of Twelve, had a Ford franchise, he ignored a prompting from the Lord telling him not to put Edsels into his showroom. He almost went broke when the Edsel proved to be dud. He sure learned a lesson about promptings—the Lord knows the car market better than the boys in Detroit.

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So how can you tell when a prompting is real? I turned to Elder Dallin Oates, current member of the Quorum of Twelve, erstwhile president of BYU and former singing partner of what’s-his-name Hall. “The Lord rarely speaks loudly,” says Elder Oates. Instead of being thunderous and booming, the voice of the Lord is “still and small.”

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So be a bit skeptical when you get a prompting voice that sounds like James Earl Jones or Dick Nourse. You hear someone in your head, or right beside you, that sounds like Truman Capote, do just what he says. 

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D.P. Sorensen writes satire for City Weekly.

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