The Gift of the Holy Ghost
by Alice Stratton

EDITOR'S NOTE: "The Gift of the Holy Ghost" was originally published in Friend, April 1984, p. 43.

The article is also available online at:

The article is reprinted here with permission.

I ran downstairs in my nightgown and robe. “Hey, everybody, I’m eight years old!” I whooped.

“Sure enough. Happy birthday, little chickie,” Mom said, giving me a whirl and a kiss.

“It seemed like I’d never turn eight!” I declared.

The main thing about being seven was getting ready to be eight. Someone was always saying that he could tell by my new front teeth coming in that I was seven, and wasn’t that exciting, because on my next birthday I’d be old enough to be baptized.

And now it was my next birthday! I asked, “Can I ask Cindy to come see me being baptized? Can I, Mom?” Cindy isn’t a Mormon, but she likes to come to Primary with me.

“Of course you may. Invite her parents too,” Mom answered.

I ate breakfast in a hurry, then ran to Cindy’s house. She saw me coming and held the screen door open.

“Guess what!” I panted. “I’m getting baptized tonight, and I want you and your mom and dad to come.”

Not only did Cindy and her folks come to my baptism, but they came to church the next day to see me confirmed!

The day after that Cindy came to our house to play dolls with me and my sisters, Katie and Shauna. Suddenly Cindy asked, “Janna Lynn, what is the Holy Ghost?”

Her question surprised me so much that I couldn’t think what to say. Katie is two years older than I am, and I looked at her for help, but she didn’t look up. She just went on brushing her doll’s hair.

I guess Cindy figured I didn’t understand her question, because she tried again. “In church yesterday your dad put his hands on your head and said, ‘Receive the Holy Ghost.’ What is the Holy Ghost?”

I got real busy tying a bonnet on my doll. It gave me a minute to think. To me the Holy Ghost simply was, and He didn’t need explaining. But I knew Cindy would insist on an answer. Finally I said, “Well, the gift of the Holy Ghost is really neat.”

“What does the Holy Ghost do?” Cindy asked.

“He’s a spirit person, and we can’t see Him. But He helps people to know the right thing to do.”

“Oh,” she said.

I was glad that she didn’t ask any more questions.

After she went home, I sat on the front porch to think. I thought about being baptized. I thought about the blue tile font and about Dad’s hand holding mine as I went down the steps. I remembered how nice we both looked dressed in white. And I remembered feeling the swish of the water as Dad put me under. I thought about Sunday too. I’d worn the same ruffly white dress that Katie had worn two years ago when she was confirmed. Only she’d worn a wide red-ribbon sash and red ribbons in her dark hair. I’d worn a wide blue-ribbon sash, and I had blue ribbons in my hair. I thought about my uncles and our home teachers who stood with Dad when he confirmed me. Afterward they smiled at me and shook my hand.

As I thought about Cindy’s question, I remembered that Dad had once said that the feeling of warning we get when we’re tempted is from the Holy Ghost as He tries to keep us from doing wrong. I should have had a lot more of that feeling the day I thought I had to have a piece of licorice. I’d helped myself to a dime from Mom’s purse without asking, and I’d hardly felt guilty at all when I handed it to the clerk at the store.

The very next day Mom said, “Little chickie, if you’ll run and post Dad’s letter, I’ll pop a peach cobbler into the oven for lunch.” Katie and Shauna had already gone to Aunt Shirley’s on an errand, so I was the only little chick left.

Then Mom looked in her purse and said, “Oh, oh. I was certain I had just the right change for a stamp, but there’s only a dime left.”

She took everything out of her purse and shook it. “Hmmmm,” she said, “it looks like I’ll have to write a check before I can mail Dad’s letter. We’ll have to forget about the cobbler, because while I’m out I might as well run my other errands.”

“Oh, Mom, you’ve already made me hungry for cobbler. Can’t the letter wait until tomorrow?”

“No. Daddy said we must get it in the mail this morning.”

“What’re we having for lunch?” I asked.

“Tuna sandwiches. Please stay close to the phone. Sister Heaton is going to call me. Tell her I’ll call her as soon as I get back.”

I felt awful as I watched her drive away.

That was last year. As I thought about it now that I was baptized, I knew it was important for me to tell Mom about it. I’d give her one of my birthday dimes, too, to help make things right.

As I sat there on the porch, I continued thinking about Cindy’s question. In one of our Primary lessons we learned that the Holy Ghost is the Spirit of Truth. Our teacher said that He would help us to not lie. I guessed I needed help with that too. I remembered the day Mom had come into the kitchen right after I had accidentally knocked the sugar bowl to the floor. Before she could even speak, I said, “Shauna made me do it.”

“Janna, look out the window,” she told me. “What do you see?”

I saw Shauna swinging on a rope hanging from the pecan tree. I said, “That’s how she made me do it. I was thinking about hurrying out to swing with her, and it made me bump into the table.”

“Janna.” Mom tilted my face toward hers. “None of us breaks dishes on purpose. We all have accidents. It isn’t the sugar bowl that counts. It’s you. More important to me than all the dishes in the cupboard—even the crystal glasses—is a little girl who tells the truth.”

I looked down at the floor. I knew I should’ve said I was sorry, but I didn’t. Instead, I asked, “Don’t dishes sometimes get too close to the edge and fall off by themselves?”

“Oh, Janna Lynn,” Mom said, and I wished she’d spanked me instead of looking at me the way she did. It would have made me feel a lot better.

I was still sitting on the porch thinking when Katie and Shauna came running around the house. “Come and play catch with us,” they called.

We threw the ball back and forth to each other, and then Katie threw one that was too high for me. Running backward to catch it, I slipped and fell on my backside in a clump of Mom’s blue irises. Mom came out of the shed just then with a pair of clippers to cut a bouquet. I looked at the smashed flowers and was just starting to speak, when something inside of me seemed to say, “No, Janna Lynn, you’re not going to say Katie made you do it.”

“I’m sorry, Mom,” I said. “I ran backward and fell.”

“Yes, I know. I saw you,” she replied.

“And you’re not mad at me?”

“Of course not.”

The way she laughed, I almost felt good about sitting on her flowers.

“Just look at all those irises that you didn’t sit on,” she said. “A daughter who tells the truth is more important than a whole yard full of flowers!”

Goodness! That must have been the Holy Ghost prompting me to tell the truth, I thought. And He’s helping me to learn what a great feeling you have when you know you’ve done the right thing. I could hardly wait to tell Cindy.