Putting family, Church and the Savior first is essential to choosing a path that leads to righteousness, Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught young adults during a valley-wide devotional in Logan, Utah. The event, held in Utah State University’s Spectrum auditorium, brought Elder Cook to his childhood “home,” Cache Valley, on Jan. 25 to speak to more than 8,000 young adults and high school seniors about choosing paths that lead to a life of righteousness.
“The choices that are most significant can be made by everyone regardless of their talents, abilities, opportunities or economic circumstances,” he said.
Although at times individuals will face the difficulties of life, experiencing events in which they have little or no control, they do have control over matters of righteous living, Elder Cook taught. “On matters of principle, matters of conduct, religious observance and righteous living, we are in control,” he said. “Our faith in and worship of God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ is a choice that we make.”
Elder Cook recognized that many of the same challenges of faith that existed when he was growing up in Cache Valley remain the same today.
“During my years in Cache Valley the same issues were being raised and arguments made to diminish the Book of Mormon, Joseph Smith and the Church in general — including the Savior — that are being trumpeted across the Internet today,” the apostle said. “There has been and always will be opposition in all things. Those who pray, study scriptures, live the commandments, and worship and follow the Savior will see these arguments in their true light. Their faith will grow and their lives will be blessed.”
“We have never had better or more faithful members in the Church,” Elder Cook said. He pointed out that since 1990, the Church has doubled in size but the number and percentage of people removing their names has dramatically reduced. The number of endowed members with a current temple recommend, adult full-tithe payers and missionaries is significantly higher.
Sharing decisions that influenced him when he was a young adult, Elder Cook focused on the phrase “His paths are righteous” found in 2 Nephi 9. In that chapter are admonitions about learning, wisdom, wealth, labor, refusing to see or hear the consequences of sin and profound doctrine about the atonement of Jesus Christ.
“My emphasis will be on the paths of righteousness that allow us to report to the Holy One of Israel, ‘the keeper of the gate,’ ” he said.
Drawing from experiences of when he was a teen and young adult, Elder Cook shared how these pivotal moments have helped shape his faith and how he has lived his life.
Remembering when he was 15 years old and his older brother Joseph was 20, Elder Cook shared how his brother’s experience of deciding to serve a mission — despite their father’s desire for him to stay home and pursue plans for medical school — had a big impact on the younger brother’s life.
“This was a big issue in our family,” Elder Cook remembered. “That night my brother and I talked about the choice. He was five years older and already had a testimony, so it was mainly his thinking. As we reasoned it out we concluded: If Jesus Christ was a great man but not divine, if Joseph Smith was a wonderful teacher but not a prophet, or, if the Book of Mormon had wonderful counsel but was not the Word of God, then dad was right — one could do more good by going to medical school. But, if Jesus Christ is divine the Son of God, if Joseph Smith is the prophet of the restoration and if the Book of Mormon is the Word of God — then it would be more important to accept the call and proclaim the gospel.”
Wanting his own answer to those questions, that night Elder Cook prayed and received a confirmation from the Spirit that those things are true.
“At that time neither my brother nor I had any kind of angelic visitation,” he said. “I had what I have come to understand as the feeling that the Holy Ghost provides me when I am seeking spiritual truths.”
Those answers have guided his most important decisions, Elder Cook said, adding that as individuals live the gospel, they are blessed by the Spirit to taste of Heavenly Father’s goodness with feelings of joy, happiness and peace.
Sharing an experience while on his mission in England, Elder Cook told of a professor who wanted to be baptized after taking an intellectual approach when looking at the translation of the Book of Mormon. Although the professor’s study of the Book of Mormon helped him find truth, a spiritual testimony is also necessary, Elder Cook taught.
“I would suggest the best approach for gaining a testimony is to immerse yourselves in the Book of Mormon so you can experience the ongoing witness of the Spirit,” he said. “The essential doctrine of agency requires that a testimony of the restored gospel must be based on faith rather than external or scientific proof. Obsessive focus on things not yet fully revealed will not be efficacious or yield spiritual progress. These are matters of faith.”
A knowledge and testimony of the prophetic role Joseph Smith played in the restoration also impacts an individual’s life.
Speaking of lessons he learned from his mission president, Elder Marion D. Hanks, Elder Cook spoke of two important principles he taught his missionaries in addition to a love and appreciation for the Book of Mormon.
First, the path one chooses matters, and second, day-to-day consistent effort is better than occasional heroic effort.
“It isn’t just the paths that lead to evil we need to avoid,” Elder Cook said. “In 2 Nephi 9:51 we are instructed, ‘ do not spend money for that which is of no worth, nor your labor for that which cannot satisfy.’ In other words, choose paths that will lead to righteousness.”
Sharing the example of Naaman in the Old Testament, Elder Cook said that it was through Naaman’s obedience to repeating a simple task — not one grandiose event — that he was healed.
“Not all decisions you will face are between good and evil,” he said. “Many need to be approached using the counsel Elder Dallin H. Oaks gave in his inspired sermon on ‘Good, Better and Best.’ Even the difference between good and best can be profound.”
Goals relating to education and occupation are important, but should not be put above family, the Church and a testimony of the Savior, Elder Cook taught. “The unintended consequences can be significantly adverse.”
“The most important meeting that each of us will have on the other side of the veil is with the Savior. Regardless of whom our ancestors are and whether we are rich or poor, we will report on our compliance with the commandments we have been given. We should live so we can look forward to meeting the Savior.”
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