Struggling to Recognize the Holy Ghost?
August 2023

“Struggling to Recognize the Holy Ghost?,” For the Strength of Youth, Aug. 2023.

Struggling to Recognize the Holy Ghost?

I was too. But it doesn’t have to be as confusing as we sometimes make it.

young woman

Illustrations by Albert Espi

As a youth, I was afraid that if I misunderstood a prompting from the Holy Ghost, I’d somehow mess up some big plan God had for me. And sometimes this left me afraid to make decisions at all! But then some experiences helped me learn that it doesn’t have to be so confusing.

1. Heavenly Father Trusts You

In high school, I had the chance to switch to a new school. I really wanted to switch, but I wasn’t sure if Heavenly Father wanted me to. When I didn’t get a clear confirmation, I started to overthink it. One day, I opened a chocolate candy, and the inside of the wrapper said, “You are exactly where you are supposed to be.” Was this my answer? Was Heavenly Father speaking to me through a chocolate wrapper? I didn’t think so.

When I still didn’t receive a clear answer, I finally made what I thought was the best choice and switched schools. But sometimes I still worried that maybe the chocolate wrapper had been a prompting that I’d ignored. Then one day, as I told my worries to a friend, I felt peace. That peace was my answer—but it only came after I’d made a choice and acted on it.

Heavenly Father trusts you as you strive to keep His commandments and follow Jesus Christ. You should seek His guidance in big decisions, but if you aren’t recognizing a clear answer, make a decision and move forward! As Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles has said: “Spiritual light rarely comes to those who merely sit in darkness waiting for someone to flip a switch. It takes an act of faith to open our eyes to the Light of Christ.”1

2. You Are Being Guided

As a missionary at the Missionary Training Center, I watched a video where Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles spoke. He shared how when he was a missionary in Germany, he helped President Boyd K. Packer (then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles) while he visited there. Before President Packer left, Elder Bednar gave him some German money for his journey. Later, President Packer needed the money to cross an unsafe area.

Elder Bednar hadn’t known the Spirit had guided him when he gave President Packer money. He just thought President Packer might get hungry!2 And just like for Elder Bednar, the Spirit probably guides your actions without your even knowing it. Trust that as you strive to live on the covenant path, you are being guided more than you know.

3. The Holy Ghost Is with You

One day on my mission, my companion and I prayed to better recognize the Holy Ghost throughout our day. As we pondered, we thought about how we are promised to have the Spirit with us always. We realized that the Spirit’s influence was with us constantly. But we were so used to feeling it, we sometimes didn’t recognize it.

You may be so used to feeling the Holy Ghost that you don’t notice it. Or you may think that you never feel it at all! Ask yourself if you are looking for big, profound signs rather than for the gentle presence of the Spirit. Study the scriptures and the words of the prophets to learn more about the influence of the Holy Ghost. If you pray to recognize the Holy Ghost, you may start to notice all the small ways He is guiding, teaching, and comforting you.


You need to do your best to be worthy and to recognize and follow personal revelation. But if you are over-thinking it, stop! In a youth Face to Face event, Elder Bednar said, “[The Holy Ghost] will guide our steps, inspire what we say and do, and in the moment we won’t even know it.”3

As you make decisions, know that the Lord trusts you and is helping you. As you strive to keep your covenants, you will be guided down a path that eventually leads you home to your Heavenly Father.