This is the second letter of advice to my phantom child. Sound weird? I’ve done weirder things than dole out counsel to a phantom child. Sad, yes, but true. So, this is the talk I’ve never been able to have with my 14 year old child – who doesn’t exist.
It’s an exciting time of life right now for you. You’re becoming a responsible young adult and I’m so proud of the decisions you’ve made in your life. Soon, you’ll be starting high school. While it’s a wonderful time to gain independence and figure out who you are, it can also be intimidating.
There will be many choices placed before you. As much as I’d like to, I can’t help you with every decision you’ll have to make. Sometimes I won’t know the answer because it will have to come from you. It will have to be what’s right for you and not what’s right for me. So, I’m going to have to learn to let go a little bit. I trust you. You’re a good kid. But I know even good kids make mistakes and as frustrating as that is, it will be okay. That’s what life is for. We learn as we go.
However, it doesn’t have to be up to chance. We have been given a wonderful gift to use to help us make decisions. Choices are an important part of life and the sooner we learn to use this particular tool, the better our choices will be. It’s the gift of the Holy Ghost and the personal revelation that comes from it. I do not claim to be perfect at adhering to this gift, but I have learned a few things along the way that might be helpful.
First, learn the language of the Spirit. It takes us, at the very least, the first few years of our existence to learn our native language. And most of us have trouble communicating effectively when we are adults. So why do we think learning the language of God should come easily? Or we may get frustrated because our petitions aren’t answered in the manner we think they should be.
Doctrine and Covenants 8:2 provides a key for us in recognizing personal revelation. “…I will tell you in your mind and in your heart, by the Holy Ghost, which shall come upon you and which shall dwell in your heart.” In verse 4 we are given another hint, “…this is thy gift; apply unto it…” This is what I get from all this: personal revelation will come in two ways either by our thoughts (those genius “a-ha” moments we have) or by our feelings (ever been overcome with love?). And we have to apply unto this gift. In other words, be polite and invite Him in.
Take advantage of the decisions you’re making now to learn how the Spirit will speak to you. This skill will be most advantageous for your whole life.
The second thing to remember is setbacks aren’t signs. Let’s say you’ve prayed about something and felt like you’ve received an answer. Then you go about your task and run into problems. Don’t second guess yourself by fretting if you made the right decision. Just come up with a solution.
If a trial meant you chose poorly we never would have had the Book of Mormon. I’m referring to the beginning of the book when Lehi’s four sons went back to Jerusalem to get the plates from Laban. It took three tries before they were successful. If they would have given up after the first attempt (like Laman and Lemuel were willing to do) we may not have the Book of Mormon because they wouldn’t have the Plates of Brass to teach them.
Glitches are going to pop up. Sometimes they will come at you fast and furious. Take a deep breath. Hold to what you know to be true. And be thankful you’re being entrusted to solve the problems you’ve been given.
The third tip I have for you is pretty crucial to learn. I call it the Zeniff rule. In Mosiah 9 we read about a group of Nephites that wanted to go back to the land of Nephi and possess it. Just one tiny problem with that plan – the Lamanites now inhabited that area. The Nephites were willing to go to war with the Lamanites to get their inheritance back. But Zeniff didn’t think bloodshed was the answer. Instead, he went and asked the Lamanite king if the small group of people that had followed him into the wilderness could have the land. The king agreed. But soon Zeniff’s people were placed in bondage with grievous burdens placed upon them. Due to their own wickedness, they became slaves to the Lamanites.
I refer to Zeniff’s words in Mosiah 9:3 “…I being over-zealous to inherit the land of our fathers…” Did you catch that word? Over-zealous. Sometimes we get excited and we want Heavenly Father to agree with what we think will make us happy. Even if it’s not in our best interest in the long run.
Sure, we offer our prayers and feel pretty good about it. We figure that’s our answer. That’s why learning the language of the Spirit is so important. We have to separate the good feelings that truly come from Heavenly Father (peace, joy, love) from our natural instincts (excitement). It is important to learn to differentiate the two.
However, without the splinter group of people led by Zeniff we may not have had the teachings of Abinidi, Alma, or Alma the Younger. We try our hardest to make correct choices. But keep in mind when we repent from our follies, the Lord can bless our mistakes and make roses out of dandelions.
I know as you begin this new phase of your life, good things can happen. Keep your chin up, a smile on your face, and faith in your heart. You have what it takes to navigate the waters ahead. You were born to win this race. I have confidence in you and love you.