Each day we are faced with choices. Some are easy to make; others more difficult and still others can have eternal consequences — for good or ill. The consequences of wrong choices might not be immediate, but at some point become evident.
"Wherefore, men are free according to the flesh; and all things are given them which are expedient unto man. And they are free to choose liberty and eternal life, through the great Mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil; for he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself" (2 Nephi 2:27).
President Gordon B. Hinckley, in an address at Brigham Young University, said, "I should like to suggest three standards by which to judge each of the decisions that determine the behavior patterns of your lives. These standards are so simple as to appear elementary, but I believe their faithful observance will provide a set of moral imperatives by which to govern without argument or equivocation each of our actions and which will bring unmatched rewards. They are:
"1. Does it enrich the mind?
"2. Does it discipline and strengthen the body?
"3. Does it nourish the spirit?" (Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley, p. 54).
If we weigh our choices against the standards suggested by President Hinckley, it becomes clear what our course should and must be. It is equally clear that if we choose the wrong way, we, and we alone, are responsible for our actions.
As President Brigham Young remarked, "If Brother Brigham should take a wrong track and be shut out of the kingdom of heaven, no person will be to blame but Brother Brigham. I am the only being in heaven, earth, or hell, that can be blamed. This will equally apply to every Latter-day Saint. Salvation is an individual operation . . . . When salvation is sent to me, I can reject or receive it. In receiving it, I yield implicit obedience and submission to its great Author throughout my life, and to those whom He shall appoint to instruct me; in rejecting it, I follow the dictates of my own will in preference to the will of my Creator" (Discourses of Brigham Young, p. 390).
"For behold, it is not meet that I should command in all things; for He that is compelled in all things, the same is a slothful and not a wise servant; wherefore he receiveth no reward.
"Verily I say, men should be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of their own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness;
"For the power is in them, wherein they are agents unto themselves. And inasmuch as men do good they shall in nowise lose their reward" (Doctrine and Covenants 58:26-28).
We are responsible for the decisions we make. We shouldn't blame our circumstances, our families or our friends if we choose to disobey God's commandments. We are all children of God endowed with great strengths. We have the ability to choose righteousness and happiness, regardless of our circumstances.
Each of us is responsible for developing the abilities and talents Heavenly Father has given us. We are accountable to Him for what we do with our abilities and how we use our time.
As suggested by President Hinckley and other Church leaders, we should not idle away our time. We should be willing to work hard in the gospel, to choose and to do many good things of our own free will.
"He hath given unto you that ye might know good from evil, and he hath given unto you that ye might choose life or death; and ye can do good and be restored unto that which is good, or have that which is good restored unto you; or ye can do evil, and have that which is evil restored unto you' (Helaman 14:31).
As President Hinckley has advised, "The decisions we make, individually and personally, become the fabric of our lives. The fabric will be beautiful or ugly according to the threads of which it is woven. . . ." (Teachings, p. 56).
"Now therefore fear the Lord, and serve him in sincerity and in truth . . . choose you this day whom ye will serve . . . but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord" (Joshua 24:14-15).