I have had the opportunity and blessing to associate with many young women at the prime of their lives. They are full of excitement for life, excitement for the future, and love for the gospel. I love talking with these young women about what Elder Hales recently referred to as “the decade of decision.”

Recent discussions here at Mormon Momma have caused me to reflect on advice that I like to give these young women. (This may or may not be relevant to our recent discussions. If not, take it as a new thread of thought. And although some of my personal thoughts are written with single young women in mind, I believe the principles can and do apply to us all.)

I know what it's like to have your whole future ahead of you. It's exciting, but can also be frightening. The weight of decisions regarding education, career choices, and marriage (among other things) sometimes seems crushing. The challenge can be compounded when it appears that one's life doesn't fit into a neatly-packaged schedule. (e.g., Graduate from high school at 18. Go to college. Be swept off feet at at age 20. Know on second date that he is the one. Get married. Have first child at ?) I know what this non-neatly-packaged life is like, many times over. Guess what? Life usually doesn't fit such a neat package! Part of the purpose of life is to learn how to make decisions and to press forward in faith and look to the Lord as our life unfolds. This unfolding involves all we can do and the Lord's grace and wisdom.

My own decade of decision involved lots of worrying. Too much worrying. (I still do too much of that!) I worried about my major. I worried about relationships that weren't quite right, even as they were spirit-filled and wonderful. I worried about my grades. I worried, worried, worried. I did have a lot of fun, too, but oh, how I wish I had worried less!

True confession: I still find myself wondering sometimes if I goofed along the way, especially with regard to relationships. “Maybe I could have married one of those guys and been happy.” But guess what? The relationships didn't feel right at the time. And guess what? The Lord brought a man into my life, with whom I have felt time and time a heavenly-approved and heaven-guided relationship. Even if I had made a mistake along the way, the Lord has more than provided and continually guided when I reached a crossroads in my life. He never left me alone. I believe things have a way of working out when we trust in Him. Sometimes that requires more faith and patience than we want to exercise, but that's part of our journey.

When I give advice to young women, I try to encourage them to try not to worry too much. I believe righteous desires go a long, long way. (And I try to remind myself of these things, too.) The key to finding joy in life is to trust in God, to stay close to Him, to learn how to hear and discern His guidance and answers. And to put your shoulder to the wheel and push forward, living life to the fullest! God can't guide us if we aren't moving our feet.

I think it's also important to realize that we may not always do the decision-making thing perfectly. This whole process is part of life. But my experience has been that the Lord has been there, even when I wasn't sure if He was or if I was worthy or listening just right. I have tried to stay on the path, and He has be there. He has opened my mind and heart and spirit when decisions that needed to be made came along. Even as I felt the normal trepidation that comes from big decisions, he helped me move forward. He has helped me through the challenges that have come as a result of the decisions I have made (because they always do). He has given me tremendous blessings, and continually gives me tender mercies that help me know that He is involved in and aware of my life.

I believe the adversary wants us to doubt. He wants us to doubt our own selves and he wants us to doubt God. He wants us to doubt that there is hope when things are hard. He wants to paralyze us with fear or anxiety or worry or regret.

But what does the Lord say?

“Press forward….” (2 Ne. 31:20)
“Forward, not backward!…Courage…and on, on to the victory!” (D&C 128:22)
“Fear not” (with references too numerous to list)
“I am with thee.” (Isa. 41:10)
“All things work together for good to them that love God” (Rom. 8:28; see also D&C 98:23; D&C 122:7)
“Be of good cheer, for I will lead you along.” (D&C 78:18)

The list could go on.

One of my favorite quotes that I share with young women when I have the chance is the following from Elder John H. Groberg:

In the past, I have tried to figure out whether I should go into business or into teaching, or into the arts, or whatever. As I have begun to proceed along one path, having more or less gathered what facts I could, I have found that if that decision was wrong or was taking me down the wrong path not necessarily an evil one, but one that was not right for me without fail, the Lord has always let me know just this emphatically: ?That is wrong; do not go that way. That is not for you. ?

On the other hand, there may have been two or three ways that I could have gone, any one of which would have been right and would have been in the general area providing the experience and means whereby I could fulfill the mission that the Lord had in mind for me. Because He knows we need the growth, He generally does not point and say, ?Open that door and go twelve yards in that direction, then turn right and go two miles ?. ? But, if it is wrong, He will let us know we will feel it for sure. I am positive of that. So, rather than saying, ?I will not move until I have this burning in my heart, ? let us turn it around and say, ?I will move unless I feel it is wrong; and if it is wrong, then I will not do it. ? By eliminating all of these wrong courses, very quickly, you will find yourself going in the direction that you ought to be going, and then you can receive the assurance: ?Yes, I am going in the right direction. I am doing what my Father in Heaven wants me to do because I am not doing the things He does not want me to do. ? And you can know that for sure. That is part of the growth process and part of accomplishing what our Father in Heaven has in mind for us ? (John H. Groberg BYU Speeches of the Year, 1979).

Elder Scott said something similar in the most recent General Conference:

Some misunderstandings about prayer can be clarified by realizing that the scriptures define principles for effective prayer, but they do not assure when a response will be given. Actually, He will reply in one of three ways. First, you can feel the peace, comfort, and assurance that confirm that your decision is right. Or second, you can sense that unsettled feeling, the stupor of thought, indicating that your choice is wrong. Or third and this is the difficult one you can feel no response.

What do you do when you have prepared carefully, have prayed fervently, waited a reasonable time for a response, and still do not feel an answer? You may want to express thanks when that occurs, for it is an evidence of His trust. When you are living worthily and your choice is consistent with the Savior ?s teachings and you need to act, proceed with trust. As you are sensitive to the promptings of the Spirit, one of two things will certainly occur at the appropriate time: either the stupor of thought will come, indicating an improper choice, or the peace or the burning in the bosom will be felt, confirming that your choice was correct. When you are living righteously and are acting with trust, God will not let you proceed too far without a warning impression if you have made the wrong decision.

I take great comfort in the fact that the Lord is there, to help us make the decisions in our lives. If we are living close to Him, God can help us know when we are going to make decisions that are wrong, that are not part of His plan for us. That doesn't mean He will always protect us from pain and struggle. It doesn't even mean we will always be perfect at decision-making. But we can know that He will help us as we learn the process of making decisions (even protect us from decisions that would be wrong). Most importantly, I believe that all things can be for our good now and eternally if we press forward in faith.


Addendum:
When I am pondering life or the gospel, I like to ponder what our leaders have said. If you are this type of person, perhaps something in the following linked talks below will be of benefit to you.

Elder Hales

Elder Oaks

President Faust

Elder Scott

Elder Hales

Elder Hales

President Hinckley

Elder and Sister Oaks in a CES young adult fireside:

Another entire talk to read: Cast Not Away Therefore Your Confidence by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland. (I listened again to this tonight and was impressed particularly with his thoughts on how fear is usually something the adversary uses to dissuade us from moving forward in faith.)