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In the test of life you will discover that very few questions require essay answers. For example, questions such as the following one about the Book of Mormon are not a part of this evaluation:

Describe the history of the Book of Mormon from its origins in Palestine to the present day. Do not neglect the Egyptian and Mesopotamian influences upon the work. Concentrate especially, but not exclusively, on its military, social, political, religious and philosophical roots and their impact on colonial America, Europe, South Africa, the Philippines, and Great Britain. Be succinct, concise, and specific.

Nor would you see a question like this one with regard to service in the Church: 

Assume that 2,600 rioting Missourians are attacking your stake center. How will you calm them? You may use any scriptural text from Ezekiel or the book of Romans.

The Test will probably include some questions about the Second Coming, but not questions like this:

Estimate the sociological and economic problems that will occur at the time of the Second Coming. Estimate the number of fatalities by continent. Set up an experiment to test your hypothesis.

The Test of Life is a multiple choice Test. But it is not a test of answers as much as it is a test of actions. It would include questions like this regarding The Book of Mormon:

When you receive the Book of Mormon, what will you do?

  1. Read and pray about it, and apply its teachings.
  2. Plan to read it.
  3. Ignore it.
  4. Try to disprove it.
  5. Share it.

A question about the Second Coming might look like this:

When the Lord comes in his glory, you will

  1. Be burned.
  2. Be caught up.
  3. Be scared to death.
  4. Be joyous.
  5. Etc.

At times we will want to discuss an answer we have given to explain what was in our heart, and we will be given the opportunity to do that, but given enough testing time, our heart will manifest itself in our answers. This Test is multiple choice. Agency is the right to choose our own answers, and it is on this principle more than any other that the Testing Center operates.

The following story demonstrates the difficulty and heartache that often accompany choosing.

“When I was seventeen, I used to run with a gang of boys. We had wonderful times together and I always looked forward to being with them. One night after we had been together, I left them and went home to bed. After some time I heard a great noise that seemed to come from the shouting and yelling of excited people. Being curious, I dressed and went downstairs. I was right. It was a mob, and to my surprise, it seemed to be coming toward our house. It was not long until it arrived and from it sprang three of my friends, all members of our gang. One of them said to me, “Come with us, Joe! This nigger has raped a white girl and we’re going to lynch him!” Before I could ask any questions, they grabbed me by the arms and I was swept along with this swirling, shouting sea of humanity.

“A mile from our house was a large oak tree. Almost before I knew what was happening, they had placed a rope around the Negro’s neck, placed him on a horse, and thrown the rope over the limb of a tree. The moment of death had arrived.

“Have you ever known such moments when important things weigh in the balance?” (Reed H. Bradford, The Instructor, April 1961, pp. 114-115, 133).

Of course you have known such moments, for they are the breath and soul of this Test we are taking. Every life is filled with moments when we encounter problems, sometimes terrifying problems, sometimes problems of such apparent simplicity that we are disarmed, and often problems whose complexities and consequences we cannot imagine. They are difficult to anticipate, and they are always followed by multiple choices of answers. Joe is about to encounter the toughest problem of his seventeen years of life. He has not had time to prepare. He has not fasted and prayed, nor has he searched the owner’s manual. Twenty minutes ago he was in bed for the night.

“A profound silence came over the mob. The last details of the lynching had been completed. Quite by chance or the force of circumstance, I found myself right next to the horse. Suddenly the leader–and every mob has such a leader–shouted at me: “Joe, kick that horse and let’s get this thing over with!”

If this problem were written out, it might look like this:

 Joe, what will you do when confronted with the chance and the expectation to cause the death of a man you know nothing about?

  1. Run
  2. Refuse
  3. Argue
  4. Defend the man
  5. Do it
  6. Etc.

“The tension within me cannot be described. I had never seen this Negro before. But here I was with all these people watching me and anxious for me to carry out the command. I felt the beating hearts–my own and all the rest–responding to the tragic urgency of this moment. I hesitated; but then blinded by emotion and the desire to have the approval of the mob, I kicked the horse. The Negro met his death” (Reed H. Bradford, The Instructor, April 1961, pp. 114-115, 133).

If you were the Teacher, how would you grade this choice? Choices do get graded; all of them do when the Test is over. The Teacher is justified in grading our choices, and in grading them most rigorously, for at least two reasons. First, because He has given us all the answers in advance in the Owner’s Manual; second, because we are free to choose our own answers.

“Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given unto them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself” (2 Nephi 2:27)”

Sometimes we learn from the consequences that we have made incorrect choices.

“The next day . . . we discovered that we had lynched an innocent human being. This Negro had had nothing to do with the alleged crime. I won’t bother you with all the subsequent events following our discovery. There’s only one thing I want to tell you. For 65 years I have tried to find peace. I have wished in the agony of my soul that at that moment when the mob took me with them and I found myself by the side of that horse, I had had the ability and courage to live my life as my conscience dictated. I wish that the plaudits of the crowd had not meant more to me than devotion to what I knew was right and which would bring me not just a temporary satisfaction, but lasting joy” (Reed H. Bradford, The Instructor, April 1961, p. 133).

The Teacher established the prominence of this principle of choices linked to consequences at the time the Testing Center was first opened. The Lord said to Enoch:

“Behold these thy brethren; they are the workmanship of mine own hands, and I gave unto them their knowledge, in the day I created them; and in the Garden of Eden I gave them their agency” (Moses 7:32, emphasis added)”

To Adam, in the Garden, the Lord said,

“And I, the Lord God, commanded the man, saying: Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it, nevertheless, thou mayest choose for thyself, for it is given unto thee; but remember that I forbid it, for in the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” (Moses 3:16-17, emphasis added).

There is great satisfaction in being able to choose our own paths and thereby chart our own futures. We can, through the choices we make while we are taking the Test, transform ourselves into beings of dazzling light or creatures of unfathomable darkness.

“Therefore. cheer up your hearts, and remember that ye are free to act for yourselves–to choose the way of everlasting death or the way of eternal life” (2 Nephi 10:23).

If there were any coercion, compulsion, or constraint in the taking of the Test, or in the answers we select, then we could justifiably blame Someone Else for our mistakes. But the Teacher has set us free from His control. Of course mortality provides innumerable situations in which individuals are not free to choose any answer they desire, but a limited number of choices is still multiple choices. There are no questions with only one answer. We fought a war in heaven over that principle.

As an example of what can be accomplished even when choices are restricted, consider the experiences of another seventeen-year-old named Joseph.

At age seventeen, this son of a wealthy shepherd traveled some distance from home to see how his brothers (he had eleven) were doing at the sheep camp. Joseph was not well-liked by his siblings, who felt that he was unfairly favored by his father. When they saw him coming, some of them laid plans to kill him. On reflection, it was determined that these plans were somewhat drastic in nature, and they were accordingly modified. Joseph was simply thrown into a dry well and left to die.

Let us advance to the well and speak with this unfortunate teenager about how the Test is going for him. It will be best if we avoid the brothers as we approach Joseph. We have no desire to join him; we only want to ask a question or two. Leaning over the edge of the pit, we peer into the darkness and call out, “Joseph, considering your present circumstances, are you free to choose any answer to this problem that you want?”

Fortunately the rock that whizzes out of the hole misses our heads. We step back out of sight and consider the question, which might be written as follows. (Asterisks will indicate options not available given the present circumstances, but which might be available under other circumstances. Please note also that for any multiple choice problem, a person might select more than one of the choices.)

Joseph, what will you do when some of your brothers throw you in a well and leave you to die slowly of starvation and thirst?

  1. *Go home.
  2. *Call Daddy for help.
  3. *Get even with my brothers.
  4. Sulk and be bitter.
  5. Hate my older brothers.
  6. Pray for a chance to get even.
  7. Pray for a way of escape.
  8. Do the best I can under the circumstances.

We are unable to pursue our conversation with Joseph because we hear in the distance a caravan of camel drivers and merchants approaching. We are happy for Joseph because he has apparently selected answer “7” from among those choices available and has prayed for a way of escape. Certainly the approaching travelers will assist him. However, from another direction we hear the unmistakable sounds of some of the brothers drawing closer. We find a spot of seclusion and wait.

The merchants and the brothers arrive at the well at almost the same time. A conversation begins, and although we are too far from the group to hear, we can see that the object of the discussion is in the nearby well. Soon a rope is lowered and the young man is pulled out. After looking him over closely, the merchants pass a certain amount of money to the elder brethren, tie Joseph behind one of those no-nonsense camels, and ride away.

We are anxious to talk to Joseph because we want to congratulate him on the cheerful fact that he is free and no longer trapped in the pit. But we are unable to be alone with him until he arrives in Egypt and joins the household of Potiphar. We approach him behind the corncrib at nightfall on the second day of his work. We commend him for his fortune in escaping the pit, and ask the question, “Joseph, considering your current condition, are you free to choose any answer to this problem that you want?”

Fortunately no rocks are lying nearby and a corncob does not make a formidable weapon, but there is no mistaking the look in Joseph’s eyes. We retreat out of his reach and consider this question, which might be written as follows (again, asterisks will indicate options not available given the present circumstances):

Joseph, what will you do when you are sold into slavery by your elder brethren?

  1. *Go home.
  2. *Call Daddy for help.
  3. *Get even with my brothers.
  4. Sulk and be bitter.
  5. Hate my older brothers.
  6. Pray for a chance to get even.
  7. Pray for a way of escape.
  8. Do the best I can under the circumstances.

Since our interest in this poor, unfortunate victim is increasing, we determine to spend some time on the Nile, following his case. We cancel all our other engagements, rent a small pyramid across the Nile, and watch. Late one afternoon, as we are relaxing on a reed mat, we hear a commotion from next door. In a moment, Joseph races from his residence, cloakless, and sprints away. We catch just a glimpse of a furious female face through the open door, but pay little attention as we follow Joseph down the street.

The next day, this young man is no longer a slave. He has found a new place of residence: prison. We wait and watch and are successful finally in obtaining permission to visit Joseph in his new home. We are happy to see him, although our first impression is that he may not share our enthusiasm. We greet him with outstretched hand and glistening smile. “Congratulations, Joseph, on no longer being a slave! Now you’ll surely say you are free to choose any solution to this problem that you want. Right?”

No violent gestures threaten us this time, and the expression on Joseph’s face is one of resignation, not assassination. He has mellowed because of his experiences. We sit with him and discuss the current question. (Asterisks still indicate options not available.) 

Joseph, what will you do when your standards and the hatred and greed of your elder brethren cause you to end up in a dungeon?

  1. *Go home.
  2. *Call Daddy for help.
  3. *Get even with my brothers.
  4. Sulk and be bitter.
  5. Hate my older brothers.
  6. Pray for a chance to get even.
  7. Pray for a way of escape.
  8. Do the best I can under the circumstances.

Two years pass. Joseph is still in prison, although his circumstances have improved. He is such an enigma that in spite of the passage of time, we have decided to wait and watch.

One day, we see him led from the prison. His hair is trimmed, his beard gone, his clothing clean and attractive. Where is he going now? We follow at a discreet distance until the now not-so-youthful Israelite is led into the courts of the Pharaoh, where he will become Joseph, the Prime Minister, second only to Pharaoh in power in all of Egypt. We decide to visit him a few months after his rise to power as he directs the construction of storage facilities for grains being collected against a predicted famine.

He is a man of authority now, and we approach him with a proper show of deference. “Sir,” we begin, “would you say that in these present circumstances you are finally free to choose any answer you want?”

Indeed, as we reflect on the present question, we make an interesting discovery. All of the asterisks are gone. Joseph is now in a position that enables him to do virtually anything he chooses.

Joseph what will you do when you are made Prime Minister of Egypt and have all the power and all the freedom you could ever want?

  1. Go home.
  2. Call Daddy for help.
  3. Get even with my brothers.
  4. Sulk and be bitter.
  5. Hate my older brothers.
  6. Pray for a chance to get even.
  7. Pray for a way of escape.
  8. Do the best I can under the circumstances.

Before we get a concluding insight from Joseph about the meaning of multiple choice tests, let’s take a quick look at the brothers back at the (sheep) ranch. While Joseph has been restricted in the exercise of his choices, his brothers seem to have been under no restraints at all. Two of his older brothers destroyed the entire male population of Shechem’s village (see Genesis 34), making slaves of the women and children and spoil of the property.

Reuben, the firstborn, felt himself free to defile his father’s bed, committing incest with one of Jacob’s wives. (Genesis 35:22.) Judah, contrary to the teachings of his father and his God, felt free to visit a prostitute when so inclined, and then to sentence his daughter-in-law to death for the same kind of immorality. (Genesis 38.) All of the older brothers gave free expression to their desire for vengeance and to a lack of compassion that led them to plot the murder of, and then make a slave of, Joseph.

Having reviewed the activities of Jacob’s sons, we can now ask this question: Were Joseph’s elder brethren better off than Joseph because they had more freedom and a wider range of options in their choices? Clearly they were not.

The functioning of the Testing Center is based on the concept of agency, of multiple choices. And whether we are in a pit or the palace of the Pharaoh makes very little difference. What makes the difference is what we select from among whatever choices are available to us. The number and variety of those choices don’t matter much at all. Viktor Frankl wrote,

“We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. . . . They offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken away from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms–to choose one’s attitude in an given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.

“And there were always choices to make. Every day, every hour offered the opportunity to make a decision” (Man’s Search for Meaning, New York, Simon and Schuster, 1962, p. 65).

How well Joseph, the son of Jacob, understood this principle! He refused during the passage of miserable years to surrender to misery. A victim of hatred and bitterness, He rejected hatred and bitterness, lest they become the pattern of his life. Now, sitting at the right hand of the king, Joseph becomes a symbol and shows us our destiny. If we overcome our natures and use our agency to choose properly, consistently, and righteously, we will one day find ourselves like Joseph, on a throne.

“To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne” (Revelation 3:21).

If we expect to pass the Test we must exercise great care in the seemingly insignificant choices of life. We are made, as it were, not of boulders, but of the finest grains of sand.

“Chemists who are familiar with analyzing matter, inform you that the globe we inhabit is composed of small particles, so small that they cannot be seen with the unaided natural eye, and that one of these small particles may be divided into millions of parts, each part so minute as to be undiscernible by the aid of the finest microscopes. So the walk of man is made up of acts performed from day to day. It is the aggregate of the acts which I perform through life that makes up the conduct that will be exhibited in the day of judgment, and when the books are opened, there will be the life which I have lived for me to look upon, and there also will be the acts of your lives for you to look upon. Do you not know that the building up of the kingdom of God, the gathering of Israel, is to be done by little acts? You breathe one breath at a time; each moment is set apart to its act, and each act to its moment. It is the moments and the little acts that make the sum of the life of man. Let every second, minute, hour, and day we live be spent in doing that which we know to be right” (Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses, Vol.3, p.342).

The preceding is a chapter of Ted Gibbons’ book on the Test of Life. The book is composed of 16 chapters, each of which is a rule for how take and pass the Test of Life.

The text comes from Ted Gibbons’ book, ‘This Life is a Test.’ If you would like to get your own e-copy of the entire book, send $5.00 to the PayPal account of lydiagibbons@yahoo.com.  We will email you an e-copy of the book.