When Elder Quentin L. Cook was serving as a full-time missionary in the British Mission of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, his mission president, Elder Marion D. Hanks, taught him the importance of small, daily decisions.
He introduced young Elder Cook to advice by Harry Emerson Fosdick, the famous Protestant pastor of the Riverside Church in New York City:
“Ah, my soul, look to the road you are walking on! He who picks up one end of a stick picks up the other. He who chooses the beginning of a road chooses the place it leads to. It is the means that determines the end.”
Referencing this advice during the Mexico YSA National Conference on Sunday, Nov. 29, Elder Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles said, “At your age, there are many choices and decisions about which to worry. …
“I want you to know, and I testify to you, that you will receive guidance from the Lord if you walk in His paths and live His commandments.”
The challenge for young adults today is to find the time for spiritual growth, while acquiring the knowledge and skills necessary to succeed in a very competitive world, he said. “Faith and acquiring skills and knowledge require equal effort and commitment.”
In his remarks, titled “Strengthen Your Faith as You Face Life’s Challenges,” Elder Cook shared five principles for young adults to follow as they strengthen faith in Jesus Christ and while seeking diligently to acquire knowledge and skills.
1. Understand that there is truly opposition in all things. The choices you make are critical.
Near the end of his life, the Prophet Lehi taught, “For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things” (2 Nephi 2:11).
Given the war in heaven over the plan of salvation, Elder Cook said, “it is not surprising that the religious principles that have been taught in this, the last dispensation are attacked with malignant ferocity.
“But lest we be discouraged, let us remember the outcome of the war in heaven and the outcome that we know will come to fruition with the Second Coming of Christ.”
When making tough decisions, “do not be distracted by rationalization or diversions,” Elder Cook counseled.
2. Strengthen your own testimony as a foundation for all of the choices you make.
The foundation for every decision is one’s testimony of Jesus Christ and the restoration of His gospel through the Prophet Joseph Smith. “The Book of Mormon is an essential element of that testimony,” said Elder Cook, noting that reading it will strengthen one’s desire to live the commandments.
President Heber C. Kimball, a counselor to President Brigham Young, said, “The time will come when no man nor woman will be able to endure on borrowed light. Each will have to be guided by the light within himself. If you do not have it, how can you stand? … If you don’t have it, you will not stand; therefore seek for the testimony of Jesus and cleave to it, that when the trying time comes you may not stumble and fall.”
One cannot obtain the celestial kingdom and live with Heavenly Father on borrowed light, Elder Cook said. “You need your own testimony.”
3. Seek knowledge diligently, wisely and with humility.
Citing Doctrine and Covenants 93, Elder Cook taught that “the glory of God is intelligence” and knowledge in all areas is important. “In the quest for both faith and knowledge, we also need to maintain humility.”
While traveling with President Russell M. Nelson in the Pacific islands several years ago, Elder Cook asked him about his pioneering role in the development of open-heart surgery.
“We discussed it for some time, and then Elder Nelson humbly stated, ‘… how wonderful it is that the Lord who knows all allows us the great joy of discovering certain pieces of knowledge,’” Elder Cook recalled.
4. Follow the Prophet’s counsel as you make your choices.
By following the Prophet, “we can look to the future with great optimism,” Elder Cook said. He described President Nelson’s counsel over the last nearly three years as “profound, seminal and essential for our day.”
For example, President Nelson taught that the new home-centered, Church-supported curriculum “has the potential to unleash the power of families.” He has asked Latter-day Saints to “remodel our homes into a center of gospel learning.”
President Nelson has taught about daily repentance and that “repentance is not an event; it is a process. It is the key to happiness and peace of mind.” He has also urged Church members to gather Israel on both sides of the veil.
“I exhort you with all my heart to follow the Prophet’s counsel as you make your choices,” Elder Cook said.
5. Live so the Atonement can be efficacious in your life.
Elder Cook said he first understood the “full significance of the Atonement” when he visited his 86-year-old grandfather, who was ill and dying. Young Elder Cook was 26 at the time. His grandfather expressed three concerns he had, the last of which was that he hoped he had been sufficiently repentant to qualify for the Savior’s mercy.
“All of us have sinned, and it is only through the Atonement that we can obtain mercy and live with God,” Elder Cook said. “I can remember to this day the great love that grandfather had for the Savior and the appreciation he had for the Atonement.”
President Gordon B. Hinckley taught, “When all is said and done, when all of history is examined, when the deepest depths of the human mind have been explored, there is nothing so wonderful, so majestic, so tremendous as this act of grace … .”
A confident testimony
Prior to Elder Cook’s remarks, his wife, Sister Mary G. Cook, encouraged young adults to be confident in their knowledge and testimony of Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ, His Atonement and His restored gospel.
“Never forget that you are children of Heavenly Parents,” she said. “Be true to the faith, steadfast and courageous in dealing with worldly influences.”
President Nelson has invited individuals to take steps to “Hear Him” better and more often and share their feelings about the Savior with family and friends.
“This reminds me of the hymn we sing: ‘We are all enlisted till the conflict is o’er. Happy are we, happy are we. Soldiers in the army, there’s a bright crown in store; We shall win and wear it by and by.’
Though the words were written in the 1800s, Sister Cook said, “The war in heaven goes on. We are on the winning side. Never forget that!”
As baptized members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints who have received the gift of the Holy Ghost, “You will receive special sacred experiences as you listen to the Holy Spirit. Please heed his promptings and warnings because they are real,” Sister Cook said.
A pattern of small and simple things will keep testimonies strong and vibrant, she continued. “As you go forward in life stay close to family and friends where you are loved and accepted beyond expression.
“You also are loved and accepted by your Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ. Stay close to them through the scriptures, through prayer and through Church service. Always be temple worthy. When we can resume our temple worship, serve in the temple and do work for your kindred dead.”