Pythagoras is attributed as saying, “Choices are the hinges of destiny.” Each day we meet situations that need us to make decisions. Some of the things that we make decisions about on a daily basis are: what time to get out of bed, what to wear, what to eat, what time to leave for work or school, and what things to do during the day. Brendan Francis said, “Some persons are very decisive when it comes to avoiding decisions.” However, said William James, “When you have to make a choice and don’t make it, that is in itself a choice.” Or, as someone has wisely said, “Indecision becomes decision with time.”
Some decisions seem to be harder to make than others. Sometimes we will find ourselves having to choose between two alternatives which make it even harder to make a decision, especially if both alternatives seem favorable. There are also times when we may want to avoid making a decision altogether for fear that the decision we make will be the wrong decision. Roy Disney said, “It’s not hard to make decisions when you know what your values are.” Someone has also said, “When one bases his life on principle, 99 percent of his decisions are already made.”
There are three important things to remember when making decisions. First, we need to realize that every decision that we make will not necessarily be the right or best decision. Second, we need to realize that no matter what decision is made about a particular situation, there will always be someone who will be unhappy with the decision that was made. And third, we must realize that with every decision we make, there is a corresponding result, whether good or bad. The important thing is that we must be willing to take responsibility for, and be accountable for every decision that we make. For as Flora Whittemore has said, “The doors we open and close each day decide the lives we live.”
Concerning making decisions, President Thomas S. Monson shared the following story in a BYU devotional on March 11, 1997:
In 1888, Benjamin Landart was 15 years old and an accomplished violinist. Living on a farm in northern Utah with his mother and seven brothers and sisters was sometimes a challenge for Benjamin, because he had less time than he would have liked to play his violin. At times his mother would lock the violin up until he had his farm chores done, so great was the temptation for Benjamin to play it.
In late 1892, Benjamin was asked to travel to Salt Lake City to audition for a place with the territorial orchestra. For him this was a dream come true. After several weeks of practicing and prayers, he went to Salt Lake in March of 1893 for the much-anticipated audition. When the conductor, a Mr. Dean, heard Benjamin play, he told Benjamin that he was the most accomplished violinist he had heard west of Denver. He was told to report to Denver for rehearsals in the fall and learned that he would be earning enough money to provide for himself, with some left over to send home.
A week after Benjamin received the good news; however, his bishop called him into his office and asked if he could put off playing with the orchestra for a couple of years. He told Benjamin that before he started earning money there was something he owed the Lord. He then asked Benjamin to accept a mission call.
Benjamin felt that giving up his chance to play in the territorial orchestra would be almost more than he could bear, but he also knew what his decision should be. He promised the bishop that if there were any way to raise the money for him to serve, he would accept the call.
When Benjamin told his mother about the call, she was overjoyed. She told him that his father had always wanted to serve a mission but had been killed before that opportunity had come to him. Now Benjamin could go in his place. However, when they discussed the financing of the mission, her face clouded over. Benjamin told her he would not allow her to sell any more of their land.
She studied his face for a moment and then said, “Ben, there is a way we can raise the money. This family has one thing that is of great enough value to send you on your mission. You will have to sell your violin.”
Ten days later, on March 23, 1893, Benjamin wrote the following in his journal: “I awoke this morning and took my violin from its case. All day long I played the music I love. In the evening when the light grew dim and I could see to play no longer, I placed the instrument in its case. It will be well enough. Tomorrow I leave for my mission.”
Forty-five years later, on June 23, 1938, Benjamin wrote the following in his journal: “The greatest decision I ever made in my life was to give up something I dearly loved to serve the God I loved even more. He has never forgotten me for it.”
President James E. Faust said,
We do not choose wisely if we use our agency in opposition to God’s will or to priesthood counsel. Tomorrow’s blessings and opportunities depend on the choices we make today.
How many of us, when faced with decisions similar to those which Benjamin had to make, would have made the same choices? Benjamin loved playing his violin and the chance to play in the territorial orchestra was a once in a lifetime opportunity for him. But, he loved God even more, and he knew that even though choosing to serve a mission would mean having to give up that which he so dearly cherished, the sacrifice would be well worth it in the end.
President Faust also taught us a valuable life lesson when he said,
In this life we have to make many choices. Some are very important choices. Some are not. Many of our choices are between good and evil. The choices we make, however, determine to a large extent our happiness or our unhappiness, because we have to live with the consequences of our choices. Making perfect choices all of the time is not possible. It just doesn’t happen. But it is possible to make good choices we can live with and grow from. When God’s children live worthy of divine guidance they can become “free forever, knowing good from evil; to act for themselves and not to be acted upon.”