The Message:

Your Personal Checklist

by Elder Hugh W. Pinnock

of the Seventy

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    Taken from an address delivered at October 1993 general conference.The happiest life is the one that is most Christlike. Here are some guidelines to help you achieve that.

    When flying, pilots have a procedure they follow for leaving the ground confidently, traveling about the earth or exploring it from outer space securely, and then landing safely. Whether flying a single-engine airplane or commanding a spacecraft circling the world every 92 minutes, each seasoned pilot carefully goes over a checklist to ensure every system of the aircraft is working properly.

    Because each of you is more important than any aircraft, you would be wise to contemplate and go through your own personal checklist before you take off into the balance of your lives. I suggest five areas that should be checked often as you approach the future. Many of you have 80 and more years to live. Think of it. What a promising future you have if you prepare properly and keep focused.

    First checklist item: The priesthood.

    Young men, try to really understand and use the priesthood you bear. Honor it; realize its power. Young women, realize that you are blessed by the priesthood too. Encourage the young men to live up to their potential. Remember the Aaronic Priesthood is the preparatory priesthood leading to the Melchizedek Priesthood. By the power of the Melchizedek Priesthood, the Only Begotten Son created worlds without number as the premortal Jehovah and then performed many miracles on earth as our Savior, Jesus Christ. A wise priesthood leader taught that now is the time in your life for doing, so later you become the person you should be. Heavenly Father trusts you. You young men have the very priesthood that Aaron bore honorably and that John the Baptist used when he baptized Jesus “to fulfil all righteousness” (Matt. 3:15). Eighteen hundred years later, on the banks of the Susquehanna River, he ordained Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery to that same Aaronic Priesthood (JS—H 1:68–73).


    • Joseph Smith was the age of today’s deacons when he was thinking deeply about God.

    • Joseph Smith was the age of today’s teachers when he went into the woods to pray and was blessed to talk with God the Father and Jesus Christ (see JS—H 1:11–20).

    • Joseph Smith was the age of today’s priests when Moroni first visited him and told him about the record on gold plates (see JS—H 1:27–54).

    The priesthood enables young men to prepare, bless, and pass the bread and water, the holy emblems of the sacrament. Priesthood holders place the members of the Church under solemn covenant with Heavenly Father to “take upon them the name of thy Son, and always remember him and keep his commandments which he has given them” (D&C 20:77). They gather fast offerings to help the poor and the needy. Many of them serve as ushers, arrange chairs and tables for meetings, and perform other important duties. Priests have the authority to baptize (see D&C 20:46) just as the young men serving as missionaries and as your fathers and other older men do. And priests also ordain others in appropriate circumstances (see D&C 20:46–49).

    Heavenly Father loves you! Your priesthood leaders will call many, many of you and set you apart as members of quorum or class presidencies or as quorum or class secretaries. What great leadership lessons young men and young women can learn as they lead others while they are young.

    Second checklist item: Family and friends.

    Always remember the importance of your home, your parents, other family members, and your friends. Do not expect your parents to do things for you that you now can do for yourselves. It is your turn to begin taking more responsibility. “Hey, but my dad should do this,” or “I want my mother to continue to do this for me,” you might still wish. A successful home is based on the love and helpfulness of children just as it is based on loving parents handling their responsibilities.

    One day when I was 17 years old, I was washing the family car in anticipation of going on a date that evening. My father came out of the house to observe what I was doing. He criticized me to the extent that I felt as if I was doing nothing right. Finally I said something like, “Dad, get off my case. Don’t you understand this is the first time I have ever been a teenager?” He looked at me and said, “Pal, don’t you know this is the first time I have ever been a father?” I grew wiser that day because I realized we all are learning together within a family. We cannot expect our parents to be perfect any more than we can expect ourselves to be perfect.

    Be eager to forgive when problems arise at home. Help with your younger brothers and sisters when needed. As you assume more responsibility at home, you will find additional opportunities popping up in other areas in your life.

    Choose your friends carefully. Associate with young men and young women who are straight and who will assist you to be responsible. Help your friends decide to go on missions, to attend Church meetings, and to enjoy righteous activities.

    Third checklist item: Live the commandments.

    Never feed the foxes! What does that mean? Breaking commandments is like feeding foxes. In England where we live, my wife and I had heard that foxes were right in town. We wanted to see a fox. A neighbor told us that if we left food for the foxes we probably would see one. Our butcher gave us some bones. Each night we would place some bones out in the backyard. Soon a fox came to eat. Then a few more. Now we have at least five foxes racing through our flower garden, digging up the lawn, and leaving a shamble every night, sort of like a furry Jurassic Park. What started out as a curiosity is now a problem, and sin is much the same. An indiscretion can begin a process that can make a mess of a whole life. Remember, if you don’t start feeding the foxes, they will never tear up your yard. If you avoid making the seemingly small and harmless mistakes, your life will be free of many larger problems later on. Be courageous by living straight. Create happy memories for yourselves and those around you.

    Fourth checklist item: Education.

    Make good use of your schooling. The scriptures tell us there is a time for every purpose under heaven (see Eccl. 3:1–8). Now is the time to begin serious preparation for life. The direction you take while young may determine where you will land as an adult. Are you headed in the direction that you want to be flying?

    Those of us who are older remember that not all that goes on in school and work is pleasant, nor does it all seem useful and necessary. Yet most of what you learn is helpful. Be excited about your schooling and develop the habit of going the extra mile (see Matt. 5:41; 3 Ne. 12:41). This habit will assist you in crossing continents successfully when you are older. Through study and hard work, you prepare for a life of spiritual, emotional, and economic self-reliance. Build a foundation now that will support your future (see Matt. 7:24–25). Feel the excitement of accomplishing difficult tasks.

    Fifth checklist item: A mission.

    While serving as an aide-de-camp to a major general in an army reserve unit, I found myself in many conversations with that remarkable military leader. He was not of our faith. “Pinnock,” he once said, “do you know how fortunate you Mormons are?” I replied by saying something like, “Yes, sir, but what are you thinking about?” He said, “A mission, Pinnock, that’s what it’s all about. Your young men are encouraged to go to serve others. They become stronger, more wise, and more dependable because of a mission.”

    The prophet has asked all young men to serve missions. The world desperately needs missionaries, and young men need to feel the power and growth from serving and teaching others. And if for some unusual reason you are not called to serve a mission, there will be other opportunities to serve the Lord. Unmarried women over 21 years of age may also serve a full-time mission, but should not feel obligated to do so, and their bishops should not recommend them if a mission will interfere with marriage. All should remain worthy to serve, and should look for opportunities to share the gospel as member missionaries.

    So there you have it: a checklist that can keep you flying in the right direction. A pilot must have the support of a skilled ground crew to succeed, and your parents, bishops, advisers, quorum leaders, and solid friends all will help support your flight through these key years of your life. A wonderful future is yours if you stick to your personal checklist.

    Personal Checklist

    1. Priesthood: Honor and understand the priesthood.

    2. Family and Friends: Remember the importance of family members. Choose friends carefully.

    3. Commandments: Live the commandments.

    4. Education: Make good use of schooling.

    5. Mission: The world desperately needs missionaries. Remain worthy to serve.

    Paintings by Nathan Pinnock

    Photography by Matt Reier