One day it finally happened. Two young men stood at the front door of our little apartment.
“What is it?” I asked. After taking a quick look at them, I was ready to defend myself. No matter what it was, I wanted them to understand that I did not need anything and that I wanted to be left alone.
Then I took a second look at the two young men in front of me and found reason to question my first judgment. They were dressed with care. They were clean but not shiny or wealthy. Their eyes radiated dignity and peace. Their gestures were humble but not cheap. Their appearance represented politeness and readiness to listen, self-esteem, and willingness to respect my own right of privacy.
“We have an important message for you,” one of them said.
When I have tried to describe the appearance of the first missionaries at my door, I cannot help but say what they didn’t look like. They didn’t look like salesmen. Instead, they radiated something very different, something powerfully strong—the Spirit of the Lord. It became impossible for me to send them away.
Little did I know that from then on my life would never be the same—that I had already set my foot on a path that would eventually lead me toward becoming a member of the Lord’s Church.
What is it that converts a person—that changes the course of his life and helps him come unto Christ? Is it the powerful message of the word of God or is it a special approach someone uses to contact that person? Is it the dress? The haircut? The neatness, or something else?
Conversions come only by the powerful influence of the Spirit. This witness is one of the most precious gifts a person can ever receive. But many members of the Church—especially young members—do not know much about an even more special gift, a precious gift that we receive from our Heavenly Father when we are confirmed a member of the Church. As a part of the covenant we make with him, we are given the gift of the Holy Ghost, the right to have the constant companionship of a member of the Godhead. And this gift is of vital importance—not only for our own salvation—but also for the salvation of mankind. Every member needs to not only feel the Spirit on a regular basis, but to be completely enveloped in the Spirit during the daily actions of life.
The Lord has given each member a gift that will enable him to happily and successfully carry the burdens and challenges of life. I want to share with you some suggestions about how I feel that you can learn to develop and use this very special gift from our Heavenly Father.
Every person (Latter-day Saint or not) will, when he lives according to the principles of righteousness, feel the Spirit under certain conditions. We learn something very important about this in the scriptures: “And the spirit giveth light to every man that cometh into the world; and the Spirit enlighteneth every man through the world, that hearkeneth to the voice of the Spirit” (D&C 84:46). The spirit that is mentioned here is the Light of Christ, which makes all possible attempts to help every child of Heavenly Father and to lead them to that life-saving, sacred covenant of baptism.
Immediately after baptism, the gift of the Holy Ghost is given. The Lord has promised us that when we work diligently and learn to obey the principles of the gospel, the Spirit will make us strong, that our lives will bring forth much fruit. However, I believe that when we do not show our appreciation for this gift by constantly cultivating it and using it, we will suffer many frustrations and setbacks. We may even lose our testimony or lose the opportunity for righteous joy.
May I ask you, my dear young friends, to try to remember when you last felt the influence of the Spirit in your life? Was it at your last home teaching assignment, at a youth conference, or at the last fast and testimony meeting? As wonderful as occasional experiences with the Spirit of the Lord are, we must know that we are eligible—that we have the right—to be under the influence of the Spirit at all times.
The Lord tells us through his prophet what we have to do that the Spirit may be with us: “And the Spirit shall be given unto you by the prayer of faith” (D&C 42:14). The prayer of faith is easy to understand for a person who is in a situation of urgency or sudden distress. But isn’t it clear that we, in some way, may offend the Lord if we go to him in a sincere prayer of faith only in emergencies? The Lord may wonder why we do not want the closeness of the Spirit every minute of our lives. He may wonder who we go to him in sincere prayer only when it is either already too late or help can come only after heavy losses or much pain.
When circumstances are pleasant, we seem to be able to manage the affairs of our lives with him. Why wait until an emergency situation arises to learn how much God loves us and how much he is willing to go the extra mile to help us? There is no greater wisdom than to develop an awareness of the nearness and the love of God in times of plenty. We will be surprised to find how much he loves us, cares about us, and wants us to grow, flourish, and achieve our righteous goals.
The Lord is offering to us, through the Spirit, the most powerful life support available. The Lord has given us the instrument to achieve our righteous desires, if we know how to appreciate it and learn how to use it. With the help of this gift, we can learn how to handle our daily affairs, how our righteous motivations can increase, how our fears can be taken away, how to overcome temptations, and how to succeed in the most difficult and complicated tasks. With the help of this gift, every member can experience the unique power that the Lord wants to give those who receive him. “But unto as many as received me gave I power” (D&C 45:8).
As we obey the promptings of the Spirit, we feel a miraculous change in our heart and mind. It is as if we are relieved from a burden that has darkened our soul. Light and confidence and joy renew us. We learn to listen to the small, sometimes uncomfortable promptings whereby the Lord suggests ways for us to improve or to remove an obstacle that has separated us from him. And in all circumstances, we will learn a deep appreciation for what a gracious gift our Heavenly Father has given us in the Holy Ghost.
It seems tragic, a tremendous loss, that many seem to develop this gift of the Spirit only under the special circumstances of being on a mission, or while doing home teaching or visiting teaching, or in other situations where we concentrate on the matters of the Spirit.
I felt power and authority radiating from the missionaries during their visit to our home some thirty years ago. As I watch young members of the Church today, I think we have much reason to rejoice as we see many of them embracing this gift from Heavenly Father and standing firm in these days of challenge. I pray that we may all place our lives on the foundation of Christ through living close to the Spirit and following it always.