Making Major Life Decisions


Whom should I marry? How much education should I pursue? Should I serve a mission? As a young adult, are you facing decisions like these?

From the time that Cecilia Otubuah of Accra, Ghana, was baptized, she wanted to serve a full-time mission. But when she was old enough to go, the decision was not easy. She was confused. Her friends and relatives told her it was a bad decision. She knew she would lose some friends if she went, and she would also lose her job. So she decided not to go.

But through the promptings of the Holy Ghost, her mother’s encouragement, and personal prayer, Cecilia once again remembered her strong feeling that she should serve a mission.

“I knew the Lord needed my help somewhere, and I was willing to go where He wanted me to go,” she said. “At last I resigned from my work and went on a mission.” The Lord called her to serve among the people in Ibadan, Nigeria.

“Life hasn’t been easy, to say the least,” she said. “But I know in whom I have trusted, and He will not let me down. I rejoice that I have helped to bring souls to Christ.”

Young single adults face many important decisions, including marriage, education, career, mission, and even the choice to live the gospel. These challenges and choices can be daunting. President James E. Faust, Second Counselor in the First Presidency, taught:

“How do we make correct choices? A choice involves making a conscious decision. To make an intelligent decision we need to evaluate all available facts on both sides of an issue. But that isn’t enough. Making correct decisions involves prayer and inspiration.” 1

The Lord has given us a spiritual safety net that can strengthen decision making. That support may come through many means, including a patriarchal blessing, counsel from parents, a father’s blessing, a bishop’s counsel, prayer, temple worship, scripture study, and conversation with faithful friends. However such support comes, it is usually accompanied by the whisperings of the Holy Ghost.

Marriage

President Gordon B. Hinckley has said that marriage “will be the most important decision of your life. … Marry the right person in the right place at the right time.” 2

Summer Bellessa, a successful model and actress in Los Angeles, California, had to face this decision several years ago.

“When I was younger, I made some poor choices,” she said. “I came to a crossroads. My mother encouraged me to get my patriarchal blessing, and I decided to take the steps to make myself worthy to receive this blessing.

“The day I got my patriarchal blessing was the first time that I felt Heavenly Father knew my name, that He had a purpose for me, and that He knew what I needed. That was the turning point that led me to choose a worthy man who could take me to the temple,” she said.

“When I eventually got engaged, my friends in the industry tried to get me to change my mind. They thought it was career suicide. They said I would never get anywhere in the industry if I was married.

“But I prayed about it, and I knew that no matter what happened with my career, Heavenly Father approved of my marriage. Our sealing in the temple was the most beautiful day of my life. This was the place Heavenly Father wanted me to be,” she said.

Education

In determining what vocation to pursue, young adults must decide what field they will study, how much education or training they will obtain, and where they will seek this education. President Hinckley has encouraged young adults: “Get all the education you can. … I do not care what you want to be as long as it is honorable. A car mechanic, a brick layer, a plumber, an electrician, a doctor, a lawyer, a merchant, but not a thief. … If it means sacrifice, then sacrifice. That sacrifice will become the best investment you have ever made, for you will reap returns from it all the days of your lives.” 3

Rick Zinke had to make several difficult decisions, including the ones about education and missionary service. Enrolled at the United States Air Force Academy, he planned on going to medical school after graduation and becoming a heart surgeon. He worked hard, which placed him in the top 5 percent of his class.

Then, through a routine medical examination, he was diagnosed with a relatively mild eye problem that meant he would not be medically qualified to be an Air Force officer. He appealed the ruling. He was told that if he would forego serving a mission, he could have a waiver for his medical problem. Rick chose the mission and left the academy without any guarantee that he could return.

After his mission, he again began the process of reapplication to the academy. However, he kept receiving promptings that he should not return to the academy. He submitted his application again despite those promptings, and he was reappointed to the academy.

“Finally, humbling myself, I united my will with that of the Lord and declined the appointment to return to the academy,” he said. “For the first time in months I felt peace concerning the matter. I did not know why it was so important for me not to return to the academy. I could only trust that the Lord knew more than I did.”

Several months later he learned that the Air Force Academy had instituted a new policy stipulating that its graduates must first spend an unspecified period of time in service with the Air Force before pursuing graduate programs. That would have limited his ability to enter medical school upon graduation. He would not have known when or if he could pursue his goal to become a heart surgeon.

“I have learned that the most effective way to make correct decisions is to be living in such a manner that the whisperings of the Spirit are recognizable,” he said. “The Lord will guide those who act in faith, even though they may not know the reason for such action.”

Rick is now attending Brigham Young University and applying to medical school.

Help through Institute

Institute classes can be a tool to help young adults receive inspiration as they make choices in their lives.

Tagen Towsley of Pocatello, Idaho, said: “It seems whenever I am burdened with a huge decision, there’s a talk given in sacrament meeting or a lesson in institute that deals with the decision I’m trying to make.

“Recently I was considering a mission. I had many thoughts and impressions come to me, but I was doubting myself. I decided not to go to institute one morning because I got home from work at 2:00 a.m. and would have had to get up very early, but I changed my mind. When I got there, the Spirit whispered a confirmation of the answer I was seeking. Tears filled my eyes as I sat there and thought, ‘What if I had slept in? I would have missed that help.’”

Answers to Prayer

At times, however intense the pleading for inspiration, the answers seem not to come. Nonetheless, the Lord is ever mindful of those who petition Him.

“We do not always receive inspiration or revelation when we request it,” said Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. “Sometimes we are delayed in the receipt of revelation, and sometimes we are left to our own judgment. We cannot force spiritual things. … Our life’s purpose to obtain experience and to develop faith would be frustrated if our Heavenly Father directed us in every act, even in every important act. We must make decisions and experience the consequences in order to develop self-reliance and faith.” 4

Lisa Funk of Laguna Beach, California, has found that making important decisions is sometimes not too complicated.

“If I don’t get a clear push in one direction or another right away, I assume it is one of those ‘it’s up to you’ decisions,” she said. “I study it out in my mind and start to head down the path of my own choosing. If I continue prayerfully, I know the Lord will steer me in another direction if necessary, when the time is right.”

Michael McBride of Irvine, California, felt right about going to graduate school and had narrowed his choice down to two of the schools that had accepted him. Each offered something unique. But he found it difficult to determine which school was the right one to attend.

“I thought it out in my mind over and over, trying to reach a specific conclusion, and asked the Lord in ‘yes or no’ fashion if it was right. But I felt that each choice was the right place to go,” he said.

“It finally hit me that my choice was not between right and wrong but between good and good. I realized it was not up to the Lord to tell me which school to attend. It was my choice, and I was to use my judgment.”

Returning to Activity

At some point, all of us must decide what beliefs and values will guide our lives and what our level of involvement in the Church will be. Will we follow the enticements of the world? Or will we heed the Savior’s call to “come unto me”?

Ellice Broderick of Gwent, Wales, was at a crossroads. “I had spent most of my life with one foot in the gospel and one foot in the world,” she said. “I needed to choose between following the Savior or continuing on the road to spiritual destruction. The decision I was to make was perhaps the biggest decision of my life. With the Lord’s help, I decided I needed to become fully converted to the gospel.”

Choosing to take the right path wasn’t easy, and neither was the repentance process that followed. She met with her branch president to ask for his counsel, and he was a powerful support.

Ellice prayed. She learned to love the scriptures. At times she was discouraged, but she knew she was going in the right direction.

“How did I stay strong and remain able to overcome my challenge? I allowed the Savior to carry me,” she said. “I know that it is through His Atonement that I was able to put my life right. I’m not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but I’m heading in the right direction and not looking back. I’m pressing ‘forward with a steadfastness in Christ’” (2 Ne. 31:20).

At times, making the right choices can be simple. At other times, it is a struggle. But through it all, you can find comfort in knowing that as a member of the Lord’s Church, you have spiritual resources to aid you in making your decisions. The Lord is intimately concerned with your welfare, and He seeks to give you blessings overflowing throughout eternity as you draw near to Him.

Helps for Home Evening

Most Ensign articles can be used for family home evening discussions, personal reflection, or teaching the gospel in a variety of settings.

  1. 1.

    Ask each family member, “What do you think you’ll be doing when you’re 25?” Identify with family members principles in the article that will help in making important decisions. Share personal examples of how making decisions with the Lord’s guidance has blessed you.

  2. 2.

    Have your younger children dress up in grown-up clothes and pretend they are older. Discuss some of the decisions grown-ups must make. Teach family members that these decisions should involve prayer and inspiration. Find examples in the article to illustrate how to obtain the Lord’s guidance in all of life’s pursuits.

[illustrations] Illustrated by Mark Thompson; photography by Craig Dimond, © Getty Images, Corbis, and Eyewire

[illustration] Christ and the Rich Young Ruler, by Heinrich Hofmann, courtesy of C. Harrison Conroy Co., Inc., may not be copied

Kathleen Lubeck Peterson is a member of the Foothill Ward, North Salt Lake Utah Stake.

Show References

    Notes

  1.   1.

    “Choices,” Ensign, May 2004, 53–54.

  2.   2.

    “Life’s Obligations,” Ensign, Feb. 1999, 2.

  3.   3.

    Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley (1997), 172–73.

  4.   4.

    “Revelation,” New Era, Sept. 1982, 46.