5 Ways to Stay on the Path
February 2023

“‘5 Ways to Stay on the Path,’” For the Strength of Youth, Feb. 2023.

5 Ways to Stay on the Path

Jesus Christ marked the path and leads the way to our heavenly home.

Dale G. Renlund with young man

Elder Dale G. Renlund visits Natal, Brazil, in November 2016.

Several years ago, my family and I hiked a mountain trail in Iceland to see a famous waterfall. We had never been on this mountain, we were uncertain about the trail, and we are not experienced hikers.

We watched others start up the trail and followed. Soon, they were out of sight and so was the trail! We looked carefully and noticed piles of intentionally placed rocks, called cairns, marking the path to the waterfall. We also noticed patches of ground near the trail that had white, fluffy cotton grass.1 Stepping into that grass always left us with muddy, water-filled shoes.

We learned that the cotton grass grew in marshes and marked a path we did not want to follow. We became confident that following the cairns would lead us to the waterfall.

The trail was not easy, but we persisted, carefully following the cairns and avoiding the cotton grass. Finally, we reached the magnificent waterfall and enjoyed the view from the mountaintop and the refreshment of the water.

As we trekked down the mountain, we saw that the cairns had helped us avoid deep pools of water and steep cliffs we had not seen before. We were grateful that those cairns led us safely.

On our journey to our heavenly home, the path can be difficult to navigate. Thankfully, Jesus Christ has “marked the path and led the way.”2 As we study His life and teachings, we can learn how He navigated mortality and placed metaphorical cairns for us to follow. When we follow those cairns, doing what Jesus did, we can confidently reach our destination.

Cairn #1. Know Who You Are

cairn and Jesus Christ

Illustrations by Bryan Beach

Jesus Christ learned as He grew and came to know who He was (see Luke 2:49). With confidence in His identity, He could declare that He was the Messiah whom the prophets had spoken of (see Joseph Smith Translation, Matthew 4:18 [in Matthew 4:19, footnote a]; John 4:25–26).

Knowing who you are is a cairn of fundamental importance. Regardless of how else you choose to identify yourself, your most important identity is that you are a child of God. If you fail to find this cairn, you may wander off the path and end up in cotton grass.

Cairn #2. Seek to Know Heavenly Father’s Will

cairn and Jesus Christ

Jesus Christ sought to know His Father’s will. After His baptism, He “was led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be with God.” There, He fasted and “communed with God” (Joseph Smith Translation, Matthew 4:12 [see Matthew 4:1, footnote b; Matthew 4:2, footnote c]; emphasis added). He learned His Father’s will so that there would be no doubt what God’s desires were for Him. Learning God’s will is a cairn that Jesus has left for us.

You can learn God’s will for you through the scriptures, the words of living prophets, and the whisperings of the Holy Ghost. But you also need to commune with God in prayer, as Jesus did. Knowing your true relationship with God—that He is your Father and you are His child—makes prayer natural (see Matthew 7:7–11). Difficulties with prayer arise from forgetting this relationship.

Cairn #3. Align Your Will with Heavenly Father’s Will

cairn and boy praying

Jesus Christ aligned His will with His Father’s will (see John 6:38). Aligning our will with God’s is another cairn Jesus left to mark the path.

You need to conscientiously align your will with the will of your Father in Heaven. Prayer is one way to do so. The object of prayer is not to change God’s will but to help you learn and accept His will.

Cairn #4. Make and Keep Covenants with God

cairn and baptism

Jesus Christ said to His disciples, “Follow me” (Matthew 4:19). We do so by exercising faith in Him, repenting, being baptized in His name, and receiving the Holy Ghost. At baptism, we covenant, or promise, to keep the commandments and to make and keep further covenants with God. Each covenant is a cairn along the covenant path that leads to Christ.

On our hike, my family and I were free to choose a different path to the top of the mountain, but a different path might not have, and likely would not have, led to the waterfall. We probably would have gotten stuck in the mud, stopped by dangerous cliffs, or given up out of tiredness. Staying on the path provided the most direct and sure route to our destination.

We cannot create our own path and expect God’s promised outcomes (see Matthew 7:24–27). We are free to choose our own path, but we cannot choose the consequences of not following God’s revealed path. We cannot stumble off a cliff and “decide” not to fall.

Cairn #5. Endure to the End

cairn and Jesus Christ in Gethsemane

Jesus Christ, through His Atonement, finished the work God gave Him to do (see John 17:4). Enduring to the end and finishing our work is a necessary cairn to follow to arrive at our desired destination.

If we do not understand what the Savior accomplished, we will end up with soggy, muddy shoes because we never knew Him or joined Him in His work (see Joseph Smith Translation, Matthew 7:23 [in Matthew 7:23, footnote a]).

Jesus Christ knew who He was. He knew and aligned His will with His Father’s will. He made and kept covenants with God. He endured to the end. By doing so, He has marked the path and led the way. Our task is to follow Him and the cairns He has placed, not only while we are here on earth, but also throughout eternity.3 We will then be heirs to receive all that Heavenly Father has (see Joseph Smith Translation, John 3:36 [in John 3:36, footnote a).


  1. Eriophorum.

  2. “How Great the Wisdom and the Love,” Hymns, no. 195.

  3. See “Come, Follow Me,” Hymns, no. 116.