Question: Why might someone not be able to see their spiritual impressions come to successful, obvious, and/or beautiful fruition?

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Question: Why might someone not be able to see their spiritual impressions come to successful, obvious, and/or beautiful fruition?

There are a variety of ways to view these situations

It is sometimes wondered how one might respond to a situation in which an impression to do or believe something doesn’t come to fruition—whether that be in an immediate, obvious, or good way. This article will offer a number of things to consider when in this type of a situation. They are not things we have to constantly be worrying about when trying to receive inspiration nor are they set possibilities. These are simply a number of things to consider when faced with this type of a situation.

Consider that the impression is brought to fruition without you immediately recognizing the benefit

  • The first thing we can always consider is that the impression has brought fruit but that it won’t be immediately obvious to us how those experiences benefit us or the life of someone else right now or in the future.
  • Many faithful members have reconciled such situations by seeing that the Lord may have simply wanted them to follow the impression so that he knows that you are faithful enough to at the very least follow through with the impressions he wants them to have.
  • Just as the Lord has given his will for the entire human family "line upon line", could it be that the Lord accommodates revelation to our particular understanding until a later time when he's ready to give us further knowledge about something? Could it be that we are not ready for some knowledge in particular but that the Lord intends to reveal something to us later when we are more mature and able to receive it?

These things should be considered.

Dallin H. Oaks: "[A person may have] a strong desire to be led by the Spirit of the Lord but . . . unwisely extends that desire to the point of wanting to be led in all things."

Dallin H. Oaks teaches that we can be led by false revelation if we extend our desire to pray about unnecessary things:

[A person may have] a strong desire to be led by the Spirit of the Lord but . . . unwisely extends that desire to the point of wanting to be led in all things. A desire to be led by the Lord is a strength, but it needs to be accompanied by an understanding that our Heavenly Father leaves many decisions for our personal choices. Personal decision making is one of the sources of the growth we are meant to experience in mortality. Persons who try to shift all decision making to the Lord and plead for revelation in every choice will soon find circumstances in which they pray for guidance and don't receive it. For example, this is likely to occur in those numerous circumstances in which the choices are trivial or either choice is acceptable. We should study things out in our minds, using the reasoning powers our Creator has placed within us. Then we should pray for guidance and act upon it if we receive it. If we do not receive guidance, we should act upon our best judgment. Persons who persist in seeking revelatory guidance on subjects on which the Lord has not chosen to direct us may concoct an answer out of their own fantasy or bias, or they may even receive an answer through the medium of "false revelation"[1]

One might want to consider how Mormon theology views “bad things” happening to good people

It may be useful to see how Mormon theology views bad things happening to good people. Perhaps these situations might be viewed as “bad things” since we don’t see the fruit of our effort. In Latter-day Saint theology, a bad thing may happen because:

  1. It brings about a greater good as when Joseph was sold into Egypt. Sometimes the greater good is not immediately forthcoming or obvious to us. Sometimes the effect that we have on people or on ourselves after following an impression can be enough to help strengthen their relationship with God or come closer to finding meaning through the restored Gospel.
  2. To chasten the disobedient because of his love for them as taught in Helaman 15. We have to be faithful to receive blessings. When we are humble we are more likely to turn to him.
  3. An Abrahamic test of faith. The prophet Joseph Smith is canonized saying “ But nevertheless, deep water is what I am wont to swim in. It all has become second nature to me, and I feel like Paul, to glory in tribulation;” (D&C 127:2) Obviously the Lord isn’t going to spare us any test of faith in life (D&C 136.31). He will actively test it to prepare us for greater things. Trying to learn how to receive and follow inspiration and trust in God is not an exception.

Sometimes people receive impressions, but aren’t able to interpret them correctly

It is important to know that:

  1. It is possible to confuse emotion for a spiritual impression. Given that we believe that the body and spirit are intimately and intricately connected (D&C 88:15), it is not suprising how a warm feeling or heart murmur may be over-interpreted as coming from a spiritual stimulus. We should take time when trying to receive inspiration to ponder what we are feeling and seek to counsel long with the Lord if wanting to receive an answer to prayer.
  2. Some people do receive an impression, but don’t interpret them correctly. Oftentimes we are receiving inspiration from the Spirit to confirm a thought but perhaps we aren’t still enough to capture its still small voice and we may get distracted from what it is trying to communicate to us.
  3. Some revelation requires conscious thought to interpret correctly. The Doctrine and Covenants records Joseph Smith having to be left to wonder as to the proper meaning of revelation that he received relative to the Second Coming of the Savior (Doctrine and Covenants 130: 12-17). We may have to do the same at different points of our lives. As a word of caution: it may be only while looking back on that revelation in retrospect that we’ll recognize exactly why we were inspired to do, say, and or/believe something.

It is important to be still and focus so that we can carefully discern what exactly the spirit is prompting us to do and/or believe. Oftentimes we haven’t studied an issue out in our minds thoroughly as is often required of us when trying to seek inspiration. When we don’t, we may not get what we’re looking for (D&C 9:7-9).

Revelation takes time to master. We should understand how the Spirit functions and continue to test our knowledge. Eventually we are promised to see fruits for our efforts—even miracles

Revelation takes time to master. The best we can do is understand how the Spirit works by reading the scriptures and following the impression we receive as best as we can discern them. We are promised that as we are humble, the Lord will lead us by the hand and give us answers to our prayers (D&C 112:10) and that signs will follow the believers (D&C 63.9)

A key to understanding when something is authentic is its effect on you. It should feel like it didn’t come from you or was willed by you or as Joseph Smith says, like “pure intelligence" flowing into you:

A person may profit by noticing the first intimation of the spirit of revelation; for instance, when you feel pure intelligence flowing into you, it may give you sudden strokes of ideas, so that by noticing it, you may find it fulfilled the same day or soon; (i.e.) those things that were presented unto your minds by the Spirit of God, will come to pass; and thus by learning the Spirit of God and understanding it, you may grow into the principle of revelation, until you become perfect in Christ Jesus.

However, as Boyd K. Packer points out, revelation does not "flow without effort" on the part of the person desiring it:

To one who thought that revelation would always flow without effort (although sometimes the revelation is spontaneous), the Lord said:

“You have not understood; you have supposed that I would give it unto you, when you took no thought save it was to ask me. “But, behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right.” This burning in the bosom is not purely a physical sensation. It is more like a warm light shining within your being.

Describing the promptings from the Holy Ghost to one who has not had them is very difficult. Such promptings are personal and strictly private!

D&C 50:24

The fruit of our impressions will become clearer to us as we continue in God. As expressed in D&C 50:24:

24 That which is of God is light; and he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day.

As we remain humble, patient, and allow things to play out, God will allow us to understand what he means to teach us. As we grow into the principle of revelation, we will be better prepared to understand the Lord’s design and method for shaping our lives.


  1. Dallin H. Oaks, “Our Strengths Can Become Our Downfall,” Ensign 24 (October 1994): 13–14.