This lesson can be found here

In sacrament meeting last week, there were a few testimonies that talked about our youth. I’ve found that when people outside of the youth program talk about the youth, they focus on 2 things:

  1. How the youth are great, strong, special, etc (which I would agree within reason)
  2. How the world is so “wicked” and how “worse off” the world is than before (kinda…I guess).

While I could make a compelling argument both for and against #2, the main focus of the testimony/message to the youth emphasizes how important it is to have the Holy Ghost with them and to learn to use that gift to discern between “good” and “bad” situations. I would focus the lesson less on the sensational stories that are passed around, and more on real-world circumstances.

I remember hearing these lessons when I was a youth, and hearing the dramatic and sensational stories of the Spirit speaking to someone, and thinking “OK, so that’s how it is.” However, even while I was on my mission it was a constant learning process. Even now, I’m still piecing together what it is, and what it isn’t, and what it feels/sounds like, and what it doesn’t.

I’m glad the lesson starts out with a hypothetical example of the “gift” of the Holy Ghost and not using it. Sensational stories don’t help, because they make the extreme look like the norm.

From the Manual:

  • Who is the Holy Ghost?
  • If you were describing the Holy Ghost to someone who didn’t know about him, what would you say?

The lesson development is good, but not essential. I think many of our young men if they have gone through primary/Sunday School know most of the answers, but may not understand them. I’m 26 years old, and even I fully don’t understand everything involved with the Holy Ghost. As long as the youth have a basic understanding of who the Holy Ghost is (D&C 130:22) and we must live worthy/have faith to have his companionship, we can get into what would be most beneficial for the youth.

From the Manual

  • We Must Learn to Recognize the Influence of the Holy Ghost
    • Very very key point in this – “hearing and understanding the promptings of the Holy Ghost takes practice and effort. We do not usually receive help from the Holy Ghost in a voice or a sudden manifestation. The whispering of the Holy Ghost often comes through our conscience. Because he can be recognized by a peaceful feeling that accompanies his guidance, the Holy Ghost is sometimes referred to as the “still, small voice.” He influences our minds and hearts.”
      • Yes, there are people who have received answers and promptings in voices and sudden manifestations. And one example of that would be good to keep it in perspective. However, for me personally, I haven’t. And I’m not ashamed, embarrassed, and I would be more than willing to admit it to the youth to give them a more well-rounded view of what it might be like.
    • “The basic exercise for you to perform in your youth to become spiritually strong and to become independent lies in obedience to your guides. If you will follow them and do it willingly, you can learn to trust those delicate, sensitive, spiritual promptings. You will learn that they always, invariably, lead you to do that which is righteous”
      • Boyd K. Packer, “Spiritual Crocodiles,” Ensign May 1976, 30
      • This is the crux of the lesson, in my opinion. The youth need to understand from a young age what the Holy Ghost feels like, because it will affect them in almost every part of their life. Resisting temptation, understanding bad circumstances, but more importantly (in my opinion), the Holy Ghost will help them recognize truth and true doctrine

Now it’s time for the stories. Story #2 is good. Story #1 is not.

Story #1

Bill was taking a speech class in school and was assigned to give a speech on a controversial subject. The speech would count for half his grade. Unable to decide on a topic, Bill prayed for help. The impression came to him, “If you’re looking for a controversial subject, choose the Book of Mormon.”

Hoping not to offend anyone, Bill began his presentation explaining the history and content of the book. But again the Spirit came upon him. He thought to himself: “I don’t care what happens to me, or what happens to my grade. The Book of Mormon is true, and they all ought to know it.” So he began to teach as if he were speaking to investigators, bearing his testimony of the Book of Mormon.

When he finished, he waited for the other students to make fun of him. Instead, they wrote very positive responses. A few wrote, “You have almost convinced me of the truth of what you said.” Another student wrote, “I really would like to know more about your church” (adapted from Gene R. Cook, “Trust in the Lord,” Ensign, Mar. 1986, p. 79).

Ugh. First of all, let’s not get into the logistics of how bearing a testimony wouldn’t fit within the realms of a speech on a controversial topic. We’ve all had to do those speeches in high school before. You can’t bear a testimony for a speech on a controversial subject because there is no point-counterpoint, both sides of the story, it’s a mess. It’s a completely different story if a group of friends are asking about it because they know he’s Mormon, or he felt impressed to talk to a friend about the Book of Mormon, or a teacher was bashing the Book of Mormon in class and he stood up for it based on the Spirit prompting him. That’s one thing. But giving a speech on it? Ugh.

Story #2

Robert buried his face in his pillow. His throat was tight, and it hurt. He felt like crying. He had felt that way all evening, ever since the funeral had ended. It seemed so unfair.

His father really hadn’t been old enough to die, and it had surprised everyone. Again he felt overwhelmed by the loss and felt the tears coming. Then, remembering he hadn’t prayed, he slid out of bed onto his knees, and, out of habit, he began to pray. Suddenly he was really speaking with the Lord, telling him of his heartache and lack of understanding. Over and over he asked, “Why? Why did it have to happen?

There was no voice, no light, and no visible answer, but suddenly Robert felt a calm, peaceful assurance. He knew his father was all right and that, in spite of the difficult moments of loneliness and loss that would follow, Heavenly Father knew his situation and through the Holy Ghost had given him the assurance that all was well.

This is a good story. It’s something we all can relate to, and most importantly, it ends with something more realistic than the previous story. “There was no voice, no light, and no visible answer, but suddenly Robert felt a calm, peaceful assurance.” This is much more likely to happen to one of your youth than the previous story, and it acknowledges the lack of sensationalism in the story.

MY RECOMMENDATIONS FOR THE LESSON:

  1. Living worthy is emphasized heavily in this lesson. Instead of drilling home morality, maybe a discussion about why
    the Holy Ghost won’t be with you if you’re not worthy. Mormonism isn’t so much about “Do’s and Do Not’s,” but more so about “Cause and Effect.”
  2. Stories are good! Sensational stories are bad! Realism is good! Outlier stories are bad!
  3. Instead of sensationalism, the purpose of the lesson is to encourage young men to exercise the gift of the Holy Ghost more often and to inspire them with confidence that they can. The confidence comes through trialing the gift with faith. The exercise comes through worthy living.

Additional Links and Resources:

The Companionship of the Holy Ghost – Elder Carlos E. Asay

That We May Have His Spirit To Be With Us – Elder David A. Bednar

Helping Others Recognize the Whisperings of the Spirit – Sister Vicki Matsumori

Spiritual Crocodiles – President Boyd K. Packer

The YW Lesson from Beginnings New, “Seeking the Companionship of the Holy Ghost

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