Character Education: Moral Compass, Holy Spirit, and Good vs. Evil

Character Education:

Moral Compass, Holy Spirit, and Good vs. Evil

Beware of the Evil behind the Smiling Eyes

Neil L. Andersen

 

keyAs we increase our understanding and love for the Savior, His light will illuminate everything around us. We will then see evil for what it is. ~Neil L. Andersen

I’d like to tell you of an experience of a faithful Latter-day Saint who is a good friend of mine. I’ll refer to him only as “my friend” for reasons you will understand.

fbiWorking as a special agent for the FBI, my friend investigated organized crime groups transporting illegal drugs into the United States.

On one occasion, he and another agent approached an apartment where they believed a known drug dealer was distributing cocaine. My friend describes what happened:

“We knocked on the door of the drug dealer. The suspect opened the door, and upon seeing us, tried to block our view. But it was too late; we could see the cocaine on his table.

“A man and a woman who were at the table immediately began removing the cocaine. We had to prevent them from destroying the evidence, so I quickly pushed the drug suspect who was blocking the door to the side. As I pushed him, my eyes met his. Strangely, he did not appear angry or afraid. He was smiling at me.

drug-dealer-smiling-eyes“His eyes and disarming smile gave me the impression that he was harmless, so I quickly left him and started to move toward the table. The suspect was now behind me. At that instant, I had the distinct, powerful impression come into my mind: ‘Beware of the evil behind the smiling eyes.’

criminal-gun-smiling-eyes“I immediately turned back toward the suspect. His hand was in his large front pocket. Instinctively I grabbed his hand and pulled it from his pocket. Only then did I see, clutched in his hand, the semiautomatic pistol ready to fire. A flurry of activity followed, and I disarmed the man.”2

Later, in another case, the drug dealer was convicted of murder and boasted that he would have also killed my friend had he not turned around at that very moment.

I have often thought of the communication that came into his mind: “Beware of the evil behind the smiling eyes.” This is what I want to talk to you about tonight.

christ-good-vs-evilLet’s begin with what we know. Good comes from God; evil comes from the devil.3 They are not, however, equal forces that are fighting each other in the universe. At the head of all that is good is the Christ—He who is the Only Begotten of the Father, who created our world and numerous others. Our Redeemer is a resurrected and perfect being.4 I know He lives.

The devil, on the other hand, “persuadeth men to do evil.”5 “He [has] fallen from heaven, … [has] become miserable forever,”6 and now works “that all men might be miserable like unto himself.”7 He is a liar and a loser.8

The power of the Savior and the power of the devil are not truly comparable.9 On this planet, however, evil has been allowed a position of influence to give us the chance to choose between good and evil. The scripture says: “God gave unto man that he should act for himself. [And] man could not act for himself … [unless] he was enticed by … one or the other.”10

The choice between good and evil is at the very heart of our experience on earth.

Sailor w-Jesus by Warner Sallman

Sailor w-Jesus by Warner Sallman

The choice between good and evil is at the very heart of our experience on earth. In the final review of our lives, it will not really matter if we were rich or poor, if we were athletic or not, if we had friends or were often forgotten.

We can work, study, laugh and have fun, dance, sing, and enjoy many different experiences. These are a wonderful part of life, but they are not central to why we are here.11 The opportunity to choose good over evil is precisely why we are here.12

Not one of us would say, “I want to choose evil.” We all want to choose the right. However, the choice of good over evil is not always easy, because evil frequently lurks behind smiling eyes. Listen to these warnings:

“Take heed … that ye do not judge that which is evil to be of God.”13

“Ye must watch and pray always lest ye enter into temptation; for Satan desireth to have you.”14

“Satan hath sought to deceive you, that he might overthrow you.”15

The message is: Beware of the evil behind the smiling eyes!

I have known a few young men who began with every intention to stay firm in their loyalty to the Savior but who slipped from the path because they did not see the evil behind eyes that appeared quite harmless. They saw the fun, the pleasure, the acceptance, but they did not see the other consequences.

How, then, can we discern the evil behind something that doesn’t appear evil?

You already know the answers, but here are a few thoughts:

parentsFirst, talk to your parents. Does that sound like a revolutionary idea? We fathers know we are far from perfect, but we love you, and along with your mothers, have a deep interest in your choosing the right.

Next, follow the prophet. These 15 men we sustain as prophets, seers, and revelators are given divine power to see what we sometimes do not see. President Hinckley has given us clear and specific counsel about the evil behind the smiling eyes.16 And you have the inspired guidance in the booklet For the Strength of Youth.17 As you apply President Hinckley’s counsel, the Lord has promised that He “will disperse the powers of darkness from before you.”18 You will see the evil behind the smiling eyes, and its appeal will leave you.

Let the Holy Spirit be Your Guide

forgiveness4doveVery importantly, let the Holy Ghost be your guide. The Lord has promised us that as we live righteously, the still, small voice will come into our mind and into our heart.19 You have felt this influence. You know this voice.20

The gift of the Holy Ghost is a spiritual gift. It is sensitive and will not be associated with unworthiness. You cannot offend or ignore it one day and expect it to strengthen you the next day. But as you heed its promptings and remain righteous, it will grow stronger within you. The Holy Ghost warned my friend of physical danger; the Holy Ghost will also warn you of spiritual danger.

Finally, gain your own testimony of the Savior. Pray passionately. Read the Book of Mormon when no one is watching. Take time alone to think about who Jesus really is and how His life and sacrifice are important to you.

As we increase our understanding and love for the Savior, His light will illuminate everything around us. We then will see evil for what it is.22

I know that Jesus Christ is our Savior. Words cannot describe His greatness and glory, His majesty and magnificence. As we remain worthy, we will be blessed to see the evil behind the smiling eyes.

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YouTube Music: Holy Spirit, You are Welcome Here

Dinner Topics

Holy Spirit Guidance

keyIn the Christian lifestyle, when we remain steadfast and faithful, surround ourselves with good influences (easily induced by good music), we can have Holy Spirit guidance with us, and we convey to the Holy Spirit, “You are Welcome here.”

 

SmokeyLightforgiveness4doveThe Lord has made the promise to all who will repent and remain faithful, exercising a spirit of humility and diligence, that they will be entitled to the guidance of the Spirit of God. This Spirit will lead them and direct them throughout their lives.

He who will hearken to that Spirit and seek for the gift of the Spirit in humility and faith shall not be deceived. ~Joseph Fielding Smith

Listen to entire Solace album on Spotify

YouTube Music: “Inspired”

Gospel Teachings: Teaching Children to follow the Holy Spirit

Gospel Teachings:

Teaching Children to follow the Holy Spirit

A Child’s Guiding Gift

By Mary R. Durham

keyHow do we teach our children to kick off worldly influences and trust the Spirit?

“Thou shalt teach [the Lord’s words] diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.”7 Immersing our families in the Spirit will keep our children’s hearts open to His influence.

A young father was literally sinking. He, his two children, and his father-in-law had gone for a walk around a lake. They were surrounded by majestic pine-covered mountains, and the sky was blue, filled with soft white clouds, emanating beauty and serenity. When the children grew hot and tired, the two men decided to put the children on their backs and swim the short distance across the lake.

person-drowningIt seemed easy—until the moment when the father began to feel pulled down, everything becoming so heavy. Water pushed him to the bottom of the lake, and a frantic feeling came over him. How was he going to keep afloat—and do so with his precious young daughter on his back?

His voice disappeared in the distance as he called out; his father-in-law was too far away to answer a desperate plea for help. He felt alone and helpless.

Can you imagine feeling as alone as he felt, unable to reach anything to hold on to and struggling in a desperate situation for your life and your child? Unfortunately, all of us experience some degree of this feeling when we are in situations where we desperately need to find help in order to survive and to save those we love.

Near panic, he realized that his water-saturated shoes were weighing him down. While working to stay afloat, he began to attempt to get his heavy shoes off his feet. But it was as if they were held on with suction. The laces were swollen with water, cinching the grip even tighter.

In what may have been his last moment of desperation, he managed to pry the shoes from his feet, and at last the shoes released their hold, quickly falling to the bottom of the lake. Free from the heavy weight that had been dragging him down, he immediately propelled himself and his daughter upward. He could now swim forward, moving toward safety on the other side of the lake.

At times we may all feel as if we are drowning. Life can be heavy. We live in “a noisy and busy world. … If we are not careful, the things of this world can [drown] out the things of the Spirit.”1

walking-at-night_lightHow do we follow the example of this father and kick off some of the weight of the world we carry, so we can keep our children’s heads and our own worried minds above the water? How can we, as Paul counseled, “lay aside every weight”?2 How can we prepare our children for the day when they can no longer cling to us and our testimonies—when they are the ones swimming?

An answer comes when we recognize this divine source of strength. It is a source often underestimated, yet it can be used daily to lighten our load and guide our precious children. That source is the guiding gift of the Holy Ghost.

At age eight, children can experience baptism. They learn about and make a covenant with God. Those they love surround them as they are immersed and come out of the font with a feeling of great joy. Then they receive the unspeakable gift of the Holy Ghost, a gift that may guide them constantly as they live for that blessing.

Elder David A. Bednar said: “The simplicity of [confirmation] may cause us to overlook its significance. These four words—‘Receive the Holy Ghost’—are not a passive pronouncement; rather, they constitute a priesthood injunction—an authoritative admonition to act and not simply to be acted upon.”3

Children have a natural desire to do good and to be good. We can feel their innocence, their purity. They also have a great sensitivity to the still, small voice.

Jesus-angels-childrenIn 3 Nephi 26, the Savior showed us the spiritual capacity of children:

“He did loose their tongues, and they did speak unto their fathers great and marvelous things, even greater than he had revealed unto the people. …

“… They both saw and heard these children; yea, even babes did open their mouths and utter marvelous things.”4

How do we as parents increase the spiritual capacity of our little ones? How do we teach them to kick off worldly influences and trust the Spirit when we are not with them and they are alone in the deep waters of their lives?

Let me share with you some ideas.

First, we can bring to our children’s attention when they are hearing and feeling the Spirit. Let’s go back in time to the Old Testament to see how Eli did just this for Samuel.

Young Samuel twice heard a voice and ran to Eli, saying, “Here am I.”

“I called not,” responded Eli.

But “Samuel did not yet know the Lord, neither was the word of the Lord yet revealed unto him.”

By the third time, Eli perceived that the Lord had called Samuel and told Samuel to say, “Speak, Lord; for thy servant heareth.”5

samuel-prophet-boySamuel was beginning to feel, recognize, and hearken to the Lord’s voice. But this young boy didn’t start to understand until Eli facilitated this recognition. And having been taught, Samuel could become more familiar with the still, small voice.

Second, we can prepare our homes and our children to feel the still, small voice. “Many teachers of foreign languages believe that children learn a language best in ‘immersion programs,’ in which they are surrounded by other speakers of the language and called upon to speak it themselves. They learn not just to say words, but to speak fluently and even to think in the new language. The [best] ‘immersion’ setting for a spiritual education is in the home, where spiritual principles can form the basis for daily living.”6

“Thou shalt teach [the Lord’s words] diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.”7 Immersing our families in the Spirit will keep our children’s hearts open to His influence.

Third, we can help our children understand how the Spirit speaks to them. Joseph Smith taught, “If He comes to a little child, He will adapt himself to the language and capacity of a little child.”8 One mother discovered that since children learn differently—some learn visually, auditorily, tactilely, or kinesthetically—the more she observed her children, the more she realized that the Holy Ghost teaches her children in ways they each learn best.9

holyspiritAnother mother shared an experience of helping her children learn to recognize the Spirit. “Sometimes,” she wrote, “[children] don’t realize that a recurring thought, a feeling of comfort after they cry, or remembering something at just the right time are all ways that the Holy Ghost communicates [with them].” She continues, “I’m teaching my [children] to focus on what they feel [and act on it].”10

Feeling and recognizing the Spirit will bring spiritual capacity into our children’s lives, and the voice they come to know will become clearer and clearer to them. It will be as Elder Richard G. Scott said: “As you gain experience and success in being guided by the Spirit, your confidence in the impressions you feel can become more certain than your dependence on what you see or hear.”11

We need not fear as we see our children enter the waters of life, for we have helped them rid themselves of worldly weight. We have taught them to live for the guiding gift of the Spirit. This gift will continue to lighten the weight they carry and lead them back to their heavenly home if they live for it and follow its promptings.

Gospel Teachings: Keep the Commandments of God

Gospel Teachings:

Keep the Commandments of God

Thomas S. Monson

keyHe who created us and who loves us perfectly knows just how we need to live our lives in order to obtain the greatest happiness possible.

 

My message to you tonight is straightforward. It is this: keep the commandments.

10commandmentsGod’s commandments are not given to frustrate us or to become obstacles to our happiness. Just the opposite is true. He who created us and who loves us perfectly knows just how we need to live our lives in order to obtain the greatest happiness possible. He has provided us with guidelines which, if we follow them, will see us safely through this often treacherous mortal journey. We remember the words of the familiar hymn: “Keep the commandments! In this there is safety; in this there is peace.”1

Our Heavenly Father loves us enough to say:

Thou shalt not lie; thou shalt not steal; thou shalt not commit adultery; thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself; and so on.2 We know the commandments. He understands that when we keep the commandments, our lives will be happier, more fulfilling, and less complicated.

Our challenges and problems will be easier to bear, and we will receive His promised blessings. But while He gives us laws and commandments, He also allows us to choose whether to accept them or to reject them. Our decisions in this regard will determine our destiny.

I am confident that each of us has as his ultimate goal life everlasting in the presence of our Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ. It is imperative, therefore, for us to make choices throughout our lives that will lead us to this great goal. We know, however, that the adversary is committed to our failure. He and his hosts are relentless in their efforts to thwart our righteous desires. They represent a grave and constant threat to our eternal salvation unless we are also relentless in our determination and efforts to achieve our goal. The Apostle Peter warns us, “Be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.”3

Although there is no time in our lives when we are exempt from temptation, … young men are at an age when you may be particularly vulnerable. Teenage years are often years of insecurity, of feeling as though you don’t measure up, of trying to find your place with your peers, and of trying to fit in. You may be tempted to lower your standards and to follow the crowd in order to be accepted by those you desire to have as friends. Please be strong, and be alert to anything that would rob you of the blessings of eternity. The choices you make here and now are forever important.

Listen to the Voice of the Spirit

holyspiritWe read in 1 Corinthians: “There are … so many kinds of voices in the world.”4 We are surrounded by persuasive voices, beguiling voices, belittling voices, sophisticated voices, and confusing voices. I might add that these are loud voices.

I admonish you to turn the volume down and to be influenced instead by that still, small voice which will guide you to safety.

Remember that one with authority placed his hands on your head after you were baptized, confirming you a member of the Church and saying, “Receive the Holy Ghost.”5 Open your hearts, even your very souls, to the sound of that special voice which testifies of truth. As the prophet Isaiah promised, “Thine ears shall hear a word … , saying, This is the way, walk ye in it.”6 May we ever be in tune, that we might hear this comforting, guiding voice which will keep us safe.

Slippery Slope of Satan’s Lies

slippery-slopeDisregard for the commandments has opened the way for what I consider to be the plagues of our day. They include the plague of permissiveness, the plague of pornography, the plague of drugs, the plague of immorality, and the plague of abortion, to name just a few. The scriptures tell us that the adversary is “the founder of all these things.”7 We know that he is “the father of all lies, to deceive and to blind men.”8

I plead with you to avoid anything that will deprive you of your happiness here in mortality and eternal life in the world to come. With his deceptions and lies, the adversary will lead you down a slippery slope to your destruction if you allow him to do so. You will likely be on that slippery slope before you even realize that there is no way to stop.

You have heard the messages of the adversary. He cunningly calls: Just this once won’t matter; everyone is doing it; don’t be old-fashioned; times have changed; it can’t hurt anyone; your life is yours to live. The adversary knows us, and he knows the temptations which will be difficult for us to ignore. How vital it is that we exercise constant vigilance in order to avoid giving in to such lies and temptations.

quote-soares-stand-firm-moral-courageGreat Courage is needed

Great courage will be required as we remain faithful and true amid the ever-increasing pressures and insidious influences with which we are surrounded and which distort the truth, tear down the good and the decent, and attempt to substitute the man-made philosophies of the world.

We cannot Change God’s Commandments

If the commandments had been written by man, then to change them by inclination or legislation or by any other means would be the prerogative of man. The commandments, however, were God-given. Using our agency, we can set them aside. We cannot, however, change them, just as we cannot change the consequences which come from disobeying and breaking them.

May we realize that our greatest happiness in this life will come as we follow God’s commandments and obey His laws! I love the words found in Isaiah chapter 32, verse 17: “The work of righteousness shall be peace; and the effect of righteousness quietness and assurance for ever.” Such peace, such assurance can come only through righteousness.

The Painful Hold of Sin

We cannot allow ourselves the slightest bit of leeway in dealing with sin. We cannot allow ourselves to believe that we can participate “just a little” in disobeying the commandments of God, for the sin can grab us with an iron hand from which it is excruciatingly painful to free ourselves. The addictions which can come from drugs, alcohol, pornography, and immorality are real and are nearly impossible to break without great struggle and much help.

Repentance Is the Way Back

jesusforgivemedIf any of you has stumbled in his journey, I assure you that there is a way back. The process is called repentance. Although the path is difficult, your eternal salvation depends on it. What could be more worthy of your efforts? I plead with you to determine right here and now to take the steps necessary to fully repent. The sooner you do so, the sooner you will be able to experience the peace and the quietness and the assurance spoken of by Isaiah.

A short while ago I heard the testimony of a woman who, with her husband, strayed from the path of safety, breaking commandments and, in the process, nearly destroying their family. When each of them could finally see through the thick haze of addiction and recognize how unhappy their lives had become, as well as how much they were hurting their loved ones, they began to change. The repentance process felt slow and was, at times, painful, but with the help of priesthood leaders, along with help from family and loyal friends, they made their way back.

I share with you a portion of this sister’s testimony of the healing power of repentance: “How does someone go from being one of the lost sheep and gripped by [sin], to this peace and happiness we now feel? How does that happen? The answer … is because of a perfect gospel, a perfect Son and His sacrifice for me. … Where there was darkness, there is now light. Where there was despair and pain, there is joy and hope. We have been infinitely blessed by the change that can only come through repentance made possible by the Atonement of Jesus Christ.

quote-monson-commandmentsOur Savior died to provide you and me that blessed gift. Despite the fact that the path is difficult, the promise is real. Said the Lord to those who repent:

“Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow.”9

“And I will remember [them] no more.”10

Throughout our lives we will need to nurture strong testimonies by studying the scriptures and by praying and by pondering the truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ. When firmly planted, our testimonies of the gospel, of the Savior, and of our Heavenly Father will influence all that we do.

I testify that all of us are beloved sons of our Father in Heaven, sent to earth at this day and time for a purpose, and given the priesthood of God so that we can serve others and perform God’s work here upon the earth. We have been commanded to live our lives so that we remain worthy to possess that priesthood.

May we keep the commandments! Wonderful and glorious are the rewards which are in store for us if we do.