Prompting or Just a Kind Thought?

Have you ever wondered, “How can I tell the difference between my own ideas and an actual prompting from the Holy Ghost?”

I have tossed around this question for years. Understanding the language of the Holy Ghost has been a life-long pursuit, or at least an adult pursuit, and still continues to this day.

Different people answered my question with, “If you have a good, kind thought just act upon it anyway.”

Well, that advice doesn’t wholly work for me. I’m sure it will for many people, but my mind is much too busy of a place to act on every thought that passes through. I would be running faster than I have strength if I tried to follow-through with every kind gesture, creative idea, or deep thought that ventures its way into my brain. I needed another filter to run my thoughts through to decide if they are actually inspired by the Holy Ghost.

I got some insight into my life-long question in the middle of a recent family crisis.

The Saturday after Thanksgiving, I got a text from my mom that my little brother needed our prayers. He had surgery earlier in the week to blast a grape-sized kidney stone and was not doing well. He also suffers from Lyme Disease, depression, and anxiety and the combination of it all was just too much.

I immediately gathered my kids around me and we said a prayer in his behalf.

Soon thereafter I had the idea that I should offer to watch my brother’s kids so that he and his wife could get some rest. He has two boys- ages one and four.

I had to convince my sister-in-law that I was competent with children and that I had the time. She was very concerned that my life was too busy and she didn’t want to be a burden. We sent multiple texts back and forth and I finally convinced her to let me watch her boys. Even when she was dropping her kids off, she wasn’t sure if she was going to leave the baby. I basically demanded that she leave him.

She left under the premise that she would check with me in the morning and the kids might go home Sunday if things didn’t go well, or I would keep them until Monday if things were fine.

We had the boys Saturday night and onto Sunday when all hell started to break loose with my brother.

Sunday morning my brother went into a major unplanned, unmonitored detox from all the medications he had been on and by Sunday evening he was in the Emergency Room. He was in the ER all night and the next day was a roller-coaster of emotions with my brother going in and out of severe detox symptoms.

I kept the boys Sunday night and Monday night as my sister-in-law dealt with all the physical and emotional issues with my brother. The boys finally went home late Tuesday afternoon only because my brother was missing them. I was prepared to keep them another day if necessary.

During all of this, my mom, my sister-in-law, my sister, and even my brother, all said to me in one way or another, “Tiffany, it was such a blessing that you had the kids. You were truly inspired. Your timing was perfect.”

I reflected back to that Saturday morning when I first had the thought to watch the boys. Never during the text exchange with my sister-in-law or in the interaction at my house did I think, “This is a prompting. You need to follow it. You really need to watch these kids because the Holy Ghost told you to.”

So I pondered further. I asked, “What made this service actual inspiration as opposed to just a kind idea?”

I remembered that I had a confidence, calmness and peace about the offer to babysit. It wasn’t that I SHOULD watch the boys, but that I COULD watch them.

This confidence was important because even though my thought was kind, it wasn’t very logical.

  1. I was coming off of Black Friday. It was my first time ever doing it (my sister-in-laws talked me into it) so I was a light-weight, and I was tired.
  2. Babies aren’t my jam. I’m actually afraid of them in a way.
  3. My own kids were sick. (My SIL knew this when I offered to watch the kids.)
  4. My husband was leaving out of town the next day.

Normally, these reasons would be enough for me to dismiss the idea of offering to babysit someone else’s kids overnight. But as I thought of my excuses to not watch the boys, my mind was sured up. I could see myself navigating through all of these concerns, and I wasn’t overwhelmed by them.

Nothing about my life in that moment screamed, “Watch more children! Add to your plate!”  But I did so with confidence and calmness.

Another factor that stuck out to me was my determination. Often if I offer service and someone doesn’t accept it, I move on. I figure they’re grown adults and are communicating with me openly and honestly about their needs. I don’t play games and try to guess what I should do. If they say they don’t want a meal, then they don’t get a meal. But this time I persisted and didn’t accept no for an answer. I sent text after text until my sister-in-law agreed to let us watch her boys.

So, as I reflect back, my little insight is this:

Just because a thought is ‘kind’ or ‘generous’ or ‘helpful’ is not enough criteria to deem it as a prompting.

For me, a ‘nice idea’ transcends into the category of a ‘prompting’ when it is accompanied by an enabling power.

Elder Bednar teaches, “The enabling power of the Atonement strengthens us …. to serve beyond our own individual desire and natural capacity.”

It’s like you could take Nephi’s words and tweak them a bit: “And it came to pass that I, Nephi, said unto my father: I will go and do the things which the Lord hath {prompteth}, for I know that the Lord giveth no {promptings} unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he {prompteth} them.

I don’t think “prompteth” is a word, but you get the idea.

That weekend I truly had a power within me that surpassed my own abilities and desires. It enlarged my capacity to love and nurture someone else’s children. The enabling power increased my energy and my effort was accompanied with ease. I was filled with calmness and confidence that I could do a challenging task. And joy was felt in the process.

It was so great that the boys didn’t have to be around any of the chaos. My older nephew played in the snow, colored, got read to, played with play-dough, and ate lots of waffles.


My younger nephew got held and snuggled in a calm, loving, stress-free environment.


I don’t want you to think that I was unaffected by this at all- that the enabling power took away all pain. I was weary. I was tired. I was emotionally drained. But this was from the emotional burdens of my brother’s struggles, not from watching his children.

There is way more to the question, “How I can tell the difference between my own ideas and an actual prompting from the Holy Ghost?”  But I feel like I have gained at least a small insight into how the Holy Ghost speaks to me.

I’m going to look for an enabling power to accompany kind ideas. I know if He wants me to do something, He will provide the emotional and physical strength to do so. I might feel the enabling power in the moment the idea comes to me or I may feel it as I chose to act in faith. 







8 thoughts on “Prompting or Just a Kind Thought?”

  1. Great ideas! Another question I have is, How can I tell the difference between my own fears and a warning from the Holy Ghost? I struggle a lot with this.

    1. Good question, Shelley. I’ve asked the same. I have high anxiety especially around traveling. So do I feel this way because I’m not supposed to go on the trip or because I have anxiety? The problem is, unlike a kind thought, no one is hurt if you do or don’t follow a warning. The stakes are higher. Let’s keep thinking on it. But do remember you don’t always have to have a sound reason. If you don’t feel good about something, you don’t feel good about something and I would honor that until you have further light and knowledge.

  2. Tiffany, you are the best! I felt inspired reading your post. I have been enabled many times in my life to do the right thing or the best thing for my children. I sometimes forget that the Lord is waiting to help us, if we just ask Him and follow whatever promptings He gives us. It’s taking the time to commune with Him, isn’t it?


    1. Thanks, Nicki! You helped me understand my own post better. Ha! Your part about “best thing for my children” really helped me. I’ve been debating on whether or not to start a certain program with one child and I am not feeling an enabling power with it. So maybe that’s my answer.

  3. Tif, this was helpful to me. I believe you have discerned an important key. Thanks for blogging again.

  4. Such a sweet post Tiffany. Thank You for sharing your insight – it is so helpful. And I can’t Thank You enough for all of your help that long weekend. I sure love you. Thank You for your sacrifice.

  5. I love how you describe your experience – I have felt that same confidence and peace as if I was carried through things. It is amazing to feel that strength from the Lord and just be so in tune!

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