Choosing Eternity

In the future my parents envisioned for me, the gospel was incidental. How could I achieve my eternal goals without hurting my parents?

Many of us have felt tangled in our circumstances at times, unsure of our values, priorities, and alternatives. And sometimes our attempts to solve our problems seem only to tangle matters worse.

As a teenager I found myself in such a situation. I was unsure how to achieve my goal of a temple marriage and still maintain the love and respect of my parents, one of whom was less active and the other not a member of the Church. They did not understand the potential of such a marriage and had other goals for me.

My frustration with this dilemma reached its peak one night when I attended a Young Women presentation on temple marriage. The teacher talked about the differences between civil and temple marriage, explaining that temple marriage has everlasting possibilities when husband and wife are faithful to their covenants. She emphasized that bonds formed without the Lord’s sealing power will become null and void at death. The lesson continued with her encouragement that we set goals for temple marriage; that we prepare for the roles of wife, mother, and homemaker; and that we keep the standards of the Church.

I was convinced that what the teacher said was true, but I felt trapped by my circumstances. My parents, especially my father, encouraged me to develop my intellectual abilities in an Ivy League school; to magnify my talents primarily in the professional world rather than in the home, church, and community; and to not worry so much about Church standards.

I respected my parents and did not want to disappoint them. We had a good relationship, and I knew that what they wanted most was for me to be happy—but I was becoming convinced that Heavenly Father’s plan for my happiness was different from theirs.

As the presentation on marriage drew to a close, I was anxious to get away before anyone noticed my agitation. As soon as the chorus of “amens” to the closing prayer sounded, I rushed for the door—only to have my progress hindered by the presence of a six-foot, five-inch counselor in the bishopric. He kindly asked me what was troubling me and if I wanted to talk about it.

Unable to restrain my confused feelings any longer, I followed him into the bishop’s office, where he listened as I tearfully poured out my problem. I explained that although I believed in the promises of temple marriage, I was troubled that my parents did not understand and would not be able to attend a temple wedding.

I explained further that I was unsure how to establish the values and priorities that would help me live a meaningful, fulfilling life. I had spent much time and many tears trying to figure out what I should do and how I could keep from hurting my parents, but all my efforts seemed to end in frustration and despair.

Upon a few moments of reflection, the bishop’s counselor gently explained that he had confronted similar dilemmas in his younger years. His parents were not active members of the Church, and they had not been able to attend his temple wedding. And he too had considered professional options that might have seriously impaired his ability to serve his family and the Church.

He described how confused he had been and how much he needed wisdom and strength from the Lord to know what was right. He testified to me that because he had committed himself to the Lord’s will, he had been able to sort through the many alternatives life offered and to decide what path was right for him. He challenged me to commit to obey Heavenly Father’s commandments, thereby becoming worthy of His blessings and inspiration so that I would know what to do.

As the bishop’s counselor spoke to me, something marvelous happened: I felt the beginning of a hope that if I would do as he suggested, all would work out well. I felt assured that Heavenly Father knew and loved me and that He would help make my life fulfilling and happy.

I fasted and prayed as I sought to know what was right for me. Answers came through scripture study, Church lessons and talks, my patriarchal blessing, and conversations with others—including my parents. These revelatory experiences were among the most precious moments of my life, for during these times my seeking turned to listening, and I felt the assurance of Heavenly Father’s love.

For example, when I was confused about where to attend college, Heavenly Father confirmed my decision to go to an Ivy League school. When a young man I had been dating proposed that we be married in the temple, Heavenly Father helped me to know that this man was right for me and that it was the right time for us to marry.

Eventually the tangled threads of my life came to look like a tapestry. As I made decisions based on the principles of the gospel, rich blessings began to ornament the picture of my life. A beautiful design of love and faith was woven into the strong fabric of my testimony. Many colorful threads of challenge and opportunity were developed into rich patterns of talents and blessings. Now I truly “stand all amazed” (Hymns, no. 193) when I look at the grand design of our Heavenly Father’s plan, and I am pleased to be a participant in it.

And things have worked out well with my parents too. Although they have sometimes had difficulty understanding my values, they have respected my right to make my own choices. Contrary to my fears, they have supported me in living the gospel and have rejoiced with me in my blessings and accomplishments.

The Lord knows and loves each one of us. It is “[His] work and [His] glory” to guide us to eternal life and help us find joy (Moses 1:39; see also 2 Ne. 2:25). If we will seek Him, listen to His counsel, and obey His will, He will help us untangle our circumstances and weave them into the beautiful tapestry of a blessed life.

Personal Revelation

Elder M. Russell Ballard

“We each have the privilege to carefully and prayerfully seek the Lord’s will for us regarding our individual challenges and dilemmas. Personal revelation is personal, indeed. It is not based on gender or position but on worthiness. It comes in response to sincere inquiry.” Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, “Equality through Diversity,” Ensign, Nov. 1993, 91; emphasis in original.

Let’s Talk about It

Most Ensign articles can be used for family home evening discussions. The following questions are for that purpose or for personal reflection:

  1. 1.

    How can we obtain Heavenly Father’s help as we make important decisions?

  2. 2.

    When making such decisions, how should we involve members of our family who are not Latter-day Saints?

  3. 3.

    How can we best make ourselves receptive to inspiration from Heavenly Father?

[photo] Photo posed by models

Sheryle Wickman is a member of the Cromwell Ward, Hartford Connecticut Stake.