Posted by: 2thdocbob | 21 January 2018

Worthy Goals

I was assigned to speak this morning in Crestline Ward. I love to go up to Crestline, elevation about 4600 feet, and enjoy our mountains. And of course it is a privilege to visit with my good friends there in the ward.

Dear brothers and sisters, I am grateful to be here to worship with you today. I’m grateful to be in the most beautiful part of our stake. And I’m grateful for the associations I have with many of you.

I bring you love and greetings from President Garvin and his counselors. They love you, and are mindful of each of you and the challenges you face in your lives.

This is still a new year, a symbolic time of new beginnings, of refocusing our priorities and trying to improve ourselves. Resolutions are made and broken in a long tradition that dates clear back to the ancient Babylonians.[1] Many of us just hope to remember to write 2018.

Amidst all these symbolic changes, members of the Church have experienced a very real change this year as President Thomas S. Monson died, and President Russell M. Nelson was called as his successor. Having a new prophet is a significant change for each one of us.

I hope that all of you had the opportunity to listen to the new First Presidency introduce themselves on Tuesday morning. If you haven’t, please take the time to go online this afternoon and listen to the words of our new prophet, Russell M. Nelson.

I testify to you that he was prepared and called of God to lead the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at this time.

I would like to share a portion of President Nelson’s first message to us as our prophet. After explaining the changes and the process, he gave instruction to us as members of the Church.

“To each member of the Church I say:” and whenever the prophet says that, I pay attention; “To each member of the Church I say: Keep on the covenant path. Your commitment to follow the Savior by making covenants with him, and then keeping those covenants, will open the door to every spiritual blessing and privilege available to men, women and children everywhere.

“As a new presidency, we want to begin with the end in mind. For this reason, we are speaking to you today from a temple. The end for which each of us strives is to be endowed with power in a House of the Lord, sealed as families, faithful to covenants made in the temple, that qualify us for the greatest gift of God, that of eternal life.

“The ordinances of the temple and the covenants you make there are key to strengthening your life, your marriage and family, and your ability to resist the attacks of the Adversary. Your worship in the temple, and your service there for your ancestors will bless you with increased personal revelation and peace, and will fortify your commitment to stay on the covenant path.

“Now, if you have stepped off the path, may I invite you with all the hope in my heart to please come back. Whatever your concerns, whatever your challenges, there is a place for you in this, the Lord’s Church. You, and generations yet unborn will be blessed by your actions now to return to the covenant path. Our Father in Heaven cherishes his children and wants each of us to return home to him. This is a grand goal of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, to help each of us to come back home.

“Our divine mandate is to go to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people, helping to prepare the world for the Second Coming of the Lord. This we will do with faith in the Lord, Jesus Christ, knowing that he is in charge.”

President Oaks spoke briefly and pledged his loyalty and support for President Nelson’s loving and inspired leadership. It was touching to see the bond between these two Apostles.

President Eyring spoke of the need for growth in faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. He said that “the growth will come as we each pray, work, and live to have the Holy Ghost as our companion in our lives,” and that the blessing will come as we “renew and remember covenants we have made in the sacrament and in holy temples and so have the Spirit to be with us.”

It touched me deeply when Pres. Eyring said “every association I have had with President Nelson and President Oaks has increased my ability to remember the Savior, keep sacred covenants, and find joy in the influence of the Holy Ghost.” And it made me think, could I ever be that kind of person?[2]

In this brief 18-minute meeting, I received valuable prophetic counsel: seven suggestions that I can use as a basis for meaningful, worthy personal goals.

First: President Nelson advised us to keep on the covenant path, to make and keep sacred covenants, including the temple covenants of the endowment and sealing. President Eyring also advised us to renew and remember these covenants, as we have this morning.

Eternal blessings were promised to each of us. The most important real-time blessings were the promised ability to resist the power of the Adversary through our temple attendance, and the promise of personal revelation through our temple attendance.

Second: President Nelson invited us to get back on the path if we have stepped off. There is always room for anyone who has the courage and the desire to come back. And if you have already done so, you can testify that this is no easy task.

Third: President Nelson reminded us of the divine mandate to help to prepare the world for the Second Coming of the Lord, which requires faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.

Fourth: President Eyring invited us to grow our faith in the Lord Jesus Christ through prayer, work, and living so the Holy Ghost will be our companion.

Fifth: President Oaks pledged his loyalty and support to President Nelson. Are we willing to do that as we strive to follow the prophet? Our salvation depends on it.

Sixth: President Eyring’s comment on his association with Presidents Nelson and Oaks. Are we striving to be kind of people who make others want to remember the Savior, keep sacred covenants, and find joy in the Spirit? I saw that as a personal challenge.

And seventh: President Nelson reminded us of the “grand goal of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints,” to help each of us to return home to our Father in Heaven. I’ll say a little bit more about that later on.

These are prophetic instructions and counsel to each of us, if we will receive it. I can construct many worthy goals from this to help me to stay on track. And look at the promised blessings!

The Savior frequently took time alone to pray and ponder, and to counsel with the Father. I feel certain that these were times when assignments were given and reported on. We can follow the Savior’s example by counseling with Heavenly Father as we set our own goals.

And certainly, the First Presidency and Apostles have spent significant time this year praying and pondering, especially President Nelson.

Thirty years ago, President Monson taught us that “Our responsibility is to rise from mediocrity to competence, from failure to achievement. Our task is to become our best selves. One of God’s greatest gifts to us is the joy of trying again, for no failure ever need be final.”[3]

President Ballard observed that “those who accomplish the most in this world are those with a vision for their lives, with goals to keep them focused on their vision and tactical plans for how to achieve them.” He added that “Knowing where you are going and how you expect to get there can bring meaning, purpose and accomplishment to life.”[4]

The Savior’s injunction to “be perfect even as I, or your Father who is in heaven is perfect”[5] can seem overwhelming to mere mortals. But if we break it down into steps, “line upon line, precept upon precept,” it becomes more realistic.

The Savior himself had to progress a step at a time. In Section 93, we read “And I, John, saw that he received not of the fulness at the first, but received grace for grace;

“And he received not of the fulness at first, but continued from grace to grace, until he received a fulness;

“And thus he was called the Son of God, because he received not of the fulness at the first.”[6]

In setting goals with an eye on being like Christ, we can break it down into activities that will help us to be “even as he is.”

As the First Presidency instructed us this week, making and keeping sacred covenants is an important part of that progression. So is actively seeking the companionship of the Holy Ghost.

Even these goals can be broken down further. Attending sacrament meeting is an important part of making and keeping our covenants. Since I have become faithful in my sacrament meeting attendance, now I might set a goal to improve my spiritual preparation to partake of the sacrament each week.

In my plan, I could take time during the week to ponder on the sacrament prayers and reflect on the promises I make each time I partake of the sacrament, as well as the promised blessings I would like to qualify for. I could make an effort to be kinder and more forgiving. I could prepare myself for sabbath worship on Saturday. I could even pray for the speakers to be influenced by the Spirit as they address us.

Daily scripture study has been a habit for me for over 40 years, but I have not achieved perfection in that yet. I look to President Nelson’s example. He reported that last year, he read, marked and pondered over 2,200 Topical Guide references to Jesus Christ, and said that he was a changed man because of it. He reported that he reread the Old Testament with an emphasis on the Lord’s covenants with the House of Israel. And he reported a depth of study of the Book of Mormon that I would love to achieve. Sometimes my study is a little superficial.

Temple attendance is another area that I can improve upon. And that requires goals and careful planning.

My family has been very active in family history work for decades. My dad feels that there is no realistic chance of my finding any new family names, short of receiving revelation. So, what should I do? Should I put this responsibility aside and say my work is done? No! I could assist with my wife’s family history. And I have been doing indexing, which will help many others do their work.

These are just some examples. The real lesson is that the goals must be appropriate to our individual situations. They should be realistic, and they should not lead us to run faster than we are able. But they should stretch us and lead us to grow.

Small, measurable improvements will keep us on the path (or return us to it) and will help us to head in the right direction.

In addition to the spiritual goals, temporal goals are also important. We make budgets, plan vacations, and try to save for important purchases and events. We may set career goals and other goals and President Ballard even mentioned goals for our golf game.

But do most of our goals have a temporal focus, or a spiritual focus? And why does that make a difference?

We should remember that each goal that we set must be compatible with Heavenly Father’s plan. If it is not, we cannot expect the Lord’s blessings as we set out to achieve it. We should seek the guidance of the Spirit as we set goals, and ask for Heavenly Father’s help as we try to achieve them.

Jesus said, “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.”[7]

James reminds us: “Go to now, ye that say, To day or to morrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain:

“Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.

“For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that.”[8]

James warns us that we cannot take life for granted. We hope for future events, but we can’t always be certain. This is another important reason to include God in our plans.

And Paul reminds us: “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.”[9]

And finally, from Nephi, the familiar scripture, “I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them.”[10]

A highlight of Nephi’s statement was his willingness to go and do. We can never achieve any worthy goal without effort. But please note that he knew that the Lord would help him to obey the instructions from the prophet (his father, Lehi).

We must put forth effort to achieve our worthy goals. Nothing worthwhile in this life can be achieved without great effort and commitment. And that can be disappointing to some who would like to find an easy way to success.

Changing habits requires a great deal of determination and effort. In fact, when I think about losing weight, the Savior’s statement comes to mind that “this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting.” [11]

But seriously, as we try to change habits, or to achieve important goals, or even our “big hairy audacious goals,” we need to do all we can with the Lord’s help. The prophets have told us that without the Lord’s help we cannot succeed; but with the Lord’s help, we cannot fail. I believe that if our goals are aligned with Heavenly Father’s will, and aligned with his plan for us, we will find this to be true.

The Lord will prepare a way for us to do his will. It might not be in the manner we expect; it might require a significant trial of our faith; it might not even come within our desired time frame. But if we seek and strive to do his will, we can count on his guidance and assistance.

Everything in the gospel of Jesus Christ points to Heavenly Father’s ultimate goal for us: “For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.”[12] And his plan for us to achieve that goal is his Plan of Salvation. This is the perfect example of a worthy goal, and it should be an example, and the foundation for all our other goals.

Brothers and sisters, I testify that our progress is an important part of Heavenly Father’s plan for our eternal happiness. I testify further that if we will search the Scriptures, listen to the voice of the Spirit, and follow the prophet, that we will be able to receive the divine assistance that is so important in this life.

I know that God lives, and that he is a loving Heavenly Father. He will bless us as we include him in our plans, and as we strive to do his will through helping to perfect the saints, preach the gospel, redeem the dead, and care for the poor.

This I testify in the name of Jesus, Christ, amen.

[1] Mental Floss Magazine, Why Do We Make New Year’s Resolutions?

[2] A Message from the First Presidency. Transcript.


[3] General Conference, April 1987.

[4] General Conference, April 2017.

[5] Book of Mormon, 3 Nephi 12:48.

[6] Doctrine & Covenants 93:12-14.

[7] KJV, Matthew 6:33.

[8] KJV, James 4:13-15.

[9] KJV, Philippians 4:13.

[10] Book of Mormon, 1 Nephi 3:7.

[11] KJV, Matthew 17:21.

[12] Pearl of Great Price, Moses 1:39.

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