Elder Alvin F. Meredith
General Authority Seventy
Elder Alvin F. Meredith, III was sustained as a General Authority Seventy on April 3, 2021. At the time of his call, he was serving as the president of the Utah Salt Lake City South Mission. He is currently serving in the Middle East/Africa North Area Presidency.
He received a bachelor of science degree in psychology from BYU and an MBA from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. In his professional career, he worked for GE Capital, The Boston Consulting Group, and Asurion.
Elder Meredith served as a member of the Sixth Quorum of the Seventy in the North America Southeast Area and as a member of the Eighth Quorum of the Seventy in the Asia Area. He has served in a number of other Church callings, including stake president, bishop, elder’s quorum president, and full-time missionary in the Utah Salt Lake City Mission.
Alvin Frazier Meredith, III was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee, on July 22, 1970. He married Jennifer Edgin in 1998. They are the parents of six children.
Receiving Revelation for Life Decisions
Elder Alvin F. Meredith III
Receiving Revelation for Life Decisions
You are living in the “decade of decision.”[i] In the next ten years of your life, all of you will be making big life decisions, important choices that will greatly influence the path and trajectory of your life. Some of these choices are between right and wrong. I am not going to talk about how to make those types of choices today, besides to say, “choose the right.” I am going to talk about how to make big life decisions in which you are often choosing between two or more good options.
Raise your hand if you anticipate, in the next ten years, making any of the following decisions: whether to go on a mission? What major to study? What career path to pursue? Who to marry? Which job offer to accept? Where to live?
If you did not raise your hand yet, raise your hand if your parents hope you will make those decisions in the next ten years.
Although these are not decisions of a moral nature, these are decisions for which you will want to seek heavenly guidance, even revelation.
Calling a New Stake President
A wonderful illustration of principles for receiving revelation for big life decisions is the process for calling a new stake president. Typically, two Seventies, or sometimes an Apostle and a Seventy, are assigned by the President of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles to reorganize a stake presidency. Their task is to discern who the Lord would have them call as the new stake president. This is not a choice between good and bad options. In every stake reorganization I have been involved with, there were multiple men who were both worthy and capable of serving as the stake president.
Let’s discuss one reorganization that is representative of most. And then let’s highlight some important principles in the process.
Years ago, when I served as an Area Seventy in Tennessee, a new stake was created, which required the reorganization of a stake presidency. I was assigned to be the junior companion to Elder Christofferson of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. As you can imagine, I was thrilled!
Elder Christofferson and I approached that weekend in a Spirit of prayer and fasting. We had no agenda other than to seek revelation about who the Lord would have serve as the new stake president.
As is typical, we conducted a series of interviews on Saturday morning. Before we began the interviews, we had a companionship prayer. Then, we interviewed the stake presidency, the bishops and branch presidents, high councilors, and a few other men. These are very brief interviews, usually shorter than ten minutes. Each of the brethren we interviewed provided a brief biographical sheet with information that would help us be mindful of their individual circumstances.
In these interviews, we asked each priesthood leader to share a little information about himself and then asked him for the names of three brethren he would recommend for consideration as the new stake president. We often asked the brethren to explain why they recommended those individuals. We asked follow-up questions. We took notes on what they said, but more importantly on the impressions we received. The interviews lasted approximately three hours and could best be described as spiritual work.
When we completed the last interview and the door was shut, Elder Christofferson turned to me and said, “Well, Elder Meredith, what do you think?” As an Area Seventy, I always felt like that question was somewhat of a spiritual test. I asked Elder Christofferson, “How much of what I think do you want to know? Would you like five names, three names, or one name?” In his kind and gentle manner, Elder Christofferson said, “Let’s start with five names.”
I pulled out the biographical sheets of the five men that I thought should be given the greatest consideration and laid them on the table. He asked me thought-provoking questions about my impressions. He eventually said, “I also think the stake president is one of those five men. Now, if you were to narrow it down to three, who would be the three?”
I looked at the biographical sheets on the table, referred to some notes I had taken, gave it some thought, and pulled two of the sheets off the table. We talked about the three remaining men, each worthy and capable. He eventually asked, “If you were to put those three in order of your recommendation, what order would you have?”
I looked at the table and said, “Actually, the order that they are already in.” He looked at the sheets on the table and then asked with a smile, “Is that left to right or right to left?” I said, “Left to right.” He agreed . . . and I felt I passed the spiritual test. However, the real spiritual test was to determine if our thoughts and feelings were aligned with the Lord’s will. Elder Christofferson invited us to kneel to seek confirmation through prayer. The words are always different in these prayers, but the intent is always the same: to ask the Lord “if it be right.”[ii]
When we said “amen,” we both stayed on our knees and waited for a feeling of confirmation. In that case, as it usually does, it came as a peaceful feeling. Nothing grand or great, just small and simple . . . but clear. We knew who the Lord would have serve as the new stake president.
Principles in the Process of Calling a New Stake President
The following are five principles from the process of calling a new stake president which will help us get guidance about big life decisions. I add one caution: these principles are not a checklist because revelation does not have a formula or follow a specific order.
Pray and Fast
The first principle is to approach our life decisions in the spirit of prayer and fasting. Church authorities assigned to call a new stake president do so in a prayerful manner—usually fasting. We should do the same. Seek the Lord’s guidance at the beginning of the decision-making process and throughout. Pray as Nephi did. He described one of his prayers this way: “And it came to pass that I, Nephi, returned from speaking with the Lord, to the tent of my father.”[iii] Note that he speaks “with” the Lord, not “to” Him.
Now, I want to say this very carefully and hope that you will understand what I mean. The counsel to just “pray about it” when it comes to big life decisions is oversimplified. Prayer is a vital part of the revelatory process, but not the only part. Revelation often requires work in addition to prayer.
The Lord told Oliver Cowdery, “Behold, you have not understood; you have supposed that I would give it unto you, when you took no thought save it was to ask me.”[iv] He was teaching Oliver that merely asking was not enough.
Study It Out in Your Mind
The second principle, found in the Lord’s counsel to Oliver in the very next verse, is “study it out in your mind.”[v] Revelation requires effort. Information often precedes inspiration. Preparation is the price we pay for revelation. There are many ways we can say it, but recognize that the Lord has blessed you with a good mind and He expects you to use it.
There is a tremendous amount of spiritual work involved when Church authorities are discerning who the Lord would have them call as a stake president. In those interviews, we ask questions, we ask follow-up questions, we take notes, we study it out in our minds . . . all while listening for the promptings of the Spirit.
What does it mean to “study it out in your mind?” We study what prophets and apostles have said. We read our patriarchal blessings and look for guidance there. It also means we do our homework. We do our research. We break out the spreadsheet and do the analysis. We draw a line down the center of a page with pros on one side and cons on the other. We ask ourselves, “What information will help me get better inspiration?” And then, we do what we can to find that information.
Now, most of our big life decisions will be made with imperfect or incomplete information. But if we do all that we can to study it out fully, the Lord will compensate for what we cannot know perfectly.
Another important qualifier about studying it out in our minds is that the “study” may not always give us the answer, but the study that we do will qualify us to get revelation. For example, when calling a new stake president, we ask the priesthood leaders that we interview for names of men they would recommend. My experience has been that about half of the time, the man recommended the most is called. In other words, half of the time, the information leads directly to the answer, which also means that the other half of the time, something besides the information leads to the answer. In one stake reorganization in which I participated, the man who was called was only recommended by one other person.
I will state it again: the Lord expects us to use our minds and to study things out. The study that we do is a vital part of getting revelation.
Counsel with Trusted People
The third principle is to counsel with trusted people. An important part of the process of calling a new stake president is that two authorities are assigned to be together to discern the Lord’s will. That allows them to counsel together. That counseling is invaluable. Even an Apostle will counsel with his junior companion, as Elder Christofferson did with me.
When making big life decisions, counsel with people that love you and are wise. Alma encouraged Corianton to counsel with his older and wiser brothers.[vi] Who we choose to counsel with will have a considerable influence on the quality of decisions that we make, so counsel with trusted people. If we are married, we counsel with our spouses.
In addition to counseling with people who love us, it is also helpful to counsel with people who have some expertise in the decision that we are making. If you are considering becoming a dentist, talk with a few dentists and a few people who are in dental school. Sisters, if you are considering a mission, counsel with your family, your leaders, and some returned sister missionaries.
When we are seeking counsel, we are not looking for people to tell us what to do. We are looking to get help on how to think about our decision and the options we are considering. Ask trusted people, “What should I be thinking about and considering when making this decision?” “What do you feel are the pros and cons of each of the options I am considering?”
The fourth principle is to decide. After the praying and studying and counseling, eventually, we must decide.
Sometimes we will have strong spiritual impressions that will lead us to the decision. Other times, however, we may not get that strong spiritual impression until after we decide. For example, when calling a new stake president, the final spiritual confirmation often comes after we have come to a decision in our minds and then seek for spiritual reassurance.
Sometimes the very act of deciding is the expression of our faith required to get revelation. We see this principle in the story of Joshua leading the children of Israel over the river Jordan. They came to the river with the promise that the waters would part and they would be able to cross over on dry ground. Had they only waited on the banks of the river for the water to part, they would have waited a long time. But the scriptures say, “The feet of the priests that bare the ark were dipped in the brim of the water . . . [and] the waters . . . were cut off . . . and all the Israelites passed over on dry ground.”[vii] They stepped into the water before it parted. Sometimes we must decide and take a step forward before the heavens part and we receive guidance.
Years ago, my company offered me a new job in Hong Kong. Making an international move with a family is a big life decision. At the time, our oldest child was ten years old and my wife, Jennifer, was six months pregnant with our sixth child. I was also serving as a stake president. It was daunting to know that this decision would affect not only me but the people I love the most—my family. It would have been easy to be paralyzed by indecision. That was a stressful and anxious time for us. We prayed, we studied, we counseled with family and Church leaders, and still could not get a clear answer. So, we decided to decide. We moved forward as far as we could without making a final commitment. It was only then that it became clear that this would be a good move—not an easy move—but a good move for our family.
When contemplating big life decisions, it is easy to get paralysis by analysis. Let us not get so anxious that we stop moving forward in faith or avoid making a decision. As discussed previously, the analysis, or the studying and counseling, are essential parts of the revelatory process. But remember that revelation often comes when we are on the move, not when we are idle.
Pray and Listen for Confirmation
The final principle is to pray and listen for confirmation of our decision. Sometimes that confirmation will come in a short period of time, even while we are on our knees. That is how it happens when Church authorities seek confirmation about who they have decided to call as a stake president. However, for big life decisions, you will likely find that revelation does not come when we are on our knees but is revealed gradually over time.
Tomorrow, February 8, is the 26th anniversary of my first date with my wife, Jennifer. We were set up on a blind date by some mutual friends. When I went to pick her up, she answered the door in a horrendous polyester outfit . . . and I am being kind. She had bought the outfit on a previous date for $2 at Savers, and I think she overpaid. The pants were almost a fluorescent turquoise and the top was striped with a mix of colors that should never go together. She was testing me to see if I had a sense of humor. Gratefully, she did change her outfit before we left her apartment.
We dated for sixteen months before we were married. Well, to be truthful, we dated off and on for sixteen months because there were a couple of break-ups. My wife is the very best person that I know, and I know some really good people. As amazing as she is, I never had a choir of angels descend from heaven and sing to me that she was “the one.” We dated, we talked, we went to firesides together, we studied together, we went skiing, and we met each other’s families. Over time, the accumulation of small and quiet reassurances made me realize that she was someone that made me think my highest thoughts, aspire to my noblest deeds, and made me wish that I was better than I was.[viii] And I just really loved her, too. That is what I hoped for in a wife.
Do I feel that there was heavenly guidance in us being together? Absolutely. Was there some singular earth-shattering manifestation of that? No.
The confirmation from the Holy Ghost to sincere inquiries about life decisions is usually a process and rarely an event. Pay attention to those small and simple spiritual reassurances that often come over a period of time.
In addition to those principles, let’s address three questions that frequently arise about revelation for life decisions. The first is, “How do I recognize the Spirit?” The second is, “What do I do if I do not feel an answer?” And the third is, “What if I feel differently later?”
How Do I Recognize the Spirit?
The first question, “How do I recognize the Spirit?” has a closely related question: “How can I tell if it is the Spirit or my own thoughts?” These are questions that I have wrestled with frequently, particularly during that “decade of decision.” Complete answers to those questions are worthy of a separate sermon, but let’s go over a few thoughts.
The feeling of peace is one of the most common manifestations of the Spirit.[ix] It is also common that the Spirit will speak to our mind and our heart together.[x] Confirming answers may come to us in expressions that sound or feel like, “That makes sense,” “Of course,” “That feels right,” or “I feel good about that.” On the other hand, sometimes the Spirit constrains us or redirects us with opposite feelings or a stupor of thought.
In regard to discerning between our own thoughts and the Spirit, Elder Bednar would tell us, “Quit worrying about it. Press forward with faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Be a good boy. Be a good girl. I promise you that your steps will be guided.”[xi] That counsel is a good segue into the second question.
What Do I Do If I Do Not Feel an Answer?
The second question is, “What do I do if I do not feel an answer?” Have you ever had a moment when you had an important question and you felt the heavens were closed? I certainly have. Elder Richard G. Scott said:
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. . . . 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.[xii]
This is a hard thing for some of us. If you are like me, you want heavenly guidance, especially for big life decisions. I realize that this is an odd thing to say in the middle of a talk about receiving revelation, but sometimes God simply wants us to use our agency and our own best judgment. The scriptures teach:
For behold, it is not meet that I should command in all things; for he that is compelled in all things, the same is a slothful and not a wise servant; wherefore he receiveth no reward.[xiii]
When the brother of Jared sought direction about how to get air and light for the vessels he built, the Lord gave him heavenly guidance—specific guidance—about the air. But when it came to the light, He had the brother of Jared use his agency.
The brother of Jared pressed forward with no record of heavenly guidance. He went to work using his mind and “did molten out of rock sixteen small stones.” Then he carried those stones “upon the top of the mount,” which was even more work. After the brother of Jared used his agency and best judgment, the Lord then touched the stones and blessed the plan of the brother of Jared.[xiv]
We should offer prayers and put in the work to qualify for revelation, but if we do not feel anything and we must act, press forward with faith and use your agency and good mind. Be grateful that the Lord trusts you. The Lord will redirect you if you head in the wrong direction. He will not let you travel too far without letting you know. Proceed with trust.
What If I Feel Differently Later?
The third question is, “What if I feel differently later?” That could happen. It has certainly happened to me.
While I was in graduate school, I received two offers from firms that I felt provided similar opportunities. After studying, counseling, and prayer, my wife and I could not discern which offer would be better for our family. The time came when I had to give an answer to the firms, so I picked one and planned to move forward. During the earlier recruiting process, the recruiter from the other firm coaxed me into promising that I would call her first regardless of what I decided. I wanted to keep my word, so I did call her first. Fortunately, she did not answer, and I was relieved that I could fulfill my promise with a voicemail. In the voicemail, I explained that I had chosen the other firm and then told her all the things that I liked about her firm. The more I talked, the more I felt sick to my stomach about the decision. By the time I hung up, I knew I needed to revisit the decision. I called my wife and asked her to come to campus and pray with me. We prayed and it was clear to both of us that we needed to change our decision. I felt good about it . . . except I had already left her a voicemail declining their offer. I called back, hoping she had not listened to the voicemail yet. She had, but graciously allowed me to change my mind.
One may ask, “How could that happen?” It could have been that I was still learning the language of the Spirit. Even now, I am still learning. Additionally, in some instances, we may find that the original answer is one of several steppingstones to a final destination.
One additional thought on this question: just because the path you have chosen ends up being hard does not mean it is not right. Some of the best decisions my wife and I have made took us down difficult paths. But we grew spiritually and in other ways because we made those decisions. As Sister Michelle Craig taught in the most recent general conference, “Heavenly Father is more interested in [our] growth as a disciple of Jesus Christ than He is with [our] comfort.”[xv] So, do not change course only because it is not comfortable; only change course when it is no longer right.
In conclusion, I promise you that as you seek for revelation, exercise your agency, and use the good mind that the Lord has blessed you with, you will “walk in the light of the Lord.”[xvi]
[i] See Robert D. Hales, “To the Aaronic Priesthood: Preparing for the Decade of Decision,” Ensign, May 2007.
[ii] See Doctrine and Covenants 9:8.
[iii] 1 Nephi 3:1.
[iv] Doctrine and Covenants 9:7.
[v] Doctrine and Covenants 9:8.
[vi] See Alma 39:10.
[vii] Joshua 3:15–17.
[viii] See Ezra Taft Benson, “To the Single Adult Brethren of the Church,” Ensign, May 1989.
[ix] See Doctrine and Covenants 6:23.
[x] See Doctrine and Covenants 8:2–3.
[xi] David A. Bednar, “Quit Worrying About It,” Missionary Training Center Devotional, Jun. 9, 2009.
[xii] Richard G. Scott, “Using the Supernal Gift of Prayer,” Ensign, May 2007.
[xiii] Doctrine and Covenants 58:26.
[xiv] See Ether 2:20; 3:1–6.
[xv] Michelle D. Craig, “Wholehearted,” Liahona, Nov. 2022.
[xvi] See Isaiah 2:5; 2 Nephi 12:5.
Receiving Revelation for Life Decisions
Audio of Elder Alvin F. Meredith III's winter 2023 devotional address