The “Star Wars” films have created a legacy that has spanned generations. My dad took me to the original movies when I was a kid. My husband and I saw all of the movies in the second trilogy years ago when they came out. And now we are taking our kids to the new ones as they are released. And while the epic battles between the Rebel Alliance and the Empire (and then the First Order) are, well, epic, the classic conflict between the Light Side of the Force and the Dark Side provide life lessons on the power of choice.
Life is all about making choices. Some are big, some are small. Some will make a difference in our future and some won’t. Some will lead us to the Light Side of the Force and others to the Dark Side. This is the test of life. Elder Robert D. Hales said,
Before we came to this earth, Heavenly Father presented His plan of salvation—a plan to come to earth and receive a body, choose to act between good and evil, and progress to become like Him and live with Him forever.
Our agency—our ability to choose and act for ourselves—was an essential element of this plan. Without agency we would be unable to make right choices and progress. Yet with agency we could make wrong choices, commit sin, and lose the opportunity to be with Heavenly Father again.
The test of choosing Light versus Dark is ours, too. And much we can learn from the Force, there is.
The Two Sides of the Force
“Star Wars” makes clear that two sides of the Force there are. And both sides are at war over our souls. Elder M. Russell Ballard said,
In the premortal world before we left the presence of Heavenly Father, He warned and cautioned us about new experiences we would have in mortality. We knew that we would have a physical body of flesh and bone. Never having been mortal before, we had no experience dealing with the temptations of mortality. But Heavenly Father knew and understood. He charged us to control our mortal bodies and to make them subject to our spirits. Our spirits would have to master the physical temptations that our bodies would encounter in a temporal world. Spiritual power over the influence of Satan comes to us by keeping the commandments of our Lord, Jesus Christ.
Being here on earth for the first time in our eternal existence, we are away from the protective presence of our Father in Heaven and are subject to the influence of Satan and his followers. …
Satan will seek to tempt us at times and in ways that exploit our greatest weaknesses or destroy our strengths. But his promises of pleasure are short-lived deceptions. His evil design is to tempt us into sinning, knowing that when we sin we separate ourselves from our Heavenly Father and the Savior, Jesus Christ. We begin to move away from Heavenly Father’s promised blessings toward the misery and anguish in which Satan and his followers languish. By sinning we put ourselves in Satan’s power.
Luke and Anakin are “Star Wars” characters who faced the same temptations. Their paths were determined not just by their decisions but also by those whom they chose to trust. Learning in whom to trust is one of the tests of our lives.
Trust Your Feelings
There are so many disparate voices in the public square, it can be difficult to know which is the right side—and who is on it. Anakin and Luke Skywalker both faced the same dilemma. The Sith are cunning and secretive, and always two there are. One Master and one Apprentice. And their identities are known only to themselves. So how can we tell the Light Side of the Force? President Thomas S. Monson explained,
Each of us came to earth having been given the Light of Christ. As we follow the example of the Savior and live as He lived and as He taught, that light will burn within us and will light the way for others.
What is the Light of Christ? President Boyd K. Packer said,
The Light of Christ is defined in the scriptures as “the Spirit [which] giveth light to every man that cometh into the world” (Doctrine & Covenants 84:46; emphasis added); “the light which is in all things, which giveth life to all things, which is the law by which all things are governed” (Doctrine & Covenants 88:13; see also John 1:4–9; Doctrine & Covenants 84:45–47). …
Regardless of whether this inner light, this knowledge of right and wrong, is called the Light of Christ, moral sense, or conscience, it can direct us to moderate our actions—unless, that is, we subdue it or silence it.
Through the Light of Christ, we can trust our feelings about which voice to follow. But this is just the beginning. Just as Luke and the rest of the Jedi had to learn to use the Force, we too must learn to use the tools that God has us to help us make correct choices. So what are these tools?
Heavenly Father’s Plan for Us
Unlike the characters in the “Star Wars” universe, we have not been left to figure things out for ourselves. We have been given a roadmap and a guide. The roadmap is the gospel of Jesus Christ, and He is our guide. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints teaches,
The gospel is our Heavenly Father’s plan of happiness. The central doctrine of the gospel is the Atonement of Jesus Christ. … In its fulness, the gospel includes all the doctrines, principles, laws, ordinances, and covenants necessary for us to be exalted….
The Savior set the example for us to follow. Elder Hales said,
Throughout His life our Savior showed us how to use our agency. As a boy in Jerusalem, He deliberately chose to “be about [His] Father’s business.” In His ministry, He obediently chose “to do the will of [His] Father.” In Gethsemane, He chose to suffer all things, saying, “Not my will, but thine, be done. And there appeared an angel unto him from heaven, strengthening him.” On the cross, He chose to love His enemies, praying, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” And then, so that He could finally demonstrate that He was choosing for Himself, He was left alone. “[Father,] why hast thou forsaken me?” He asked. At last, He exercised His agency to act, enduring to the end, until He could say, “It is finished.”
Though He “was in all points tempted like as we are,” with every choice and every action He exercised the agency to be our Savior—to break the chains of sin and death for us. And by His perfect life, He taught us that when we choose to do the will of our Heavenly Father, our agency is preserved, our opportunities increase, and we progress.
Commandments and Covenants
We follow Jesus Christ by obeying the commandments that He has given us. They are given not to restrict us but are for our benefit. President Monson taught,
God’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. …
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. … 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.
When we obey His commandments, we qualify ourselves to make covenants with Him. President Russell M. Nelson said,
One of the most important concepts of revealed religion is that of a sacred covenant. In legal language, a covenant generally denotes an agreement between two or more parties. But in a religious context, a covenant is much more significant. It is a sacred promise with God. He fixes the terms. Each person may choose to accept those terms. If one accepts the terms of the covenant and obeys God’s law, he or she receives the blessings associated with the covenant. We know that “when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated.”
Honoring our covenants brings blessings and strength into our lives that help us to continue on the path of righteousness.
Baptism and the Gift of the Holy Ghost
Baptism is one of the first covenants that we make as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We make covenants as we partake of the ordinances of the gospel. The ordinance of baptism is followed by receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost. Elder David A. Bednar said,
Baptism by immersion is “the introductory ordinance of the gospel, and must be followed by baptism of the Spirit in order to be complete” (Bible Dictionary, “Baptism”). The Prophet Joseph Smith explained that “baptism is a holy ordinance preparatory to the reception of the Holy Ghost; it is the channel and key by which the Holy Ghost will be administered. The Gift of the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands, cannot be received through the medium of any other principle than the principle of righteousness” (Teachings: Joseph Smith, 95–96).
The Holy Ghost is the third member of the Godhead. He is a personage of spirit and thus can dwell within us if we are worthy to have Him as our companion. President Henry B. Eyring taught,
To always have the Spirit with us is to have the guidance and direction of the Holy Ghost in our daily lives. We can, for instance, be warned by the Spirit to resist the temptation to do evil.
The companionship of the Holy Ghost makes what is good more attractive and temptation less compelling. That alone should be enough to make us determined to qualify for the Spirit to be with us always.
Just as the Holy Ghost strengthens us against evil, He also gives us the power to discern truth from falsehood. The truth that matters most is verified only by revelation from God. Our human reason and the use of our physical senses will not be enough. We live in a time when even the wisest will be hard-pressed to distinguish truth from clever deception.
Thus, the gift of the Holy Ghost can be a powerful tool in helping us stay on the Light Side of the Force.
Take Time to Pray
How do we live worthy of this gift? We keep the commandments, commune with our Heavenly Father through prayer and study the scriptures. Each of these allows us to remain close to the Holy Ghost, who in turn can help us stay on the path of righteousness. Elder Richard G. Scott said,
The first tool is prayer. Choose to converse with your Father in Heaven often. Make time every day to share your thoughts and feelings with Him. Tell Him everything that concerns you. He is interested in the most important as well as the most mundane facets of your life. Share with Him your full range of feelings and experiences.
Because He respects your agency, Father in Heaven will never force you to pray to Him. But as you exercise that agency and include Him in every aspect of your daily life, your heart will begin to fill with peace, buoyant peace. That peace will focus an eternal light on your struggles. It will help you to manage those challenges from an eternal perspective.
Daily personal and family prayer brings the Holy Ghost into our lives and into our hearts. Through it we gain access to Divine power and strength beyond our own.
Study the Scriptures
Another tool to help us stay in tune with the Holy Ghost is scripture study. The scriptures are the word of God to His prophets, both ancient and modern. Elder Scott said,
We talk to God through prayer. He most often communicates back to us through His written word. To know what the voice of the Divine sounds and feels like, read His words, study the scriptures, and ponder them. Make them an integral part of everyday life. If you want your children to recognize, understand, and act on the promptings of the Spirit, you must study the scriptures with them.
Don’t yield to Satan’s lie that you don’t have time to study the scriptures. Choose to take time to study them. Feasting on the word of God each day is more important than sleep, school, work, television shows, video games, or social media. You may need to reorganize your priorities to provide time for the study of the word of God. If so, do it!
Throughout the ages prophets have promised blessings to those who study the scriptures. Elder Scott continued,
I add my voice with this promise: as you dedicate time every day, personally and with your family, to the study of God’s word, peace will prevail in your life. That peace won’t come from the outside world. It will come from within your home, from within your family, from within your own heart. It will be a gift of the Spirit. It will radiate out from you to influence others in the world around you. You will be doing something very significant to add to the cumulative peace in the world.
The Power of Choice
A journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step. And the path to the Light Side—or the Dark Side—begins with a choice. There is power in choice. President Monson taught,
We are surrounded—even at times bombarded—by the messages of the adversary. Listen to some of them; they are no doubt familiar to you: “Just this once won’t matter.” “Don’t worry; no one will know.” “You can stop smoking or drinking or taking drugs any time you want.” “Everybody’s doing it, so it can’t be that bad.” The lies are endless.
Although in our journey we will encounter forks and turnings in the road, we simply cannot afford the luxury of a detour from which we may never return. Lucifer, that clever pied piper, plays his lilting melody and attracts the unsuspecting away from the safety of their chosen pathway, away from the counsel of loving parents, away from the security of God’s teachings.
But we can make a different choice. We can follow the path of righteousness. President Monson said,
… We all know where we want to go, and it does matter which way we go, for by choosing our path, we choose our destination.
Decisions are constantly before us. To make them wisely, courage is needed—the courage to say no, the courage to say yes. Decisions do determine destiny.