A Pattern for Living


L. Tom Perry
“Search diligently, pray always, and be believing, and all things shall work together for your good” (D&C 90:24).

A Pattern for Living

The Church magazines asked Elder L. Tom Perry of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles to share some thoughts about D&C 90:24, the Young Men and Young Women Mutual theme for 2004.

This scripture seems to be divided into four parts. What does the first part mean, to “search diligently”?

Elder Perry: In order to find answers, the Lord says, we not only have to search for them, but we have to search diligently. That means there is effort involved. We really have to work at it. One of the best places to search for answers is in the scriptures, and searching diligently means reading them again and again, prayerfully and with faith, until the answers become apparent.

I often think of what happened in the Book of Mormon, in 1 Nephi 3–4 [1 Ne. 3–4]. Lehi sent his sons back to Jerusalem to get from Laban the record known as the brass plates. The record was important; the people needed it so they would not dwindle in unbelief.

On their first try, Lehi’s sons left getting the records to chance. They cast lots, and Laman was selected. He went to talk to Laban, and Laban was angry and cast him out of his presence. If young people leave the study of the scriptures to chance—only what they may casually absorb in Mutual, seminary, or a Sunday School class—they will not get the deep meaning that will come from studying by themselves and with their families. You cannot leave to chance a treasure as important as knowledge of the gospel.

Next Lehi’s sons tried to buy the brass plates using the things of the world. Laban sent his servants to slay them, and they escaped only by leaving their riches behind. Young people today may be tempted to seek happiness through the things of the world. Worldly ideas are presented to them all the time as they sit in front of the television or log on to the Internet. But sooner or later they will find that these ideas will not lead to the happiness they are seeking.

Finally, Nephi determined that the only way to obtain the records was by faith. When he made that decision, he was led by the Spirit to know what to do, and great blessings occurred. He obtained the scriptures, and the family of Lehi could journey in the wilderness with the sacred scriptures to guide them. In the same way, if youth will act in faith, they will receive knowledge that will guide them.

Is it just the scriptures that we should search diligently?

Elder Perry: Search after truth, and remember that word diligently. That doesn’t mean halfheartedly. That means with all your might. It is also important to keep the commandments so you can feel the promptings of the Spirit. Part of being diligent is being worthy.

As we are searching, what can we find that will be useful to us?

Elder Perry: The scriptures give us the direction we need. They are the words of the Lord revealed to us by the prophets. And the scriptures are revealed in different times and seasons and years, giving us a great opportunity to have a large view of what has happened, that the truths have been restored. As you study them regularly, you can find the pattern for your own life. You can see how obedience will bring blessings to you.

The next part of the verse says to “pray always.” How do we do that?

Elder Perry: Carry a prayer in your heart. You don’t have to express it out loud all the time, but there are very few hours in the day when you don’t need guidance and direction in the course that you would want to follow. It is a wonderful, satisfying thing to know that the Lord is there. And He is there “24/7,” as they say. He is always available to us.

I remember an experience I had in the United States Marine Corps when we came in after being on a long, heavy, forced march. We were tired, hungry, and thirsty. The cooks had prepared a chicken salad to tide us over until our evening meal, and boy, was it going to taste good! A friend and I always paused and blessed the food before we ate. We prayed while the others dived in. Within hours, the whole group was violently ill, except for two—the two of us who had stopped to thank the Lord.

Of course, most prayers don’t bring such dramatic results. Most of the time, the response is a quiet, peaceful feeling about what is right. I have had many times in my life when I have been comforted and assured by prayer.

We should also remember to give thanks. Heavenly Father provides so many wonderful opportunities and blessings. Most of our prayers should be expressions of appreciation for what He has given to us.

How do we develop the habit of having a prayer in our hearts?

Elder Perry: I hope most of it comes from following the example of good parents. Where young people have prayer as part of their daily lives, they have a warm, comfortable feeling about approaching the Lord. Prayer is a comfort and a practice that comes easily to every child.

What counsel would you give to those who don’t live in that kind of a setting?

Elder Perry: They have the opportunity of embracing the gospel. The Church gives opportunity after opportunity to say prayers. I think the practice of prayer can be encouraged by the guidance of good priesthood leaders, Mutual leaders, and Young Men and Young Women leaders. That will help bridge the gap between not having it in their early lives and having an opportunity now to pick it up, go forward, and understand what the Lord has given us.

Why is it important to “be believing”?

Elder Perry: I feel I have always believed. I had a noble father, who was my bishop for the first 18 years of my life. He believed in the Lord, trusted in the Lord, and followed the Lord in his priesthood calling. I had a mother, who always had a strong belief and relied on that testimony within her. The belief of my parents created in me a desire to believe, which was important in gaining my own testimony.

How should we go about gaining our own testimonies?

Elder Perry: All of us have to gain our own testimonies, and the example of others is a tremendous way to start. We can feel confident when we find someone we trust who can bear solemn witness. There is a natural affinity that draws us to that desire to “be believing.”

It is also important to live the commandments. You have to know the law of the Lord and try living it in order to prove that it works and brings blessings. The Savior said, “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself” (John 7:17).

I’ve often thought, “What if I’d been reared without the gospel? How would I have reacted if I had heard it preached?” I hope I would have been sensitive enough to listen and evaluate and pray.

I don’t think a testimony comes like a bolt out of the blue. A testimony is something that’s growing all of the time. As I have opportunities to serve in the Lord’s kingdom and see how He blesses His people, my testimony continues to grow.

What are some of the other things we need to do?

Elder Perry: We should never forget the value of partaking of the sacrament. I recall another experience I had in the military. I was part of a group that was able to stay together for a time. We held sacrament meeting every Sunday I was in the service. Sometimes the water came from a canteen cup and the bread was a biscuit from our K rations, but we partook of the sacrament. Friends who were separated from us, who did not have the opportunity to take the sacrament for a long time, seemed to be not as sure in their faith because of it.

You should seek out righteous Latter-day Saint companions and be certain that every Sunday you can renew your vows and covenants with the Lord. That does something to individuals. It makes them realize that the Lord is bound to supply the blessings that they are asking for, if they live worthy of them, if they live their part.

How and when should we hope that “all things [will] work together for [our] good”?

Elder Perry: There can be a great blessing in having to wait. You appreciate rewards more when you work toward them. Each period of life has a different phase, and as you progress from phase to phase, you find increasing fulfillment in following what the Church has taught us.

There is a great witness of the Holy Spirit within a person when he or she is doing what is right. It brings gladness, peace, and satisfaction that can come in no other way. When you live righteously, then other things fall into place. Those things may be different from what you had planned, but they will be good. Remember that blessings come in the timetable of the Lord.

What about tragedies that come into our lives? How can they work for our good?

Elder Perry: Well, I have lost a wife and a daughter. Although it has been difficult, it has not shaken my testimony. I have found that life’s trials can be overcome if you stay on course. Fulfillment comes despite tragedy, and that fulfillment gives you great satisfaction. Enduring in faith is an experience that brings you closer to the Spirit.

If you “search diligently, pray always, and be believing,” it is very difficult to get off course. The Lord has promised us that. When people turn away from the Lord, there’s an automatic deterioration of the ability to follow the Spirit and a loss of the opportunity to experience true joy in life. When people follow the Lord, they prosper, they grow, and even though there are difficulties, the good things of life come according to the plan of the Lord.

There is great satisfaction in knowing who you are, what you are supposed to do here, and what eternal blessings our Father in Heaven has promised to the faithful in the eternities to come. What greater comfort could there be than that?

How do you know when that promise is fulfilled if you don’t see immediate results?

Elder Perry: One of the reasons we are on earth is to learn patience, endurance, and righteous living. It may take time to see the results, but if you live in the right way, you will find the joy and happiness that come from a good life. That’s what faith is all about.

What final suggestions do you have about how youth can apply the Lord’s instructions in D&C 90:24?

Elder Perry: Do what it says. It’s a promise from the Lord, and look what He’s promising you: “All things shall work together for your good.” What a blessing that is! That’s a promise of the Lord to these great young people. He’s never failed yet.

I have had such a great, exciting, and fulfilling life that I want every one of the youth in the Church to have the same blessings. I wasn’t a straight-A student in school. I wasn’t an all-state basketball player. In fact, I thought during my high school years that I was just mediocre. Yet life has been so good, so fulfilling, that I want to do everything I can to get young people to feel that.

Not every day of my life has been successful. But I don’t think there has been a day when the Lord was not with me, inspiring and directing me. I think I have ended every day with a happy heart and an enthusiastic spirit to try again the next day, and I know that is a great way to live.

[photos] Photography by John Luke, posed by models

[illustrations] Illustrated by Richard Hull