There’s a saying that goes, “a fish doesn’t know he is surrounded by water until he’s out of it.” I think that’s how my life has been in regards to the Spirit. It has always been all around me, keeping me safe and sustaining me.
When I live my life in accordance with the teachings of the Savior and his gospel, I am at peace and am able to face my daily trials with his help. But when I fail to put my Savior first, I start to feel like a fish out of water, struggling to survive and make sense of life on my own.
With the recent passing of our dear prophet, President Thomas S. Monson of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I’ve had some time to ponder on his life and teachings. That man truly was remarkable in so many ways, but what I admire most about him was his absolute, unwavering testimony and faith in his Savior, Jesus Christ and his steadfast willingness to serve him and listen to the promptings of the Holy Spirit whenever they came.
Learning to listen to and act on the promptings of the still, small voice is a lifetime goal of mine, and I have never felt more aware of the Spirit in my life than when I was on "American Idol." Living away from home with people who lived very different lives than me felt like someone took me out of my protective fish bowl and thrust me into an ocean of uncertainty.
One night on the "American Idols Live!" tour, I was sitting in my hotel room in Minnesota. We were just getting ready to start out across the country. I was by myself, and it was quiet in my room. I felt very alone. I wasn’t going to see my family for two long months and I was homesick and afraid.
I decided to pray. Despite all the promptings and protection and spiritual experiences I’d had up until this point in my life — and I had had many — I felt like I still didn’t know. And I needed to know. Now. I needed to know Heavenly Father was really there and that he heard and answered every child’s prayer, just like my favorite Primary song, “A Child’s Prayer” says.
Suddenly it was like a dam of emotion broke and I was sobbing uncontrollably. “Please,” I pleaded. “Please, Heavenly Father. Are you really there? Do you really love me?”
“From the bed of pain, from the pillow wet with tears of loneliness, we are lifted heavenward by that divine assurance and precious promise, ‘I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee’ (Joshua 1:5),” President Monson has said (see “The Spirit Giveth Life," April 1995).
And then, from my little hotel room bed, the most beautiful thing happened. In the Doctrine and Covenants 9:8, it shares about one way prayers are answered: “I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right.”
That is exactly what happened to me. A burning sensation spread across my chest and enveloped my entire body. The room became distinctively brighter beyond my closed eyelids and I felt as though I was being lifted up and wrapped in Heavenly Father’s love. Heaven was “close around me” as I prayed, and instantly my tears stopped and I began to laugh in awe and gratitude that my Heavenly Father would let me feel something so pure, warm, peaceful, joyful and wonderful. I knew without a doubt that feeling was from my Father in Heaven through the power of the Holy Ghost.
There have been many times in the 14 years since that happened that I have questioned things. Worries still arise, and I still struggle with so much, but I can never deny what I felt.
My husband, Brad, calls impactful, spiritual experiences like the one I had “bookmark moments.”
“When your faith is shaken and you begin to fear, you can flip back in your book of life to these spiritual experiences you’ve had and say, ‘but I knew it then,’” he has said of these kinds of moments.
President Joseph Fielding Smith, the 10th president of the LDS Church, said, “The Spirit of God speaking to the spirit of man has power to impart truth with greater effect and understanding than the truth can be imparted by personal contact even with heavenly beings. Through the Holy Ghost the truth is woven into the very fibre and sinews of the body so that it cannot be forgotten.” (see "Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Fielding Smith," Ch. 14 The Gift of the Holy Ghost).
I continue to build upon and increase my knowledge and understanding of this the true gospel of Jesus Christ, who is the living water, every day so I can stand strong and firm in the faith like President Monson, and teach my children that “there is none other way nor name given under heaven whereby man can be saved in the kingdom of God” (see 2 Nephi 31:21).