Ryan* came through the door and placed his schoolbag on a peg in the hallway. His mother called to him, “Be sure to check out the bathtub. You won’t believe this.”
His curiosity aroused, Ryan walked directly to the bathroom. He didn’t know what to expect, but what he saw made him shudder. In the bottom of the tub were five hairy tarantulas. Each was half the size of a man’s hand.
As Ryan peered tentatively over the edge of the tub, his mom touched him on the shoulder. “I can’t even look,” she said nervously. “The girls promised me that those things couldn’t get out of the tub. I’ll have nightmares for a week over this.”
“Who brought them?”
“One of those things has a tag tied to its leg. That will answer your questions,” his mom said as she turned away.
Getting the tag off the tarantula’s leg took half an hour and occasioned the gathering of several of Ryan’s friends, who thought this was the coolest dance invitation they had seen yet. The house was in an uproar. On one side, the tag read: “Hey, big guy! How about going to the girl’s dance with me? Kim.” On the other: “Don’t hurt the spiders. They’re rented.”
When the last of the visitors had drifted away, Mom said to Ryan, “You don’t seem that excited about the invitation. Is Kim somebody you want to go with?”
Ryan replied after a pause, “Yeah, I guess.”
“She’s certainly a gorgeous girl. I was impressed by her poise and self-confidence,” his mom continued.
“And her friends were very classy. I’ll bet they don’t have any trouble dating the boys they want to.”
“Is she the person you hoped would ask you?”
“Not really,” said Ryan.
“Tell me about her,” his mom pressed.
Ryan was starting to feel impatient with the conversation. He ended it more abruptly than he meant to by saying, “I don’t think it would be a good thing for me to go out with her. She and her friends are making some bad choices.”
Like Ryan, youth all over the Church face the challenge of weighing the merits of invitations that come to them daily. Not all are as dramatic as Ryan’s. Many come with a passing remark or an inviting look: “Want to dance?” “Come to the ball game with us.” “A few of us are meeting on the corner tonight.” “Let’s watch a video.”
Some invitations are more formal. They may require or deserve a more thoughtful or dignified reply—and sometimes a commitment. “Will you have the car home by 11:00 P.M.?” “Please R.S.V.P.” “We’d like you to speak in Church.” “You are called to serve.”
To be prepared for the opportunities and responsibilities that lie ahead, you must be wise in judging the merits of the invitations that come to you. On one hand, you have a loving Heavenly Father who invites you to be good, to do well, and to live with Him again after you have proven yourself worthy. On the other hand, Satan, the adversary, the enemy to all that is right and good, invites you to betray those heavenly aims. He promises nothing but momentary thrills, the illusion of popularity, and other counterfeit rewards.
As a Latter-day Saint, you are privileged to receive priceless help in judging which invitations you can safely accept. That help comes through the gift of the Holy Ghost. This gift is not an insurance policy and does not take the effort out of making right choices. But if you will try to feel the promptings of the Spirit, you will see a little more clearly where life’s invitations are leading you. With that clearer vision, you are free to choose the good and avoid the evil.
A story from the National Baseball Hall of Fame may illustrate how a clearer vision gives us an edge in the fight for right. A generation ago, Ted Williams was a household name in America. The veteran slugger for the Boston Red Sox proved his talent, integrity, and commitment year after year. In 1941, after only three years in the majors, Ted was hitting an incredible .39955 entering the last day of the season. Few hitters have ever come near to batting .400 in a season. Ted’s manager, the legendary Joe Cronin, offered to bench him for the last day of the season so that his average would round up to .400, knowing that if he had a bad day he would miss the mark altogether.
Not a chance, Ted replied. If he couldn’t hit .400 all the way, he said he didn’t deserve it. So he played.
Williams got six hits in eight times at bat during a doubleheader on that last day and ended the season with a .406 batting average. That record still stands. During a career that spanned 22 years, interrupted by 5 years of service as a military pilot in two wars, Ted averaged .344 at bat and hit 521 home runs. Even in his last season, at the age of 42, Ted hit .316, an exceptional average for most baseball players.
Ted Williams’s secret was his keen eyesight. After the pitcher threw the ball, Ted could see the stitching on the ball and could tell by the direction the ball was spinning whether it was a curve, slider, knuckleball, or fastball.
Do not suppose that Ted Williams relied upon his exceptional vision alone. He was known as the hardest worker in the major leagues. He combined personal integrity and tireless preparation with his love of the game to become one of the greatest players ever.
You also live in a fast-paced world. Sometimes, choices come at you with the speed of a fastball. And it may seem like the whole crowd is watching you and cheering you on in one direction or another. You don’t always have a lot of time to react. To be successful, to be safe, to be prepared, you need the edge that comes from carefully cultivating your ability to follow the promptings of that precious gift, the gift of the Holy Ghost.
I urge you young men and women to extend your vision through familiarity with the holy scriptures, the counsel of Church leaders, and the teachings of your parents. Keep your eye on the ball by maintaining personal worthiness and constant prayer. Be ready to swing or hold up in an instant as you feel that still small voice signaling whether an invitation is safe or dangerous.
That’s what Ryan did. He just didn’t feel right about accepting an invitation from Kim, no matter how cleverly it was presented. In the end, he chose to do what was right. I hope and pray that you will be faithful in developing the ability to do the same.