Questions and Answers


Answers are intended for help and perspective, not as pronouncements of Church doctrine.

Why doesn’t the Church make a list telling me exactly what I can and can’t do?

Liahona’s Answer

  • There are several places we can go for guidelines from the Lord, including the words of the prophets, the scriptures, and For the Strength of Youth.

  • Life is far too complex for a list to cover every situation.

  • Part of life is to learn to use our agency, not to follow detailed instructions like a robot.

  • The Holy Ghost can guide us in the decisions we must make. The gift of the Holy Ghost is better than any list.

  • As we grow spiritually and learn to follow the Holy Ghost, making righteous decisions will become easier.

Actually, the Lord has given us a list of things we should and shouldn’t do. This list is called the Ten Commandments. And He has given us other direction, including the covenants we make at baptism and in the temple, to protect us from harm and to help us become as He is. Church leaders also give us specific counsel regarding what we should and shouldn’t do. And they have prepared a wonderful resource called For the Strength of Youth: Fulfilling Our Duty to God (item no. 36550). This brochure gives specific guidelines on topics ranging from dress and appearance to Sabbath day observance. These guidelines can help you successfully navigate the troubled waters of the latter days.

Sometimes, however, the scriptures and the words of the living prophets don’t address a particular situation you find yourself in. And what if the choice is not between right and wrong but between right and right? How do you make that decision?

As many readers pointed out, life is far too complex for the Church to publish a comprehensive list covering every situation. Besides, the Lord has given us agency for a reason. We are not here on earth just to prove that we can follow detailed instructions like a computer or a robot. The Lord wants us to become as He is. This means we have to learn to make wise decisions. We need to learn to recognize and act on truth.

As members of the Lord’s Church, we have been given a wonderful gift to help us make difficult decisions: the gift of the Holy Ghost. “I will impart unto you of my Spirit,” the Lord explained, “which shall enlighten your mind, which shall fill your soul with joy” (D&C 11:13). We don’t need a list to tell us what to do; we need to listen to the whisperings of the Spirit.

Each of us can grow in our ability to follow the Spirit until we can choose wisely between right and wrong and can recognize subtle distinctions between two courses that may seem equally good. “That which is of God is light,” the Lord teaches us, “and he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day” (D&C 50:24). We are children of God, but He doesn’t want us to remain children spiritually. He wants us to grow up, to progress, and ultimately to become even as He is (see 3 Ne. 27:27).

Do What Is Right

Elder Richard G. Scott

You are growing in spiritual discipline—that is, your ability to discern the promptings of the Spirit and your capacity to follow them. Over time, that capacity will increase and grow stronger until it becomes easier and easier to automatically do the right things. … While that spiritual discipline is developing, you must be very careful to avoid choices that would take you from the path of happiness.” Elder Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, “Do What Is Right,” Liahona, Mar. 2001, 11.

Readers’ Answers

The beauty of the plan of salvation is that it allows us to find out for ourselves what is right. There is a wonderful guideline available to everyone, however; it is called For the Strength of Youth. Brian Middleton, 17, El Dorado Ward, El Dorado California Stake

The Church does not give us a list of things we should or should not do because we have the Holy Ghost, who can teach and reveal to us what is good and right. We have agency to choose if we will obey. Second, Heavenly Father has given us commandments, scriptures, and words of Church leaders. Finally, we have our parents, and they have taught us what is right and will bring us happiness. Sini Falatau, 20, Veitongo Ward, Nuku‘alofa Tonga South Stake

My mission president explained the idea that doctrine leads to principles and principles lead to rules. If we study the doctrine and understand the correct principles that flow from that doctrine, then we will understand the more detailed rules through the Spirit. If we always seek the guidance of the Spirit through prayer and scripture study, we will know with clarity what is right and what is wrong. Elder Yudai Ito, 22, Japan Sapporo Mission

The Lord and His Church have already given us knowledge about what we should and shouldn’t do through the Ten Commandments (see Ex. 20) and the two great commandments (see Matt. 22:36–40). The only thing we need to do is keep the commandments of God. Kate Mensah, 22, Cape Coast Second Ward, Cape Coast Ghana Stake

If a list did exist, it would be very long. It could never be complete because there are simply too many things we should and shouldn’t do. Also, Heavenly Father wants us to learn. Without straightforward answers to everything, we search for the answers. In other words, we seek knowledge and we learn. Katrina Voigt, 14, Preston Branch, Rochester Minnesota Stake

The scriptures tell us to “feast upon the words of Christ; for behold, the words of Christ will tell you all things what ye should do” (2 Ne. 32:3). Be diligent in study and worthy of the Holy Ghost, and you will know the way to go. Anna Vitalyevna Sursyakova, 20, Donetsk Kievsky Branch, Donetsk Ukraine District

The Prophet Joseph Smith once said, “I teach them correct principles, and they govern themselves” (as quoted by John Taylor, in Millennial Star, 15 Nov. 1851, 339). In the Church we are taught true principles. It is up to us to govern ourselves. We don’t have to be told what to do most of the time. The Holy Ghost guides us. If we adhere to the Spirit’s whisperings, blessings will follow. Marneilo M. Dala, 19, Initao Ward, Cagayan de Oro Philippines West Stake

Photograph by Kelly Larsen, posed by model