In this series of articles on virtue, we’ve been exploring the Young Women’s program for Mormon teenagers. The girls-and in some countries, the boys-participate in a program called Personal Progress, in which they set and achieve goals. Some are chosen for them, and others are of their own choosing. The goals are centered around a series of values God wants the girls to achieve. The newest value is that of virtue. We are studying, in these articles, the requirements for completing the Virtue value.
Virtuous living “at all times and in all things, and in all places” qualifies you for the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost. When you are baptized and confirmed, you are given the gift of the Holy Ghost to guide all aspects of your life. Since the Holy Ghost does not dwell in unclean tabernacles, living a virtuous life is a prerequisite to having the companionship of the Holy Ghost and receiving the blessings of temple ordinances. Read the following scripture references, and identify the promised blessings: John 14:26-27; John 15:26; 2 Nephi 32:1-5; D&C 45:57-59; D&C 88:3-4; and D&C 121:45-46. In your journal, record what you have learned, and write about a time when you felt the guidance of the Holy Ghost.
Mormons teach that all people are entitled to the Spirit of Christ and the influence of the Holy Ghost to help them make choices and recognize truth. Once baptized, they may receive the Gift of the Holy Ghost to be with them at all times if they are worthy. This means they must be striving to live according to God’s teachings. While they won’t be perfect, this should be an ongoing goal, and when the Holy Ghost warns them of error, they must pay attention.
We believe the Spirit of Christ comes to all men and women. This is distinct from the gift of the Holy Ghost.
The Prophet Joseph Smith taught, “There is a difference between the Holy Ghost and the gift of the Holy Ghost.” Many outside the Church have received revelation by the power of the Holy Ghost, convincing them of the truth of the gospel. Through this power sincere investigators acquire a testimony of the Book of Mormon and the principles of the gospel before baptism. However, administrations of the Holy Ghost are limited without receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost.
Those who possess the gift of the Holy Ghost after baptism and confirmation can receive more light and testimony. This is because the gift of the Holy Ghost is “a permanent witness and higher endowment than the ordinary manifestation of the Holy Spirit.” It is the higher endowment because the gift of the Holy Ghost can act as “a cleansing agent to purify a person and sanctify him from all sin.” (James E. Faust, “Born Again,” Ensign, May 2001, 54)
When a person is deciding whether or not to become a Mormon, they are taught to pray and consult God, who is the source of all truth. He responds to them through the Holy Ghost. Those who are “born” into the church are still counseled to pray for a testimony of their own, and not to simply rely on the testimony of their parents or friends.
This virtue requirement helps the youth learn how to be worthy of the companionship of the Holy Ghost every moment of the day and night. They work to cleanse their lives of anything that might make them unworthy.
By studying the scriptures listed, they become more knowledgeable about their beliefs, one of the core steps for gaining a testimony. Recording their thoughts in their journals helps them to track the progress of their faith journey and to be able to return to it when they are feeling weak.
One of the scriptures the youth are asked to read and contemplate is this, taken from the King James version of the Holy Bible:
26 But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.
27 Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. (John 14)
This scripture introduces the Holy Ghost to the apostles and outlines His primary purposes: The confirmation of truth and the comfort of God’s presence. These two gifts are among the most essential for getting through our time on earth successfully. It’s critical that we learn what is true, and only God can tell us that. Because life is hard, comfort can help us make it through the hardest times without losing faith.
The teenagers are shown, throughout their entire program, to remain worthy of the greatest gifts God has to offer us. They learn to live by God’s rules, not the ever-changing rules of man, even when it’s difficult. They learn how to find trustworthy role-models. They learn that they are children of God and are loved by Him.
Each week, the girls recite the following theme, which they are encouraged to use as a guide for their own life:
“We are daughters of our Heavenly Father, who loves us, and we love Him. We will “stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places” (Mosiah 18:9) as we strive to live the Young Women values, which are:
Choice and Accountability
Good Works, and
We believe as we come to accept and act upon these values, we will be prepared to strengthen home and family, make and keep sacred covenants, receive the ordinances of the temple, and enjoy the blessings of exaltation.”
Knowledge of these essential truths give the girls the courage and resolution to remain worthy of the Holy Ghost every day of their challenging teenage years and their adult lives to come.
Terrie Lynn Bittner
Terrie Lynn Bittner is the author of two homeschooling books and numerous articles, including several that have appeared in LDS magazines. She is married to Lincoln Bittner and is the mother of three grown children and grandmother to two girls. Terrie became a Mormon at the age of seventeen and has been sharing her faith online since 1992. She can also be found blogging about being an LDS woman at LatterdaySaintWoman.com.