With Christmas over and a new year just around the corner, many members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are setting goals for self-improvement.
Inspiration for these goals can come from anywhere, but paying special attention to the words of living prophets is always a good idea. In the October 2015 general conference, Church leaders mentioned several small changes we can make to improve our lives.
The prospect of perfectly living all the principles taught at general conference can be daunting. But taken one at a time, the inspired counsel of Church leaders can enrich and improve all aspects of our lives. As you write down your goals for 2016, consider taking a couple from this list of 16 into consideration.
1. Stop Worrying
President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, in his address “A Summer with Great-Aunt Rose,” taught women in the Church about the power of letting go of fear and anxiety. The talk, which was a parable of sorts, included this counsel:
“Aunt Rose reached over to the end table and pulled her well-worn scriptures onto her lap. ‘I don’t think I was clinically depressed — I’m not sure you can talk yourself out of that. But I sure had talked myself into being miserable! Yes, I had some dark days, but all my brooding and worrying wasn’t going to change that — it was only making things worse. Faith in the Savior taught me that no matter what happened in the past, my story could have a happy ending.'”
2. Keep the Sabbath Day Holy
Improved Sabbath Day observance has been taught with added emphasis for the last year. In his talk “God Is at the Helm,” Elder M. Russell Ballard mentioned this important topic as worthy of continuing attention.
“All of us are blessed when the Sabbath is filled with love for the Lord at home and at church. When our children are taught in the ways of the Lord, they learn to feel and to respond to His Spirit. We will all desire to attend each Sunday to partake of the sacrament when we feel the Spirit of the Lord. And all, young and old, who are carrying heavy burdens will feel the spiritual uplift and comfort that comes from a Sabbath day of devoted contemplation of our Heavenly Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
3. Avoid (or get out of ) debt
Elder Robert D. Hales gave practical financial advice in his address “Meeting the Challenges of Today’s World”:
“When I was a young adult, my stake president was an investment banker on Wall Street. He taught me, ‘You are rich if you can live happily within your means.’ How can you do it? Pay your tithing and then save! When you earn more, save more. Don’t compete with others to have expensive toys. Don’t buy what you can’t afford.”
4. Invite the Spirit into Your Life
In his address “The Holy Ghost as Your Companion,” President Henry B. Eyring listed several blessings that come from inviting the Spirit into our lives. In part, he said:
“To always have the Spirit with us is to have the guidance and direction of the Holy Ghost in our daily lives. We can, for instance, be warned by the Spirit to resist the temptation to do evil. …
“The companionship of the Holy Ghost makes what is good more attractive and temptation less compelling. That alone should be enough to make us determined to qualify for the Spirit to be with us always.”
5. Be Temple Worthy
Elder Quentin L. Cook taught that we should be spiritually prepared for the storms that are coming in his talk, “Shipshape and Bristol Fashion: Be Temple Worthy—in Good Times and Bad Times”:
“[T]he storms and temptations of this life are often unpredictable. But this we know: they will come! In order to overcome the challenges and temptations that each of us inevitably faces, it will require righteous preparation and the use of divinely provided protections. We must determine to be temple worthy regardless of what befalls us. If we are prepared, we shall not fear.“
6. See the best in others
In his first general conference address as a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, Elder Dale G. Renlund taught the power of seeing others as God sees them. In his talk “Through God’s Eyes,” he said:
“I now realize that in the Church, to effectively serve others we must see them through a parent’s eyes, through Heavenly Father’s eyes. Only then can we begin to comprehend the true worth of a soul. Only then can we sense the love that Heavenly Father has for all of His children. Only then can we sense the Savior’s caring concern for them. We cannot completely fulfill our covenant obligation to mourn with those who mourn and comfort those who stand in need of comfort unless we see them through God’s eyes.”
President Dieter F. Uchtdorf taught anew an old piece of advice in his talk, “It Works Wonderfully” — simplify.
“This beautiful gospel is so simple a child can grasp it, yet so profound and complex that it will take a lifetime — even an eternity — of study and discovery to fully understand it.
“But sometimes we take the beautiful lily of God’s truth and gild it with layer upon layer of man-made good ideas, programs, and expectations. Each one, by itself, might be helpful and appropriate for a certain time and circumstance, but when they are laid on top of each other, they can create a mountain of sediment that becomes so thick and heavy that we risk losing sight of that precious flower we once loved so dearly. …
“[W]e need to make a conscientious effort to devote our energy and time to the things that truly matter, while uplifting our fellowmen and building the kingdom of God.”
8. Come Unto Christ
Coming unto Christ is a lifetime pursuit, but if you’re looking for a high-level goal to guide your daily decisions, this fits the bill. Elder Dallin H. Oaks addressed this idea in his talk, “Strengthened by the Atonement of Jesus Christ”:
“Our Savior’s Atonement does more than assure us of immortality by a universal resurrection and give us the opportunity to be cleansed from sin by repentance and baptism. His Atonement also provides the opportunity to call upon Him who has experienced all of our mortal infirmities to give us the strength to bear the burdens of mortality. He knows of our anguish, and He is there for us. Like the good Samaritan, when He finds us wounded at the wayside, He will bind up our wounds and care for us (see Luke 10:34). The healing and strengthening power of Jesus Christ and His Atonement is for all of us who will ask.”
9. Show Greater Love for Others
In 2016, we can all show more kindness and love to the people around us. Elder Ronald A. Rasband, in his talk “I Stand All Amazed,” taught:
“[T]he Lord has said, ‘Love one another; as I have loved you.’ I’m conﬁdent that there is no choice, sin, or mistake that you or anyone else can make that will change His love for you or for them. That does not mean He excuses or condones sinful conduct — I’m sure He does not — but it does mean we are to reach out to our fellowman in love to invite, persuade, serve, and rescue. Jesus Christ looked past people’s ethnicity, rank, and circumstances in order to teach them this profound truth.”
10. Read the Book of Mormon
Elder Neil L. Andersen provided a more concrete, easy-to-track goal in his talk, “Faith Is Not by Chance, but by Choice”:
“Both the Bible and the Book of Mormon give us the beautiful assurance that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. … It provides a spiritual and tangible witness of the truthfulness of the Restoration. When was the last time that you read the Book of Mormon from cover to cover? Read it again. It will increase your faith.“
President Thomas S. Monson taught Church members to repent of sins and work harder to keep the commandments in his appropriately titled address “Keep the Commandments”:
“If any of you has stumbled in his [or her] journey, I assure you that there is a way back. The process is called repentance. Although the path is difficult, your eternal salvation depends on it. What could be more worthy of your efforts? I plead with you to determine right here and now to take the steps necessary to fully repent. The sooner you do so, the sooner you will be able to experience the peace and the quietness and the assurance spoken of by Isaiah.”
12. Exercise Self-Control
A more specific variation of the goal mentioned in number 11 above, Elder Quentin L. Cook taught Church members to exercise greater self-control. In his address “Shipshape and Bristol Fashion: Be Temple Worthy—in Good Times and Bad Times”, he taught:
“A principle of eternal progression is that exercising self-control and living righteously strengthen our ability to resist temptation. This is true both in the spiritual realm and in temporal matters….
“All of us need to develop and demonstrate conduct and appearance that declare we are true followers of Christ. Those who abandon either righteous conduct or a wholesome, modest appearance expose themselves to lifestyles that bring neither joy nor happiness.”
13. Be an Example
Another one for the “lifetime pursuit category” — in President Thomas S. Monson’s address “Be an Example and a Light,” the prophet asked Church members to be a light in a darkening world:
“We are to be an example in spirit. To me that means we strive to have in our lives kindness, gratitude, forgiveness, and goodwill. These qualities will provide for us a spirit which will touch the lives of those around us. It has been my opportunity through the years to associate with countless individuals who possess such a spirit. We experience a special feeling when we are with them, a feeling that makes us want to associate with them and to follow their example. They radiate the Light of Christ and help us feel His love for us.”
14. Be a Leader
Though he was talking specifically to the women of the Church, President Russell M. Nelson’s address “A Plea to My Sisters” contains good advice for anyone. He said:
“[W]hatever your calling, whatever your circumstances, we need your impressions, your insights, and your inspiration. We need you to speak up and speak out in ward and stake councils. We need each married sister to speak as ‘a contributing and full partner’ as you unite with your husband in governing your family. Married or single, you … possess distinctive capabilities and special intuition you have received as gifts from God.”
15. Humbly accept correction
Elder D. Todd Christofferson gave some advice that can be difficult to take in his address “Why the Church.” Perhaps trying for a year to humble ourselves enough to accept correction can make it a bit easier:
“One of the greatest blessings of being part of the body of Christ, though it may not seem like a blessing in the moment, is being reproved of sin and error. We are prone to excuse and rationalize our faults, and sometimes we simply do not know where we should improve or how to do it. Without those who can reprove us ‘betimes with sharpness, when moved upon by the Holy Ghost,’ we might lack the courage to change and more perfectly follow the Master. Repentance is individual, but fellowship on that sometimes painful path is in the Church.“
16. Study Latter-day Revelation
In his touching tribute to his late brethren in the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, Elder David A. Bednar taught Church members to study the words of living prophets. In his talk “Chosen to Bear Testimony of My Name,” he said:
“The Savior declared, ‘Whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same’ (D&C 1:38). May we hear and heed the eternal truths taught by the Lord’s authorized representatives. As we do so, I promise our faith in Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ will be fortified, and we will receive spiritual guidance and protection for our specific circumstances and needs.”