Q&A: Questions and Answers


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

“How can I be sure that my chosen field of study and career are acceptable to me and to the Lord?”

Answer/ Fred A. Rowe

The profession we choose affects nearly every aspect of life, including the environment in which we will spend 2,000 hours annually for the next 40 or more years, the time it allows us to have available for church and family involvement, and the financial resources it will provide. A career is more than just earning a living. When we see ourselves contributing to our job, when we perceive that others consider us as somewhat of an expert in our career, our self-respect increases, allowing us to enjoy our profession and life in general.

Preparing for a possible career is becoming increasingly important to young women in the Church. Nevertheless, most young sisters appear to be inadequately prepared for what may lie ahead of them. In the Church, as throughout the world, a large percentage of women will be called upon to become the heads of their households for an extended period of time due to the death or disability of their husbands or divorce. Besides the overwhelming responsibility of assuming the functions of both father and mother, they must go to work to care for their families. Many find their marketable career skills below the level for job entry. Hence, in addition to being parents and breadwinners, they must become students as well. Adequate preparation early in life is a great assurance.

Most people select what they want to study after high school based on the hope that it will prepare them for a career. While that is a worthy purpose for continued learning, education is more than training for job skills. Training should be accompanied by studying to understand and appreciate the world around us. It is time to forsake the notion that people who enter the job market out of high school, for example, should not appreciate literary classics or good music or be able to identify the issues in a political campaign. Quality of life can and should be a major consideration no matter what field one pursues.

Research has shown us that five years after graduation, most college graduates are not working in the job they selected as a result of their education. Studies also suggest that people average at least five major career changes in their lifetime. Hence a breadth of learning provides a good foundation regardless of change.

In the Church, we are anxious about doing things that are in harmony with the will of our Father in Heaven. Career selection often falls into this category. In the process we can make an incorrect assumption: that the Lord has one chosen profession for each of us that he will direct us toward if we but put our faith in him.

Patriarchal blessings are sometimes considered a guide to the occupation one should follow. This, however, is not the purpose of a patriarchal blessing. John A. Widtsoe reminds us that “to look upon a patriarch as a fortune-teller is an offense to the Priesthood; the patriarch only indicates the gifts the Lord would give us, if we labor for them. He helps us by pointing out the divine goal which we may enjoy if we pay the price” (Evidences and Reconciliations, 3 vols. in 1, arr. G. Homer Durham, Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1960, p. 323). Patriarchal blessings rarely specify a specific career that one should pursue.

Our Heavenly Father, like our earthly father, is constantly interested in what we do. Observing as we make our decisions, he stands ready to help. He may, in the process, respond to questions we ask him. At times, if a decision seems to imply severe negative consequences for us, he may even intercede with inspiration for caution, concern, or redirection.

If you ask in prayer, following the admonition in Doctrine and Covenants 9:8 [D&C 9:8] to “study it out in your mind; then … ask me if it be right,” you may get a confirmation of his approval. The word right in the context of careers suggests that pursuing such a course will be beneficial for you, your family, and those whom you may serve.

There are some guidelines for you to consider as you choose a field of study and a profession that is acceptable to you and to the Lord. Remember, as you read, that no job is 100 percent perfect. Each one has some aspects that are appealing and some that are not. In the final analysis, any profession requires some trade-offs.

  1. 1.

    Anticipate a future that will help you rise to the highest within yourself. Analyze your strengths. See those divine powers and talents lying within your soul. Capitalize on them. And in the process, stretch yourself. Each of us is capable of becoming closer to perfection in the areas of our abilities and aptitudes than we realize. Regardless of our chosen profession, the Lord desires us to be the best we can be.

  2. 2.

    Choose to pursue those activities that will allow you to make worthwhile contributions to others. The Lord declared the purpose and contributions of his labors are, “to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39). If the contributions that you can make in a career are negligible or dishonorable, then the career itself is in question.

  3. 3.

    Analyze two very important factors. First, the job market. There are some college and technical majors that have very low occupational outlook for employment. There are others which may be good now but will bottom out in the near future. Other professions are and will be crying for people to fill the need.

    Second, the salary. Will it be sufficient for your needs and wants? Avoid the temptation of getting into a job quickly because it is available and does not require much training. Anticipate your future. This career path may show little prospect for advancement or for salary increases.

  4. 4.

    Select a field of study in which the content and the subsequent careers will be in harmony with your value system.

The Lord expects us to explore, analyze ourselves, discover the characteristics of the various fields of study and their related careers. Decision making is a process, not an event. It requires time, effort, and a certain amount of risk taking. The Lord stands ready to help us as we do our part.

Assistant Dean of Admissions and Records

Brigham Young University

“Why are there so many more young men than young women on missions?”

Answer/ Dean B. Cleverly

The Lord, through his modern-day prophet, has said that every worthy and able young man should serve a full-time mission.

“The question is frequently asked,” said President Spencer W. Kimball, “Should every young man fill a mission? And the answer has been given by the Lord. It is ‘Yes.’ Every young man should fill a mission. …

“… Every man should also pay his tithing. Every man should observe the Sabbath. Every man should attend his meetings. Every man should marry in the temple and properly train his children, and do many other mighty works. Of course he should. …

“… Yes, we would say, every able worthy man should shoulder the cross. What an army we should have teaching Christ and him crucified!” (“When the World Will Be Converted,” Ensign, Oct. 1974, p. 8).

For a young man, missionary work is no more an optional part of living the gospel than attending meetings, paying tithing, keeping the Word of Wisdom, or being morally clean. It is a basic priesthood responsibility of every young man who is ordained an elder.

Young women, on the other hand, are not under this same priesthood responsibility to serve a full-time mission. They may serve if they desire—and many do so with great distinction—but neither the Lord nor his servants impose the same obligation to serve on young women as they do on young men.

Those women who choose to serve missions—either singly or later in life with their husbands—make great contributions to the work of the Lord. President Kimball has said:

“Much of the major growth that is coming to the Church in the last days will come because many of the good women of the world (in whom there is often such an inner sense of spirituality) will be drawn to the Church in large numbers. This will happen to the degree that the women of the Church reflect righteousness and articulateness in their lives and to the degree that the women of the Church are seen as distinct and different—in happy ways—from the women of the world.

“Among the real heroines in the world who will come into the Church are women who are more concerned with being righteous than with being selfish. These real heroines have true humility, which places a higher value on integrity than on visibility. Remember, it is as wrong to do things just to be seen of women as it is to do things to be seen of men. Great women and men are always more anxious to serve than to have dominion.

“Thus it will be that female exemplars of the Church will be a significant force in both the numerical and spiritual growth of the Church in the last days” (“The Role of Righteous Women,” Ensign, Nov. 1979, pp. 103–4).

It seems clear from what the prophet has taught that women will have a great influence on the missionary effort of the Church—not necessarily because they serve missions themselves but primarily because of the righteousness and articulateness of their lives in whatever they are doing.

Whether or not women serve full-time missions, they are still members of the Church. As such, they come under President David O. McKay’s inspired challenge, “Every member a missionary!” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1959, p. 122).

In this regard, President Kimball has written, “Someone might also ask, ‘Should every young woman, should every father and mother, should every member of the Church serve a mission?’ Again, the Lord has given the answer: Yes, every man, woman, and child—every young person and every little boy and girl—should serve a mission. This does not mean that they must serve abroad or even be formally called and set apart as full-time missionaries. But it does mean each of us is responsible to bear witness of the gospel truths that we have been given. We all have relatives, neighbors, friends, and fellow workmen, and it is our responsibility to pass the truths of the gospel on to them, by example as well as by precept” (“It Becometh Every Man,” Ensign, Oct. 1977, p. 3).

Executive Assistant

Church Missionary Department