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What Should We Do When We Can’t Do It All?

What Should We Do When We Can’t Do It All?
President Gordon B. Hinckley (1910–2008) clearly taught us that we can’t do it all. “Let me say that there is never enough time to do it all. There is so much more than any of us can single-handedly give attention to” (Worldwide Learning Training Meeting, June 21, 2003, 22). But some of us feel we should be able to! Aren’t we striving to be perfect? Won’t the Lord help us?
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We need to remember that the Lord’s counsel and promises refer to every needful thing (see D&C 109:15) and to that which is expedient (see D&C 88:64). The norm President Hinckley implied is that there is always more to do, say, study, be, and share than we can possibly get to.

That is part of the plan. God gave us agency—the ability and privilege to choose. For us to use it, we must have choices. Our need to choose means there are mutually exclusive alternatives. Of all we could do, say, and be, what will we select and which will we let go?

For the faithful, the choices often involve deciding among several good things. Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles described the challenge as picking between good, better, and best (see “Good, Better, Best,” Liahona, Nov. 2007, 104–108).
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The short answer to “What should we do when we can’t do it all?” is found in the scriptures: “But ye are commanded in all things to ask of God, who giveth liberally; and that which the Spirit testifies unto you even so I would that ye should do” (D&C 46:7).

Think about it! God knows what would be best for each of us to choose to do at this time. He invites, and even commands, us to ask Him and promises to answer “liberally.” When we receive the witness of the Spirit, we can know the right thing to do.

Let me share some examples of how this has worked for me. Often I have received callings that I did not know how to magnify. I reached out to people I trust who had already had those callings and asked for their advice. They generously responded. Of all those pages of counsel, I chose to use that which the Spirit confirmed was important for me in my situation.

We love general conference and have made considerable efforts to attend each one. We have prayed for guidance and tried to be open to the teachings. I used to take good notes and try to do all that was suggested. Now I focus on those things the Spirit confirms are most important for me to do at this time.
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It is also important to recognize how the Spirit communicates to us. One significant aspect is explained in John 16:13: “Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak.”

According to this insight, the Holy Ghost will rarely give us a sermon but usually confirm to us as truth something someone else teaches. Therefore we need to be careful to be where we are supposed to be, when we are supposed to be there.

For example, President Gordon B. Hinckley, as a twelve-year-old boy, received a witness that Joseph Smith was a prophet as he attended a stake priesthood meeting and sang with the congregation “Praise to the Man” (Hymns, no. 27). The Spirit confirmed the truth of what he heard.

I experienced this aspect of the Spirit while attending a stake priesthood leadership meeting. A bishop was teaching the model of priesthood leadership found in Doctrine and Covenants 121. As he did so, the Holy Ghost confirmed to me that that is the way the Lord wants us to interact with each other.

The Book of Mormon explains a wonderful role of the Spirit in our lives. Sometimes we know what to do, but not how to do it! Nephi teaches us that the Holy Ghost will show us how: “For behold, again I say unto you that if ye will enter in by the way, and receive the Holy Ghost, it will show unto you all things what ye should do” (2 Nephi 32:5).

As disciples of Jesus Christ, we should be “doers of the word” (James 1:22). In fact, as agents we should be “anxiously engaged” in good things (see D&C 58:27–28). Since we can’t do it all, the Lord has blessed us with the gift of the Holy Ghost. As we ask in faith, the Spirit can help us prioritize what is important for us at this time, select which is best of the good alternatives, help us know how to magnify our callings, confirm the truth and applicability of what we learn, and show us how to do what we need to do.
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I testify that the Holy Ghost really is a great blessing to us. I joy in “the unspeakable gift of the Holy Ghost” (D&C 121:26). My prayer is that we will all choose to use it.