"Making the Right Choices"
Elder Richard G. Scott
Of the Quorum of the Twelve
CES Fireside for Young Adults
13 January 2002
Thank you for that beautiful prayer and that hymn of praise that set the
tone and Spirit I so much need tonight.
I express profound gratitude for the privilege and
blessing of being with each of you tonight. I thank you for the sacrifice
you have made to be here. I know that gathered throughout the world there
is a very select group of righteous young men and women who love the Lord
and want, above all else, to obey His commandments. While this message
is being broadcast from Brigham Young University, it is intended to be
a personal conversation with you, individually, wherever you are.
I have been blessed to be in the presence of some
of you in smaller groups as I have traveled throughout the world. As I
have looked into your faces, I have been touched to the very core of my
being. There is a radiance, an excitement, an expression of calm assurance,
and above all, the aura of purity and righteousness that emanate from
you. I am not speaking of physical beauty. I am referring to something
far more importantthe peace and power that radiate from worthy,
righteous, purposeful lives. It is here tonight. You can feel it wherever
You are now making some of the most critically important
decisions of your lifedecisions that will have a profound influence
on your happiness, on what you will become and how you will spend eternity.
I have humbly, repeatedly sought the help of the Lord to be able to share
with you some of the principles that guide correct decisions. I know they
are true. They are founded in doctrine, and they have been proven in the
crucible of my own life. You do not have the assurance of making the right
choices in essential matters without divine guidance. I will give suggestions
concerning how that help can be obtained. I have also prayed that somehow
while we are together, that you can feel the love of the Lord for you,
personally. Also that He will convey a message to your mind and heart
through the Spirit tailored to your personal needs.
The spiritual moments in your life will often come
in clusters when you feel so occupied that it seems difficult to record
them. Yet that special effort is powerfully rewarded when you take a few
moments to crystalize in a permanent record the sacred impressions of
the Holy Spirit. Begin tonight, even if you have to borrow paper and pencil
to do it.
With all the capacity that I possess, I counsel
you to strengthen your testimony that there is in very deed, a Heavenly
Father who is in total control. You must come to really know God, through
the scriptures, prayer, and the testimonies of His chosen. Then He can
guide you in the application of His teachings in every circumstance. He
has a specific plan for your life. When needed He will reveal parts of
that plan to you as you seek His guidance with faith and consistent obedience.
You may have found portions of it realized already in your life. His Son
has made you freenot from the consequences of your acts, but free to
make choices. Your Father's eternal purpose is for you to be successful
in this mortal experience. Be attentive to the personal guidance given
to you through the Holy Spirit. Continue to live worthy to receive it.
Record it so that you can fulfill it. Then it will be available throughout
your life. I am confident that as you pray for that help, some of it will
come while we are together. That instruction will be far more important
to you than anything you will hear from me.
Do you feel overwhelmed, wondering if you can make
the correct choices, uncertain of how to proceed? Does trying your best
not seem to be good enough? I understand what you are going through. Earlier
in my life I have felt the same way. It took me a long time to figure
out that part of the plan for our growth on earth is to have periods of
life when we have far more important things to do than we can possibly
accomplish. You know that feeling when there is more weight on your shoulders
than you think you can possibly bear, far more questions than answers.
That is a test to teach the importance of establishing priorities. It
emphasizes the wondrous treasure of time. When you encounter more vital
things to do than you can possibly accomplish yourself, you will learn
how the Lord can, through guidance of the Spirit, give you help and assurance.
Have you ever had the feeling that the walls are closing in, that you
are not in control of your life, that you simply cannot do it? Those feelings
of frustration are not from the Lord. They are caused by Satan. He wants
you to bolt and run when you encounter a difficult growth challenge. A
sacred personal experience may help you.
Some divert their best efforts from constructive
accomplishment by investing them in mental anguish and continual worry.
The Lord has taught me a great lesson about worry that I now share with
you. After completing meaningful full-time missions, my lovely Jeanene
and I were sealed in the temple. We began life together with every expectation
of happiness. I was blessed through the kindness of the Lord to obtain
a job in a new, highly developmental pioneer effort to place a nuclear
power plant in a submarine. The work was fascinating, challenging, and
absorbing. When combined with the natural growth experiences that come
with the formation of a new family and Church assignments, I found each
day filled to overflowing.
Within eight months, I was being examined by a doctor
to determine if I had ulcers. For weeks I would return home from work
each night with a severe headache, and only after long, quiet periods
of isolation could I calm my nerves sufficiently to sleep briefly and
return to work the next day. I began to prayerfully consider my plight.
All I wanted to do was to be a worthy husband and father and honorably
carry out my Church and professional assignments. Yet my best efforts
produced frustration, worry, and illness. In time, the Lord led me to a
solution. I was prompted to divide mentally, and physically where possible,
all of the challenges, tasks, and assignments given to me into two categories.
All of the things for which I felt responsibility but for which I could
do nothing to resolve, I put in a basket called worry.
Then, all of those things for which I had some ability to control or resolve,
I put into a basket called concern. For those things
in the worry basket, I realized I could not resolve them so I tried
hard to forget them. Later in the process I learned that putting them
into the worry basket didn't mean they wouldn't be taken care of.
They were resolved by those who could best handle them, and most often
that was the Lord Himself. The items in the concern basket were
ordered in priority. I conscientiously tried to resolve them to the best
of my ability. While I could not always fulfill all of them on schedule
or to the degree of competence I desired, I did my conscientious best.
As I was learning to control worry, occasionally
I would feel my stomach muscles tighten and tension overcome me. I would
cease whatever I was doing and with earnest prayer for support, concentrate
on relaxing and overcoming the barrier that worry produced in my life.
I would mentally say, "I am not going to do another thing until I
begin to control my emotions." Over a period of time, those efforts
were blessed by the Lord. I came to understand how He is willing to fortify,
guide, and direct every phase of life. The symptoms of illness passed
and I learned how to face tasks under pressure.
No matter how difficult the problems that surround
you, the Lord knows how to resolve them. As you exercise faith, doing
what you can, He will help you handle those things within your capability.
He will bring into your path priesthood leaders who can counsel and advise,
friends who can give you support, and parents who can provide answers.
Through the avenue of prayer and the path of inspiration, He will help
you know what to do. It is a process that takes time to master, but knowing
that it exists should give you great comfort as you face the difficult
decisions you must now make in life.
The Lord puts challenges in your path to mold your
character. For your own personal growth, He will often let you struggle
with a matter for a while, even when you are pleading for help. But as
you follow true principles, He will finally see you through. He intends
that when you have reached your extremity that you turn to Him for comfort,
peace, and assistance. He will send it through the quiet prompting of
the Spirit. He will give reassurance and guidance that are essential to
correct decisions in your life.
You are learning powerful, eternal lessons. Be sure
you understand them. The Lord does not abandon your urgent pleas, nor is
He ever, for even a moment, unmindful of your anguish and heartache. He
hears every supplication. He invariably answers according to spiritual
law. Understanding that law will help you appreciate how the Lord answers
your prayer. His silence and seeming absence at times are a powerful means
of expanding your vision and understanding as you continue in faith to
do your best.
Consider this example. A race horse may resist efforts
to develop his potential to run, preferring to enjoy the beauty and rich
green grass of the pasture. Yet, even at times against his will, if the
horse will train, there develops a new excitement, a grander pleasurethe
incomparable joy of winning. The pleasure of the pasture is not diminished,
but his joy of life is expanded.
Seldom will you receive all at once a complete answer
from the Lord. It will come a piece at a time. Inspiration comes in packets
so that you will develop and grow and not remain as a child, given everything.
Also, so that you will appreciate it, give thanks for it, treasure it,
and apply it. Moreover, it will seldom come as the prayer is offered, rather
in quiet moments when the Spirit can most effectively touch your mind
and heart. Hence the need for periods of quiet time to keep perspective
and to be instructed and strengthened. Discover how a clean, neat, quiet
place can enhance spiritual direction in your life.
Your capacity is greater than you can possibly imagine.
Satan will try mightily to discourage you. Initially he will encourage
you to do many worthwhile things, but not the essential ones. Then he
will try to lead you through rationalization into grey areas and subsequently
into dark ones. Beware of rationalization. It is to twist something you
know to be true into a pattern that appears to support a deviation from
truth. Rationalization would lead you down blind alleys. It would drain
spiritual power. It barricades the path to happiness because it distorts
your understanding of truth.
When you seek inspiration to help make decisions,
the Lord will give gentle promptings that require you to think, to exercise
faith, to work, to struggle at times, then to act. It is a step-wise process
to finally reach an inspired conclusion. It is unlikely that the whole
answer to an important problem will come all at once. The Lord's pattern
allows you to grow. Satan's method would make you more bound to his ways,
with the resultant loss of agency.
I was once present when the Lord inspired mightily
a husband as he gave his wife a priesthood blessing. The blessing addressed
specific needs in her life. He gave counsel that would bring a solution
to her difficulties. It was a beautiful experience, evidence of the power
the Lord permits to be exercised through a righteous priesthood bearer.
Yet this blessing did not benefit her as much as it might have. She did
not write down the promises made. Even shortly after the remarkable blessing
she could not remember the counsel given. She did not realize that fulfillment
of the blessing would require effort on her part. The truth is we must
do all we are capable of doing to help fulfill a blessing. That effort
includes the exercise of faith; the consistent, diligent application of
counsel given; and abundant, prayerful expression of gratitude to our
Father in Heaven, the source of the promised blessings. This truth applies
whether it be a priesthood blessing or an impression from the Spirit to
our mind and heart.
Your efforts to distill truth from reading and pondering
the scriptures, from analyzing and striving to understand the inspired
messages of the prophets, will provide you with an armory of truth. That
truth will protect you from evil influences and lay a foundation for happiness,
security, and purpose in your life. It will help you make correct choices.
Initially these truths are accepted on faith. The confirming witness of
their validity comes as you apply them in your life and as you express
gratitude for the growth, maturity, and blessings that come from their
use. That confirmation strengthens your capacity to discipline your life
to avoid those things you know to be unproductive and harmful. Such a
witness provides encouragement and the confidence to center your life
in the teachings of the Savior and the plan of happiness of the Father.
An analogy will help you understand what is happening
to you. I wrote down these impressions as I watched an impressive composer
conduct an orchestra of gifted musicians. It has helped me understand
more clearly our Father's plan of happiness. The conductor had created
the musical score being played. He understood better than anyone else
what he desired be accomplished through the music. He had crafted a role
for each individual instrument. He was anxious to communicate that vision
to the musicians so that working in harmony together, they could make
reality what he had defined in a complex musical score.
Each instrumentalist or percussionist had their
part to play. They were experienced musicians and had polished innate
talents through long, tedious hours of practice. They had studied their
specific parts privately and attempted to master them.
It was not until they began to perform together
under the direction of an inspired leader that the full beauty and grandeur
of their combined efforts could be realized. The result was overwhelmingly
moving and edifying. Each individual carefully followed the conductor,
striving to the utmost of his or her capability to play their part accurately,
with feeling, emotion, and precision. They were not forced to perform.
It was done willingly. While individual performances were outstanding,
it was the combined effort of all that created the sublime result. Could
you imagine how one discordant note could mar or destroy the power of
their combined efforts? How one individual intentionally modifying the
musical score could raise havoc and destroy the beauty of the others'
I understood with greater clarity how our Father
in Heaven and His Beloved Son have schooled us in the pre-mortal life,
preparing us for this mortal experience that we might make the most of
it. As we seek it we can receive individual guidance from the Lord's Spirit,
through the Spirit, to perfect our own talents and abilities. We can learn
to work together and yield our will to the divine conductor. We become
fitted for the unique contribution that we are expected to make in fulfilling
His personal plan for us. Certainly those who work diligently to learn
truth and to live it willingly will make the greatest progress here.
Just as it would be a demoralizing experience for an untrained individual
to attempt to play in an orchestra of skilled musicians, so it would be
painful punishment to attempt to live in a celestial realm for which you
are not prepared. Your personal understanding of truth, the willing obedience
to it, and the resulting growth, development, and perfection obtained
in mortal life will determine your happiness here and lay the foundation
for what your contribution will be in the eternities.
A musician can perfect his or her skill with practice
and determined effort to succeedprivately, correcting mistakes as
they come. That effort is enhanced by the influence of a caring teacher
who is anxious to share counsel for improvement and to identify specific
areas where performance can be bettered. In like manner the Lord, through
the Holy Spirit, can perform those functions in your life so that this
mortal experience may yield the development, perfection, and understanding
that you should gain in your personal plan of happiness. If you qualify
here, you can serve in the celestial kingdom.
How can you determine whether an impression is a
prompting from the Lord, a temptation from the evil one, or the product
of your own mind? One answer is explained in Ether
"And now, I, Moroni, . . . would show unto
the world that faith is things which are hoped for and not seen; wherefore,
dispute not because ye see not, for ye receive no witness until after
the trial of your faith."
If you have a feeling that an impression has come
through inspiration, "try your faith" by diligently living it.
When it is truly a prompting of the Lord there will be a confirmation
that what you have done is right. You will learn what it feels like to
have that witness. In time that feeling will become more certain than
what you see or hear. A word of caution: Recognize that an individual
who is violating commandments of the Lord will find it very difficult
to discern a prompting of the Spirit from the powerful emotions that can
be stimulated through transgression. I am confident that is one of the
reasons that some marriages fail. Two individuals who have allowed themselves
to violate the laws of chastity during courtship cannot expect to clearly
perceive the answer to their prayer regarding marriage. Under such circumstances,
seeking to discern the guidance of the Spirit is like trying to savor
the delicate flavor of a raspberry while chewing on a red hot jalapeño
Don't judge yourself by what you understand of your
potential. Trust in the Lord and what He can do with your dedicated heart
and willing mind. (See D&C
64:34.) Order your life more effectively and eliminate trivial, meaningless
detail and activity. They waste the perishable, fixed, and limited resource
of time. Choose to emphasize those matters that have an eternal consequence.
Permanent, worthwhile growth is attainable, but not
without great effort and the honest application of truth. Worthy accomplishment
is founded in integrity. Righteousness is fundamental to happiness and
desirable attainment. Righteousness is rooted in a pure heart. And, indeed,
it protects one from contamination and the filth of the world. Righteous
love is the supreme motivation for constructive change. The examples of
our Father in Heaven and the Savior and Their teachings are the perfect
source of motivation and direction for life.
May this teaching of the Master benefit you as much
as it has me:
"Be patient in afflictions, for thou shalt
have many; but endure them, for, lo, I am with thee, even unto the end
of thy days " (D&C
I know that promise is fulfilled. As you discipline
yourself in careful obedience to commandments of the Lord you will qualify
to receive inspiration and direction in your life. You will grow in discipline,
capacity, devotion, understanding, compassion, and joyous service. Your
worthy life will allow you to interpret and apply the inspiration that
will come through the Holy Ghost. Your love of Heavenly Father and His
Son will increase. It will be a love of reverence, awe, and gratitude
of a child to the greatest of all. It will become a love of total willingness
to be obedient to Their will. It will result from a pure desire and willing
determination to serve Them above all else.
In closing I would share some of the innermost feelings
of my heart. I do not know when I will have the opportunity to speak to
you individually again. Though life now seems difficult, hold on to that
iron rod. You are making better progress than you realize. Your struggles
are defining character, discipline, and confidence in the promises of
your Father in Heaven and the Savior as you consistently obey their counsel.
You are so important. You are so needed. There are so few willing to make
the sacrifices you are making to live righteously. You will develop the
sensitivity, love, and kindness to rejoice within the bonds of an eternal
marriage. You will bless your children with an insight the world can never
give them. Your example will set the course of their life. You are needed
to strengthen the growing kingdom of the Lord, to be the role models for
so many more who will embrace the truths of the gospel.
This world is in trouble. The nation from which
I speak is in difficulty. If you live elsewhere, your nation is likewise
struggling also. There is a continual crumbling of obedience to principle,
the bedrock of civilization and an absolutely essential ingredient to
happiness. Oh, there can be transitory pleasure from power, influence,
or material wealth. But true, lasting happiness, the kind that is felt
in the early hours of the morning when you are honest with yourself, can
only be obtained by obedience to the teachings of God as you are now doing.
Honesty, integrity, chastity, virtue, willingness to forego for the moment
something seemingly desirable for a greater future good are essential
to true success in life. Develop the capacity, when circumstances demand,
to lay everything on the altar to defend a principle. There are so few
willing to do that. The world needs men and women like you who are willing
to place principle above personal gain, businessmen who are honest and
morally clean, attorneys who defend justice, government officials who
strive to preserve honor and integrity because it is right. You can be
that shining light, that righteous influence, the leaven in the loaf to
increase the moral fiber of your nation. Your prayers and humble study
of the teachings of the Master, with a 24-hour application of those teachings
every day of the week, will strengthen your life. They will help provide
the stability the world needs.
Where can there be a greater satisfaction in life
than to defend that part of the line the Lord has given you to preserve?
Show those in the world around you a better way. There are some things
that are wrong because God decreed that they were wrong. Truth is not
determined by what men think, no matter how influential they may be. It
was determined by an almighty God before the creation of this earth and
it will exist forever. We serve. We make our contribution. We pass on.
Let it never be said of you what was recently said of an individual with
great potential and resources at his passing: "He left no legacy."
Will you prayerfully consider what we have discussed
together? If there is a need to repent of some improper action, do it.
Likewise, if there is a need to repent from failure to act, correct that.
There are so many willing to be led by your righteous example. Because
you have been enlightened, you owe it to those who follow the best example
you are capable of giving. Not only will they be blessed, but your life
will be enriched as well. I have come to know of the great influence for
good that flows from individual acts born of conscience and principle
rooted in truth. Resolve that each moment of your life will reflect your
determination to humbly be an example of righteousness, integrity, and
conviction. Keep the Sabbath day holy. Honor and live temple covenants
as you receive them. Drink deeply from the fountain of the revealed word
of God. Hold fast to His word. You are succeeding in the purpose for which
you came to earth.
I bear solemn testimony that I have an absolute
witness that Jesus Christ lives. As you follow the principles that we've
discussed, I bear witness that He will guide you to the correct choices
in the critical matters before you.
In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.