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Sunday, February 9, 2014

Decisions for Eternity

As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we occasionally have the opportunity to address our entire ward (a congregation of a few hundred members within a certain geographical area). This morning, Ryan and I had the opportunity to do so and to share our thoughts on Elder Nelson's talk, "Decisions for Eternity" from the October 2013 General Conference. 

It was humbling to be asked to address the ward, especially because the talk focuses largely on the moral right and wrong that society is trying to change. Either way, I hope the Spirit touched those who were listening. 

What comes to mind when you hear the phrase decisions for eternity”? As a Career Counselor at BYU, this theme is an every-day topic. In fact, the BYU devotionals this semester have largely been themed around Elder Hale’s talk involving the tagline: “The Decade of Decision”. He says, “There is a time and season for all of our decisions. Make sure you make decisions in the proper time and season. [Many] of these life-altering decisions will be made in a very busy, relatively short period during your 20s—during what I call the “Decade of Decision.”

So, what do I think of when I think decisions for eternity”? I think “Marriage!” “Career!”

But, what happens after some of those monumental or tangible decisions are in the past? What happens when we are past the so-called “Decade of Decision?” Or enter the “endure-to-the-end” stage?

In the talk titled “Decisions for Eternity” from this past conference, Elder Nelson teaches us that each day is a day of decision and that the wise use of our freedom to choose is crucial to our spiritual growth now and for eternity. He references some decisions that will determine our eternal destiny such as how we choose to care for and use our bodies and which spiritual attributes we will choose to develop.

As I’ve considered this idea of developing our spiritual attributes and making decisions affecting not only now but eternity as well, I connected the idea of line upon line, precept upon precept and about the life span of our decision-making abilities. I thought of the first opportunity we know of where we exercised our agency and chose to follow God’s plan and come to earth. How did we make that decision? Did we pray? Did we ponder? Did we discuss it with our brothers and sister? Or Did we just know? Then and now and in the future we have the opportunity to make decisions, some of which will determine our eternal destinies. As we realize the eternal significance of many of our decisions, we have tender mercies to guide us, I have identified three:

First, we can refer to scriptural examples of decision-making. We can review the context around ancient and modern prophets’ decisions and make better decisions for ourselves based on their examples. For example, when Nephi returned to Jerusalem for the third time, he said, “I was lead by the spirit, not knowing beforehand the things which I should do. Nevertheless, I went forth.” Nephi’s time to act had come, and he knew the spirit would direct him. He was living worthily and had trust in the Lord. As we apply this example to our lives, we might ask ourselves, “am I living sufficiently worthy to be led by the spirit?” Do I have the trust in the Lord that I need to know that I will be guided by His spirit?

The second tender mercy our Heavenly Father has provided us as we make decisions is/are spiritual promptings. Our Heavenly Father knows us. We were chosen by Him to come to earth at this precise time to be a leader in His great work on the earth. We were chosen not for our bodily characteristics but for our spiritual attributes, such as bravery, courage, integrity of heart, a thirst for truth, a hunger for wisdom, and a desire to serve others. He can and will lead and guide us as we seek to follow him. 

In the BYU devotional address this past Tuesday, Elder Perkins of the Seventy highlighted the three type of spiritual promptings or confirmations that we can receive as we ask for guidance. He says that the first way we can receive an answer is through a peaceful, comforting assurance that the decision we made was right. The second is the absence of peace; the unsettled feeling (and not always a stupor) that perhaps the decision is wrong. The third Elder Perkins says is the no-response, proceed-with-trust example such as is the case with the previous example of Nephi trusting in the Lord. This tender mercy and knowledge of personal promptings and confirmations can help us as we inventory whether or not we are on the right path. 

If, for example, we were to apply this example to our lives, we might ask in our hearts and minds something like whether participating in x activity on the Sabbath is keeping the Sabbath day holy—we can and will receive the spiritual confirmation that will guide us to be closer to the spirit.

3.  Thirdly, we can consider the unchanging truths of God’s laws. In Elder Nelson’s talk, he highlights the relationship between our mortal bodies and our spirits, and that not surprisingly, most temptations to stray from God’s plan come from misuse of essential, God-given appetites. Brothers and Sisters, we know that we are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death. Yet, too often, we might be more concerned with the pressures of society than God’s laws. In another conference address this past October, Elder Oaks states “man’s laws cannot make moral what God has declared immoral.” The degradation of God’s moral laws may seem unimportant as they become widely accepted within society at large, but we know this is not the case. Sin, even if legalized by man, is still sin in the eyes of God!

As we apply this to our daily lives we can ask ourselves if we are patterning our lives and examples to others after God’s moral laws. Are we living His commandments? Are we supporting His doctrines?

Knowing how to make good decisions is essential to our Eternal growth. Elder Nelson helps us to recognize that self-mastery is the other half. He says,” self-mastery builds a strong conscience. And your conscience determines your moral responses in difficult, tempting, and trying situations.” He also points out that we can develop self-mastery as we persistently seek it, “We can change our behavior. Our very desires can change. How? There is only one way. True change—permanent change—can come only through the healing, cleansing, and enabling power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. He loves you—each of you! He allows you to access His power as you keep His commandments, eagerly, earnestly, and exactly. It is that simple and certain. The gospel of Jesus Christ is a gospel of change!"

As he closes His talk, Elder Nelson states, “My dear brothers and sisters, each day is a day of decision, and our decisions determine our destiny. One day each of us will stand before the Lord in judgment. We will each have a personal interview with Jesus Christ. We will account for decisions that we made about our bodies, our spiritual attributes, and how we honored God’s pattern for marriage and family.”

Brothers and Sisters, I recognize that decisions determine destiny. I recognize that our agency gives us the freedom to make decisions. As we traverse the endure-to-the-end stage, I pray that we might remember our first decision to follow God’s plan. That we might follow our Savior, Jesus Christ, and that we might lean on the many guiding tender mercies that He has provided.


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