“Stand Strong,” For the Strength of Youth, June 2021, 20–23.
I want to tell you about the forest where I spent most of my childhood. It was warm in the summer and cold in the winter, with occasional snow. It had all sorts of interesting mammals, reptiles, insects, and birds.
But what I remember most are the trees. Their scientific name is yucca brevifolia, and they’re not technically trees. They live mainly in the Mojave Desert, found in California, Utah, Arizona, and Nevada, USA.
Pioneers are said to have named this species the “Joshua tree” because it mimicked the Old Testament prophet Joshua waving them on, with upraised arms, toward the promised land. As a child, I wondered who Joshua was and what I should know about him.
As an adult, I know that Joshua led the children of Israel into the promised land. He was a type of Christ, who leads all the faithful into the ultimate land of promise, the presence of Heavenly Father.
Before Joshua died, he gathered his people and reminded them of all the things the Lord had done for them. He admonished them, saying, “Choose you this day whom ye will serve” (Joshua 24:15).
I’d like to share three messages from Joshua’s admonition.
Elder Dale G. Renlund of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles has taught, “Our Heavenly Father’s goal in parenting is not to have His children do what is right; it is to have His children choose to do what is right and ultimately become like Him.”1
In the Book of Mormon, Lehi tells us that “to bring about [God’s] eternal purposes in the end of man, … the Lord God gave unto man that he should act for himself” (2 Nephi 2:15–16).
Our divine gift and ability to choose can be both wonderful and nerve-racking. Not long ago, I talked with a woman in her early 20s. She explained that she felt overwhelmed with all of the choices she had to make. She said, “I just wish someone would choose for me.”
As I listened, I thought of these words from Joshua: “Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest” (Joshua 1:9).
Decisions are part of our Heavenly Father’s divine design. Our whole mortal experience is centered on our agency. It facilitates our eternal progression.
President Russell M. Nelson has taught, “If you want to be happy, choose the way of the Lord.”2
Have courage to choose righteously in accordance with the covenants you have made.
Notice that Joshua says “this day,” not “someday.” Procrastination can have unpleasant consequences. Think about delaying your homework or reading assignments until the end of the term. That wouldn’t be good! Many of the choices we make cannot be tabled for some future day when we have time to get around to them. Some must be addressed daily, with intentional diligence.
One such choice is the opportunity to repent every day (see Alma 34:32–33). President Nelson has taught, “Nothing is more liberating, more ennobling, or more crucial to our individual progression than is a regular, daily focus on repentance.”3
Choosing to repent keeps us free from the burdens of guilt, addiction, shame, nagging grudges, unworthiness, and self-deception. In contrast, our daily repentance produces hope, confidence, enthusiasm, wisdom, forgiveness, improved relationships, and an increased ability to receive personal revelation.
President Nelson has lovingly pleaded with those who have stepped off the path, “Please do not stay off the covenant path one more minute. Please come back through true repentance, now.”4
As disciples of Jesus Christ, we are “willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light; … mourn with those that mourn; … and comfort those that stand in need of comfort” (Mosiah 18:8–9).
Whether we do these things because of a formal ministering assignment or quietly when prompted by the Holy Ghost, when we are in the service of our fellow beings, we are serving our God (see Mosiah 2:17).
Opportunities for service are all around you. Some will come in an organized way or as part of a group effort. Others will be individualized, unadvertised, and known only to the recipient.
Please pay close attention to the people around you. You are not where you are by accident. There is a divine design to our Father in Heaven’s work for His children. You may be the loving neighbor, the listening ear, the friendly face, the thoughtful son or daughter, the strong back, or the helpful hands that Heavenly Father has designed to serve those closest to you—your family and extended family, friends, coworkers, teammates, classmates, and others.
Let’s return to the picture of my childhood forest in the desert. Besides the Joshua trees, I often saw tumbleweeds. As long as tumbleweeds are connected to their roots in the ground, they stay anchored, nourished, and growing. But tumbleweeds have their name for a reason.
Tumbleweeds have no mind of their own. They move in one direction—the direction of the wind. When the connection between the plant and its roots dries out, the plant breaks free from its foundation with a simple gust of wind.
Paul warned the Ephesians that some people are “tossed to and fro, and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive” (Ephesians 4:14).
Joshua trees and tumbleweeds grow side by side. Each is subject to the same heat and cold, soil conditions, and wind. But one stands and the other tumbles.
The Lord has said, “But my disciples shall stand in holy places, and shall not be moved” (Doctrine and Covenants 45:32).
Choose to stand and be not moved from the roots of your faith and the source of revelation. Stand and be not moved from the promises of your covenants or from the work Father in Heaven has sent you here to do.
“Choose you this day whom ye will serve,” committing to yourself that “as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15).