Internet folklore contains a story about a wise elderly native american who is counseling a young brave. In the account, the elder explains that we each have two wolves inside us, and they are constantly battling. In answer to the young brave’s question of which one will win, the elder replies, “The one you choose to feed.”
Prophets have taught that our body is of the earth: fallen, mortal, and inclined to follow selfish and devilish desires. Our spirits, however, are divine, and are inclined to the things of heaven. (Elder David A. Bednar explained this in a wonderful talk, “Ye Are the Temple of God.” You might also want to read “The Atonement and the Journey of Mortality.”)
That means we are set up in our mortal existence to be at war with ourselves. It is part of a plan that gives us experience, and through that experience we gain knowledge and wisdom. We have also been given agency, which means we can choose for ourselves which inclinations we want to heed.
I have always appreciated the wisdom in the native american (or pseudo-native american) story that I recounted at the beginning of this post. In the end, the part of our nature that wins out is the part we choose to “feed,” or build and develop by the habits and patterns we create in our lives.
I’ve had conversations where individuals have expressed to me that they just couldn’t “do all that church stuff” like I do. The truth is, there was a time in my life when I couldn’t, either. Over time, I became willing to pay the price and take the journey that has led me to the most peaceful and happy place I have ever been in my life — even with all the hard experiences I’ve encountered. Even then, I didn’t get an overnight miracle. This has been a process that has taken years and is still ongoing.
Even worse, the things that appeal to our fallen nature are physical. We can see them, touch them, smell them, and experience them through our bodies. They are real to our senses, and can crowd out the delicate workings that happen on a spiritual level.
This means that developing our spiritual natures requires real, hard work. Unlike the physical, we have to make a conscious effort, develop habits, and commit to hanging in there through whatever comes our way.
Once we start working to developing our spiritual nature, the fallen physical nature fights back. It likes the habits we already have established, and doesn’t want to diminish. Now, we are uncomfortable. Now we hurt. Now we crave things that we promised to give up and leave behind us.
It’s not an easy journey, and the path sounds totally unappealing. However, I’ve made the journey (or at least part of it), and it’s worth every effort. Through the power of the Holy Spirit and in ways that would not have meaning for the physical senses, I know my Father in Heaven, and I know my Savior. I know that there is life beyond my physical senses, and I know a joy and happiness that cannot be overrun by anything that happens to me. I promise that, if you are willing to pay the price, you can have something wonderful.