Life is full of choices. Some of them are large, others seem small and insignificant. But even the smallest (that second helping or extra dessert) can have a significant effect down the road.
Too often we make choices without considering consequences, or think only of the moment rather than the long term. Coming to a fork in the road, or an important point in our life, we may arbitrarily choose a direction without really knowing where that road goes.
Agency is a gift that God has given us that allows us to decide what we will do with our lives. He has also given us a goal: to return to His presence. The scriptures contain directions for reaching that goal, some of them couched in the form of commandments. If we choose not to follow the directions, not to keep the commandments, we may have chosen not to return to live in His presence.
Thomas S. Monson, president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, spoke of choices at the annual conference of the church in April. He referenced Lewis Carroll’s novel, “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland,” in which she was faced with two paths going in opposite directions. In considering her choices, she asks the Cheshire Cat, “Which path shall I follow?” He answers, “That depends where you want to go. If you do not know where you want to go, it doesn’t matter which path you take.”
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If we decide that living in accord with God’s will and serving Him is our goal, we are faced with additional choices. In 2007, Elder Dallin H. Oaks gave a talk entitled “Good, Better and Best.” He pointed out all the choices we have as to what we do with our time and resources. Then he said, “We should begin by recognizing the reality that just because something is good is not a sufficient reason for doing it. The number of good things we can do far exceeds the time available to accomplish them. Some things are better than good, and these are the things that should command priority attention in our lives.”
What an amazing concept — but one that Jesus taught as he visited with Martha and Mary. Martha was busy serving and making sure everything was ready while Mary sat at Jesus’ feet and listened to him. When Martha complained about not getting any help from Mary, Jesus commended her for her labor, but taught that “one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, ….” Luke 10:39-42.
Martha’s preparations and concern for her guests was good, but learning the gospel from Christ was better.
Comparing choices to a product quality rating of “good,” “better” and “best,” Elder Oaks emphasized that it is not enough to do the good thing, when other choices are better. Even if one choice is more costly, in terms of our time and effort, its greater value may make it the best choice.
As an example, Elder Oaks told of a young father who took his family on a series of summer vacation trips, including visits to parks and historical sites. At the end of the summer he asked his teenage son which of the activities was his favorite. Without hesitation the boy answered, “The thing I liked best this summer was the night you and I laid on the lawn and looked at the stars and talked.”
Super family activities may be good, but they should not replace one-on-one time with a parent. We can gain knowledge from TV, the internet, Facebook and other sources. But they should not replace interaction with family and friends, other entertainment or even books. So it is with many things in life. Each has its place, but while some are good, others are better or best.
Identify your goals. Decide where you want to go in this life and who you want to be. Each time you face a choice, visualize your goal, weigh the consequence of the choice, and remember, “good,” “better” and “best.” Agency, the ability to choose, is a precious gift.
Glenna M. Christensen is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The Idaho Statesman’s weekly faith column features a rotation of writers from many different faiths and perspectives.