Making Choices for Eternity


Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf
From a devotional address given at Ricks College (now Brigham Young University—Idaho) on 13 March 2001.
Correct motives and a strong testimony will help guide us through our experience on earth.

As Church members, most of us have the ultimate goal of achieving immortality and eternal life. The Savior has already made provision for part of this goal to be achieved: immortality has been brought to pass for all of God’s children here on earth. Now we are working on achieving the second part of that goal: eternal life, God’s greatest gift to us (see D&C 14:7).

We read in the Book of Mormon the necessary preconditions to reach this lofty goal: “Come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; … and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ. … Then are ye sanctified in Christ” (Moro. 10:32–33).

Each precondition for this transition to perfection and sanctification is no small task. The things we are required to do are challenging. But they are worth the effort. The process is based on the law of the harvest: “For whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap” (Gal. 6:7).

That law, however, will be divinely influenced to our advantage by our loving and caring Heavenly Father. We are promised uplifting sunshine and nourishing rain in times of slower growth or serious setbacks, if only we stretch out our hand, mind, and heart to receive renewing energy and strength through the power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. Repentance is the handle and forgiveness is the window that will open up the heavens so we may receive nourishing rain and uplifting sunshine.

Always remember to walk tall, for you are sons and daughters of God. Your lives will be fruitful and you can overcome any fear or doubt if you only have the right motives, which will give you the power to stay on the road to true achievement. You can do it!

Motives Influence Actions

Let me share with you a personal experience. After the turmoil of the Second World War, my family ended up in Russian-occupied East Germany. We had fled from Czechoslovakia before the Russian front and lost everything during this terrible war. In the town of Zwickau, East Germany, my family learned about the restored gospel and joined the Church. At that time I was only six years old and the youngest of four children. The Church made an indescribable difference in our then very difficult lives. Even in these trying times, with extreme financial hardship, we were a happy family because of the Church.

Later, as a 10-year-old boy, I attended fourth grade and had to learn Russian as my first foreign language. Initially it was quite difficult because of the Cyrillic alphabet, but as time went on I seemed to manage all right.

When I turned 11, we had to leave East Germany overnight because of the political orientation of my father. He was perceived as a dissenter by the Communist government, and his life was endangered. We were refugees again and had lost everything for the second time.

Now I was going to school in West Germany, and the Russian language was not appreciated there at all. We were in the American-occupied part of Germany, and in school I had to learn English. Somehow I could not learn it. To learn Russian was difficult, but English was impossible. I even thought my mouth was not made for speaking English. My teachers had a hard time. My parents were desperate. And I knew English was not my language.

I agonized through those school years, helped and encouraged by kind and understanding English teachers, but I just couldn’t do it. It wasn’t my thing!

At this time, my dream in life was to become a pilot. Almost daily I rode my bicycle to the airport. I could picture myself in the cockpit of an airliner or even in a military jet fighter. This was definitely my thing!

I eventually learned that to become a pilot, I needed to speak English. Suddenly, the resisting condition of my mouth changed. I was able to learn the language. Why? Because of a strong motive!

Our motives and thoughts ultimately influence our actions. Jesus repeatedly emphasized the power of good thoughts and proper motives: “Look unto me in every thought; doubt not, fear not” (D&C 6:36).

In Proverbs we read, “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he” (Prov. 23:7).

Nephi wrote about the struggles he had with his brothers: “And when my brethren saw that I was about to build a ship, they began to murmur against me, saying: Our brother is a fool, for he thinketh that he can build a ship; yea, and he also thinketh that he can cross these great waters” (1 Ne. 17:17).

But Nephi clearly had the right motives and succeeded because he knew “that the Lord … [would] prepare a way … [to] accomplish the thing which he commandeth” (1 Ne. 3:7).

From young Joseph Smith we can also learn that the right motive was crucial for the success of his mission. When the angel Moroni appeared to Joseph and instructed him about the coming forth of the gold plates, Moroni repeated over and over again that Joseph’s motives must be true.

Joseph said Moroni taught that “Satan would try to tempt me. … I must have no other object in view in getting the plates but to glorify God, and must not be influenced by any other motive than that of building his kingdom; otherwise I could not get them” (JS—H 1:46).

What a great lesson in doing things for the right reason.

Keys to Success: Our Testimony, Our Motives

Our own prospects for eternal advancement are closely influenced by learning to put in the center of our motives a very personal testimony of the Savior Jesus Christ and His restored gospel. The Prophet Joseph Smith declared, “The fundamental principles of our religion are the testimony of the Apostles and Prophets, concerning Jesus Christ, that He died, was buried, and rose again the third day, and ascended into heaven; and all other things which pertain to our religion are only appendages to it” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith [1976], 121).

How did the young Prophet Joseph Smith arrive at his strong testimony? How did he manage this great transition from a farm boy to a prophet of the Lord, to a civic leader, to a man of God?

Let’s use him as our example. He was a teenager when he studied the scriptures. During this time a multitude of unanswered questions arose. He wondered, he pondered, he asked, and he received answers.

Build your testimony the same way: Study the scriptures, increase your knowledge of the gospel, search for answers in the scriptures. If you have doubts or fears, invest the time and energy to find the answers in the scriptures and in the written words of our prophets. Contemplate, meditate, ponder, and pray.

Go to our Heavenly Father in prayer; communicate with Him daily. Draw close to Him, and He will draw close to you. Ask about your studies of the scriptures, about your feelings and your questions, and He will answer. He is waiting, He is real, and He is there. Use the gift of the Holy Ghost. Believe in the power of prayer.

It takes effort and time. Be patient; it is worth it. You can do it. You are not alone in this; others went through this before. Remember, it is easy to doubt, but it is a sure sign of maturity and responsibility to question and then search prayerfully for answers.

In the Pearl of Great Price—what a telling title for a priceless book—we can read how Moses had questions and how he conversed with the Lord and received divine answers:

“And again Moses said: I will not cease to call upon God, I have other things to inquire of him. …

“And it came to pass that Moses called upon God, saying: Tell me, I pray thee, why these things are so, and by what thou madest them? …

“… Be merciful unto thy servant, O God, and tell me concerning this earth, and the inhabitants thereof, and also the heavens, and then thy servant will be content” (Moses 1:18, 30, 36).

The answer to this prayer brought great eternal truth about the work and the glory of God (see Moses 1:39).

During his transition time, the Prophet Joseph Smith worked hard; he did not idle away his time and did not bury his talents because of the fear of man. He had pure, noble motives. He had faith, prayed and studied, repented, showed good works, was obedient, and relied on the Holy Ghost. He was therefore taught from on high.

The law of the harvest worked well for him while translating the Book of Mormon. The translation time took no longer than 85 days. During these 85 days, so many other things happened in his life—including receiving revelations recorded in the Doctrine and Covenants, moving to Fayette, and many other time-consuming activities—that only about 55 days remained for the translation (see Russell M. Nelson, “A Testimony of the Book of Mormon,” Ensign, Nov. 1999, 71, 72 note 40). What a miracle! Great miracles can happen in your lives too. But you also need to have pure motives and a strong personal testimony.

What Our Testimony Needs to Include

To build the foundation for your own personal testimony, you have to use material recommended by the greatest character builder there is: Jesus Christ. These materials include faith, prayer, obedience, honesty, truth, and accountability.

In building your own testimony, invest your time, your brain, your talents. Be focused, study it out, be in tune with the Spirit, and then find your own Sacred Grove to receive confirmation. Every one of us needs to find a very personal testimony of the following:

  • A living Father in Heaven

  • The Atonement of Jesus Christ

  • The Prophet Joseph Smith

  • The Restoration of the gospel of Jesus Christ

  • Our living prophet today, even President Gordon B. Hinckley, with authority as the 15th President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in an uninterrupted succession from Joseph Smith

What Is a Testimony Good For?

This testimony, or firm belief and assurance in your heart, will be a solid foundation, an overarching motive in all you accomplish in your life. It will be your true and faithful companion during good and challenging times in your lifelong transition. It will be a constant source of confidence and motivation. Your testimony provides you with a reason for gladness. It will help you cultivate a spirit of optimism and happiness and will help you to rejoice in the beauties of nature. Your testimony will help you to choose the right at all times and in all circumstances. It will give you peace of mind, His peace. If God is with you, who can be against you? (see Rom. 8:31).

Your testimony will be the strongest motive to select the right path and direction in your educational and vocational endeavors. It will help you to not live below your privileges and possibilities.

Your testimony will even help you to choose your eternal companion, if you have not already done so. The transition from being single to married will be well grounded because you will base your preparation and decisions on true values and feelings.

You are to do the choosing here and now during this exciting and wonderful transition time on earth. Moral agency, the freedom to choose, is certainly one of God’s greatest gifts next to life itself. We have the honorable right to choose; therefore, we need to choose the right. This is not always easy.

We are blessed to live in a time when we have a living prophet—President Gordon B. Hinckley—just like during the times of Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Joseph Smith, and Brigham Young. The words of the prophets help us make the right choices of our own free will during this earthly transition time.

As we refine and solidify our testimony by listening to the prophet’s voice, we will joyfully follow his counsel and guidance. In the scriptures we read, “For his word ye shall receive, as if from mine own mouth, in all patience and faith” (D&C 21:5) and “Surely the Lord God will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets” (Amos 3:7).

The Lord will bless you as you follow His counsel and guidance given through prophets. Go forward and become the valiant men and women of Zion you were prepared to be. The Lord has a great work for each of you to do. “Arise and shine forth, that thy light may be a standard for the nations” (D&C 115:5). He trusts you, and He calls and relies on you to stand taller and shine brighter in these challenging but wonderful days.

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.

    Why is it crucial that we have proper motives? How do our motives affect our actions?

  2. 2.

    How can our testimonies help us as we make decisions?

  3. 3.

    In what areas does your testimony need to be strengthened? How can you work on these areas?

[illustration] The Sower, © by Greg Olsen, by arrangement with Mill Pond Press

[illustration] Instructed from on High, by Joseph Brickey

[illustration] The Harvest, by Greg Olsen, by arrangement with Mill Pond Press