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'Where will it lead?'

Small detours can make huge differences in the long term

The question "Where will it lead?" can guide Church members along the road of life, said Elder Dallin H. Oaks Nov. 9.

"All of us — especially young people — need to be very careful about the paths we choose and the directions we set in our lives," said Elder Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve. "What seem to be only small deviations in direction or small detours from the straight and narrow path can result in huge differences in position down the road of life."

Speaking to BYU students during a campus devotional assembly in the Marriott Center, Elder Oaks counseled students that, when faced with a choice and its consequence, they should ask the question, "Where will it lead?"

For example, he said, a parent sets in motion a succession of destructive consequences when he asks a child to tell a little lie — such as telling a telephone caller to whom his parent does not want to talk the parent isn't home when he or she is.

"You are showing your children that you will lie to gain an advantage, and you are teaching them how to do the same. You are weakening their faith that they can trust you to tell the truth. You are also casting doubt on the validity of the commandment not to lie and on the prophets who taught that commandment. You are even diminishing faith in the existence of the God whose commandment it is."

Other choices lead a person down the wrong path, such as ignoring spiritual promptings or partaking of anything addictive, he said. So do making choices to not do the things Church leaders have asked, including daily scripture study and prayer and weekly family home evening.

"I can assure you that their faithful observance will lead us closer to the Lord and their omission will lead us away from Him," Elder Oaks said.

Many of life's choices are not between good and evil, but between two goods, he continued. "We make many such choices in what we will do on the Sabbath, which television programs we will watch, which job offer to accept, what to read and — on a very broad front — how to spend our time."

Sometimes, he continued, the choice is not between two actions, but between action and inaction.

"We must be ever vigilant to ask, 'Where will it lead?' and to sound appropriate warnings or join appropriate preventive efforts while there is still time. Often we cannot prevent the outcome, but we can remove ourselves from the crowd who have complicity in the outcome by failing to try to intervene."

Elder Oaks also discussed four other subjects he has pondered while asking the 'Where will it lead?' question. "Each is a subject where our private choices and influence can contribute to the public good," he said. "Each is important to the public environment in which we live.

  • "First, I am concerned about the current overemphasis on rights and underemphasis on responsibilities," he said.
  • Second, he added, "is the diminished readership of newspapers and books."
  • "A third concern is with what is being taught or not being taught in the schools that shape the thinking and values of those who will be our future leaders."
  • "My fourth concern is with the destruction of trust in public figures and public officials," he said.

"Where will it lead?" Elder Oaks concluded. "I have suggested this as a valuable question against which we can measure many personal and public decisions."

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