18 Now when the king had heard these words, he marveled again, for he beheld that Ammon could discern his thoughts; but notwithstanding this, king Lamoni did open his mouth, and said unto him: Who art thou? Art thou that Great Spirit, who knows all things?
19 Ammon answered and said unto him: I am not.
20 And the king said: How knowest thou the thoughts of my heart? Thou mayest speak boldly, and tell me concerning these things…
After Ammon single-handedly defended King Lamoni’s sheep from a group of armed robbers, the king was so troubled at the miracle that he couldn’t bring himself to talk to Ammon. He commanded his servants to bring Ammon to him, but when Ammon came, the king remained silent for an entire hour. Finally, Ammon asked a question which indicated to the king that he knew the king’s thoughts. Lamoni responded with several questions of his own:
- He asked whether Ammon was the “Great Spirit.” Ammon replied that he was not.
- He then asked how Ammon could know his thoughts. Ammon explained to him that the Spirit of the Lord was with him, and that he received both knowledge and power from that Spirit (Alma 18:34-35).
Because Ammon was attuned to the voice of the Spirit, he had the gift of discernment: he was able to know things that he could not know otherwise, including the thoughts of the king.
Stephen L. Richards, who served as a counselor to President David O. McKay, explained the gift of discernment in these words:
I believe that this gift when highly developed arises largely out of an acute sensitivity to impressions—spiritual impressions, if you will—to read under the surface as it were, to detect hidden evil, and more importantly to find the good that may be concealed. The highest type of discernment is that which perceives in others and uncovers for them their better natures, the good inherent within them….
Every member in the restored Church of Christ could have this gift if he willed to do so (General Conference, April 1950, quoted by Elder David A. Bednar in “Quick to Observe,” BYU Devotional, May 10, 2005).
I like the idea that the gift of discernment will enable me to see the good in others which would not otherwise be visible. I like to think that, with such discernment, I can help them rise to greater heights.
Elder Bednar shared a practical description of how this gift works in the life of his wife, Susan:
Before attending her sacrament meetings, Sister Bednar frequently prays for the spiritual eyes to see those who have a need. Often as she observes the brothers and sisters and children in the congregation, she will feel a spiritual nudge to visit with or make a phone call to a particular person. And when Sister Bednar receives such an impression, she promptly responds and obeys. It often is the case that as soon as the “amen” is spoken in the benediction, she will talk with a teenager or hug a sister or, upon returning home, immediately pick up the phone and make a call. As long as I have known Sister Bednar, people have marveled at her capacity to discern and respond to their needs. Often they will ask her, “How did you know?” The spiritual gift of being quick to observe has enabled her to see and to act promptly and has been a great blessing in the lives of many people (“Quick to Observe,” BYU Devotional, May 10, 2005).
Today, I will seek for the inspiration which enables me to perceive the “better natures” of the people around me and help them to be their best selves. Like Ammon, and like Sister Bednar, I will follow the Spirit of the Lord, knowing that God can give me knowledge which will help me to interact with the people around me in a way that ennobles and uplifts both me and them.