Early one morning, without warning, the violent shaking of an earthquake woke us up. After making sure no one was injured, our family went out on the patio of our home to stay away from danger. There was fear that other violent earthquakes, aftershocks, would take place later on. How could we know when they would happen?
My wife came up with the simple idea of detecting tremors by hanging an old pair of scissors from a column in our home. Each time another tremor was near, the scissors would softly rattle, which made them ring like a small bell. This way, we could prepare for the violent shaking of the earth which soon followed.
I have thought since that many of us expect the greatest dangers in life to be preceded by some great announcement or warning. But it is not always so. Some of the dangers you face are so subtle you may have difficulty detecting them. Satan knows this, and he has a plan to degrade human beings and destroy the souls of men. He looks for those who are inexperienced and not prepared, and he deceives them and submits them to all types of humiliation. (See D&C 10:23, 25.)
You already know that Satan doesn’t sleep, that he is continually seeking to shake up our lives with the equivalent of spiritual earthquakes (see 1 Pet. 5:8). These can suddenly overwhelm us unless we devise ways of listening to the Spirit and preparing ourselves to counter the buffetings of Satan.
Fortunately, there is enough help to detect and avoid them. Just as in nature, where storms are preceded by strong winds and dark rain clouds, there are prior warnings if we look for them. We can receive spiritual warnings when the tremors of Satan’s earthquakes are on the way.
We recently shared a special occasion with the youth of a stake in our area. We distributed and discussed the pamphlet For the Strength of Youth. It was admirable to see the reaction they had when we analyzed the different topics in it, which without a doubt will occupy an important place in their lives as spiritual guides and protectors.
One of the young people said, “These are hard times we’re living through, but fortunately we have the help of the prophets.” One of the parents said, “It’s touching to be able to feel these words written in such simple language which can protect our children.”
At all times, the prophets have been interested in protecting the youth through direct counsel, with the purpose of protecting them from wrong. They wanted to make them into righteous men and women, capable of preserving their own generation for the benefit of humanity.
Allow me to share with you some thoughts to help you understand how the simple concepts in For the Strength of Youth can become a source of powerful spiritual help. I suggest that you always carry with you the pocket-size summary pamphlet. Then, whenever you have free time, read it. This way you can regularly review the standards by which you should be living.
Full-time missionaries use a similar method when they carry their white handbook with them. Inside they find missionary instructions as well as standards of conduct. More than once this small handbook has saved an obedient missionary from falling into temptation.
In the same manner, your handbook, For the Strength of Youth, can become a valuable help at times when you find yourself facing temptations. If you will carefully review the standards in it and keep them constantly in mind, they will work for your own protection and will warn you when trouble is on the way.
You are living through a stage of life that is very important in order to gain experience. At your age, your body and mind require strong emotions which, uncontrolled, can lead you to do things you will later regret. You will find that you are surrounded by danger which can threaten to destroy you spiritually. And this danger is not always shown as horror. Some of these dangers are readily available each day, such as harmful television programs, noisy and degrading music, magazines of doubtful morality, crude language, and impudent attitudes. Immodest clothing or impure acts are presented as attractive and normal ways of being macho or cute. Dangerous things such as drugs or pornography can stay with you a long time, leading you to such deep sin that it is hard to escape.
One of the things that can help you is to obtain wisdom. Listen to the counsel Alma gave to his son Helaman:
“O, remember, my son, and learn wisdom in thy youth; yea, learn in thy youth to keep the commandments of God” (Alma 37:35).
He repeats to his son twice that he must learn wisdom in his youth. This wisdom comes from God, and his creations (of which you are one) are full of wisdom (see Prov. 3:19).
I met a good young man on his mission. He told me that many times he had faced strong temptations, and that each time this happened, he prayed intently until he cleansed his mind of the thoughts that had pressured him. Without a doubt, prayer is another of the powerful spiritual helps that can keep us away from danger. While you pray, your spirit is calmed, your mind is cleansed, and your thoughts are purified. This way, temptations are not allowed in.
I would like you to think about the following example. What happens when you are walking down a dark street and you suddenly hear strange noises of things you cannot see? Your pulse accelerates, you feel like running, and your whole body is alarmed. There is no good there! That alarming feeling makes you leave and go to a safer place. Then, when you are safe, you are overcome with a feeling of peace and tranquility. You had a warning. You obeyed it. Now you are safe.
This same phenomenon will occur on a spiritual level, if you listen. Anything that is contrary to your standards, that goes against correct principles, will trigger a warning, just as the soft ringing of the scissors let us know an earthquake was on the way. When you feel these warnings, get immediately away from danger. The best help you can have during critical moments will be the Holy Ghost. You have the right to his companionship. He will reveal to you what is right and what is wrong, and help you make correct decisions (see D&C 9:8–9 and D&C 45:57). But you must live worthily in order to receive his help. And you must learn to receive this spiritual help through personal revelation.
Yes, you must learn to stay away from those things that will cause you severe spiritual damage. Just as important, you must learn to avoid the subtle temptations that can slowly lead you to a miserable life. But you can see that there is enough help to avoid these dangers, if you will listen for and then follow the warnings, the spiritual guidance our Father has given to you.