PROVO, Utah — Nearly 20 years ago Kim B. Clark received some important news from his doctor: he had chronic kidney disease and in 10-12 years he would need to go on dialysis or have a kidney transplant.
"In my mind I said to myself, 'No, I won't. I will be disciplined and diligent and the Lord will bless me. I will die of something else,' " he recalled.
Determined to produce a different outcome, the General Authority Seventy and Commissioner of Education for the Church said he did all he could for a few years, but, soon enough, his doctor told him he needed to prepare for a transplant.
"With my plan not working, I went to my Heavenly Father in prayer and asked Him for His help and His guidance," he said. "I received a very clear impression: My plan was not His plan. His plan had a transplant in it and I needed to get ready. … As I prepared for the operation I felt impressed to embrace Heavenly Father's plan, every bit of it."
Just as he learned he needed to personally "embrace the plan," Elder Clark encouraged students at Brigham Young University listening to a campus devotional on March 20 to do the same in their own lives — to embrace the plan God has for each one of them.
"I want each of you to know that He is working in your life right now, preparing the way before you," he reminded students. "It is all part of Heavenly Father's plan."
But embracing God's plan is not something a person does once. Rather, "we embrace the great plan of salvation and our role in it by the choices we make all through our lives."
"Every wonderful opportunity in the Father's plan comes to us in a crucible of choice," he said. "Every crucible contains two things — the opportunities created by Heavenly Father's plan and opposition. No matter what the opportunity may be, there is always opposition."
That combination of opportunity and opposition creates the need for choice, causing a person to decide which path they will walk, whose voice they will hear, and whose plan he or she will follow.
"The crucible of choice is a test of our faith in Jesus Christ," he said.
Elder Clark focused his remarks on three crucibles of choice — learning, serving the Lord and creating an eternal family — that are particularly important for young adults and essential to eternal life.
For Taylore Bonds, an English major who returned from her mission just a month ago, listening to Elder Clark helped her remember the "bigger picture," and to not get so "caught up in the details" as she figures life out after her mission.
"I have been working ... and going to school and trying to figure everything out," she said. "This was a good reminder to me to have faith, that it will all be OK. It will all work out."
Crucible #1: Learning
Recognizing that every person is a spirit child of Heavenly Father with the potential to become like Him, Elder Clark reminded listeners that each person has different gifts and talents — as well as different challenges in mortality — that provide experiences to learn deeply "in His eternal plan."
"The power of deep learning has great value in your family, in your service in the Church, in your work and in your community," he said. "It also brings great joy. "
Deep learning applies to all truth, in any field of knowledge, he taught. But the most important knowledge we need to acquire is knowledge of the things of God.
"Arrayed against those wonderful attributes of diligence, humility and righteousness stands the opposition: laziness, pride, sin and the distractions of the world," he said. "Of these, I believe the most dangerous is pride. In fact, deep learning creates the potential for pride to work its way into your heart."
Stating that deep learning will increase a person's value in the world through recognition, rewards, good jobs, and admission to graduate schools, Elder Clark warned students of the temptations of pride that often accompany the good.
"When good things come, it is easy to get prideful," he said. "In fact, if we do not resist it diligently with faith in the Savior's power to change our hearts, it is easy to get puffed up with pride. If we do, we stop learning deeply."
Crucible #2: Serving the Lord
"If we choose to be yoked together with the Lord, He works through us to bless others," he said. "We act with faith in Jesus Christ in many callings and assignments to help our brothers and sisters feel the love of the Lord and change their lives through His redeeming power."
Those experiences change not only the people being served, but also the individuals who are serving others.
Elder Clark encouraged students to focus on sharing the gospel of Jesus Christ with their peers who are not yet members of the Church. He spoke of missionary work that goes beyond a specific mission field. Important to those efforts is friendship, living and loving the gospel, and then being willing to share with others.
"The enemy of our souls is doing everything he can to keep us from sharing the gospel," Elder Clark taught. "He tempts people to believe that they can be more spiritual, even closer to the Lord, without the Church, so they don't need it. And he tempts us with fear of offending others with our invitations; fear of ridicule; and fear of persecution because of our beliefs."
The answer to those fears, the leader taught — "embrace the plan."
Crucible #3: Creating an eternal family
In a world filled with "the fear of missing out — or FOMO" and selfishness, Elder Clark encouraged students to do everything they can to "encourage and promote celestial marriage and eternal families."
When wrestling with the question "What if I find someone better?" Elder Clark said, "These fears — whether fear of failure or fear of missing out — reflect a fundamental misunderstanding of the nature of eternal marriage. We do not 'find' the perfect partner for an eternal marriage. Nor are we on our own, or trapped by the past mistake of others."
The partnership of an eternal marriage is something that is built together with both the husband and the wife and the Lord. Crucial to a strong marriage is conquering selfishness.
"Selfishness is not good," he said. "If you act selfishly, you are at grave risk of making critical choices about whom to marry, when to marry, how many children to have, how to lead your family, and how to treat your spouse, without the guidance of your Heavenly Father."
Selfishness leads to an unawareness of a spouse's needs, unhappiness and discouragement in families.
"I know from my own experience that the way to overcome fear and selfishness, the way to the joy of an eternal marriage and family, is to embrace the plan," he said. "Embrace the great plan of happiness, fully, completely, and seek to do the will of the Lord."
For Enoch Jones, a civil engineering major from Eagle Mountain, Utah, listening to the devotional made him reflect on ways he might not even realize he is being selfish.
"It is a learning process, and there are things I may not even recognize as being selfish," he said. "I am doing good, necessary things, but I am pretty 'me focused,' and it is a good reminder to think more about other people."