Crisis at the Crossroads


Thomas S. Monson
Originally printed in the November 1983 New Era.
Eternal decisions have eternal consequences. When you come to turning points in life, how will you know which way to go? Here is a map.

Crisis at the Crossroads

As each Latter-day Saint approaches the crisis at the crossroads of life, he perhaps recalls a particular passage of scripture, a relevant illustration, a testimony of truth heard and felt. As such a thought floods through his memory, that still, small voice will whisper, “Remember, remember, remember to be true!”

Have you ever stopped to consider that the prophet of God is counting on each one of us? Yes, he is counting on our conduct. He is confident of our courage. How I pray that each may declare, “I resolve to merit the prophet’s trust.” “I shall not deviate from my duty.” “I shall not dishonor my divine destiny.”

The way to exaltation is not a freeway featuring unlimited vision, unrestricted speeds, and untested skills. Rather, it is known by many forks and turnings, sharp curves, and controlled speeds. Our driving ability is being put to the test. Are we ready? We’re driving. We haven’t passed this way before. Fortunately, the Master Highway Builder, even our Heavenly Father, has provided a road map showing the route to follow. He has placed markers along the way to guide us to our destination.

Perhaps we may recognize some of His signs:

  • “Honour thy father and thy mother” (Ex. 20:12).

  • “Search the scriptures; for they are they which testify of me” (John 5:39).

  • “Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness” (Matt. 6:33).

  • “Be ye clean” (D&C 38:42).

That evil one, too, has placed road signs to frustrate our progress and to lead us from the path of truth into detours of sin. His detours all lead to a dead end. These are some of his markers:

  • Times have changed.

  • My love is mine to give; my life is mine to live.

  • It can’t hurt anyone but me.

  • Just this once won’t matter.

Now we see coming into focus the responsibility to choose: that inevitable crisis at the crossroads of life. He who would lead us down waits patiently for the dark night, a wavering will, a confused conscience, a mixed-up mind. Are we prepared to make the decision at the crossroads?

You may ask, “Are decisions really that important?”

Decisions determine destiny. One can’t make eternal decisions without eternal consequences. May I provide a simple formula by which we can measure the choices that confront us? It’s easy to remember; sometimes difficult to apply: “You can’t be right by doing wrong; you can’t be wrong by doing right.”

Some foolish persons turn their backs on the wisdom of God and follow the allurement of fickle fashion, the attraction of false popularity, and the thrill of the moment. Their course of conduct resembles the disastrous experience of Esau, who exchanged his birthright for a mess of pottage.

And what are the results of such action? I testify to you that turning away from God brings broken covenants, shattered dreams, vanished ambitions, evaporated plans, unfulfilled expectations, crushed hopes, misused drives, warped character, and wrecked lives.

Such a quagmire of quicksand must be avoided. We are of a noble birthright. Eternal life in the kingdom of our Father is our goal.

Such a goal is not achieved in one glorious attempt, but rather is the result of a lifetime of righteousness, an accumulation of wise choices, even a constancy of purpose. Like the coveted A grade on the report card of a difficult and required course, the reward of eternal life requires effort. The A grade is the result of each theme, each quiz, each class, each examination, each library project, each term paper. So each Sunday School lesson, each Young Men or Young Women teacher, each prayer, each date, each friend—all precede the goal of temple marriage, that giant step toward an A grade on the report card of life.

Some time ago I returned from a month-long, 30,000-mile journey to the stakes and missions of the South Pacific. As the great jet plane hurtled through the heavens, I gazed out the window and marveled at the stars by which the navigator charted our course. My thoughts were upon our glorious youth; I said to myself: “Ideals are like the stars—you can’t touch them with your hands, but by following them you reach your destination.”

What ideals when followed will bring to us those blessings we so much seek, even a quiet conscience, a peace-filled heart, a loving husband or wife, a healthy family, a contented home?

May I suggest these three:

  • Choose your friends with caution.

  • Plan your future with purpose.

  • Frame your life with faith.

Choose your friends with caution

In a survey made in selected wards and stakes of the Church, we learned a most significant fact. Those persons whose friends married in the temple usually married in the temple, while those persons whose friends did not marry in the temple usually did not marry in the temple. The influence of one’s friends appeared to be a more dominant factor than parental urging, classroom instruction, or proximity to a temple.

We tend to become like those whom we admire. Just as in Nathaniel Hawthorne’s classic account “The Great Stone Face,” we adopt the mannerisms, the attitudes, even the conduct of those whom we admire—and they are usually our friends. We should associate with those who, like us, are planning not for temporary convenience, shallow goals, or narrow ambition, but rather for those things that matter most—even eternal objectives.

Beyond the friends of our peer group, even our own age, will we make a friend of our father? Really, each of us has three fathers. First, we have our Heavenly Father. He stands ready to answer the prayers of our hearts. Being the Father of our spirits, and having created us in His own image, knowing the end from the beginning, His wisdom faileth not and His counsel is ever true. Make a friend of Him.

Second, we have our earthly father. He labors to ensure our happiness. Together with our mother, he prays for our guidance and well-being. Make a friend of him.

Third, there is the father of our ward, the bishop. He has been “called of God, by prophecy, and by the laying on of hands by those who are in authority, to preach the Gospel and administer in the ordinances thereof” (A of F 1:5). In short, he is endowed to provide us with counsel and help. Make a friend of him.

Plan your future with purpose

The great Thomas Carlyle said: “A man without purpose in life is as a ship without a rudder, a waif, a nothing, a nobody. Have a purpose in life, and having it, throw such strength of muscle and brain into your work as God has given you.”

Latter-day Saint young men seek for their companions young women who plan with a purpose. They admire such young women when they turn from mediocrity and set their course toward excellence. The Apostle Paul has warned, “Be not unequally yoked together.” Today’s youth would do well to heed the counsel given by King Arthur in the popular musical production Camelot when he cautioned, “We must not let our passions destroy our dreams.”

Frame your life with faith

Amidst the confusion of our age, the conflicts of conscience, and the turmoil of daily living, an abiding faith becomes an anchor to our lives.

When I was afforded the privilege to serve as a mission president, I became intimately acquainted with almost 500 missionaries. We had one young missionary who was very ill. After weeks of hospitalization, as the surgeon prepared to undertake extremely serious and complicated surgery, he asked that we send for the missionary’s mother and father. He said that there was a possibility that Elder Davidson could not survive the surgery. The parents came; and late that evening, his father and I, in the hospital room in Toronto, Canada, placed our hands upon the head of that young missionary and gave him a blessing. What happened following that blessing was a testimony to me.

Elder Davidson was in a six-bed ward in the hospital. The other beds were occupied by five men with a variety of illnesses. The morning of Elder Davidson’s surgery, his bed was empty. The nurse came into the room with the breakfast these husky men normally ate. She brought a tray over to bed number one and said, “Fried eggs this morning, and I have an extra portion for you.” Bed number one was occupied by a man who was lying on his bed with his toe wrapped up in a bandage. He had suffered an accident with his lawn mower. Other than his injured toe, he was well physically. He said to the nurse, “I’ll not be eating this morning.”

“All right, we’ll give your breakfast to your partner in bed number two!” As she went over to him, he said, “No, I think I’ll not eat this morning.”

She said, “That’s two in a row. I don’t understand you men, and there is no one this morning in bed three.” She went on to bed four, bed five, and bed six; and the answer was the same. “No, this morning we’re not hungry.”

The young lady put her hands on her hips and said, “Every other morning you eat us out of house and home, and today not one of you wants to eat. What is the reason?”

And then the man who occupied bed number six came forth with the answer.

He said, “You see, bed number three is empty. Our friend Davidson is in the operating room under the surgeon’s hands. He needs all the help he can get. He is a missionary for his church; and while he has been lying on that bed while we have been patients in this ward, he has talked to us about the principles of his church—principles of prayer, of faith, of fasting wherein we call upon the Lord for blessings.” He said, “We don’t know much about the Mormon church, but we have learned a great deal about Davidson; and we are fasting for him today.”

I might tell you that the operation was a success. In fact, when I attempted to pay the surgeon, he countered, “Why, that would be dishonest for me to accept a fee. I have never before performed surgery when my hands seemed to be guided by a power which was other than my own. No,” he said, “I wouldn’t take a fee for the surgery which Someone on high helped me to perform.”

Elder Davidson framed his life with faith.

When we choose our friends with caution, plan our future with purpose, and frame our life with faith, we merit the companionship of the Holy Spirit. Then we can testify through our own experience to the truth of the Lord’s promise:

“I will be on your right hand and your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you to bear you up” (D&C 84:88).

[illustration] Painting Christ’s Image, by Heinrich Hofmann

[photos] Background photography courtesy of Digital Stock