This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Today's column is about the possibility that the Holy Ghost wants you to shut up.
Most faiths have some form of spiritual motivator or helper. For Christians it's the Holy Ghost or Spirit, a manifestation of God's influence.
The Holy Ghost is so important people pray for its presence. They go to church to learn about it and they rely on it to help them know what to do and say in times of need.
The Holy Spirit is very hands-on. It tells you when to witness to other people and what to say to them to repent and turn their hearts to God.
Even when it comes in the form of "a still, small voice," the Holy Ghost is power. If you're a televangelist, it's the power by which you knock disabled people down on stage so other people watching will send you money to help you knock down a bunch more.
Anyway, the Holy Ghost is not generally seen as the authority by which people just stand by and let stuff happen. That still small voice rarely seems to tell people to be still and small. Pity, given that most human beings have a hard time telling the difference between being filled with the Holy Ghost and full of ourselves.
An excellent example of this dilemma is when someone we love decides to go a different way than we think they should.
Suppose one day a loved one announces he or she is gay, a Democrat, a bad witch, a vegan or some other thing that you (and therefore God) don't want them to be.
Note: It might even be something completely horrible like a Catholic, a Mormon, a Muslim, an atheist or a lawyer.
Further, suppose the revelation catches you so completely off guard that you're temporarily left speechless and scrambling for some appropriate countermeasure.
What you finally say and do here is important. It's so important that you wait for the spirit help you find the right words.
Since it's supposed to be the spirit telling you what to say, it really ought to come as a surprise. More importantly, it really ought to make the situation better.
But it's amazing how often what the Holy Ghost tells us to say is the one thing guaranteed to make everything worse.
"Tell him that you love him and you'll come visit him in hell."
"Say Heavenly Father is seriously disappointed in her."
"Ask what the hell's the matter with them?"
Ironically in these situations, what the Holy Ghost never seems to say is, "Man, I'd shut up if I was you."
I'm betting it's because most of the time when we hear the Holy Spirit whispering to us, it's really just the sound of our own egos doing the talking.
It's easy to tell when this happens because when it does, it's the "Holy Ghost" who won't shut up.
"It's been 10 minutes since you condemned homosexuality. Say something else."
"Subtly tape a copy of this General Conference talk to the windshield of her car."
"When you're saying grace, don't forget to condemn [insert offending faith here]."
"Remind him one more time that you really wish he would come to heaven with you."
If you're prompted to say and do these sorts of things and the situation isn't getting better, odds are that you need to listen harder. And you can't do that until you stop talking.
Robert Kirby can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or facebook.com/stillnotpatbagley.