Lesson 21: Leadership: Inspired Decision Making

Duties and Blessings of the Priesthood: Basic Manual for Priesthood Holders, Part B, (2000), 187–94


The purpose of this lesson is to help us improve our ability to make inspired decisions.

Introduction

Basic to our existence as children of God are the need and the right to make decisions. Decision making, however, is a challenging experience. We are often concerned about making the right decision and confused about where we can go to receive help in making it.

But we can turn to the Lord for help. He has told us that He is the source of all truth and that through Him we can know the truth of all things. We are His children, and He has not left us powerless in facing life’s challenges.

Elder Boyd K. Packer said: “It is critically important that you understand that you already know right from wrong, that you’re innately, inherently, and intuitively good. When you say, ‘I can’t! I can’t solve my problems!’ I want to thunder out, ‘Don’t you realize who you are? Haven’t you learned yet that you are a son or a daughter of Almighty God? Do you not know that there are powerful resources inherited from Him that you can call upon to give you steadiness and courage and great power?’” (“Self-Reliance,” Ensign, Aug. 1975, 88).

Help from the Lord

When we left the presence of our Father in Heaven, He blessed each of us with the Spirit of Christ. The scriptures reveal that the Spirit of Christ, sometimes called “the light of Christ” or our conscience, “lighteth every man that cometh into the world” (see John 1:6–9). This light gives us a basic understanding of right and wrong. Following it will lead us to do good and to understand truth.

We are given an additional source of truth when we are confirmed members of the Church. This is the gift of the Holy Ghost, given to “show unto [us] all things what [we] should do” (2 Nephi 32:5).

The Lord has also told us to “feast upon [His] words” for help in our lives (see 2 Nephi 32:3). We may receive the words of Christ through the scriptures, the words of our living prophets (see D&C 1:37–38; 68:2–4), or the promptings of the Holy Ghost.

Elder Neal A. Maxwell said: “We need to feast upon the words of Christ in the scriptures and as these words come to us from living prophets. Just nibbling occasionally will not do. (See 2 Nephi 31:20 and 2 Nephi 32:3.) Feasting means partaking with relish and delight and savoring—not gorging episodically in heedless hunger, but partaking gratefully, dining with delight, at a sumptuous spread carefully and lovingly prepared … over the centuries” (Wherefore Ye Must Press Forward [1977], 28).

As we humbly “feast upon” the words of Christ, we will know better what to do in all areas of our lives. Church leaders who do this, for example, know better what to say, what to teach, whom to call to positions, and how to make other decisions connected with their callings.

How to Make Decisions

Whether or not we presently hold a Church position, each of us is a leader over our own affairs. Therefore, we must learn how to make inspired decisions.

  • Display a poster of the following list, or refer to the information on the chalkboard:

    Making Inspired Decisions

    1. 1.

      Identify the problem.

    2. 2.

      Pray for guidance and the spirit of discernment.

    3. 3.

      Study the problem.

    4. 4.

      Make the decision.

    5. 5.

      Pray for confirmation.

    6. 6.

      Act—do it.

Following are the steps for making inspired decisions. These steps are given only as general guidelines.

Identify the Problem

We must understand clearly what the problem is before we can solve it. Sometimes it helps to write the problem down.

Pray for Guidance and the Spirit of Discernment

As we begin to solve our problem, we should seek Heavenly Father’s help. This help often comes through one of the gifts of the Spirit: the gift of discernment. This gift, available to those who pray for it, helps us know the truth and make proper judgments (see John 16:13; Moroni 10:5).

Study the Problem

Asking the Lord for guidance is only part of the process. Some feel that because the Lord has said, “Ask, and it shall be given you” (Matthew 7:7), one need only ask to receive the Lord’s answer. But we must do more than ask. The Lord has instructed us to study the problem in our minds (see D&C 9:8). Often before the Lord will inspire us, He also expects us to obtain all the available information on the problem and seek counsel from proper and reliable sources. For example, leaders may seek advice from their counselors, husbands may seek advice from their wives, and sons may counsel with their parents. We should also identify possible solutions to the problem and think about the effects of each.

When making a decision, we should gather enough reliable information to make a wise decision. Decisions made on little or unreliable information are often wrong and may bring regret and sadness.

Make the Decision

After we have studied the problem we should select the best possible solution. (Sometimes the decision to be made is not between good and bad, but rather choosing the best thing to do at the time.) We make the decision based on what we feel is best to do after having carefully studied the information we gathered.

Pray for Confirmation

After making a choice, we approach the Lord in prayer and ask if the decision is right. If it is, the Holy Ghost will confirm the decision by giving us a peaceful, reassuring feeling about it (see D&C 6:22–23). Sometimes we will even get a burning in our bosom (see D&C 9:8).

If, for some reason, we have not chosen correctly, the Lord will reveal that our decision is wrong by leaving us with an uncomfortable feeling or serious doubt. The scriptures refer to this as a “stupor of thought” (D&C 9:9). When this occurs, we must have the humility to begin the decision-making process again.

Often, confirmation from the Holy Ghost comes to us as we pray for it. Sometimes, however, we may be unsure what the Lord wants us to do and must begin to solve the problem before a spiritual confirmation will come.

Elder Hartman Rector Jr. said that the Lord expects us to “get on our knees and communicate with him. Tell him what we are going to do—make commitments with him—outline our program—and then get up off our knees and go and do precisely what we have told him we would do. In the doing, the Spirit comes” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1973, 135; or Ensign, Jan. 1974, 107).

Occasionally we may have to make a decision that seems too difficult and has no possible answer. When this happens we should remember what President Marion G. Romney experienced: “I have had problems which it seemed I could not solve, and I have suffered in facing them until it seemed that I could not go farther if I did not have a solution to them. After praying and on many occasions fasting for a day each week over long periods of time, I have had answers revealed to my mind in finished sentences. I have heard the voice of God in my mind and I know his words” (Look to God and Live: Discourses of Marion G. Romney, comp. George J. Romney [1971], 45).

At times we must fast, study the scriptures, and pray to solve serious problems. Occasionally, even after doing these things and then making and acting on a decision, we may still not receive a confirmation. At such times, we should simply follow our own best judgment, patiently exercising faith that eventually the confirmation will come. We must always remember that God answers our prayers when, in His judgment, it is best for us to receive an answer.

Act—Do It

When we get an answer to our prayers we must do what the answer requires us to do. We cannot expect the Holy Ghost to keep helping us if we ignore His promptings. Even if the answer is not what we want or if the effort He asks of us seems too great, we must be willing to do as He directs. Otherwise, we risk losing contact with the Holy Ghost and thus His comfort and direction.

President Spencer W. Kimball was a good example of one who was committed to doing what the Lord asked him to do: “Prominently displayed on President Kimball’s desk is a slogan which reads simply, ‘DO IT.’ With this inspired leader, personal convenience comes second. Everything is done to meet the Lord’s convenience. His example for work has become legend and establishes an example for us all to follow” (Robert L. Simpson, in Conference Report, Oct. 1975, 17; or Ensign, Nov. 1975, 13).

Some of these steps for making decisions are illustrated by an experience related in our early Church history. Joseph Smith was translating the Book of Mormon, and Oliver Cowdery was acting as scribe. After a time, Oliver desired to do some of the translation himself. The Lord revealed to Oliver His will regarding this matter. It is recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 9, which tells how Oliver tried to translate but was unsuccessful.

Practicing Decision Making

  • Have class members work through the following problem by using the steps for inspired decision making discussed earlier. They should assume the role of one of Brother Jones’s Church leaders.

Problem: Brother Jones joined the Church five years ago and was ordained to the priesthood. Because of his work schedule, he has been unable to attend any Church meetings and activities since shortly after his baptism. He has three helpful children and a supportive wife. He is a skilled carpenter who takes special pride in his work.

Step 1: Identify the Problem

  • Have class members identify the problem.

In working with less-active members, a priesthood leader should first make a confidential list of those who do not fully participate in Church activity. If the list has many names, he should select those he feels would best respond to fellowship, concentrating his efforts on them. When they are activated, they can help him activate other less-active members.

Step 2: Pray for Guidance and the Spirit of Discernment

  • Now that we have identified the problem, where can we go for help in deciding how to solve it?

  • Why should we use discernment when approaching Brother Jones?

Problems like Church inactivity present special challenges. Before we can make any decisions concerning a less-active individual, we must have the Spirit to help us recognize the person’s real needs and discern truth from error (see Jacob 4:13).

Step 3: Study the Problem

  • What information would help us decide how to help Brother Jones?

As we study the problem, we should consider the following:

  1. 1.

    Who are his home teachers? How can we involve them more effectively to help Brother Jones back into activity? Should we assign special priesthood holders to help his family?

  2. 2.

    How can we communicate to Brother Jones that we need him?

  3. 3.

    How can he learn that he needs the gospel?

  4. 4.

    What are his interests and talents? How could we use them so he will feel needed and important?

  5. 5.

    Who are his friends? How could they help him?

  6. 6.

    What activities could we involve him in that would not offend him?

  7. 7.

    How can we offer to help him?

  • What other information might we consider?

  • Discuss a plan we could follow to bring Brother Jones back into Church activity.

Step 4: Make a Decision

As we study the problem, we must decide how to solve it. In deciding how to help Brother Jones, we should develop a plan to show our love and need for him.

Step 5: Pray for Confirmation

  • What is the next step after we have decided what to do?

Once we have made a decision, we should ask the Lord whether it is the right one. The Spirit will tell us whether we have decided correctly.

Step 6: Act—Do It

  • What is the final step?

The final step is to follow President Spencer W. Kimball’s example and act on our plan; we must “do it.” As we faithfully follow our plan, serving with diligence and love (see D&C 81:5), the Spirit will touch the heart of Brother Jones, who may, in time, come into full activity.

Conclusion

Heavenly Father sent us to earth to learn and grow and to help Him do His work. In order to serve well and make inspired decisions concerning ourselves and others, we must keep the commandments, seek the companionship of the Holy Ghost, and have faith in Jesus Christ. We must also have faith in ourselves as we carry out our decisions. This takes courage and commitment. We can be confident that when we prayerfully study our problems and their solutions, listen for answers, and then act on those problems in righteousness, the Lord will support us and our influence for good will increase.

Challenge

This week when making a decision, follow the steps outlined in this lesson. Continue to practice this process until it becomes part of your life.

Additional Scriptures

Teacher Preparation

Before presenting this lesson:

  1. 1.

    Review lesson 12, “Effective Family Leadership,” in this manual.

  2. 2.

    Prepare the poster suggested in the lesson, or write the information on the chalkboard.

  3. 3.

    Assign class members to present any stories, scriptures, or quotations you wish.