My dear brothers and sisters, each day is a day of decision. President Thomas S. Monson has taught us that “decisions determine destiny.”1 The wise use of your freedom to make your own decisions is crucial to your spiritual growth, now and for eternity. You are never too young to learn, never too old to change. Your yearnings to learn and change come from a divinely instilled striving for eternal progression.2 Each day brings opportunity for decisions for eternity.
We are eternal beings—spirit children of heavenly parents. The Bible records that “God created man in his own image, … male and female created he them.”3 Recently I heard a chorus of children sing the beloved song “I Am a Child of God.”4 I wondered, “Why haven’t I heard that song rendered more often by singing mothers or faithful fathers?” Are we not all children of God? In truth, not one of us can ever stop being a child of God!
As children of God, we should love Him with all our heart and soul, even more than we love our earthly parents.5 We should love our neighbors as brothers and sisters. No other commandments are greater than these.6 And we should ever revere the worth of human life, through each of its many stages.
Scripture teaches that the body and the spirit are the soul of man.7 As a dual being, each of you can thank God for His priceless gifts of your body and your spirit.
My professional years as a medical doctor gave me a profound respect for the human body. Created by God as a gift to you, it is absolutely amazing! Think of your eyes that see, ears that hear, and fingers that feel all the wondrous things around you. Your brain lets you learn, think, and reason. Your heart pumps tirelessly day and night, almost without your awareness.8
Your body protects itself. Pain comes as a warning that something is wrong and needs attention. Infectious illnesses strike from time to time, and when they do, antibodies are formed that increase your resistence to subsequent infection.
Your body repairs itself. Cuts and bruises heal. Broken bones can become strong once again. I have cited but a tiny sample of the many amazing God-given qualities of your body.
Even so, it seems that in every family, if not in every person, some physical conditions exist that require special care.9 A pattern for coping with such a challenge has been given by the Lord. He said, “I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; … for if they humble themselves … and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.”10
Stellar spirits are often housed in imperfect bodies.11 The gift of such a body can actually strengthen a family as parents and siblings willingly build their lives around that child born with special needs.
The aging process is also a gift from God, as is death. The eventual death of your mortal body is essential to God’s great plan of happiness.12 Why? Because death will allow your spirit to return home to Him.13 From an eternal perspective, death is only premature for those who are not prepared to meet God.
With your body being such a vital part of God’s eternal plan, it is little wonder that the Apostle Paul described it as a “temple of God.”14 Each time you look in the mirror, see your body as your temple. That truth—refreshed gratefully each day—can positively influence your decisions about how you will care for your body and how you will use it. And those decisions will determine your destiny. How could this be? Because your body is the temple for your spirit. And how you use your body affects your spirit. Some of the decisions that will determine your eternal destiny include:
How will you choose to care for and use your body?
What spiritual attributes will you choose to develop?
Your spirit is an eternal entity. The Lord said to His prophet Abraham: “Thou wast chosen before thou wast born.”15 The Lord said something similar about Jeremiah16 and many others.17 He even said it about you.18
Your Heavenly Father has known you for a very long time. You, as His son or daughter, were chosen by Him to come to earth at this precise time, to be a leader in His great work on earth.19 You were chosen not for your bodily characteristics but for your spiritual attributes, such as bravery, courage, integrity of heart, a thirst for truth, a hunger for wisdom, and a desire to serve others.
A pivotal spiritual attribute is that of self-mastery—the strength to place reason over appetite. Self-mastery builds a strong conscience. And your conscience determines your moral responses in difficult, tempting, and trying situations. Fasting helps your spirit to develop dominance over your physical appetites. Fasting also increases your access to heaven’s help, as it intensifies your prayers. Why the need for self-mastery? God implanted strong appetites within us for nourishment and love, vital for the human family to be perpetuated.22 When we master our appetites within the bounds of God’s laws, we can enjoy longer life, greater love, and consummate joy.23
It is not surprising, then, that most temptations to stray from God’s plan of happiness come through the misuse of those essential, God-given appetites. Controlling our appetites is not always easy. Not one of us manages them perfectly.24 Mistakes happen. Errors are made. Sins are committed. What can we do then? We can learn from them. And we can truly repent.25
We can change our behavior. Our very desires can change. How? There is only one way. True change—permanent change—can come only through the healing, cleansing, and enabling power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ.26 He loves you—each of you!27 He allows you to access His power as you keep His commandments, eagerly, earnestly, and exactly. It is that simple and certain. The gospel of Jesus Christ is a gospel of change!28
A strong human spirit with control over appetites of the flesh is master over emotions and passions and not a slave to them. That kind of freedom is as vital to the spirit as oxygen is to the body! Freedom from self-slavery is true liberation!29
We are “free to choose liberty and eternal life … or to choose captivity and death.”30 When we choose the loftier path toward liberty and eternal life, that path includes marriage.31 Latter-day Saints proclaim that “marriage between a man and a woman is ordained of God and that the family is central to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children.” We also know that “gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose.”32
Marriage between a man and a woman is fundamental to the Lord’s doctrine and crucial to God’s eternal plan. Marriage between a man and a woman is God’s pattern for a fulness of life on earth and in heaven. God’s marriage pattern cannot be abused, misunderstood, or misconstrued.33 Not if you want true joy. God’s marriage pattern protects the sacred power of procreation and the joy of true marital intimacy.34 We know that Adam and Eve were married by God before they ever experienced the joy of uniting as husband and wife.35
In our day civil governments have a vested interest in protecting marriage because strong families constitute the best way of providing for the health, education, welfare, and prosperity of rising generations.36 But civil governments are heavily influenced by social trends and secular philosophies as they write, rewrite, and enforce laws. Regardless of what civil legislation may be enacted, the doctrine of the Lord regarding marriage and morality cannot be changed.37 Remember: sin, even if legalized by man, is still sin in the eyes of God!
While we are to emulate our Savior’s kindness and compassion, while we are to value the rights and feelings of all of God’s children, we cannot change His doctrine. It is not ours to change. His doctrine is ours to study, understand, and uphold.
The Savior’s way of life is good. His way includes chastity before marriage and total fidelity within marriage.38 The Lord’s way is the only way for us to experience enduring happiness. His way brings sustained comfort to our souls and perennial peace to our homes. And best of all, His way leads us home to Him and our Heavenly Father, to eternal life and exaltation.39 This is the very essence of God’s work and glory.40
My dear brothers and sisters, each day is a day of decision, and our decisions determine our destiny. One day each of us will stand before the Lord in judgment.41 We will each have a personal interview with Jesus Christ.42 We will account for decisions that we made about our bodies, our spiritual attributes, and how we honored God’s pattern for marriage and family. That we may choose wisely each day’s decisions for eternity is my earnest prayer in the sacred name of Jesus Christ, amen.