Choose Ye This Day
I mention young people because you are looking great, you have a lot of enthusiasm, and hopefully you are all wanting to become older, and that means, supposedly, wiser also. That’s a different question. You’ve reached, now, a critical point in your life where the decisions and the choices that you will make will not only determine your temporal, immediate future, but even more important, will also determine your spiritual longtime future.
My purpose today is to help you, and it is to help you to make the right choices, or choosing right when the world is wrong. We know about that situation. Why select such a theme? Go to the index of your scriptures and you go to the word choice or choose. You’ll find a lot of references. It’s interesting—I picked out some, for example, because making choices is a constant job. It is a job in reality. Every day, almost every minute, you have to make decisions based on choices.
In the index, we read some choices from parents—Lehi wishes their sons might be a chosen people of the Lord. That’s a wish from all parents, that you will remain chosen people of the Lord.
For a farmer, for example, they’re talking about a branch planted in a chosen plot in the vineyard. And if you know a little bit about gardening, you will make some choices where you put flowers. Ask my wife about it—she’s a very good counselor about this.
Prophets make choices about revelations they give, and which revelations are going to be kept or are going to be part of the scriptures, in the Book of Mormon. People make choices all the time. Here they have to choose judges, by the voice of the people. That’s what we have in a democracy, by the way. We have a choice to vote, a choice to elect those we think will do the best for the country.
Our Heavenly Father is making choices. Do you know about that? Men are free to choose liberty and eternal life, or captivity and death. That’s a terrible choice to make. Or, he will choose disciples to warn all the people. That’s a constant job for our Heavenly Father, having prophets, seers and revelators.
About His Son, Jesus Christ—the Son was God’s chosen from the beginning. God’s Chosen will suffer for man’s sins, return to God, and for us, we made a choice to come here, to live on this earth. You made a choice to attend this LDS Business College. You have chosen to be here today, to attend the devotional. And as Shakespeare said, “To be or not to be.” That’s quite a question, but that’s quite something to be done—to become or not to become. That’s also a matter of choice, and we will see why.
And so, if you suddenly realize the importance of making right choices under difficult circumstances, where the world is trying to tell you, “You can do it”—making wrong choices. They won’t tell you that it is wrong, but they will say the consequences don’t matter. It is important to know how to make those decisions.
Are you familiar with the scriptures, for example, describing the world of today? I would like to share with you, in the first section of the Doctrine and Covenants, what kind of revelation we have received to make right choices. It’s very interesting—this is given at the beginning of the Church. We are in November of 1831. Today we are in 2010—a little bit later. Are these revelation instructions as valid as they were, as they are, and as they are going to be? I’m quoting from the first section, starting with verse 11, and I’d like to show you the process. It’s interesting to analyze the scriptures and try to learn personally what it means to us.
It starts by saying “the voice of the Lord is unto the ends of the earth, that all that will hear may hear.” So you have to be listening. And it says: “Prepare ye, prepare ye for that which is to come, for the Lord is nigh.” (v. 12)
First point: the Lord will speak. Second: Be prepared to listen.
Now, third point, verse 14: “The arm of the Lord shall be revealed; and the day cometh that they…will not hear the voice of the Lord, neither the voice of his servants, neither give heed to the words of the prophets and apostles.” What’s going to happen to them? There will be a separation; they shall be “cut off from…the people.” Do we see that? It is obvious that we can start seeing the biggest gap, separation, between those who are listening to the voice of the Lord, and those who are not hearkening to the voice of the Lord.
Why is it so? Why will we see that separation? Verse 15 says, “For they have strayed from mine ordinances.” They “have broken mine everlasting covenant.” And now, [in] verse 16, He is going to give you the reason how come this is happening: “They seek not the Lord to establish his righteousness.” And if you don’t know what righteousness is, it’s very simple. It’s doing what is right, according to divine law. That’s what righteousness means.
So they seek not the Lord to establish His righteousness, but what do they do? “Every man walketh in his own way”—I decide what is right. That is the message—“and after the image of his own god.” I don’t need religion or God anymore, they say; it is so much easier to be my own god, and make my own decision. Is it not? And especially to decide what is right and what is wrong. And being my own god, everything I do is always right, of course. And so I’m very happy. I don’t have to worry about the consequences. We’re talking about the substance of what it is, and it is “that of an idol,” and it will perish, of course, in Babylon. (See verse 16)
Now that’s a description of what’s happening right now. Individuals say, “I make my own decision. I don’t need a Supreme Being. I don’t need a religious person. I don’t need parents to guide me. I don’t need teachers to tell me what to do. I can do it so much better myself, in less time than listening.”
The Lord is calling this a calamity, if you didn’t know. And the Lord says, “I the Lord, knowing the calamity which would come upon the earth”—what did He do? He calls a prophet; his name—Joseph Smith. He speaks to him from heaven, which is called revelation. What’s the message? Commandments. And your first reaction is to say, “Lord, we already have ten commandments. Moses got them. Isn’t that enough?”
And the Lord says, “Wait a minute. You are in 2010. Maybe you need something more to help you.” But the process that we learn is a very interesting one. You know the Lord by revelation, and you will know the Lord because He will give commandments. That’s the process. Why? Verse 20-21: “That every man might speak in the name of God the Lord, even the Savior of the world; that faith…might increase in the earth.” In reality, we’re talking about faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and in His Heavenly Father. That’s what we call a divine spiritual foundation.
So first, we need to understand the necessity—it’s a necessity to understand the process of knowing God and His Son Jesus Christ. You start with a question, of course. And the question is, do you personally have a spiritual foundation? Do you believe in God and His Son Jesus Christ, as Savior and Redeemer of this world?
Now I’d better suppose that all of you would answer yes, we do. Well, the second question: If you tell me that you believe in God and His Son, Jesus Christ, how did you acquire that knowledge? How do you know it? And it’s interesting, when you ask people about this, most of the time they will answer, “My mother told me.” Isn’t that so?
And then I will say, “Well, if your mother told you, or your dad, or your parents, how did they know?”
And then they smile and say, “Well, it’s very easy. It’s grandmother or great-grandmother or something like that.”
“Yes, but great-grandmother—how did she know?” And finally they come with an answer which is very interesting. Because probably a priest or a preacher—somebody must have known about this, and they say, “Yes, through what?” And the answer comes immediately: “The Bible. Scriptures.” And that is, of course, the correct answer.
The Bible is an ancient record of God’s dealings with prophets—men called by God to reveal true knowledge of God and His plan of salvation for His children. Thus, the true knowledge of God, Jesus Christ, and His gospel is revealed through the scriptures—number 1—and prophets and apostles. That’s the key of knowledge. There is no other. If you know the key then you can open the door. That’s called a testimony, defined by what we know is true.
Second: Once we have the spiritual foundation—the knowledge of the scriptures and the prophets of our day—how are we going to keep this foundation and start to build upon that foundation?
Let’s go to another scripture—section 130 of the Doctrine and Covenants. In that section, we read something very interesting about the developing part. We are at the end of section 130; we go to verse 18, talking about principles of intelligence that will be attained in this life. “Whatever principle of intelligence” that you get, it will rise with you in the resurrection. That’s the only thing that you will have with you, in reality—not the things of the world.
Now, “if a person gains more knowledge and intelligence in this life through” what?—“diligence and obedience”; two conditions—“than another, he will have so much the advantage in the world to come.” (v. 19) Why is it so? Well, because there is a law, and it has been “irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated—And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated.” (v. 20-21)
Now, if you’re listening carefully, what does it mean? You have a knowledge of God and His Son Jesus Christ through scriptures and through apostles and prophets. The Lord usually gives them to teach or warn about what? Commandments. And so our responsibility becomes to obey the commandments in order to be blessed. It is as simple as that—or as complicated as that.
So the third point is that spiritual knowledge, combined with diligence and obedience, depends on a choice—a choice made when you are surrounded by what we can call unrighteous influences—people doing the wrong things, having the wrong friends, going or making a choice of wrong internet connections, leading to pornography, going to the wrong movie, or taking the wrong drugs. The list is quite long. I could go on and on. We know what is right, and supposedly, we know what is not right. And again, the result of the choice will determine our eternal future.
May I take a moment to share one of my personal experiences with making the right choices under challenging circumstances? When I was serving in the Belgian Air Force, I was the only member of the Church in all the armed forces of my country, army and navy included. That’s what we call a minority, is it not? And I was grateful that I had been taught righteous standards as a young convert and, not to be rationalizing away, especially in times of increased wickedness. My first assignment to an Air Force base presented me with ample opportunity to participate in behavior I knew was wrong. Shortly after my arrival, a welcome party was scheduled for the officers’ mess. I knew alcoholic beverages would be served, and so I decided to visit with the commanding officer about the party.
I thanked him for the welcome. I mentioned that I didn’t drink alcohol. He looked quite surprised—imagine—and asked if I had a health problem. Of course, I said no, but I told him that as a member of the Church, I believed in what was called the Word of Wisdom.
He said, “What are you talking about?” Well, I explained this law of health to him and told him that I would obey it. The commander asked questions about the Church and why the Word of Wisdom was revealed in modern times. The conversation turned into a gospel lesson, and lasted much longer than I had expected. Finally he said, “I respect your conditions, and I think that they are wise. I will see that a jar of orange juice is placed next to the glasses of beer and other alcoholic beverages.”
When I entered the officers’ mess a few days later for the welcome party, to my happy surprise, the jar of orange juice was sitting on the counter. As it turned out—this was interesting—several officers joined me in drinking orange juice instead of beer.
Being righteous when we are surrounded by unrighteous influences is a challenge we all face one day or the other. Given that reality, what can we do to prepare for and pass the test of living righteously in a wicked world?
One way we can prepare for this test is to seek strength through revelation, using your spiritual foundation, both personal revelation and revelations from the prophets, seers, revelators, and scriptures. Revelation is a Liahona, or compass that gives us daily guidance, helping us make correct decisions by deepening our understanding of the Lord’s will in our lives. Revelation gives us true knowledge of things as they are, as they were, and as they are to come.
If you go to “Revelation” in the Bible Dictionary in your scriptures, it tells us that without revelation “all would be guesswork, darkness, and confusion.” Personal revelation often includes insight into specific ways we can more fully follow the Savior. These insights safeguard, guide us, help us master our thoughts and desires, and strengthen us to live in conformity—with what? Commandments, of course.
President Ezra Taft Benson, prophet, declared: “The word of God, as found in the scriptures, in the words of living prophets, and in personal revelation, has the power”—it is power—“to fortify the Saints and arm them with the Spirit so they can resist evil, hold fast to the good, and find joy in this life” (“The Power of the Word,” May 1986 Ensign, p. 79).
Modern revelation confirms earlier revelation. I intentionally use the word “modern” and “earlier,” not the words “new” or “ancient.” Why is it so? Well, for many people, “ancient” means “does not apply to me anymore. That was good for the past generations; we are the new generation. We don’t need this.”
But the Lord, however, is eternal. And likewise His words are eternal and do not change. His gospel is the same yesterday, today, and will be tomorrow. And that’s regardless of when it is revealed. It doesn’t matter. The Old Testament, the Pearl of Great Price, the Book of Mormon, all detail God’s dealings with earlier prophets, and they establish a foundation of righteousness that will never change. The testaments, covenants and lessons contained in these sacred books have application in our time and help us hold fast to the Iron Rod.
If you’d like to take an example from earlier prophets, we can take two of them—one who failed, one who succeeded. Their names are Cain and Enoch.
Cain received spiritual knowledge from his parents. He was taught, but he did not hearken. In his own words, he said, “Who is the Lord, that I should know him?” (Moses 5:16) Translation: “I don’t need to know him. I know better.” You see the similarity with the first section of the Doctrine and Covenants. He had no desire to know the true God, and that led him to love Satan more than God. First wrong choice. The consequence followed with another wrong choice—the second. He makes the wrong offering of the fruit of the land. Then, third wrong choice—he turns angry, because his offer is not accepted. And that will lead to a fatal decision, the destructive choice of murdering, murdering his brother—for one reason: gain. Again, self-centered thinking.
“And Cain gloried in that which he had done, saying: I am free; surely the flocks of my brother falleth into my hands” (v. 33).
Final result? The Lord curses Cain, Cain is shut out from the presence of the Lord. The sure conclusion for us today, learning from earlier prophets in the story: to follow Satan leads to misery and captivity, and Cain’s wrong choices did affect all of his descendants as well as himself. Sometimes I hear people say, “It doesn’t matter what I’m doing. This is my life.” Sorry to disappoint you. It’s not your life. It’s those who are around you, it’s your descendants who will pay the price for your choices today.
Righteous or unrighteous choices always affect our family members one way or another.
I mentioned the other person is Enoch. Enoch, who also received spiritual knowledge and faith from his father, Jared. He is also taught. But what was his reaction when he received a call from the Lord? He said, “Lord, why me? I am slow of speech, and I have this, and I don’t like to be in front of people, and so on” (see Moses 6:31). Well, that’s a normal reaction. But the Lord told him, “Now, you go, and you teach, and I’ll be with you, and I will walk with you and I will bless you” (see Moses 6:32-34).
Enoch is transformed, literally, into a prophet of the Lord. He is blessed, blessing his people, and he helps us understand the importance of faith in the callings of the Lord. He had the power to choose. We need agency so that we are responsible for our choices.
Let’s go to the Book of Mormon. Second Nephi 2:25-27 explains the importance of respecting and having reverence for agency. Verse 25: “Adam fell that men might be; and men are, that they might have joy.” So the first message—we’re here to have joy, depending, of course, on the way we’re going to choose.
“The Messiah cometh in the fulness of time that he may redeem the children of men from the fall. And because that they are redeemed from the fall they have become free forever, knowing good from evil; to act for themselves and not to be acted upon, save it be by the punishment of the law in the great and last day, according to the commandments which God hath given” them. (v. 26) Again, a reference to commandments.
“Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; … All things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose”—here’s the word—they can choose “liberty and eternal life”—how?—“through the Great Mediator of all men.” First choice.
Second: you can “choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power”—not of Christ but—“of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself” (v. 27).
The choices, again, to follow Christ will always lead to liberty, happiness, eternal life—short-term temporal future and long-term spiritual future.
Now let’s go to term number four. What is the application of what we learn in the present world? Today the word “discriminate” has been quoted by those who would have us believe that discrimination is a bad thing. We hear it all the time in the media today. But we all discriminate on a daily basis, whenever we make a choice. Do we not? We make a difference. Living righteously in a wicked world requires that we not be afraid—don’t be afraid to make right choices, even if you are criticized.
Many of us are fearful of what our peers will say, that we will be looked upon with disdain and be criticized if we stand for what is right, and be mocked. But I remind you, from the scriptures, that wickedness was never happiness. The evil never was happiness; sin never was happiness. Happiness lies in the power of love and the sweet simplicity of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
We know that the people of Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed by grievous sexual sins, but we may be unaware that their refusal to discriminate against lesser sins also contributed to their destruction. The Old Testament warns: “Behold, this was the iniquity of thy sister Sodom, pride, fulness of bread, and abundance of idleness was in her and in her daughters, neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and the needy.
“And they were haughty, and committed abomination before me: therefore I took them away as I saw good” (Ezekiel 16:49-50).
We also can be destroyed, physically, spiritually—by committing small sins. I could have accepted a drink of alcohol. Nobody would have known. A seemingly small sin, in reality, with the other Air Force officers. But keeping the Word of Wisdom helped me avoid larger temptations and sins, such as when I was later invited to accompany my fellow officers to a bar located off base, not in the base. I chose a better environment. I spent my free time with true friends, who helped me to be my best. The gospel was the answer. Guidance from the Spirit was the source of my strength, and obedience to the commandments was a confirmation of my faith in the Savior.
Now, fifth and last: the justification of being here at the LDS Business College is only to succeed, and it will be as a result of your choice—of a right choice, because it is choosing success instead of failure, which is another choice. Let me quote from an article in Healthy magazine, from John Anderson, the editor: “Success is a choice. Failure is optional.” We can choose to succeed, and conversely, failure is a choice, a decision we make. Success is optional—literally, an option for us to select. We can choose failure or success. Think about this. This is your choice.
Do you know about the law of attraction? We’re not talking about men and women; that’s a little bit different. That law states that we eventually become what we want, what we think about. We literally attract what we want and ponder—positive or negative. “Clearly,” continues Anderson, “a first step towards positive change is the desire to change. No desire, no change. And then the visualization of achieving success.”
Just transform the word “change” for “repentance,” and you also clearly understand this great gospel principle and why Enoch had to preach repentance for his people to become of one heart and one mind with the Lord. That brings true joy in comparison of pain if you do not have the desire to make the right choices.
Anderson’s article ends with these words: “Remember, it is impossible to fail unless we give up. Choose to succeed.”
Personal experience again: The two major choices that I made in my life that made a tremendous difference—the first one was conversion, accepting the message of the Restoration from the missionaries; accepting to make a choice to pray about it; accepting baptism, the Gift of the Holy Ghost, priesthood, service, and callings.
The second most important choice that I make is right here with me. She’s there. Next year we will celebrate 50 years of being together. I made that choice when I became a member of the Church. I had not the right kind of example in my family. My parents divorced, with tremendous consequences for my brothers and sisters. I was the oldest. When that happened, I made a decision. And the decision was, “This is never going to happen to me.” And the choice was given, and the choice was in front of me within the Church—eternal marriage, and sealing in the temple.
For the last almost 50 years together, when we first met and we started to date, we made a choice. And the choice was, we will always put God first in our lives. And that makes a difference. Joy and happiness for 50 years. It’s a long record, but it’s a good one. I wanted to share it with you.
I conclude with a quote from Elder Faust, a member of the First Presidency, which will summarize the message of today. He said, “As we look into the future, we are going to need to be stronger and more responsible for our choices in a world where people ‘call evil good, and good evil.’ We do not choose wisely if we use our agency in opposition to God’s will or to priesthood counsel. Tomorrow’s blessings and opportunities depend on the choices we make today” (“Choices,” May 2004 Liahona, pp. 51-54).
What do we need to remember? Very simply, the choices we make today to follow Jesus Christ will help us draw, tomorrow, closer to Him. Let us choose liberty, happiness and eternal life. And as the prophet Joshua said, “Choose you this day whom ye will serve.” And you know the rest of the sentence. He said, “For me and my family, we will choose to serve God” (see Joshua 24:15).
I testify to you, that as we seek personal revelation, that spiritual foundation of God and His Son, Jesus Christ, keep our eye on the Lord’s anointed—prophets, seers, and revelators—hold fast to righteous standards, and strive to make a difference through our example and influence, we will find joy in this life and the next one.
As a special witness of Christ, I testify of Him as our Savior, our Redeemer. Of the existence of God, and a modern prophet today, President Thomas Monson, let us hearken to the words of the Lord. There is revelation today. And let us commit—not just to hearken or listen—but to obey the commandments. We have them. Let us obey, let us be diligent, in order to be blessed, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.