BYU Campus devotional: Elder Robert D. Hales — Our essential spiritual agency
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It is by making right choices today, tomorrow and for the rest of an individual's time on earth that he or she is able to follow the Savior and return to His presence, said Elder Robert D. Hales of the Quorum of the Twelve during the BYU campus devotional in a crowded Marriott Center on Tuesday, Sept. 14. All must carefully consider how Heavenly Father is preparing them for things He wants them to do, and then they must make choices accordingly.
"Before coming to this earth we lived with Heavenly Father," Elder Hales said. "He gave us the incomparable gift of agency. We had an opportunity to use that gift in a grand council with all His children. ... Today each of us has the opportunity of continually making the same choice to follow Him and return to His presence."
A major part of looking at the eternal perspective includes using one's agency to choose to follow the commandments Heavenly Father has outlined for His children, he said. It is by using one's God-given agency to keep the commandments that individuals qualify for the life Heavenly Father wants them to have.
"There must be opposition in all things," Elder Hales said. "Because of that opposition, we have the essential spiritual agency to choose spiritual life here and eternal life in the world to come."
Drawing from experiences in the Prophet Joseph Smith's life's examples, Elder Hales spoke of how Joseph exercised his personal agency to seek out things of the Spirit and accomplish his foreordained mission.
"This development always takes time and testing and faith," Elder Hales said. "So it is for all of us. We will all be tested, often to our limit. Yet all of us are assured that we will never be tested more than we can endure. And the greatest blessings will be based on how well we endure our test."
Although no life is exempt from challenges, Elder Hales said that Heavenly Father still has a unique plan for every individual that is more glorious than anything an individual could imagine or arrange for himself or herself. Elder Hales said that challenges and hardships in an individual's life are there for a reason — to help that person become and accomplish what he or she was specifically sent to the earth to be and do.
"His way is always to prepare us line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little, there a little," he said. "And that always happens on His timetable."
Elder Hales shared how individuals can lay a strong foundation of faith by using their personal agency to make good decisions. Individuals have a choice to either move toward a new door with many possibilities, or into a closed corner with very few options, he said.
"If we do what is right our opportunities increase," he said. "If we don't, our opportunities decrease."
Elder Hales spoke of the critical "decade of decisions" many students are currently in, a time for making critical choices in regards to education, employment, church and marriage. He said individuals must listen to the Spirit in order to make correct decisions.
"Where the kingdom is concerned, the willingness of our hearts is everything," he said. "We keep the commandments because we love Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ. As we do, we lay the foundation of a great work, and out of these small things proceeds that which is great."
Elder Hales cautioned individuals about seeking the praise of the world and the honors of men.
"Whenever we heed to opinions of men we put ourselves in a corner," he said. "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 proper grades, or don't prepare for a test, or miss work, or take offense, or get angry, or tell a lie — we put ourselves into a corner. There we are stuck, our options are limited, and our opportunities and power to choose are reduced."
Painting oneself in a corner also occurs when individuals do not pay heed to their own gifts and talents, seek counsel from others and obtain direction from the Lord, he said.
"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 and what we have been given."
Elder Hales gave examples of how individuals can properly use their agency. Through daily prayer, scripture study, education, provident living, careful media consumption, obeying commandments and keeping covenants, individuals are more able to use their agency to follow the example of the Savior, and do the will of the Father.
"Beloved young people, the world is getting harder, it is true," he said. "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."