How the inner workings of calling a new stake president can help you make major life decisions

Elder Meredith teaches BYU–Idaho students 5 principles for making decisions with heavenly guidance

Should I go on a mission?

What should I major in at school?

How do I know who I should marry?

What career path should I take?

Which job offer should I accept?

These are only a few of the life-trajectory-altering decisions people in the first decade of adulthood will be making. Though they are not moral decisions, they are still ones that require heavenly guidance or revelation.

Elder Alvin F. Meredith III, General Authority Seventy, has had experience with making this type of decision many times, particularly when fulfilling an assignment to create or reorganize a stake presidency. In a devotional address to BYU–Idaho students on Tuesday, Feb. 7, he used the process of calling a new stake president to teach principles for making decisions based on revelation.

Elder Alvin F. Meredith III, a General Authority Seventy, speaks during a BYU–Idaho devotional on Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2023. | Natalia Lopez, BYU–Idaho

While serving as an Area Seventy in Tennessee, Elder Meredith was assigned as the junior companion of Elder D. Todd Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles to organize a new stake.

“Elder Christofferson and I approached that weekend in a spirit of prayer and fasting,” Elder Meredith said. “We had no agenda other than to seek revelation about who the Lord would have serve as the new stake president.”

On Saturday morning, Elder Christofferson and Elder Meredith had a companionship prayer before beginning three hours of interviews with priesthood leaders in the stake. Each interview was brief. Each of the brethren provided a biographical sheet, gave a little information about himself, and named three men who they would recommend as the new stake presidency. Elder Christofferson and Elder Meredith took notes, asked follow-up questions and wrote down impressions they received.

With the last interview completed, Elder Christofferson asked Elder Meredith who he thought should be the new stake’s president — a question Elder Meredith considered somewhat of a spiritual test. After some consideration and consulting with each other and the Spirit, they narrowed the names to five, then three, then one.

When Elder Christofferson agreed with Elder Meredith’s choices for the new stake presidency, the latter felt he had passed the spiritual test. “However, the real spiritual test was to determine if our thoughts and feelings were aligned with the Lord’s will,” Elder Meredith said.

BYU–Idaho students listen to Elder Alvin F. Meredith III, a General Authority Seventy, speak during a BYU–Idaho devotional on Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2023. | Natalia Lopez, BYU–Idaho

They knelt and sought confirmation through prayer. When they said, “Amen,” they waited for a feeling of confirmation.

“In that case, as it usually does, it came as a peaceful feeling,” Elder Meredith said. “Nothing grand or great, just small and simple, but clear. We knew who the Lord would have serve as the new stake president.”

From this experience, Elder Meredith taught about five principles that will help one receive guidance for big life decisions. “I add one caution,” he said. “These principles are not a checklist because revelation does not have a formula or follow a specific order.”

Pray and fast

Approach life decisions in the spirit of prayer and fasting, Elder Meredith said. “Seek the Lord’s guidance at the beginning of the decision-making process and throughout.”

He added, “The counsel to just ‘pray about it,’ when it comes to big life decisions, is oversimplified. Revelation often requires work in addition to prayer.”

The Lord told Oliver Cowdery, “Behold, you have not understood; you have supposed that I would give it unto you, when you took no thought save it was to ask me” (Doctrine and Covenants 9:7). Merely asking is not enough.

Elder Alvin F. Meredith III, General Authority Seventy, speaks during a BYU–Idaho campus devotional on Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2023. | Nicolette Muhlestein, BYU–Idaho

Study it out in one’s mind

Elder Meredith said: “Revelation requires effort. Information often precedes inspiration. Preparation is the price we pay for revelation. There are many ways we can say it, but recognize that the Lord has blessed you with a good mind and He expects you to use it.”

What does it mean to “study it out in your mind” (Doctrine and Covenants 9:8)? “We study what prophets and apostles have said,” Elder Meredith said. “We read our patriarchal blessings and look for guidance there. ... We ask ourselves, ‘What information will help me get better inspiration?’ And then we do what we can to find that information.”

This process won’t always produce complete or perfect information, nor does it always give the answer one is searching for. However, doing everything possible to study it out fully qualifies one to receive revelation, and the Lord will compensate for what can’t be known.

Counsel with trusted people

“When making big life decisions, counsel with people [who] love you and are wise,” Elder Meredith advised. “Who we choose to counsel with will have a considerable influence on the quality of decisions that we make, so counsel with trusted people.” This includes spouses, family and people with relevant expertise and experience.

Elder Meredith noted: “When we are seeking counsel, we are not looking for people to tell us what to do. We are looking to get help on how to think about our decision and the options we are considering.”

Consider asking questions such as, “What should I be thinking about and considering when making this decision?” and “What do you feel are the pros and cons of each of the options I am considering?”

Elder Alvin F. Meredith III, General Authority Seventy, speaks during a BYU–Idaho campus devotional on Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2023. | Michael Lewis, BYU–Idaho


“After the praying and studying and counseling, eventually we must decide,” Elder Meredith said.

Sometimes strong spiritual impressions will help lead one to a decision. Sometimes those strong impressions don’t come until after the decision is made. “Sometimes the very act of deciding is the expression of our faith required to get revelation,” Elder Meredith said.

It can be easy for analysis paralysis to set in when contemplating a big life decision. “Let us not get so anxious that we stop moving forward in faith or avoid making a decision,” he said. That analysis is an essential part of the revelatory process, but remember that “revelation often comes when we are on the move, not when we are idle.”

Pray and listen for confirmation

Confirmation sometimes comes in a short time, even while one is still on their knees praying, Elder Meredith said. “However, for big life decisions, you will likely find that revelation does not come when we are on our knees, but is revealed gradually over time.”

As an example, Elder Meredith spoke about the off-and-on relationship he had with his wife for the 16 months before they were married.

He explained: “We dated, we talked, we went to firesides together, we studied together, we went skiing and we met each other’s families. Over time, the accumulation of small and quiet reassurances made me realize that she was someone [who] made me think my highest thoughts, aspire to my noblest deeds and made me wish that I was better than I was. And I just really loved her, too.”

Elder Alvin F. Meredith III, General Authority Seventy, and his wife, Sister Jennifer Meredith, greet students following a BYU–Idaho devotional on Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2023. | Natalia Lopez, BYU–Idaho

Though there was no singular earth-shattering manifestation, Elder Meredith absolutely believes heavenly guidance led to them being together as husband and wife.

“The confirmation from the Holy Ghost to sincere inquiries about life decisions is usually a process and rarely an event. Pay attention to those small and simple spiritual reassurances that often come over a period of time.”

Elder Meredith then addressed three questions that often arise about revelation for life decisions.

How do I recognize the Spirit?

The Spirit often gives one a feeling of peace, or speaks to one’s mind and heart together. “Confirming answers may come to us in expressions that sound or feel like: ‘That makes sense,’ ‘Of course,’ ‘That feels right’ or ‘I feel good about that,’” Elder Meredith said. Conversely, the Spirit could also constrain or redirect with opposite feelings, or give a stupor of thought.

What do I do if I do not feel an answer?

Noting that this is an odd thing to say in a talk about receiving revelation, Elder Meredith said, “Sometimes God simply wants us to use our agency and our own best judgment.”

Offer prayer and put in the work to qualify for revelation. But if no spiritual impression comes, act, press forward with faith and use one’s agency and good mind. “Be grateful that the Lord trusts you,” Elder Meredith said. “The Lord will redirect you if you head in the wrong direction. He will not let you travel too far without letting you know. Proceed with trust.”

What if I feel differently later?

When Elder Meredith was in graduate school, he had received two offers from firms that would give him similar opportunities. Without a clear answer, he picked one and decided to move forward. In doing so, he first called the other firm and left a voicemail to decline the offer. “The more I talked, the more I felt sick to my stomach about the decision,” he said.

Immediately, he and his wife prayed once more, and it became clear that they needed to change their decision. Elder Meredith called the firm he had just turned down, and the recruiter graciously allowed him to change his mind.

Why did this happen? It could be that he was still learning the language of the Spirit — a lifelong endeavor — Elder Meredith said. “Additionally, in some instances, we may find that the original answer is one of several steppingstones to a final destination.”

It’s also important to know that just because the chosen path ends up being hard does not mean that it was not right. “Some of the best decisions my wife and I have made took us down difficult paths,” he said. “But we grew spiritually and in other ways because we made those decisions.”

In conclusion, Elder Meredith promised the students that “as you seek for revelation, exercise your agency and use the good mind that the Lord has blessed you with, you will walk in the light of the Lord. ... [The] Holy Ghost will help us live righteously, guide us in our decisions and protect us.”

BYU–Idaho students take notes during a campus devotional on Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2023. | Michael Lewis, BYU–Idaho
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