“Choices,” For the Strength of Youth, Sept. 2021, 12–14.
Many years ago, one of our General Authorities shared this challenging story:
A wise Cherokee, one of the indigenous tribes in the United States, told his grandson a parable about life. “Inside me there is a terrible fight between two wolves,” the grandfather said. “One is evil: full of anger and envy, self-pity and sorrow, greed and lies. The other is good: full of kindness and compassion, humility and truth, love and joy. That fight is going on inside each of us.”
“Which wolf will win?” the grandson asked.
“The one you feed,” the grandfather wisely answered.1
This parable of two wolves expresses an eternal truth. Children of God are born to make choices between good and evil. Opposition allows us to make meaningful, righteous choices. The Book of Mormon teaches this truth in scriptural language: “For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things.”2
Our Heavenly Father’s plan provides at least two gifts to assist in these choices: (1) He gives us the Holy Ghost to guide our choices, and (2) He gives us a Savior whose Atonement makes possible our repentance to remove the effect of bad choices—when they have fed the evil wolf.
As I have talked to youth, one of the most frequent subjects they ask about is repentance. “How can you know when you have repented enough?” “How can you know when you are truly forgiven?” The answer to these questions comes through the Holy Ghost, the member of the Godhead who brings messages from heaven.
The gift of repentance has been called “the good news of the gospel.”3 It allows us to erase the effect of evil choices that have fed the wicked wolf and weakened our ability to hear the promptings of the Holy Ghost. Repentance includes recognizing that we have done wrong, abandoning that wrong, and resolving to turn our heart to God and the keeping of His commandments. When we repent, we call upon the power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, which increases our appreciation and love for Him as our Savior.
The need for repentance is not limited to serious sins that need to be confessed to the bishop. Repentance is an everyday necessity. Most repentance involves privately recognizing that we have done wrong, determining to change, and trying to make it right with those we have wronged. In terms of the parable of the two wolves, repentance consists of ceasing to feed the wicked wolf even small meals, such as when we choose to be angry or jealous. We also need to repent (change) when we have chosen to waste our God-given time on some of the many available activities that have no potential to make us better.
A wonderful result of repentance is to reestablish our worthiness to receive impressions from the Holy Ghost, who helps us make wise choices and fills us with joy. Many youth also wonder: “How do I know if the prompting or answer that I get is truly from the Lord and not just what I want?”
To recognize whether a prompting is a message from the Holy Ghost or just a personal desire, we need to apply three truths.
In the ordinance of the sacrament, the promise that we will “always have his Spirit to be with [us]” follows our promise that we will take His name upon us, and always remember Him, and keep His commandments.4 When we fail to keep these promises, we are vulnerable to confusing the source of the promptings we feel.
Promptings from the Lord are usually received in quiet moments or in the midst of worship, scripture study, or prayer or during service in our callings, not in selfish pursuits or when surrounded by worldly activities.
Finally, we need to be especially sensitive to direction to change a course we are already pursuing. An impression to change course can be more reliable than an impression to pursue something we already want to do.
My dear young friends, you are coming to maturity in a very different world than your parents and grandparents experienced. That makes it especially important for you to remember that the ancient values and commandments are still in force. We are children of God, and His commandments remain essential, whether we travel by wagon or spaceship, and whether we communicate by voice or by texting.
Right is still right, and wrong is still wrong, regardless of what is said or done by movie idols, TV personalities, or sports stars. The standards in the scriptures, the teachings of living prophets, and the values in the For the Strength of Youth booklet are still your best guidance for personal choices in sexual purity, physical health, honesty, dress and appearance, and all of its other subjects. Follow them faithfully, and you will be blessed. “The booklet entitled For the Strength of Youth should be your standard,” President Russell M. Nelson taught us. “It is the standard that the Lord expects all His youth to uphold.”5
In his powerful worldwide youth devotional, our prophet promised:
“If you will sincerely and persistently do the spiritual work needed to develop the crucial, spiritual skill of learning how to hear the whisperings of the Holy Ghost, you will have all the direction you will ever need in your life. You will be given answers to your questions in the Lord’s own way and in His own time.”6
I join my promise to his, as I testify of our Savior Jesus Christ, whose teachings and Atonement make it all possible, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.