“How can I know when I have the Spirit of the Lord with me?” Ensign, Aug. 1978, 32–33
How can I know when I have the Spirit of the Lord with me? I’m a college student having a lot of new experiences, and sometimes I can’t tell if I’m just feeling “good” or if my feelings are genuinely righteous.
Don Norton, English Department, Brigham Young University I’ve heard this question from dozens of young adults who are making all sorts of discoveries about themselves. Indeed it is a very important question. Since in this life “it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things” (2 Ne. 2:11; italics added), it must needs be that we learn to discern good from evil.
As I’ve discussed this question at firesides, in Sunday School and priesthood classes, and in religion courses, I find that students themselves are able to tell me how they feel when the Spirit of the Lord is with them. I don’t have to answer the question. They answer it for themselves.
Here’s the list of the kinds of things young people say they feel when the Spirit is with them, and what they feel when Satan tries to take over—making them unhappy, or tricking them with counterfeits. Do these feelings match your experience?
When you have the Spirit:
1. You feel happy, calm, and clear-minded.
2. You feel generous.
3. Nobody can offend you.
4. You wouldn’t mind everybody seeing what you’re doing.
5. You are eager to be with people and want to make them happy.
6. You are glad when others succeed.
7. You are glad to attend your meetings and participate in church activities.
8. You feel like praying.
9. You wish you could keep all the Lord’s commandments.
10. You feel in control—you don’t overeat or sleep too much; you don’t feel uncontrollably drawn to sensational entertainment, lose your temper, or feel uncontrollable passions or desires.
11. You think about the Savior often and lovingly; you want to know him better.
12. You feel confident and are glad to be alive.
When you don’t have the Spirit:
1. You feel unhappy, depressed, confused, and frustrated.
2. You feel possessive, self-centered, or resentful of demands made on you.
3. You are easily offended.
4. You become secretive and evasive.
5. You avoid people, especially members of your family; and you are critical of family members and Church authorities.
6. You envy or resent the successes of others.
7. You don’t want to go to church, go home teaching, or take the sacrament. You wish you had another church job or no job at all.
8. You don’t want to pray.
9. You find the commandments bothersome, restricting, or senseless.
10. You feel emotions and appetites so strongly that you fear you cannot control them—hate, jealousy, anger, lust, hunger, fatigue.
11. You hardly ever think of the Savior; he seems irrelevant to your life, or worse, part of a confusing system that seems to work against you.
12. You get discouraged easily and wonder if life is really worth it.
The mere fact that young people easily put this list together is a powerful reassurance that they do have the key to discernment. As Moroni put it: “The Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil; wherefore, I show unto you the way to judge; for every thing which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ; wherefore ye may know with a perfect knowledge that it is of God.
“But whatsoever thing persuadeth men to do evil, and believe not in Christ, and deny him, and serve not God, then ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of the devil; for after this manner doth the devil work, for he persuadeth no man to do good, no, not one.” (Moro. 7:16–17.)
Let me add one word of caution. Feeling the power of Satan does not make you evil. Basically, a temptation is a struggle against his influence—which is both real and powerful. But the fact that you’re struggling does not mean that you are in his power or that the Spirit of God is not also striving with you. Evil consists, not of recognizing temptation, but of yielding to it. We must recognize temptation in this life. But we don’t need to invite it, linger with it, or savor it.
Satan is particularly good at counterfeiting holy things; for instance, in place of sacred love between a man and a woman, he offers popularity, physical attraction, or the social thrill of playing romantic games. You might try these tests of discernment on your feelings about love. Many young adults who think they are in love isolate themselves from their families, friends, and Church leaders. But real love, the kind that leads to eternal happiness, makes you glad to be around other people you love, because they share what you feel. Such love is godly love, not Satan’s counterfeit.
If you find Satan’s influence too much with you, then get help. Counsel with your parents or a Church leader; ask for a priesthood blessing; go to the Lord in fervent prayer for the clearness of mind and conscience that are signs of the Lord’s Spirit.