Make the Right Choice Every Time
It’s nice to be with you today. I wish we could just talk about the things that matter most to you, and the things that have been on my mind since I received this request to speak. It was actually more than a request for me; it was actually an assignment from the First Presidency, who assigned me as part of my work, part of my stewardship, part of my ministry—to spend these brief minutes with you here today. So I look forward to that. I think if I had my choice, I would just have a question and answer session, and I’d just let you ask anything you wanted, and I’d see if I could come up with a good answer.
But something has been on my mind the last couple of weeks that I might share with you, so I think I’d better stick with what’s been on my mind. If there ends up being a few minutes at the end, maybe we could still pose a question or two.
I was thinking as I sat here that I entered the work force about 35 years ago—seriously entered the work force. Before that I had a stint—I’d been drafted into the U.S. military. This was during the Vietnam War, so I had some time doing that, but I kind of really emerged into the work force, as you hope to do one day, 35 years ago. And I’ve spent most of those 35 years engaged in the business world, when I haven’t been doing church work. And I think I have a sense of some of the things that are out there for you—things that you’ll see and experience, and some things that I guess I would warn you about, to be careful with, and some things I would encourage you forward because of the opportunities that you will yet face. But I think my experience, both in the Church and in the business world, have caused me to be thinking about a particular topic, and that is the topic of choosing.
As I think back over a career of 35 years, I have made a lot of choices. As a matter of fact, I found myself facing choices every day—multiple choices every day. And I know you like multiple choices when it comes to tests, but the kinds of multiple choices you’ll get when you leave this environment and are in the work force and you begin to cultivate life as a family and as a worker and as a citizen, you’ll be amazed at how many choices you will face. And as I thought of you and of the choices you will yet make in your life, I thought how wonderful it would be if you always knew how to make the right choice. That would be a remarkable thing. And, as it turns out, you can. You may or may not have had a lot of practice with that so far in your life. The fact is, you can—you can make the right choice every time. It’s hard. It takes work, but you can do it. So I thought I’d talk a little bit today about how you do that.
I notice you have these books. And I’ll make a deal with you on the books, where you are taking notes. Here’s a thought. I wouldn’t say this into the future, for others who would speak to you, but here’s my invitation to you, and it ties into what I think I want to say. Instead of writing down everything you hear, which is what you do when you’re in class, I invite you to write down the things you hear that are not said. And there’s a pretty good chance that if you will listen and hear, if I can teach by the Spirit for these 30 minutes and you can listen by the Spirit, there’s a pretty good chance that you will hear something that maybe I don’t say but that the voice of God will say to you. And if that happens, if you hear something that seems to be for you, particularly if it’s something that you should do, I encourage you to write that down. And that would be the most helpful thing, perhaps, of all the things that come out of our time together today.
President Marion G. Romney, when Tammy and I were younger, we heard President Marion G. Romney say a couple of things that have changed our lives. We were very young when President Romney was a member of the First Presidency and made a promise to the Latter-day Saints that if they would be more generous with their fast offerings, much more generous, that the Lord would bless the Saints with financial blessings (See, for example, “The Blessings of the Fast,” Ensign, July 1982 First Presidency Message). And early on in our marriage, Sister Snow and I listened to that and decided that would be a good thing to do. We made a decision together to do that, and we did that, and have done that over the years. And I can tell you that it has made a profound difference in how we have been able to support our family.
The second thing is the thing I really want to talk about, that I remember hearing a long time ago from President Romney. He said that if we would always listen to the Spirit, we would never need to make a mistake (From President Romney’s talk: “Through studying the scriptures, we should know what the Lord has revealed through his prophets concerning the plan of salvation. From regular night and morning prayer and honest compliance with gospel teachings, we should enjoy the peace and spirit of the gospel. By earnestly and specifically seeking it, we should, by the power of the Holy Ghost, obtain and retain a testimony of its divine truth. We should be so converted and dedicated to it that our total lives are influenced thereby. The right and wrong of our decisions and actions should be consistently determined by its light. If they were, we would make no mistakes in our judgments and actions on the vexing questions and problems of our day.” Ensign, March 1983). And that is pretty profound, because around us—in your life, if you look back on your life as I look back on my life, I have made a lot of mistakes. I’ve made mistakes before I ever got into the work force, but I’ve made a lot of mistakes once I got into the work force. I associated occasionally with the wrong people. I got myself into partnerships with the wrong partners. I got myself into business transactions that at some point I wish I would not have, either because it went badly, or because I wasn’t sure at some point that it was entirely in the light and that it was honorable. And so I found myself having to retrench and regroup and turn back and turn around. And all of it is normal, but it’s all testament to the fact that, as we interact with the world—and we all interact with the world every day, in every way—there’s a tendency to make mistakes. There’s a tendency to simply make the wrong choice, as it turns out.
And so I just wanted to talk really briefly about how do you live and act and do so that the choices you make are always the best choices? And that’s pretty profound. If I were on the lecture tour, I could sell out auditoriums with that kind of a promise. If I could give a guarantee, if I could help you, teach you how you would never need to make a mistake, I could pack them in. But the fact is that you really can. So we’ll just talk about it briefly today.
Sunday, I was sitting in church, listening to a speaker and it happened to be a returning mission president and his wife, who had just returned from Samara, Russia—President and Sister Bennett. Some of you may have been in that mission. And Sister Bennett said something very profound, and it was one of the things I wrote down. I found out that Tammy wrote it down too. She came up after. She said, “Did you hear what she said? She just gave your talk on Tuesday.”
I said, “I did hear it. I wrote it down.” This is what she said, a quote from Sister Bennett: “Every day we make choices that either turn our hearts toward the Savior, or turn our hearts away from Him.” And therein lies a great key on how to make choices that are always, always, always right.
Let me quote you from a scripture that describes the beginning—the real beginning. This is in the third chapter of Abraham, and this is a story. It is a story that is true, and it involved us. “And God saw these souls”—this is in the preexistence. This is what Abraham was seeing. He saw this assemblage; he saw these people in the preexistence. “And God saw these souls that they were good, and he stood in the midst of them, and he said: These I will make my rulers; for he stood among those that were spirits … And there stood one among them that was like unto God, and he said unto those who were with him: We will go down, for there is space there, and we will take of these materials, and we will make an earth whereon these may dwell.” (Abraham 3:23-24)
And this is the why. That’s the what; this is the why: “And we will prove them now herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them. “And they who keep this estate shall have glory added upon their heads forever and ever.” (verses 25-26)
That is a good description that helps us understand that you were born into this life without any direct personal knowledge of your surrounding mortal universe, meaning that you don’t know directly, personally, about how all of this was framed, because you don’t remember. You don’t remember your premortal actions and you don’t remember your relationship with God. You don’t remember the eternal consequences of choices that you would have when you come here. It’s all by design.
Through the gift and the privilege of agency, you now have the ability and privilege to choose and to act for yourselves. And so, quite naturally, you come to believe that you have the power to do whatever you want. So, throughout your life, your choices end up revealing your true nature, and you will become what your choices reveal you to be. That’s how agency works. That’s what life is for. That’s why you can’t remember. It’s to take things out of drive and put it in neutral and give you a chance to be you. And so in this life, you are you. And because you don’t feel pressed by the moral universe around you through this remembrance, you really do believe you can act.
Most people believe they can act without consequences, because they don’t know of the consequences. So, throughout your life, you will find that your choices will reveal you. They will reveal the real you. They will reveal your nature. And indeed, they will determine what you will become, because the object of this life is to change our natures.
In Mosiah, the third chapter, King Benjamin says that the natural man—the person who just comes here, and here we are—he even describes us as an enemy to God, and he always will be, until he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit and puts off the natural man, and becomes a Latter-day Saint, if you will. (See Mosiah 3:19) And so choosing is becoming. Whatever you choose is what you will become. And it’s in the day-to-day. It’s in the choices you make in the morning, and in the midday, and in the evening.
It’s in the choices you make—it’s all the choices. It’s the choices you make about where you will go to school, or what friends you associate with, or whether you will marry or who you will marry, or will you get into pornography. That’s why addictions are so devastating, because addictions put forces onto us that shape our choices, and we lose some of the control we have to become. And those addictions, if they are negative—and most addictions are negative—they end up being destructive because they end up shaping our choices, and we become something other than what we would have become had we not faced those addictions. That’s one of the reasons pornography is so terrible, is because it holds us captive and shapes our choices, even though somewhere within us there is a cry and a call to do something else. That’s true for drugs, alcohol, illegal drugs—all kinds of addictions.
In the preexistence, Satan just wanted to do one thing with his plan, and that was to eliminate choices. He knew that by doing that one thing—by eliminating choices, by shaping them so that the choices would be made based on his definition—or by eliminating choices, he knew he could control the outcome. Just like you can control the outcome, by determining your choices.
The hymn we sang at the beginning, “Choose the Right,” may sound pretty simple, but that’s really it. It’s Darth Vader. It’s the Dark Force. It’s Obi Wan. You’re either a Jedi Knight or you’re Darth Vader. It’s these choices. You can start out in one place and you can go to the dark side, through your choices. It’s great visual drama, but it plays out every day. You know people you went to high school with, you went to school with, that through a series of choices just veer off, and they become someone different. Or, you see people who are out here and start making good choices, and they get right in line and things work. Life changes. They change.
So what do you choose? How do you learn to choose so that you never make a mistake? I think it’s this. And I don’t know—different things work for different people, but this is what works for me. So I’ll share with you what works for me. I was reading a while back in the Pearl of Great Price. I was reading in the book of Moses. If you really want to read something interesting, read the seventh chapter of Moses in the Pearl of Great Price. Whoa. Deep, interesting, insightful.
Anyway, I read a couple of verses that just set my head spinning, and I got it. It was one of those things where stars all lined up and I heard a voice, and I thought, “Oh, my gosh, where has that scripture been all of my life?” So let me tell you what it says. Let me set it up first. This is the story of Enoch. He is talking to the Lord. The Lord, in this case, would be Jesus Christ. And they’re having a conversation—Enoch is having a conversation with the Lord, and as the Lord describes His work, what He has done, and shows Enoch all the people of the world, the Lord begins to weep. He begins to cry. And Enoch is stunned. He cannot imagine that God could weep.
And so he says, “How is it that thou canst weep?” I’m stunned, to paraphrase. I can’t even imagine why you would weep. How can God weep? And the Lord says, in answer to this question—how can you weep, as you see your children? This is in the 32 nd verse, the 33 rd verse of the seventh chapter of Moses: “The Lord said unto Enoch: Behold these thy brethren.” Remember, He had just showed him all of the people of the world. “Behold these thy brethren; they are the workmanship of mine own hands, and I gave unto them their knowledge, in the day that I created them; and in the garden of Eden, gave I unto man his agency; “And unto thy brethren have I said, and also given commandment, that they should love one another, and they should choose me, their Father.”
As I read that, it seemed that the whole plan of salvation was found in those two verses. The whole scope of human history, the whole reason for this earth,, the whole motive of—I thought of all the times I have been to Sunday School class, and Primary, and Mutual, and all the things that I had studied and read, and it just seemed like it could fill a building, and yet here it was, all boiled down to a few simple things. God saying, “All of the people of the world are my children. I created them. And in the day I created them, I gave them knowledge. And in the Garden of Eden through their parents, Adam and Eve, I gave them agency.” So here you have people who have knowledge and they have agency. And agency is the power to act. “And I told them all, there are just two things you need to do on earth. Just two, no matter how complicated it looks, no matter how much is going on, no matter where you live, no matter where you’re born, no matter what religion you are. No matter what else is happening, there are only two things you have to do. Love one another, and choose Me.” That’s it. You can make it more complicated than that, but I think He was saying to Enoch, “That’s all we did. That’s all there is. Just love one another as I love all of you. And choose me.”
I have learned that the only way to become like the Savior is to consistently choose Him. The Bible Dictionary gives some insight into that, too. It talks about prayer, for example, in the Bible Dictionary, and says, “Prayer is the act by which the will of the Father and the will of the child are brought into correspondence with each other.” (pages 752-753) We pray, we serve, we work, we act—whatever we do, we do so that we figure out what His will is and then we line up with that. We choose Him. When we pray, we don’t try to change His mind. That’s not choosing Him; that’s choosing us. “I know what I want. I know what I need. I know what would be best. Heavenly Father, help me have this. Now.” That’s not what prayer is. Prayer is figuring out what He wants, and when, and bringing our will into correspondence with His. We don’t ask Him to move into our territory; we move into His territory. That’s one of the ways we choose Him.
I’ve had some experiences over my life that have taught me that lesson. I know you have experiences over your life that, if you think back, will also teach you that lesson. How will you choose Him? Well, the Savior himself gives us a pretty good explanation of how that works. He says, in John: “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” That’s profound. My sheep—those who choose Me—hear my voice. And I know them, and they follow me. So a good question for today is, have you heard His voice? What does it sound like? That’s how you choose the right thing. That’s how you never make a mistake, is you learn what His voice sounds like, and you learn to listen for His voice.
The second thing I heard Sunday was Sister Snow telling me what she had heard from one of the Primary children who was getting ready to do the Primary program, this coming Sunday. Let’s see if I can remember what it was she said, what this child said. I don’t remember. Come tell me the words; I won’t get it right. I’ll paraphrase, because this is what this little girl said she learned in Primary. “Because of God’s promises after you are baptized, the Holy Ghost is always with you, unless you send Him away.” That’s a paraphrased quote. “Because of God’s promises after you are baptized, the Holy Ghost is always with you, unless you send Him away.”
How do you always make the right choice? You never send Him away. You see, success in this life has to be engineered so that it can be done by an eight-year-old. The gospel plan wasn’t engineered for college graduates; it was engineered for eight-year-olds. If you are eight years old, you can do what you need to do to successfully accomplish what you need to accomplish in this life. You can choose, you can make the right choice, always. An eight-year-old can do it. And this little child, who is in my wife’s Primary class, got it. “Because of God’s promise, now that I am baptized, the Holy Ghost will always be with me,” she says, “unless I send Him away.”
So don’t send Him away. When you go to church Sunday, listen to what the priest says at the sacrament table. He says, “O God, the Eternal Father, we ask thee in the name of thy Son, Jesus Christ, to bless and sanctify [these emblems] to the souls of all who partake of [them]” (D&C 20:76). And then he starts reciting things on behalf of the congregation and on behalf of God, in effect. And he says, these people who are going to take upon them, who are going to renew their covenants of baptism, they’re all—all—willing to take upon them the name of thy Son, and keep His commandments, which He has given them, so that—and here comes the promise from God—that they may always—always, that’s the operative word—always have His spirit to be with them.
So you always have His spirit to be with you. Have you heard His voice? What does it sound like? If you have felt to sing the song of redeeming love, as Alma says, can you do so now? Can you hear it today? Will you hear it tomorrow? Will how you live your life, will the choices that you make, allow you to hear His voice tomorrow? Did you hear it yesterday? Will you hear it today? If you can’t, you’re going to make mistakes. If you can, there is no need to ever make a mistake. It doesn’t mean you’re perfect; it means you won’t make a mistake. It means you will always choose right. You can’t make yourself perfect, even if you choose right all the time. It’s not possible, because you’ve already sinned. You’ve already come into the world. But you can live without mistakes, if you are willing to choose Him and hear His voice and come to understand what He says, and then do it and choose it.
What are you going to do if you don’t choose the right? What if you make a bad choice? Oh, there’s a provision for that too. It’s the “R” word. It’s my favorite word. I love the “R” word. I’ve used it to death. I’ve almost used it up. I hang on it; I rely on it. It’s the only thing that keeps me moving, is the “R” word—repentance. So what do you do if you make a bad choice? It’s easy. You just do what any eight-year-old does. You repent. And there you have it.
I need to close. When was the last time you repented? If it was more than 24 hours ago, maybe you don’t get it. How can you go through life—I don’t know how you do it—can you go through life without repenting? I cannot go a day without needing to repent, and make a better choice than the last choice I’ve made on something. I invite you to do that. Don’t think of repentance as something ugly. If I could give just one talk in general conference, it would probably be on repentance, and how good it is. It’s the ultimate feel-good. It’s just the best!
Repentance is the best! Don’t ever be afraid of that. It’s the only way to choose Him, when you didn’t choose Him. Here’s my promise to you. As you choose Him, I promise you that our Father in Heaven will give you His power. He says in the Doctrine and Covenants that He will give you everything He has. That’s the best job placement program to be offered by any college in the world—is to have a promise that God will give you everything He has. The ultimate heir. It’s actually easier to do that than to—it’s easier to inherit things than to work for them, did you know that? So the best inheritance you can get is to inherit everything God has. That would be good! And then you still have to work, because then what you’d end up doing is His work. That’s how it works.
I invite you to choose Him. Decide right now that you will choose Him. You will choose Him every day in every way. Remember that probably the most important choice you can make in this life is whether or not to connect, reconnect, or stay connected with the Holy Ghost. That’s probably the biggest choice there is ever, ever, ever in your whole life. Are you going to connect? That’s what happens when you are baptized by fire. Or stay connected? That’s what you’re supposed to be doing now. Or if you’ve made poor choices, then reconnect. So either connect, stay connected, or reconnect with the Holy Ghost. It’s the most important thing you can do to never make a mistake; to always make the right choice.
In the end, I’ve learned if you don’t choose Him, it really won’t matter what else you have chosen. And I promise you that Jesus is the Christ. This is His gospel. He is in charge. He loves us. He loves you. He has marked the path. He has shown the way. He’s offered His Spirit to be with us always. I promise you that as you choose Him, you will never need to make a mistake, and He will give you His power. And you will, through His matchless grace, become like Him. I pray for that in your behalf, and mine as well, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.