What should you major in? Should you marry this person? Should you take that job out of state? Should you switch careers? Life is filled with huge decisions—and not only when we’re in our early twenties. Big choices loom throughout our lives: Should we have more kids? Should we switch schools for our children? Should we buy this house or that one? Should Mom come and live with us? Should we serve a senior mission?
We’ve all wrestled with options. Most of us have tried to squelch our inner preferences and, instead, listen for promptings—with varying degrees of success. Sometimes we try to bargain with the Lord. Sometimes we employ the formula from the book of Ether, to study it out in our mind and present a plan to God for his approval. We wait. We try to tune in and feel the correct answer. We wonder if our dilemma even matters to Him, because maybe any one of our choices is okay. And then we often face moments of doubt once we’ve zeroed in on one.
But there’s a way to eliminate the stewing and hand wringing. Our leaders have offered us wise counsel that can save us time and grief whenever we come to a crossroads.
President Harold B. Lee said, “If there should come a problem as to what kind of business a man should be engaged in, whether he should invest in this matter or that, whether he should marry this girl or that one, where he should marry… all the decisions we make should be made with the eternal goal in mind: with an eye single to the ultimate glory of man in the celestial world.”
If God’s ultimate purpose is “to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man,” why should our goal for ourselves be any different?
In a Priesthood Session address in October of 2010, President Monson echoed this same standard, by which to judge the correct course of action: “I plead with you to make a determination right here, right now, not to deviate from the path which will lead to our goal: eternal life with our Father in Heaven. Along that straight and true path there are other goals: missionary service, temple marriage, Church activity, scripture study, prayer, temple work. There are countless worthy goals to reach as we travel through life. Needed is our commitment to reach them.”
Again, the question seems to be, “Will this choice lead to Eternal Life and Exaltation?” This key question not only makes choices clearer, but stands in stark contrast to the measuring sticks the world would suggest (Would this be more prestigious? Would this be easier? Would this make me rich?)
Many of us wonder whether we can advance our career if we move or switch jobs. The real question is, “Where can the Lord best use me?” Maybe it isn’t about advancing your profession, but about being available to serve in a calling that can bring souls to Christ. That is by far more important to him than whether you climb the corporate ladder. And a move that might not make sense temporally, might make a world of sense spiritually. Do we have the courage to sacrifice one for the other?
Asking ourselves which option best advances our course back home to Heavenly Father also brings superficial choices into perspective; picking a party venue, a make of car, or a vacation spot might seem important at the moment, but pale in comparison to choices that can impact our eternal destiny. And while we want to make wise choices even on trivial matters, we must avoid over thinking the unimportant at the expense of studious consideration of weightier issues. Richard G. Scott said, “Be certain that every decision you make, whether temporal or spiritual, is conditioned on what the Savior would have you do.”
Once we’ve eliminated the decisions that have no eternal consequence, we’re often left with several choices that could be what the Savior would approve of, but we just can’t see into the future to know which one is best. We are not left without a formula for reaching the right option.
Just as the Brother of Jared presented a plan, the Lord told Oliver Cowdery to do the same—and it’s a model for us as well: “Behold, you have not understood; you have supposed that I would give it unto you, when you took no thought save it was to ask me. But, behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right. But if it be not right you shall have no such feelings, but you shall have a stupor of thought that shall cause you to forget the thing which is wrong.” (D&C 9:7–9.)
So do we wait for a manifestation before we act? Sometimes doing nothing is the wrong choice as well. John H. Groberg, in a 1979 BYU Devotional, said, “Let me tell what I have discovered…. I do not say that we will not get that burning in our bosom, for we will when it is the right thing. In my life there have been quite a few occasions where there was absolutely no question about it–that burning was there…but generally it has worked the other way–that is by eliminating the wrong directions to reveal the right direction, especially concerning our opportunities for progress in life in what we often term the temporal sense. We must try to figure it out ourselves.
“In the past I have tried out whether I should go into business or into teaching or into the arts or whatever. As I have begun to proceed along one path, having more or less gathered what facts I could, I have found that if that decision was wrong or was taking me down the wrong path–not necessarily an evil one, but one that was not right for me–without fail, the Lord has always let me know just this emphatically: “That is wrong; do not go that way. That is not for you!””
When our priority is Eternal Life with our Father in Heaven, we can count on the Lord to partner with us in this worthy aim, and to inspire us when we’re sincerely seeking the best move. And sometimes we’ve narrowed it down to a group of choices that are all acceptable, all bringing us home again. As we act and move forward, the Holy Ghost will let us know if we’re on the wrong track.
By giving the Lord our hearts and pledging to serve him, we also give ourselves great peace of mind when it comes to decision-making. We have an easy standard by which to judge every choice that comes along: If it leads to our goal of Eternal Life. This measuring stick is the antidote for angst and worry, and the secret to swift and correct thinking every time.
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Hilton currently serves as a Relief Society President.