“Making Hard Decisions,” New Era, June 2005, 4–7
To qualify for inspiration and direction from the Lord throughout your life, decide now to do what the Lord wants you to do—even though it may appear to be a sacrifice or very challenging. I have learned from personal experience how making the right decision at a critical time can bless your entire life. With a sincere desire to help you gain confidence in your ability to consistently make right choices, I will share a personal experience that taught me important lessons.
After I graduated from college, served a mission, and got married, my wife and I moved to the eastern United States, where I found a job. Through a series of what I now see as unusual experiences, I was interviewed to have a job as an engineer in a new and exciting activity: the design and development of nuclear power plants for submarines. As I look back, it should have been virtually impossible for me to get that job. There were more experienced people applying for it. It just worked out that the Lord helped me.
That shows us that the Lord will bless our lives if we follow His promptings and do what the prophets say. We must exercise courage and faith and choose the right, even though many around us are not.
After 11 exciting years of working at that job, I was in a meeting one night with those developing an essential part of the nuclear power plant. My secretary came in and said, “There’s a man on the phone who says if I tell you his name you’ll come to the phone.”
I said, “What’s his name?”
She said, “Harold B. Lee.”
I said, “He’s right.” I took the phone call. Elder Lee, who later became President of the Church, asked if he could see me that very night. He was in New York City, and I was in Washington, D.C. I flew up to meet him, and we had an interview that led to my call to be a mission president.
The head of the program I was working for was Admiral Hyman Rickover, a hard-working, demanding individual. I knew him well enough that I felt I needed to tell him as soon as possible that I was being called. As I explained the mission call to him and that it would mean I would have to quit my job, he became rather upset. He said some unrepeatable things, broke the paper tray on his desk, and in the comments that followed clearly established two points:
“Scott, what you are doing in this defense program is so vital that it will take a year to replace you, so you can’t go. Second, if you do go, you are a traitor to your country.”
I said, “I can train my replacement in the two remaining months, and there won’t be any risk to the country.”
There was more conversation, and he finally said, “I never will talk to you again. I don’t want to see you again. You are finished, not only here, but don’t ever plan to work in the nuclear field again.”
I responded, “Admiral, you can bar me from the office, but unless you prevent me, I am going to turn this assignment over to another individual.”
True to his word, the admiral ceased to speak to me. When critical decisions had to be made, he would send a messenger, or I would communicate through a third party. He assigned an individual to take my responsibility, and I trained him.
It wasn’t going to be hard for me to leave; I knew I had been called as a mission president by the Lord. But I knew that my decision would affect others. In the Idaho Falls, Idaho, area were many members of the Church whose jobs depended upon working in the nuclear program. I didn’t want to cause them harm. I didn’t know what to do. My heart kept saying, “Is this going to turn out all right, or will somebody be innocently hurt who depends on our program for livelihood?”
As I prayed and pondered about it, I had a feeling about the hymn “Do What Is Right.” A line from the hymn would come to mind: “Do what is right; let the consequence follow.” Other words from the hymn were reinforcing such as “God will protect you; then do what is right!” (Hymns, no. 237).
My last day in the office I asked for an appointment with the admiral. His secretary gasped. I went with a copy of the Book of Mormon in my hand. He looked at me and said, “Sit down, Scott, what do you have? I have tried every way I can to force you to change. What is it you have?” There followed a very interesting, quiet conversation. There was more listening this time.
He said he would read the Book of Mormon. Then something happened I never thought would occur. He added, “When you come back from the mission, I want you to call me. There will be a job for you.”
As a youth, you will have challenges and hard decisions to make throughout your life. For a young man, your first hard decision may be whether you should be a missionary or not. That is not really a question. The Lord has indicated a mission is a privilege and responsibility. What’s needed is to live worthy to serve as a missionary, to understand the teachings of the Lord, particularly the message of the Restoration, and to realize that you’ll be able to bless many lives if you forget yourself in the service of the Lord.
As a mission president, I saw how young men and women were given opportunities that caused them to grow enormously while they richly blessed the lives of others. The missionaries who found the work easiest had studied the scriptures and internalized the gospel message.
Because of the missionaries’ willingness to make the difficult decision to give up things that would appear attractive to teenagers, the Lord gave them opportunities to serve and, later, wonderful companions in marriage. They became outstanding servants of God because of their discipline, hard work, and trust in the Lord. A significant number of them have been leaders in the Church, and they are truly outstanding in their professions.
Determine now to always do what is right, and let the consequence follow. The consequence will always be for your best good. You will learn that it is easiest over the long run to stand for what is right and do the difficult thing to begin with. Once you take that position, following through is not too hard.
I have never been sorry when I stood for what was right—even against severe criticism. As you learn that truth, you will also discover that when you are obedient, you will be inspired to know what to do and have the capacity to do it.
With all of the love in my heart, I ask you to decide to keep the standards of the Lord. Live so that the Holy Ghost can inspire you to consistently do what is right. I testify that, as a result, your worthy dreams or something even better will be yours.
Your Father in Heaven and His Beloved Son love you. They want your happiness more than you can now possibly know. They will help you attain that happiness as you steadfastly do all you can to obey the commandments.
Parts of this article were taken from “Do What Is Right,” Ensign, June 1997, 51–55.