On Easter morning, I stood in my kitchen making bunny pancakes, squeezing orange juice, and listened to General Conference. Elder Larry Y. Wilson told a powerful and inspiring story about a sailor in his talk, “Take the Holy Spirit as Your Guide.”
The Ship in the Storm
While you should probably read the story yourself to get the full impact, basically there are major issues with the ship’s engines during a huge storm. As chaplain, the sailor was asked to pray for the ship. As Elder Wilson says, “Ensign Blair could have simply prayed, “Heavenly Father, please bless our ship and keep us safe,” and then gone to bed. Instead, he prayed to know if there was something he could do to help ensure the safety of the ship. In response to Brother Blair’s prayer, the Holy Ghost prompted him to go to the bridge, speak with the captain, and learn more.”
This pattern continued—of Ensign Blair praying not just that things would be okay but that he would be personally inspired as to what he could do to address the problem. I appreciated this story. On my mission, I had a time where I got really annoyed with prayers of missionaries in district meeting that would use the phrase “help us to be able to (whatever).” I felt like we shouldn’t pray to “be able to” do something but to pray that we can actually do it, not just have the capability to do it. I think that’s what this story of Ensign Blair teaches us—that sometimes (most of the time) we need to actually act in order to answer our own prayers.
I think this is true with caring for our mental illnesses and mental health as well. We can pray to “feel better,” but we then need to take action as well—getting therapy, using medication if necessary, engaging in self care, etc. We can’t just expect God to fix all of our problems while we sit on our backside just because we prayed for Him to help.
The part of Elder Wilson’s talk that I had a few questions about came when he spoke about the idea of whether or not we should seek the Spirit in all things. He quoted the verse in the Doctrine and Covenants about how “ ‘it is not meet that [God] should command in all things,’” lest we become slothful servants” but also quoted that “Alma advised his son to ‘counsel with the Lord in all thy doings.’ To live in this way—what we often call ‘living by the Spirit’—is a high privilege. It brings a sense of calm and certainty as well as fruits of the Spirit such as love, joy, and peace.”
Personally, I think we should make decisions on our own for our lives, while of course making sure that our choices are in line with the Spirit and the Lord’s guidance. I don’t think, however, that we need to pray about every tiny decision (what to eat for breakfast, what to wear, etc.). I think there are some decisions that the Lord trusts us to make for ourselves or times when either choice would be fine for us to make.
Overall, I think the Spirit can help us and will. I think if we live righteously, we will hopefully act in tune with the Holy Ghost, not necessarily needing to actively pray about each move and choice we make. We need to take responsibility for ourselves and our lives. We need to accept that the Lord trusts us. Yes, He wants to guide and help us, but He also wants us to learn and make our own decisions, mistakes, and, by doing so, learn and grow.