Each day we are faced with an extraordinary number of decisions. Some are simple, such as the cereal to eat, or the route to take to school or work. But far more likely than not, the decisions that we make have life-altering consequences. I know that I feel that way now, much more than I did when I was younger, when the big decision in life was would I play football or soccer at recess. Now, when faced with decisions of lifelong and eternal commitments, I still wonder sometimes, “Where can I turn? How shall I make a decision?”
The easy answer is to turn to section nine of the Doctrine and Covenants, which reads:
8 But, behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right.
9 But if it be not right you shall have no such feelings, but you shall have a stupor of thought that shall cause you to forget the thing which is wrong…
It would be so wonderful to me if this were what happened on each occasion that I went to the Lord with a question. I’m not suggesting that the Lord is not answering my prayer, but rather suggesting that sometimes His answer is not the one I am seeking. I often find myself praying with a phrase somewhat like this: “here’s what I want to do, so this will happen. Is this right?” While this dialogue yields answers, I wonder if I should re-phrase and change the way that I approach our Father in Heaven. But that isn’t the point of this particular blog; I suppose that what I’m trying to say is that I don’t think that the Lord wants to make every decision for us.
In combing through Preach My Gospel for weeks at a time, I never once found instructions on how the Spirit will lead us (my theory: because it’s different for each one of us). There are a set of rudimentary instructions found throughout PMG, and the scriptures, and the words of God’s inspired leaders. I would sum them up as follows: (actually, before you read that, remember that I am not exactly an authority on anything spiritual, I am just drawing conclusions from MY experience, and may not be typical of each person’s approach. Find what works best for you)
1. Keep the commandments. The Spirit does not strive to be with God. He uses a still, small voice that can be drowned in the cacophony of day to day dealings, including anger, spite, sins of omission or commission, or just plain not doing what we know we should.
2. Ask for help. For as it reads in Matthew 7…
7Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:
8For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.
9Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone?
10Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent?
11If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?
While this may sound contradictory from my statement saying that Father does not want to make every decision for us, that does not mean that He does not want to help. He may not be able to absolve us of the burden we carry (this is mortality, a time to prepare to meet God and be tested after all) but He can make our backs strong, our will more secure, our testimonies of His love ironclad, and lead us to the answers we seek.
3. Read the Scriptures. When reading the words of the Savior, and those who testify of Him, the Spirit will inspire our hearts and minds in ways that can not happen on our own volition. Often I will be reading a passage, and think of someone that I need to call, or of something that I need to do, and when I’m paying particular attention, know what I need to do.
4. Ask those you trust for help. When the Lord promised us that “angels would be on our right hand, and on our left hand” I don’t think that He meant only the hosts of heaven. I believe that He meant those around us that love us and want us to be happy. If I’m ever able to “pay forward” half of the things that others have done for me, I would be somewhere on par with Mother Theresa. Though I still struggle with a streak of pride and independence, I seek to ask those that I know care about me (parents, bishops, roommates, friends, teachers) what their opinion is. I find that they have the courage to tell me whether a decision is good or bad, or at least tell me how they see the situation so that I can make the decision by myself.
5. Ask for a blessing. The Lord has given it to His servants for a Reason.
6. Follow your instincts.
One of the most important tasks of mortality is to learn to choose for ourselves. If the Lord directed us firmly in every decision, it would defeat the purpose of His plan.
I know that decisions are hard. I know that the Lord knows the answers and that He will lead and guide us in paths that will return us to Him, if we will be worthy of His Spirit.