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Our Essential Spiritual Agency | Robert D. Hales


>>PRESIDENT SAMUELSON:
GOOD MORNING, BROTHERS AND SISTERS, AND WELCOME TO OUR
DEVOTIONAL. ELDER HALES RECEIVED HIS CALL AS
A GENERAL AUTHORITY IN 1975 AND SERVED AS AN ASSISTANT TO THE
QUORUM OF THE TWELVE APOSTLES THEN LATER AS A MEMBER OF THE
FIRST QUORUM OF THE SEVENTY. HE WAS PRESIDING BISHOP OF THE
CHURCH FROM APRIL 1985 UNTIL CALLED TO THE QUORUM OF THE
TWELVE APOSTLES ON APRIL 2, 1994. PRIOR TO HIS CALL TO FULL-TIME
CHURCH SERVICE, ELDER HALES HAD A DISTINGUISHED BUSINESS CAREER,
SERVING IN EXECUTIVE POSITIONS WITH THREE MAJOR NATIONAL
AND INTERNATIONAL COMPANIES. ELDER HALES WAS BORN IN NEW YORK
CITY. HE IS A GRADUATE OF THE
UNIVERSITY OF UTAH AND HOLDS A MASTER OF BUSINESS
ADMINISTRATION DEGREE FROM HARVARD. HE ALSO SERVED IN THE U.S. AIR
FORCE AS A JET FIGHTER PILOT. HE IS MARRIED TO MARY CRANDALL,
AND THEY ARE THE PARENTS OF TWO SONS. AND NOW IT WILL BE OUR
OPPORTUNITY TO HEAR FROM OUR GOOD FRIEND ELDER HALES. FRIEND.>>ELDER ROBERT D. HALES:
MY BELOVED YOUNG FRIENDS AND ASSOCIATES, IT IS A JOY TO BE
WITH YOU, AND I WANT YOU TO KNOW WHAT A BLESSING IT IS TO BE ON
THIS BEAUTIFUL CAMPUS. THERE REALLY IS NOTHING LIKE IT
IN THE WHOLE WORLD. I WANT TO THANK PRESIDENT
SAMUELSON AND ALL WHO MAKE BYU POSSIBLE. YOU ARE A LIGHT TO THE WORLD,
AND YOU WILL BECOME A BRIGHTER LIGHT AS WE GO THROUGH THIS
DISPENSATION. MOST OF ALL, I AM GRATEFUL FOR
EACH OF YOU, THE STUDENTS OF THIS GREAT UNIVERSITY. THANK YOU FOR PREPARING
YOURSELVES TO SERVE HEAVENLY FATHER’S CHILDREN. THANK YOU FOR STANDING AS A
WITNESS OF THE SAVIOR “AT ALL TIMES AND IN ALL THINGS, AND IN
ALL PLACES.” WE LOVE YOU. I BELIEVE YOU WILL LOOK BACK ON
YOUR DECISION TO BE AT BYU AS ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT
CHOICES OF YOUR LIFE – A CHOICE THAT WILL BLESS YOU AND YOUR
FAMILIES ETERNALLY. THE CHOICE TO COME TO BYU IS A
CHOICE THAT IF YOU’RE OBEDIENT, WILL MAKE YOU INDEPENDENT OF THE
THINGS OF THE WORLD. THAT IS NOT EASY. IF YOU REALLY WANT TO KNOW HOW
DIFFICULT IT IS, TALK TO YOUR PRESIDENT AND ATHLETIC DIRECTOR,
AND HE’LL TELL YOU HOW HARD IT IS TO BECOME INDEPENDENT. I BEGIN WITH A FEW QUESTIONS
THAT ARE SO SIMPLE I HOPE YOU WILL NOT DISMISS THEM TOO
QUICKLY: DO YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE? DO YOU KNOW WHAT YOU HAVE BEEN
GIVEN AND WHAT A GLORIOUS FUTURE YOU HAVE? WE ARE TOLD WE ARE CHILDREN OF
GOD. WE SING ABOUT IT IN PRIMARY. WE SAY IT TO OTHERS HOPING THEY
WILL UNDERSTAND AND BELIEVE IT. BUT DO WE REALLY KNOW WHAT THAT
MEANS? HOW RECENTLY HAVE WE THANKED
HEAVENLY FATHER THAT WE WERE BORN IN THE COVENANT? THAT WE’RE MEMBERS OF THE
CHURCH? THAT WE’RE AT THIS UNIVERSITY? OR IF WE WEREN’T BORN IN THE
COVENANT, THE OPPORTUNITIES THAT WE CAN MAKE CHOICES TO BE SEALED
IN THE TEMPLE SO THAT WE CAN RECEIVE THE BLESSINGS OF THE
COVENANT AND PASS IT ON TO OUR POSTERI
POSTERITY? FOR THOSE BORN IN THE COVENANT
OR NOT, WE HAVE THE SAME OPPORTUNITIES IF WE MAKE THE
RIGHT CHOICES. THIS MORNING I WOULD LIKE TO
VISIT WITH YOU ABOUT OUR CHOICES AND BLESSINGS. BEFORE COMING TO THIS EARTH WE
LIVED WITH HEAVENLY FATHER. HE GAVE US THE INCOMPARABLE GIFT
OF AGENCY. WE HAD AN OPPORTUNITY TO USE
THAT GIFT IN A GRAND COUNCIL WITH ALL HIS CHILDREN. ON THAT MOMENTOUS OCCASION
HEAVENLY FATHER PRESENTED A PLAN TO BECOME LIKE HIM AND INHERIT
ALL HE HAS. BUT LUCIFER, OUR BROTHER,
WAS REBELLIOUS AND APPOSED THOP MAN WITH ONE OF HIS OWN PLANS, A
PLAN THAT WOULD HIM THE HONOR. HE SAID TO THE FATHER, GIVE ME
THINE HONOR. BUT IT WOULD DESTROY THE AGENCY
OF MAN. TRAGICALLY, A THIRD OF OUR
SPIRITUAL SIBLINGS USED THEIR AGENCY TO FOLLOW HIM. LIKE CAIN, THEY “LOVED SATAN
MORE THAN GOD.” BUT WE CHOSE TO FOLLOW OUR
SAVIOR, JESUS CHRIST. HE CHOSE, AS DID WE, TO ACCEPT
OUR HEAVENLY FATHER’S ETERNAL PLAN. HE OFFERED TO MAKE THAT PLAN
POSSIBLE BY BEING OUR SAVIOR, SAYING “FATHER, THY WILL BE
DONE, AND THE GLORY BE THINE FOREVER.” THE SIMPLE WORDS, FATHER, SEND
ME. BY THAT SINGULAR CHOICE, JESUS
CHRIST MADE IT POSSIBLE FOR ALL OF US TO COME TO EARTH, EXERCISE
OUR AGENCY, CHOOSE FREELY, REPENT OF OUR SINS, AND BECOME
LIKE OUR HEAVENLY FATHER. BROTHERS AND SISTERS, WE ARE
HERE NOW BECAUSE WE CHOSE TO FOLLOW JESUS CHRIST THEN. TODAY, EACH OF US HAS THE
OPPORTUNITY TO CONTINUE MAKING THE SAME CHOICE, TO COME, FOLLOW
HIM, AND TO BE ABLE TO RETURN TO HIS PRESENCE. THE SCRIPT CHURES SAY
“WHEREFORE, WE ARE FREE ACCORDING TO THE FLESH; AND ALL
THINGS ARE GIVEN US WHICH ARE EXPEDIENT UNTO US. AND WE ARE FREE TO CHOOSE
LIBERTY AND ETERNAL LIFE, THROUGH THE GREAT MEDIATOR OF
ALL MEN JESUS CHRIST, OR TO CHOOSE CAPTIVITY AND DEATH,
ACCORDING TO THE CAPTIVITY AND POWER OF THE DEVIL.” IT IS OUR CHOICE TO CHOOSE LIGHT
OR DARKNESS. THIS HAS BEEN THE PLAN FOR US
AND ALL GOD’S CHILDREN FROM THE BEGINNING. FROM THE SCRIPTURES WE KNOW THAT
ADAM WAS TEMPTED BY LUCIFER, JUST AS WE ARE. FOR “IT MUST NEEDS BE THAT THE
DEVIL SHOULD TEMPT THE CHILDREN OF MEN, WE ARE TOLD, OR THEY
COULD NOT BE AGENTS UNTO THEMSELV
THEMSELVES. FOR IF THEY SHOULD NEVER HAVE
BITTER, THEY COULD NOT KNOW THE SWEET. THAT IS WHY THERE IS AND MUST BE
OPPOSITION IN ALL THINGS. IT IS FOR OUR GROWTH AND
DEVELOPMENT HERE IN MORTALITY. BECAUSE OF THAT OPPOSITION, WE
HAVE THE ESSENTIAL SPIRITUAL AGENCY TO CHOOSE SPIRITUAL LIFE
HERE AND ETERNAL LIFE IN THE WORLD TO COME. AS WE USE OUR GOD-GIVEN AGENCY
TO KEEP THE COMMANDMENTS, WE QUALIFY FOR THE LIFE HEAVENLY
FATHER WANTS US TO HAVE. IN MORTALITY, THAT LIFE UNFOLDS
THROUGH A NATURAL PROCESS OF MAKING CHOICES AND EXPERIENCING
TESTS AND TRIALS. AND THE BLESSINGS COME AFTER THE
TESTS AND TRIALS AND HOW WE HANDLE THEM. THE PROPHET JOSEPH SMITH
PROVIDES AN IDEAL EXAMPLE. THINK OF THE PROCESS OF HIS
LIFE: HE EXERCISED HIS AGENCY TO SEEK WHICH CHURCH WAS RIGHT. HE CHOSE TO TALK TO MINISTERS
AND VISIT CONGREGATIONS. HE CHOSE TO STUDY THE BIBLE AND
TO PRAY IN THE SACRED GROVE. THROUGH THESE CHOICES HE WAS
DEVELOPED TO ACCOMPLISH HIS HE WAS LEARNING TO RELY UPON
HEAVENLY FATHER AND TO SEEK GUIDANCE FROM HIS HOLY SPIRIT. SO IT IS FOR ALL OF US. WE WILL ALL BE TESTED, OFTEN TO
OUR LIMIT. YET ALL OF US KNOW AND WE ARE
ASSURED THAT WE WILL NEVER BE TESTED MORE THAN THAT WHICH WE
CAN ENDURE. AND THE GREATEST BLESSINGS WILL
BE BASED ON HOW WELL WE ENDURE. I TESTIFY THAT WHATEVER
CHALLENGES OR HARDSHIPS WE HAVE, THEY ARE PROVIDED FOR A
REASON-SO THAT WE CAN BECOME AND ACCOMPLISH WHAT WE WERE SENT TO
THE EARTH TO BE AND DO. THIS TRUTH IS TAUGHT IN THE
SCRIPTURES: THAT WE RECEIVE NO WITNESS UNTIL AFTER THE TRIAL OF
OUR FAITH. SOMETIMES THAT TRIAL CONSISTS OF
SEEKING UNDERSTANDING OR WAITING FOR AN ANSWER FROM THE LORD. PRESIDENT DAVID O. MCKAY PRAYED
FOR A TESTIMONY IN HIS BOYHOOD, BUT IT DIDN’T COME UNTIL SEVERAL
YEARS LATER, WHILE HE WAS SERVING A MISSION IN SCOTLAND. I HAD MY OWN EXPERIENCE SEEKING
AND WAITING ON THE LORD. AS A BOY I LOVED BASEBALL AND
DREAMED OF BECOMING A PROFESSIONAL BALL PLAYER. I’M SURE I DIDN’T HAVE MAJOR
LEAGUE TALENT, BUT I HAD THE DESIRE AND THE LOVE FOR IT, BUT
BASEBALL HAD SURELY CAPTURED MY HEART AND SOUL. THEN, WHEN I WAS 11 OR 12 MY
FATHER TOOK ME TO THE SACRED GROVE. THROUGH A SIMPLE BUT MEANINGFUL
EXPERIENCE THERE I BEGAN TO SENSE THAT HEAVENLY FATHER HAD
OTHER THINGS FOR ME TO DO. WE BOTH HAD PRAYERS. AS TIME WENT ON, DIVINELY
ARRANGED OPPORTUNITIES HELPED ME RECOGNIZE THAT I WAS NOT MEANT
TO BE A PROFESSIONAL ATHLETE. HIS PLAN FOR ME PUT ME ON A
COURSE THAT LED ME TO MY CALLING TO BE AN APOSTLE, I MIGHT ADD,
LED ME TO MY SWEETHEART. I WOULD NOT BE HERE WITHOUT HER. AND AN OPPORTUNITY TO BE WITH
YOU THIS MORNING. I LOVE MY COMPANION SO MUCH. SHE MEANS SO MUCH TO ME, AND I
ASK THAT YOU SEEK YOUR HEAVENLY FATHER, THAT YOU MIGHT FIND THAT
RIGHT COMPANION THAT WILL HAVE YOU BE ABLE TO ACCOMPLISH IN
THIS LIFE WHAT YOU’RE CAPABLE OF BECOMING. I TESTIFY THAT THE LIFE HEAVENLY
FATHER HAS IN STORE FOR EACH OF US IS MORE GLORIOUS THAN
ANYTHING WE CAN IMAGINE OR ARRANGE FOR OURSELVES, BUT WE
WON’T COME WITHOUT CHALLENGES, AND IT WON’T COME ABOUT ALL AT
ONCE. HIS WAY IS ALWAYS TO PREPARE US
LINE UPON LINE, PRECEPT UPON PRECEPT, HERE A LITTLE AND THERE
A LITTLE. AND THAT ALWAYS HAPPENS ON HIS
TIMETABLE. IN OUR FAST PACED WORLD, WE ARE
SOMETIMES IMPATIENT FOR HIS PLAN TO UNFOLD. POPULAR CULTURE TELLS US TO “GET
A LIFE.” MY ADVICE FOR ALL OF US IS TO
“GET AN ETERNAL LIFE” BY MAKING RIGHT CHOICES TODAY, TOMORROW,
AND FOR THE REST OF OUR TIME ON EARTH. THAT ETERNAL GOAL MEANS THE MOST
TO US. AS MEMBERS OF THE CHURCH, WE ARE
STRIVING TO MAKE THE RIGHT CHOICES FOR THE RIGHT REASONS. EARLY IN OUR MARRIAGE I
SUGGESTED THAT WE PAY ALL OF OUR TITHING FROM OUT OF MY YEAR-END
BONUS, WHICH CAME AFTER THE FIRST OF THE YEAR. I WAS THINKING ABOUT TITHING
LIKE PAYING LIFE INSURANCE OR FIRE INSURANCE. SOMETHING YOU PAY AND STAY OUT
OF TROUBLE. BUT MY SWEET WIFE AND COMPANION
TAUGHT ME, NO, SHE SAID, WE’LL PAY TITHING AS WE GO BECAUSE WE
LOVE THE LORD AND WANT TO BUILD HIS KINGDOM. WHERE THE KINGDOM IS CONCERNED,
THE WILLINGNESS OF OUR HEARTS IS EVERYTHING. WE KEEP THE COMMANDMENTS BECAUSE
WE LOVE HEAVENLY FATHER AND HIS SON JESUS CHRIST. AS WE EXPRESS THAT LOVE, IT IS
VERY SIMPLE. HE SAID IF YOU LOVE ME, KEEP MY
COMMANDMENTS. AS WE DO, WE LAY THE FOUNDATION
OF A GREAT WORK, AND OUT OF THESE SMALL THINGS PROCEEDS THAT
WHICH IS GREAT. HOW DO WE LAY THAT FOUNDATION? I’M GOING TO TELL YOU A STORY
I’VE NEVER TOLD BEFORE. AS A BOY, I HAD THE JOB OF
SHELLACKING A WOODEN FLOOR. AS I NEARED THE END OF THE TASK
MY FATHER FOUND ME IN A TERRIBLE PREDICAMENT. HE LITERALLY STOOD AT THE DOOR
AND LAUGHED. I HAD WORKED FROM THE ONLY DOOR
TO THE FAR END OF THE ROOM. I HAD LITERALLY PAINTED MYSELF
INTO THE CORNER, WITHOUT A WINDOW. THERE WAS NO ESCAPE. AT THAT POINT, I HAD ONLY TWO
CHOICES: SIT DOWN AND ACCEPT BEING STUCK FOR MANY HOURS UNTIL
THE VARNISH DRIED, OR WALK BACK ACROSS THE FLOOR UNDOING ALL I
HAD DONE. KNOWING WHAT IT WOULD TAKE TO
REFINISH IT PROPERLY, SANDING, REFINISHING. I KNEW WHAT IT MEANT, AND SO DID
MY FATHER. BECAUSE OF THE WAY I USED MY
AGENCY IN PAINTING THE FLOOR, MY AGENCY WAS DIMINISHED. IN FACT, MY CHOICES HAD NOT ONLY
DRASTICALLY REDUCED IT, MY AGENCY WAS GONE. WHENEVER WE USE OUR AGENCY, WE
ARE EITHER CHOOSING TO MOVE TOWARD A NEW DOOR WITH MANY
POSSIBILITIES, OR INTO A CLOSED CORNER WITH VERY FEW OPTIONS. IF WE DO WHAT IS RIGHT OUR
OPPORTUNITIES INCREASE. IF WE DON’T, OUR OPPORTUNITIES
DECREASE. YOU, MY FRIENDS, ARE IN THE
CRITICAL PERIOD I CALL THE DECADE OF DECISIONS. YOU MUST MAKE MANY CHOICES
REGARDING EDUCATION, EMPLOYMENT, TEMPLE, MISSIONS, FRIENDS,
DATING, MARRIAGE, SERVING IN THE CHURCH, AND YOUR FAMILY. AS YOU CHOOSE YOUR OPTIONS AND
POSSIBILITIES WILL GROW AND DEVELOP IF YOU MAKE THE RIGHT
CHOICES IN YOUR FUTURE. IS YOUR FUTURE BECOMING BRIGHTER
EACH DAY OR ARE THE LIGHTS DIMMING? AFTER THE PROPHET JOSEPH
TRANSLATED THE FIRST 116 PAGES OF THE BOOK OF MORMON, MARTIN
HARRIS INSISTED THAT HE BE LOANED THE MANUSCRIPT. HE WANTED TO SHOW PEOPLE WHAT HE
WAS DOING, HIS FAMILY AND OTHERS. THE PROPHET RESPONDED BY SEEKING
THE COUNSEL OF THE LORD, WHO TOLD HIM NOT TO SHARE THE
MANUSCRIPT VERY CLEARLY. BUT BROTHER HARRIS WAS
UNDETERRED, AND THE PROPHET CONTINUED TO ASK THE LORD. FINALLY THE LORD SAID, IN
EFFECT, ALL RIGHT, JOSEPH, HAVE IT YOUR WAY. THE LORD DOES NOT CONTROL OR
INTERFERE OR EXERCISE OUR AGENCY. THE SONG IN THE SONG BOOK SAYS
HE WILL FORCE NO MAN TO HEAVEN. SO THE PROPHET LOANED THE
MANUSCRIPT TO BROTHER HARRIS. HE LISTENED TO THE PEOPLE’S
VOICE, AS SAUL LEARNED. AND THEN THE MANUSCRIPT
DISAPPEARED. AS A RESULT, JOSEPH LOST HIS
ABILITY TO TRANSLATE. AND HE HAD TO COME BACK AND
REPENT OF THE LORD. IN THIS WAY, THE PROPHET PAINTED
HIMSELF INTO A CORNER AND HIS OPTIONS WERE REDUCED . BLESSINGS WERE TAKEN AWAY FROM
HIM. IT WAS AN AGONIZING EXPERIENCE
UNTIL HE WAS ABLE TO REPENT AND TO TURN AROUND AND RECEIVE THE
POWER TO TRANSLATE ONCE AGAIN SO THAT HE COULD FULFILL THE
MISSION FATHER HAD FOR HIM HERE ON EARTH. THE PROPHET’S EXPERIENCE IS JUST
ONE WAY WE PAINT OURSELVES INTO A CORNER. WHENEVER WE HEED THE OPINIONS OF
MEN WE PUT OURSELVES IN A CORNER. WHENEVER WE BECOME ADDICTED TO
ANYTHING-DRUGS, MONEY, SHOPPING, ADULATION-WE PUT OURSELVES IN A
CORNER. WHEN WE DO NOT HEED SPIRITUAL
PROMPTINGS AND MARRY THE WRONG PERSON, WE PUT OURSELVES IN A
CORNER. WHEN WE DON’T DO OUR HOMEWORK,
AND DON’T GET THE PROPER GRADES AND DON’T PREPARE FOR A TEST OR
MISS WORK OR TAKE OFFENSE OR GET ANGRY OR TELL A LIE, WE PUT
OURSELVES IN A CORNER. THERE WE ARE STUCK, OUR OPTIONS
ARE LIMITED, OUR OPPORTUNITIES AND POWER TO CHOOSE ARE REDUCED. PAINTING OURSELVES IN A CORNER
ALSO HAPPENS WHEN WE DO NOT PAY HEED TO OUR GOD-GIVEN GIFTS AND
TALENTS, TO SEEK COUNSEL FROM OTHERS AND TO OBTAIN DIRECTION
FROM THE LORD. WHEN I WAS IN COLLEGE, I WAS
BLESSED TO AUDIT A CLASS IN THE LAW SCHOOL. AS PART OF THAT CLASS I WAS
INVITED TO GO TO A NATIONAL DEBATE CONFERENCE AND BE A
PARTNER OF A VERY FINE PARTNER IN A DEBATE TEAM. WHILE MANY THOUGHT I COULD BE
SUCCESSFUL AS AN ATTORNEY AND ADVISED ME TO STUDY THE LAW, I
FOUND I DIDN’T ENJOY ARGUING 77 A POSITION I COULD NOT AGREE
WITH MYSELF. THE LAW IS AN IMPORTANT AND
VALUABLE PROFESSION, AND MANY HAVE BEEN PREPARED TO SERVE THE
LORD THROUGH ITS PRACTICE. MY SECRETARY SAID I HAD TO SAY
THAT. THANK YOU, MARY. BUT IT WASN’T A WORK I ENJOYED
OR THAT MADE THE BEST USE OF MY GIFTS. AND IT WASN’T A WORK I HAD BEEN
PREPARED TO DO. ALL OF US SHOULD CAREFULLY
CONSIDER WHAT HEAVENLY FATHER WANTS US TO DO, AND HOW HE MAY
BE PREPARING US. WE SHOULD AVOID TRYING TO OBTAIN
THE PRAISE OF THE WORLD AND THE HONORS OF MEN. WHEN I WAS A LITTLE BOY, MY
MOTHER USED TO CALL ME BY SAYING, “DING-DING, DING-DING,
CALLING DR. HALES TO SURGERY. BEING A DOCTOR IS A NOBLE
PROFESSION, BUT IT WASN’T RIGHT FOR ME. I CAN’T STAND THE SIGHT OF
BLOOD. SIMILARLY, HARVARD LAW SCHOOL IS
A HIGHLY VALUABLE EDUCATIONAL OPPORTUNITY, BUT IT WASN’T WHAT
I WAS MEANT TO DO. I WALKED ACROSS THE BRIDGE AND
WENT TO ANOTHER SCHOOL THAT I FELT WAS BETTER FOR ME. I CAUTION ALL OF US TO AVOID
LOOKING TO THE GREAT AND SPACIOUS BUILDING FOR ANSWERS TO
QUESTIONS ABOUT OUR FUTURE PURSUITS, OUR COMPANIONS, OUR
LIFESTYLES. INSTEAD, LET US KNEEL AND TALK
WITH OUR HEAVENLY FATHER, LEARN ABOUT OUR GIFTS AND TALENTS,
FIND WAYS TO DEVELOP THEM, AND MAKE CHOICES BASED ON WHO WE ARE
WHAT WE’VE BEEN GIVEN, AND COME TO AN UNDERSTANDING OF WHAT
WE’RE TO ACCOMPLISH HERE IN MORTALITY, AND THEN MAKE THE
CHOICES TO BRING IT ABOUT. OFTEN THE ANSWERS COME WHEN WE
SEEK THE COUNSEL OF WISE AND TRUSTED ADVISERS-PARENTS,
PRIESTHOOD LEADERS, TEACHERS, MATURE AND DEAR FRIENDS. AFTER I COMPLETED MY MASTERS
DEGREE I WENT TO A GREAT LEADER AT THE UNIVERSITY I WAS AT, AND
I ASKED HIM FOR COUNSEL. HE AGREED TO GIVE ME COUNSEL ON
TWO CONDITIONS. FIRST, THAT I COME WITH A PLAN
OF MY OWN, AND SECOND, I HAD TO FOLLOW HIS INSTRUCTIONS AND HIS
COUNSEL. OTHERWISE, HE TOLD ME, THE
MEETING WOULD BE A WASTE OF BOTH MY TIME AND YOURS. PERHAPS WE SHOULD NOT AGREE IN
ADVANCE TO TAKE THE COUNSEL OF ANYONE, UNLESS THEY HAVE A
SPIRITUAL STEWARDSHIP FOR US. BUT AREN’T THESE THE CONDITIONS
FOR SEEKING COUNSEL FROM THE LORD IN PRAYER? IN THE DOCTRINE AND COVENANTS WE
ARE TAUGHT THAT WHEN WE HAVE A CONCERN OR QUESTION, WE SHOULD
STUDY THE MATTER OUT IN OUR OWN MIND AND BRING OUR PLAN TO THE
LORD. THEN WE PRESENT THAT PLAN, WE
MAY EITHER RECEIVE A BURNING IN OUR HEARTS OR A STUPOR OF
THOUGHT, BUT THESE ANSWERS WILL NOT COME UNLESS WE ASK IN FAITH
AND, IN OTHER WORDS, WE HAVE AGREED IN ADVANCE TO ACCEPT THE
GUIDANCE OF OUR HEAVENLY FATHER DELIVERED THROUGH HIS SPIRIT AND
THROUGH OUR OBEDIENCE, THAT WE WILL FOLLOW WHAT WE’RE TOLD TO
DO. THE PRINCIPLE OF SEEKING THIS
DIVINE GUIDANCE IS TRUE FOR ALL DECISIONS. THE MOST NAÏVE AND DESTRUCTIVE
APPROACH TO LIFE IS TO SAY, “I WILL DO IT MY WAY. I CAN DO IT MYSELF.” WHOA. TO SUCCEED IN MORTALITY AND TO
OBTAIN ETERNAL BLESSINGS, WE SHOULD NEVER ACT ALONE. THAT IS WHY WE SEEK THE ADVICE
OF THOSE WHO LOVE US, INCLUDING OUR TEACHERS, PARENTS, AND
PRIESTHOOD LEADERS, OUR ETERNAL COMPANIONS. THAT IS WHY WE SEEK THE
LORD-PRAYING TO KNOW HIS WILL REGARDING THE PRAYERFUL,
DILIGENT EFFORTS WE HAVE MADE. I AM SADDENED WHEN I THINK OF
THE GREAT POTENTIAL OF THOSE WHO COULD ACCOMPLISH MAGNIFICENT
THINGS IN THIS LIFE, BUT WHO HAVE LOST THE OPPORTUNITY TO DO
SO BY MAKING WRONG, FOOLISH, OR MISGUIDED CHOICES. I CAN HARDLY BEAR TO THINK OF
THOSE WHO SQUANDER THEIR BIRTHRIGHT BECAUSE THEY MISUSED
THEIR AGENCY. THE SERVANTS OF THE LORD HAVE
REMINDED ALL OF US: PRAY DAILY. STUDY THE SCRIPTURES. GET AN EDUCATION. SAVE YOUR MONEY AND RESIST
CONSUMER DEBT. PROVIDENT LIVING. AVOID PORNOGRAPHY. EXERCISE CARE IN THE MEDIA YOU
CONSUME. KEEP THE WORD OF WISDOM. DRESS MODESTLY AND
APPROPRIATELY. BE MORALLY CLEAN. OBEY THE COMMANDMENTS AND KEEP
YOUR COVENANTS. DO THEY SOUND FAMILIAR? THEY ARE THE MOST IMPORTANT
CHOICES WE MAKE TO ALLOW US TO BE ABLE TO GET THE ANSWERS TO
OUR PRAYERS AND TO BE GUIDED BY THE SPIRIT. EXERCISING OUR ESSENTIAL
SPIRITUAL AGENCY ISN’T EASY. THROUGHOUT HIS LIFE THE SAVIOR
SOUGHT TO KNOW AND DO THE WILL OF HIS FATHER. IN HIS TWELFTH YEAR HE BEGAN TO
BE ABOUT HIS FATHER’S BUSINESS. THROUGHOUT HIS MINISTRY HE LIVED
THE TRUTHS EXPRESSED IN HIS GREAT INTERCESSORY PRAYER: HE
WAS ONE WITH THE FATHER, HE DID THE WILL OF THE FATHER, AND HE
WAS TOTALLY OBEDIENT, HE WAS HUMBLE, HE TAUGHT OTHERS WHAT
THE FATHER HAD TAUGHT HIM. HE WAS ALWAYS HUMBLE. HE NEVER TOOK CREDIT. HE ALWAYS GLORIFIED HIS FATHER. BUT IT WASN’T EASY. HE WAS MISUNDERSTOOD,
CHALLENGED, RIDICULED, SCORNED, BEATEN, AND ULTIMATELY
CRUCIFIED. HE WAS THE LIGHT SHINING IN
DARKNESS AND THE DARKNESS COMPREHENDED HIM NOT. FOR HIM, THERE WERE ALWAYS
POINTING FINGERS AND MOCKING VOICES. THAT IS TRUE FOR ALL WHO TAKE
UPON HIS NAME. WE HAVE TO UNDERSTAND WHAT COMES
FROM THE GREAT AND SPACIOUS BUILDING AND THE WORLD. IT IS POINTING FINGERS AND
MOCKING VOICES. AND AS LEHI LEARNED, THE SAME
CAN BE SAID FOR ALL WHO WOULD SINCERELY, WHOLEHEARTEDLY FOLLOW
HIM. THINK OF ALL THE THINGS JOB WENT
THROUGH, YET HE USED HIS AGENCY TO REMAIN FAITHFUL. THINK OF ALL THAT JOSEPH SMITH
HAD TO GO THROUGH. THINK OF ABRAHAM, ABIGAIL,
ESTHER, MARY AND JOSEPH, PETER, ALMA, ABINADI, MORMON, MORONI,
EMMA, AND SO MANY, MANY OTHERS. THINK OF OUR OWN ANCESTORS AND
OUR PIONEER FOREBEARERS. THE VERY HERITAGE MANY OF US
HAVE. THINK OF OURSELVES. “AND BLESSED ARE ALL THEY WHO
ARE PERSECUTED FOR MY NAME’S SAKE, FOR GREAT SHALL BE YOUR
REWARD IN HEAVEN; FOR SO PERSECUTED THEY THE PROPHETS WHO
WERE BEFORE YOU.” A WORD OF WARNING: WHEN THINGS
GET HARD, THE NATURAL MAN LOOKS FOR AN EASIER WAY. THE CHALLENGES OF THE LATTER
DAYS CREATE THE PERFECT ENVIRONMENT FOR THE DOCTRINES OF
THE ANTI-CHRIST TO TAKE ROOT. THE ANTICHRIST’S MESSAGE IS
ALWAYS THE SAME. DON’T DO WHAT IS HARD, DON’T
FOLLOW THE SAVIOR, DON’T USE YOUR AGENCY TO SUBMIT TO THE
WILL OF YOUR HEAVENLY FATHER. THESE PERVERTED IDEAS WERE
PERFECTLY PREACHED BY KORIHOR, WHO TOLD THE PEOPLE: “EAT,
DRINK, AND BE MERRY; NEVERTHELESS, FEAR GOD-HE WILL
JUSTIFY US IN COMMITTING A LITTLE SIN; YEA, LIE A LITTLE,
TAKE ADVANTAGE OF ONE BECAUSE OF HIS WORDS, DIG A PIT FOR THY
NEIGHBOR; THERE IS NO HARM IN THIS; AND DO ALL THESE THINGS,
FOR TOMORROW WE DIE; AND IF IT SO BE THAT WE ARE GUILTY, GOD
WILL BEAT US WITH A FEW STRIPES, AND AT LAST WE SHALL BE SAVED IN
THE KINGDOM OF GOD.” DON’T YOU EVER BELIEVE THAT. THAT IS NOT THE WAY IT IS. IT IS THROUGH OBEDIENCE AND
LOVE, THAT SWEET COMMENT AGAIN FROM THE SAVIOR, IF YOU LOVE ME,
KEEP MY COMMANDMENTS. IN OTHER WORDS, BE OBEDIENT. THIS MESSAGE OF WHAT THE
ANTICHRIST GIVES IS THE MESSAGE OF THE SECULAR MOVEMENT IN OUR
WORLD TODAY. IT ROBS US OF OUR ACCOUNTABILITY
AND RESPONSIBILITY, WHICH DIMINISHES OUR JUDGMENT AND
ESSENTIAL SPIRITUAL AGENCY. DO NOT BELIEVE THIS DESTRUCTIVE
DOCTRINE OF MEN. AND OF LUCIFER. THE CLOSER WE ARE TO THE SECOND
COMING, THE FARTHER WE WILL BE FROM BEING WHERE THE WORLD IS
GOING. AS THE NEW TESTAMENT TEACHES,
“ABSTAIN FROM ALL APPEARANCE OF EVIL.” BELOVED YOUNG PEOPLE, THE WORLD
IS GETTING DARKER, IT IS TRUE. BUT WE ARE CALLED TO WALK IN THE
LIGHT. WE DO NOT HAVE TO FIND A PATH
FOR OURSELVES. AS WE DID IN OUR PRE-MORTAL
LIFE, WE CHOOSE TO FOLLOW JESUS CHRIST. HE IS THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD. HE UNDERSTANDS THE CHALLENGE OF
WALKING HIS PATH. REMEMBER, HE “WAS IN ALL POINTS
TEMPTED LIKE AS WE ARE.” EVEN IN THE GARDEN OF
GETHSEMANE, HE HAD A CHOICE. “ALL THINGS ARE POSSIBLE UNTO
THEE;” HE PLED WITH HIS FATHER. “TAKE AWAY THIS CUP FROM ME:
NEVERTHELESS, NOT WHAT I WILL, BUT WHAT THOU WILT.” WHEN WE END OUR PRAYERS, THY
WILL BE DONE, WE ARE DOING WHAT THE SAVIOR DID IN THE GARDEN OF
GETHSEMANE. FOR WE’RE SAYING WHATEVER THE
TEST, WHATEVER I’M TO LEARN, I WILL ALWAYS LOVE THEE. THE SCENES LEADING TO HIS
CRUCIFIXION WERE FILLED WITH CHOICES TO SUFFER THE CRUEL AND
IGNORANT BEHAVIOR OF HIS BROTHERS AND SISTERS. AT TIMES HE USED HIS AGENCY TO
BE SILENT. ON THE CROSS HE CHOSE MERCY,
PRAYING, “FATHER, FORGIVE THEM; FOR THEY KNOW NOT WHAT THEY DO.” IN THOSE AWFUL HOURS HE CHOSE TO
ENDURE NOT JUST THE AGONY OF PHYSICAL DEATH, BUT THE TERRIBLE
SEPARATION FROM HIS FATHER WITH WHOM HE HAD ALWAYS BEEN. THIS WAS OUR HEAVENLY FATHER’S
PLAN-TO ALLOW HIS SON TO FULLY EXERCISE HIS AGENCY TO COMPLETE
HIS WORK ON HIS OWN. HE CALLED TO HIS FATHER,
“MY GOD, MY GOD, WHY HAST THOU FORSAKEN ME?” THERE MAY BE MOMENTS IN YOUR
LIFE LIKE I HAVE HAD IN MINE WHERE YOU ARE IN PAIN. HE WHO COULD HAVE CALLED ON
LEGIONS OF ANGELS TO CARRY HIM HOME, HUNG ALONE ON THE CROSS
UNTIL THAT FINAL MOMENT WHEN HE CHOSE TO GIVE UP HIS SPIRIT,
HE BEING THE ONLY ONE WHO COULD DO SO, AND SAID, “IT IS
FINISHED.” FOR YOU AND I, IF WE CAN FINISH
THIS LIVE, ENDURE TO THE END, AND BE ABLE TO SAY IN THE
CLOSING HOURS, IT IS FINISHED. BUT THE EXAMPLE OF OUR SAVIOR
DOES NOT END THERE. HE CHOSE TO PREACH UNTO THE
SPIRITS IN PRISON WHO WERE FILLED WITH GLADNESS AND JOY
BECAUSE “THE SON OF GOD APPEARED, DECLARING LIBERTY TO
THE CAPTIVES WHO HAD BEEN FAITHFUL.” AFTER THREE DAYS IN THE GARDEN
TOMB, HE CHOSE TO TAKE UP HIS BODY AGAIN AND BREAK THE BANDS
OF DEATH. HE APPEARED TO MARY MAGDALENE
AND TO MANY OTHER BELIEVERS, CHOOSING TO TEACH THEM, FEED
THEM, AND ENCOURAGE THEM IN THE WORK OF THE KINGDOM THAT WAS NOW
THEIRS. HE CHOSE TO APPEAR TO THE PEOPLE
ON THIS CONTINENT-INCLUDING THE FAITHFUL WHO HAD BEEN PERSECUTED
FOR BELIEVING IN HIM. IN THE THICK DARKNESS OF
DESTRUCTION, THE SUPERNAL CONFIRMATION THAT HE HAD
HONORABLY KEPT HIS PRE-MORTAL PROMISE WAS HEARD AND FELT BY
ALL: “BEHOLD MY BELOVED SON, IN WHOM I AM WELL PLEASED, HIS
FATHER SAID, IN WHOM I HAVE GLORIFIED MY NAME. HEAR YE HIM. THEN HIGH ABOVE THE RUINS OF
BOUNTIFUL, WEARING A WHITE ROBE AND BEARING THE TOKENS OF THE
ATONEMENT IN HIS HANDS AND FEET AND SIDE, HE CHOSE TO DESCEND-TO
CALL THE PEOPLE FORTH, TO MINISTER TO THEM ONE BY ONE, AND
TO BLESS THEIR CHILDREN. I EXPRESS MY ETERNAL GRATITUDE
FOR THE SAVIOR’S WILLINGNESS TO MARK THIS PATH AND HIS WAY FOR
US TO EXERCISE HIS AGENCY IN RIGHTEOUSNE
RIGHTEOUSNESS. I WANT SO TO BEAR MY TESTIMONY
AND MY SPECIAL WITNESS, THAT OUR SAVIOR FREELY AND WILLINGLY
CHOSE TO GIVE HIS LIFE FOR US. I PRAY WE MAY FREELY AND
WILLINGLY CHOOSE TO LIVE OUR LIVES FOR HIM AND TO LIFT AND
STRENGTHEN OTHERS. I TESTIFY HIS GOSPEL IS TRUE,
THIS IS HIS CHURCH. PRESIDENT THOMAS S. MONSON IS
HIS PROPHET. WE ARE TRULY GOD’S CHILDREN WITH
ESSENTIAL SPIRITUAL AGENCY TO BECOME LIKE HIM AND TO LIVE WITH
HIM ETERNALLY. MAY THIS BE OUR CHOICE NOW AND
FOREVER, I PRAY, IN THE NAME OF

Stephen Childs

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