We can bring the greatest of all liberties into our individual lives by living true and correct principles. This liberty comes to us as we live as though Jesus Christ were walking beside us.
The liberty principle for today is the fourth in a series of true principles suggested by Elder Richard G. Scott in his book 21 Principles – Divine Truths to Help You Live by the Spirit. I will merely introduce the principle and suggest that you obtain Elder Scott’s book in order to truly understand this principle. Elder Scott explained that principles “are concentrated truth, packaged for application to a wide variety of circumstances. A true principle makes decisions clear even under the most confusing and challenging circumstances.” You can see principle #1 “True Principles of Freedom” here, principle #2 “Trust the Holy Ghost” here, principle #3 “Try New Things” here, and principle #4 “Accept Promptings” here.
Principle #5 is the simple fact that our final destiny is determined by the decisions we make and the actions we take because of those decisions. Elder Scott wrote, “It can appear that we control outcomes in our life, but we do not. Worthiness, righteousness, faith in Jesus Christ, and the plan of our Father assure a pleasant, productive future, while lying, cheating, and violating the laws of personal purity assure a life of misery here on earth and beyond the veil, unless there is the requisite repentance.
“You may be tired of others trying to run your life – always telling you what to do. After all, you have the right to make your own choices. That is correct. You have that right. It is your agency. The secret to solve problems in your life will be found in understanding and using the eternally beneficial interaction of your agency and His truth.
“…Please understand that no one can change truth…. Satan knows that, so he tries to create an atmosphere where one unwittingly begins to feel that he can not only choose what to do, but can determine what is right to do. Satan strives to persuade us to live outside truth by rationalizing our actions as the right of choice.
“But our Eternal Father defined truth and established what is right and wrong before the creation of this earth. He also fixed the consequences of obedience and disobedience to those truths. He defended our right to choose our path in life so that we would grow, develop, and be happy, but we do not have the right to choose the consequences of our acts….”
As we think about how our decisions determine our destiny, we should reflect on this statement from the Prophet Joseph Smith: “Happiness is the object and design of our existence; and will be the end thereof, if we pursue the path that leads to it; and this path is virtue, uprightness, faithfulness, holiness, and keeping all the commandments of God” (History of the Church, 5:134-35).
Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints spoke about the true path to happiness and listed the following steps to be happy: “Always be grateful for your blessings, especially your heritage. When we are blessed with goodly parents, we should be grateful. This is the debt each of us owes for our heritage…. Second, commit yourself to the eternal institution of the family as the foundation for happiness…. The family is an eternal institution ordained of God from before the foundation of the world…. Third, be involved in the world in a positive way and be a powerful force for good. A significant challenge is to adhere to the scriptural injunction to live in the world but not of the world (see John 17)…. Fourth, live and communicate your standards to those you interact with…. Finally, be a light to the people where you live.”
Elder Cook then described how he and his wife started their marriage in the San Francisco Bay area in the mid-1960s. There were few members of the Church there, and the area had “become a magnet for drug abuse and all manner of promiscuous and sinful conduct.” A stake president was concerned enough about the situation to ask the leadership of the Church if Church members should even remain in the area. The issue was given to President Harold B. Lee (1899-1973) who was then a senior member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, and he met with a group of priesthood leaders to discuss the problem. He “told them that the Lord had not inspired the construction of a temple in our area only to have the members leave” and gave the following counsel: “1. Create Zion in our hearts and homes. 2. Be a light to those among whom we live. 3. Focus on the ordinances and principles taught in the temple.” Elder Cook summarized, “If we will follow President Lee’s counsel today, we can successfully be in the world but not of the world. However, we must each determine whether we will look to the world or focus on the temple.” (See “The True Path to Happiness,” Ensign, June 2011.)
President Thomas S. Monson, then a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, spoke about decisions determining destiny. “Youth of today are faced with monumental decisions. The world in which you live is not a play world or a pretend world. It is a very competitive world that will require the very best that you can bring to it, and it will reward you when your best efforts are put forth. Important to remember is the solemn truth: Obedience to God’s law will bring liberty and eternal life, whereas disobedience will bring captivity and death.
“It has been said by one, years ago, that history is influenced by seemingly small decisions, and so are people’s lives. Our lives will depend upon the decisions which we make – for decisions determine destiny” (“Decisions Determine Destiny,” Liahona, July 1980).
Three Apostles have echoed the words of the Prophet Joseph Smith in telling us that we can determine our destiny by the decisions we make. We can confirm their counsel by thinking about the decisions made by various people in history. 1) Those who laughed and made fun of Noah for building the Ark were no longer laughing when the rain fell and the water got deep. 2) Those that rebelled against Moses were not allowed to enter the Promised Land. Moses led the children of Israel in the wilderness for forty years until the older generation had all died. 3) Fourteen-year-old Joseph Smith made the decision to pray about which church to join. The consequences of his choice have blessed the lives of millions of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and will affect all mankind. We would be wise to heed the counsel of Apostles and Prophets to make good decisions in order to determine that our destiny is one of happiness.