(find the talk here)
This is the last of the talks from the Priesthood session, and then I have 18 more talks to study before the next General Conference, which convenes in 23 days. I am going to try to study them all before General Conference comes around again so that I can focus on the new talks after that.
I think that this talk stuck out to me first because of the title and the fact that this week we have been learning about the letter “R” in our casual at-home preschool.
And then I read the talk and I loved it. I didn’t remember listening to this talk until I got to a story President Thomas S. Monson tells at the very end of this talk. I’ll share pieces of it later.
President Monson laid out the doctrine of choice clearly in this talk. I liked his “Three Rs” of choice. They are:
1. The right of choice.
2. The responsibility of choice.
3. The results of choice.
Here, President Monson mostly speaks about the gift of agency. He quotes President David O. McKay who said, “Next to the bestowal of life itself, the right to direct that life is God’s greatest gift to man.” And a gift I find myself more and more grateful every day. We have the right to do with our life what we will. God did not write out every detail of our life before we were born. He did not force us to become who we are, and He does not force us to make decisions. He may plead, cajole, and send the strongest promptings of the Spirit, but in the end, it is up to us to make the decision.
We are in the process of becoming licensed to be foster parents, and we have taken a lot of parenting courses in this process. One of the things that always comes up in parenting and child development is teaching children how to make choices. It is so important that we teach them how to make decisions (preferably correct decisions – but as the Prophet Joseph Smith said, We teach them correct principles, and they govern themselves). This is what God wants – He wants to teach us correct principles and then have us govern ourselves. It is given to us to do so. God cannot force us to make correct choices. Which puts the pressure on us to teach our children (and each other) how to make correct choices.
President Monson speaks of Lucifer and his plan for us. “He insisted that with his plan none would be lost, but he seemed not to recognize – or perhaps not to care – that in addition, none would be any wiser, any stronger, any more compassionate, or any more grateful if his plan were followed.”
Making choices does make us wiser. When we make incorrect choices, we (hopefully) learn from our mistakes, and when we make correct choices, we are blessed with more light and truth from Heavenly Father. Making choices makes us stronger. As we make correct choices, we receive even more strength to make future correct choices – which may be even more difficult to make. We are more compassionate, because we understand that others have to make choices as well – and because we are making choices, we respect the seriousness of that challenge. Being able to make choices certainly makes me grateful. I think about living in this great land of America, instead of in a land in the Middle East, or in Asia, in which people are not free to choose their own life. This land is truly a promised land. But that’s a topic for another day.
The only “down” side to choice is that men are “free to choose liberty and eternal life … or to choose captivity and death.” Which means that we can choose incorrectly and damage our eternal souls. President Monson reminds us that “within the confines of whatever circumstances we find ourselves, we will always have the right to choose.”
Because we have been given the gift of agency, we must choose. We have a divine responsibility to act and not be acted upon. President Monson says, “We cannot be neutral; there is no middle ground. The Lord knows this; Lucifer knows this. As long as we live upon this earth, Lucifer and his hosts will never abandon the hope of claiming our souls.” This reminds me of the saying “You’re either with me or against me.” Which is a very true statement when it comes to the Lord.
We can choose not to choose – because that right is given to us. However, if we choose not to choose, then we are choosing Satan, who will lead our souls miserably down to @#!*% .
President Monson reminds us that Heavenly Father didn’t send us to Earth with the power to choose and no help to make correct choices. We know that “The Spirit of Christ is given to every man, tha the may know good from evil.” More specifically, we have prayer, the gift of the Holy Ghost, the scriptures, and latter-day Prophets (like President Monson).
Satan is not content to have only the “so-called refuse of humanity” but “seeks all of us, including the very elect of God. … whether we are 12-year-old deacons or mature high priests, we are susceptible.”
We need courage to make decision correctly.
“All of our choices have consequences, some of which have little or nothing to do with our eternal salvation and others of which have everything to do with it.”
President Monson talks about the difference between whether to wear a green or blue shirt one day, and whether or not to view pornography. What color shirt to wear doesn’t make a difference, but the choice about viewing pornography “can make all the difference in your life. … you are taking a detour from which you may not return.”
We are the person accountable for our choices. Brigham Young said, “Salvation is an individual operation.”
Paul stated, “but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.”
President Monson closes with a story of a basketball player who was the first string center on his team, and chose not to play in the championship game because it was to be played on Sunday.
That fateful, difficult decision was made more than 30 years ago. Brother Christensen has said that as time has passed, he considers it one of the most important decisions he ever made. It would have been very easy to have said, “You know, in general, keeping the Sabbath day holy is the right commandment, but in my particular extenuating circumstance, it’s okay,just this once, if I don’t do it.” However, he says his entire life has turned out to be an unending stream of extenuating circumstances, and had he crossed the line just that once, then the next time something came up that was so demanding and critical, it would have been so much easier to cross the line again. The lesson he learned is that it is easier to keep the commandments 100 percent of the time than it is 98 percent of the time.
How do you feel about being given the right to choose? Do you take the responsibility to choose seriously? How do you deal with the results of your choices? Does knowing that there will be consequences help you to choose wisely? How does the atonement help you to correct your wrong decisions?