Friday, January 7, 2011

Formula for Success By President Thomas S. Monson

These last two day have been great fun spending time with my family before school resumes. Yesterday my sweet Guapo reminded me that it was my anniversary, for going through the Temple. Tomorrow it will be 6 years since my husband and I were married. With all these events around the same time I cannot help but remember how full of bliss I felt, I loved going through the Temple and experiencing long awaited joy. I love the fact that I am sealed to my hubby for time and all eternity. I love that on my way to the Temple going to the Chapel was on the radio. Then on our wedding day White Wedding was on the radio. {We still laugh} I love how perfect my memory is of it too.
As I watched my daughter play and enjoy her childhood, I can’t help but think that is want for her. To look into the eyes of the person she loves and takes comfort in the fact that her choice is an eternal choice. I feel like we as a family unit is a success.
As this is the last post on goals I thought that is would be fitting that I included a talk from president Monson on success.

Formula for Success By President Thomas S. Monson

First Counselor in the First Presidency
Thomas S. Monson, "Formula for Success", Liahona, Aug. 1995, 3

During the meridian of time the Apostle Peter declared: “Ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light” (1 Pet. 2:9). This is the destiny of every Latter-day Saint if he or she will live for the fulfillment of that destiny.

When the Savior was upon the earth, he taught with the use of parables. Remember the parable of the wise and the foolish virgins who were instructed to fill their precious lamps with oil; you will recall that five prepared properly and five did not prepare. Then came the day when the bridegroom appeared, and there was not additional oil to fill the lamps of those who were unprepared. Do you recall the rebuke of the Master on that occasion? “Verily I say unto you, I know you not” (Matt. 25:12). A great lesson in preparation.

We recall also the parable of the talents. One was given five talents, another was given two, and another was given one. How pleased was the master with those individuals who had multiplied their talents and had put them to good use. How unhappy he was with the person who had but one talent and who, out of fear of losing that one talent, buried it in the ground. We know his words: “Cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness” (Matt. 25:30).

And we remember the parable of the fig tree. The fig tree had leaves, but produced no fruit; and the tree was commanded never to produce again. Remember the particular rebuke: “Let no fruit grow on thee henceforward for ever.” Then came the response of those who observed the fulfillment of this command: “How soon is the fig tree withered away!” (Matt. 21:19–20).

From those parables I would like to suggest that if we are really to be a chosen generation, we have the responsibility to be prepared, to be productive, to be faithful, and to be fruitful as well. What we need, as we journey along through this period known as mortality, is a compass to chart our course, a map to guide our footsteps, and a pattern whereby we might mold and shape our very lives. May I share with you a formula that in my judgment will help you and help me to journey well through mortality and to that great reward of exaltation in the celestial kingdom of our Heavenly Father.

Let’s talk about each one of the parts of the formula and see if each does not find lodgment within the human heart. First, fill your mind with truth. I’d like to suggest that when we search for truth, we search among those books and in those places where truth is most likely to be found. I’ve often referred to a simple couplet: “You do not find truth groveling through error. You find truth by searching the holy word of God.” There are those who for direction and inspiration turn to the philosophies of man. There a smattering of truth may be found, but not the entire spectrum.

Sometimes the truth of such philosophies is based upon a shallow foundation. I think of the story of the monkey who was in a cage situated on the flight pattern near a large airport. The monkey became terrified initially as a plane would fly overhead, and in his fright he would rattle the bars of his cage. Soon he realized that as he rattled the bars of his cage, the airplane would fly away, and he would be safe. The monkey no doubt felt that the rattling of the bars of the cage caused the airplane, out of fright of him, to pass beyond and leave him alone. Of course the rattling of the bars of the cage had nothing to do with the departure of the airplane, and so it is with some of man’s philosophies. We need to turn to the truth of God.

I like the words of Louisa May Alcott, author of that all-time classic Little Women, who wrote:

I do not ask for any crown
But that which all may win;
Nor try to conquer any world
Except the one within.
You and I have the responsibility to learn the word of God, to understand the word of God, and then to live his word. By so doing, we will find that we have learned and accepted the truth. The Prophet Joseph Smith provided direct counsel. He said, “I made this my rule: When the Lord commands, do it.”1

David M. Kennedy, a former special representative of the First Presidency, made a significant statement when he was called to be the secretary of the treasury of the United States. In an interview with the press, he was asked by a reporter if he believed in prayer. He boldly answered, “I believe in prayer, and I pray,” teaching the entire world that truth can come when one seeks help from his Heavenly Father.

This is a day when time is precious. This is a time when we cannot afford not to be engaged in an earnest search for truth. May we fill our minds with truth.

The second part of the formula is: Fill your life with service. From the Book of Mormon we learn, “When ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God” (Mosiah 2:17). Missionaries particularly have a wonderful opportunity to give of their full time in sharing with all the world that commodity of such priceless value—a testimony of the gospel. To missionaries I declare that you have been called of God by prophecy and are divinely commissioned and sent forth in your sacred calling.

For a number of years it was my opportunity to serve as a member of the Missionary Executive Committee and to profit from the leadership of President Spencer W. Kimball, who was chairman of the committee. On one occasion I remember having read the detail on a particular missionary candidate, and President Kimball indicated that the young man would go, I believe, to London, England. Then he said, “No. That is not correct. Send the young man to the Denmark Copenhagen Mission.”

I looked on the form and noticed that I had overlooked reading a very important statement from the stake president. I said, “President Kimball, have you ever seen this particular form before?”

“No,” he replied.

“Look at what the stake president has written,” I continued. “‘The grandfather of this missionary candidate is an immigrant from the land of Denmark. He is our stake patriarch. The missionary candidate was promised in his patriarchal blessing that if he lived true and faithful he would return to the land of his forebears, that he might preach the gospel in that particular land.’”

President Kimball nodded his approval and said, “The Lord’s will has been made known today.”

Missionaries should go forward knowing that they are in the service of God, that they are going to share that most precious commodity—their testimonies. Remember, a testimony is perishable. That which you selfishly keep, you lose; that which you willingly share, you keep. All of us benefit when we remember to magnify our callings.

Our third part of the formula is: Fill your heart with love. I remember watching on television a very exciting baseball game between evenly matched teams. One of the teams had one of the greatest home-run hitters of all time. After the game a reporter interviewed him. He didn’t talk too much about home runs or runs batted in. He talked about his father. The ball player was Hank Aaron. He did not have very much of this world’s goods when he was a young boy, but he loved baseball. It consumed his life. He said that he and his father used to sit in an old, abandoned car that was in the rear of their lot and talk for hour after hour.

One day Hank said to his dad, “I’m going to quit school, Dad. I’m going to go to work so I can play baseball.”

And Herbert Aaron said to his son, “My boy, I quit school because I had to, but you’re not going to quit school. Every morning of your young life I’ve put 50 cents on the table, that you might buy your lunch that day. And I take 25 cents with me, that I might buy my lunch. Your education means more to me than my lunch. I want you to have what I never had.”

Hank Aaron said that every time he thought about that 50-cent piece that his father put on the table every day, he thought how much that 50 cents meant to his father. It conveyed to him how much his schooling meant to his father. Hank Aaron said, “I never had too much difficulty staying in school when I reflected upon the love my father had for me. As a result of reflecting upon the love of my father, I obtained my schooling and played a lot of baseball.”

That was putting it mildly from the greatest home-run threat that ever stepped up to a baseball diamond—Henry Aaron.

Let us turn to a news release I once read from Los Angeles: “A blind father rescued his tiny daughter from drowning in the new swimming pool that had been installed in the neighborhood.” Then the story went on to describe just how this had been accomplished. The blind father had heard a splash when his little girl, who could not swim, fell into the pool. He was frantic and wondered how he might help her. It was evening, and she was the only one in the pool. He got upon his hands and knees and crawled around the outside edge of the pool and listened for the air bubbles that came from that little girl, as she was actually in the process of drowning. Then, with a heightened sense of hearing, he followed carefully the sound of those air bubbles and, in one desperate attempt, with love in his heart and a prayer within his soul, he jumped into the pool and grasped his precious daughter and brought her to the side and to safety. Love prompts such miracles.

When I think of love, I think of Abraham Lincoln, one of the outstanding presidents of the United States. He was also one of the nation’s greatest writers and orators. I have seldom read words that better characterize the love that a man can have for others than the love he described as he penned a letter to a mother who had lost all her sons in the Civil War. It is known as the Lydia Bixby Letter. Note carefully the words of Abraham Lincoln and see if you don’t feel within your heart the love that filled his:

Dear Madam:

I have just been shown, in the files of the War Department, a statement of the Adjutant General of Massachusetts that you are the mother of five sons who died gloriously on the field of battle.

I feel how weak and fruitless must be any words of mine which should attempt to beguile you from the grief of a loss so overwhelming, but I cannot refrain from tendering to you the consolation that may be found in the thanks of the republic they died to save.

I pray that our Heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost and the solemn pride that must be yours to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom.

Yours very sincerely and respectfully, A. Lincoln

In our sacrament meetings we frequently sing the hymn:

I stand all amazed at the love Jesus offers me,
Confused at the grace that so fully he proffers me.
I tremble to know that for me he was crucified,
That for me, a sinner, he suffered, he bled and died. …
I think of his hands pierced and bleeding to pay the debt!
Such mercy, such love, and devotion can I forget?
No, no, I will praise and adore at the mercy seat,
Until at the glorified throne I kneel at his feet.
(Hymns, 1985, number 193)

I stand all amazed at the love Jesus offers me and the love Jesus offers you. I think of the love he provided in Gethsemane. I think of the love he provided in the wilderness. I think of the love he provided at the tomb of Lazarus; of the love he demonstrated on Golgotha’s hill, at the open tomb, and, yes, when he appeared in that sacred grove with his Father and spoke those memorable words to Joseph Smith. I thank God for his love in sharing his Only Begotten Son in the flesh, even Jesus Christ, for you and me. I thank the Lord for the love he demonstrated by providing his life, that we might have life eternal.

Jesus is more than a teacher. Jesus is the Savior of the world. He is the Redeemer of all mankind. He is the Son of God. He showed the way. You may recall that Jesus filled his mind with truth; Jesus filled his life with service; Jesus filled his heart with love. When we follow that example, we shall never hear those words of rebuke that came from the parables. We shall never find that we have empty lamps. We shall never be considered unprofitable servants. We shall never determine that we have been found unfruitful in the kingdom of God. Rather, when you and I follow carefully the parts of this formula and literally fill our minds with truth, fill our lives with service, and fill our hearts with love, we may qualify to hear one day that statement of our Savior, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord” (Matt. 25:21).

My prayer is that we may so conduct ourselves that we may merit that plaudit from our Lord and Savior. I pray that each one of us may so live that he may qualify for the blessing of the Lord when he declared: “I, the Lord, am merciful and gracious unto those who fear me, and delight to honor those who serve me in righteousness and in truth unto the end.

“Great shall be their reward and eternal shall be their glory” (D&C 76:5–6).

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Dealing Successfully with Change

Change, it seems to occur when we least expect it. It can sometimes go unnoticed until it is pointed out like a criminal in a line up. It can hit us hard, it can be good or bad. Change also sometimes feels like something we cannot control. During this time of the year it we allow it to prance upon us as though it was a lion looking for its next meal. We are so eager to change, bad habits, and create good habits in order to make this year better.

I think I am a prime example of that look at this blog it was started because I wanted a change. I want to feel more connected to my spiritual self. I know this pass year seems as though it was full of change. Not only did little monkey start school, but so did I . This wouldn’t be a big deal but it brings my little family to three people in school at the same time. {which is everybody in my house} At first this change was hard, but now as another semester loom over Guapo’s {my hubby} and mine’s head I cannot help but feel excited!

So when as one might of guest when figuring out today’s talk topic I could not help but choose change, since with resolutions we are thrust into change. Today talk is by David S. King and is from the 1981 Ensign.

Dealing Successfully with Change By David S. King

David S. King, "Dealing Successfully with Change", Ensign, Feb. 1981, 21

Changes in life are of many kinds: good and bad, sudden and gradual, trivial and earthshaking. They may be internal, like growing up or growing old; or external, like losing a loved one, or leaving home. Change is an inseparable part of human existence, and those who can never reconcile themselves to its reality will find themselves dwelling in a perpetual fantasyland.

As a missionary in Great Britain, I learned something about the need for change. From time to time Elder Hugh B. Brown, who was then our mission president, would gather us around him and talk about what the future had in store for us. His message was that we should never stop moving forward, intellectually or spiritually. He challenged us to continually break out of the confines of our own limitations and to cast ourselves in a larger mold, more nearly in God’s image.

He reminded us that we were invested with possibilities beyond imagination just waiting to be realized. Some very creative opportunities would pass us by, forever, if we remained satisfied throughout our lives with only doing the things and thinking the thoughts which we had done in our infancy, or if we refused to push our minds beyond those tired platitudes that ofttimes substitute for thinking.

One of President Brown’s most famous similes was this: Just as an oak tree is involved in an acorn, so an acorn may become an oak tree; by the same token, just as godhood is involved in us, so we may become a god. He made it clear, however, that not all acorns would become oaks, but only those that broke out of their tough shells and reached for the sky. Likewise, we could never achieve godhood unless we set our sights on something nobler than the foothills of mediocrity and started reaching our hands up to God.

I have had the opportunity of knowing some of the world’s great achievers. It is interesting that their one common denominator is the drive to keep on learning. They always retain a certain quality of teachableness long after reaching the age when most men’s minds have become set. These achievers have the knack of being able to absorb the most important of whatever is said to them, even though it may not be what they want to hear. This is a rare quality indeed, which probably accounts for the fact that there are so few of them.

However, the type of changes that lead to growth are the result of far more than the capacity to change our minds in favor of something better. They also involve building up new mental and spiritual concepts; improving skills, such as speaking or writing; acquiring better attitudes or emotions—or suppressing undesirable ones. Often a man has waited until middle or old age before learning how to establish a really meaningful and loving relationship with his wife. What a pity that he had to wait so long, but what a blessing that he finally did what he should have started doing on his wedding day. For a person to say, at age seventy, “This book has added something wonderful to my life, and I am now putting its teachings into practice” marks him as a real achiever. Having to change one’s style of thinking, vocabulary, or mannerisms in mature life can be bruising to the ego, and totally beyond the inclination of many to even try. Would that people could only realize that their imperfections are not chiseled in granite!

On the other hand, we need to understand that not all change is good. The dynamics of human experience can result in pushing us down as well as up. The battering ram of evil never stops hammering at our bastions of inner defense. Deceptively, this is often done in the name of “progress.” What a mistake it is to throw away a golden idea or a sacred commitment just to be fashionable or to prove that we can move with the crowd.

Abandoning commitments that have proven to be unusually burdensome has always had its appeal. Many candidates for the celestial kingdom have forfeited their right to the greater blessings of heaven by traveling this perilous route. History is filled with Esaus who have sold their birthright of high moral principle for the pottage of cheap pleasure and broken pledges. The challenge to the Latter-day Saints is to accept the changes that lift them up, to avoid the changes that drag them down, and to cultivate the spiritual perceptiveness to distinguish between them.

There have been times in my own life when I have had to brace myself against pressures pushing me in the wrong direction. I once served as ambassador to the Malagasy Republic. This posed a problem, since alcohol was considered by diplomats as one of the tools of their trade. The conventional justification was that the conviviality and relaxation associated with a cocktail party enabled a diplomat to exchange information with his foreign counterparts, which would be more difficult to do in a formal atmosphere. However, I had no desire to do the wrong thing for what some may have felt were the right reasons. So our family continued its lifetime practice of total abstinence, and, to my knowledge, no international incident resulted from our actions. In fact, my abstinence afforded me a number of opportunities to discuss my religious beliefs with my associates.

On one Fourth of July we had a big reception at the embassy in Tananarive, to which the President of the Malagasy Republic was invited. The scenario called for a toast by the American ambassador to the health of the president and the prosperity of his country. This little ritual had been hallowed by many years of observance, and its performance on this occasion was mandatory. I therefore informed the president beforehand that my toast would be with sparkling mineral water. To my surprise, I received word back from him that he would respond to my toast also with mineral water. This was absolutely unprecedented.

Such challenges can be overcome because we have some control over them. There are others, however, that are not subject to our control.

Some changes come into our lives as unbidden guests, drawing after them murky clouds of unhappiness and desolation. We may be forced to deal with drug addiction in a family member or friend, or with the deviate behavior, divorce, child abuse, incest, criminality, immorality, psychiatric disturbance, illness, or death of someone close to us. We may even find ourselves the innocent victims of physical assault. Such challenges are not of our choosing, but our suffering is not diminished in the slightest by that fact.

Though our emotions cry out in righteous protest, in our quiet hours we realize that these intrusions into the stability of our lives are the result of choices made by others and are the price we have to pay for the right to live in a world of moral freedom of choice, where good and evil are forever opposing each other in an ongoing struggle for supremacy. This does not mean that we accept these evils, or accept them as inevitable. It means only that we must be prepared to suffer for the privilege of living in a world of imperfect but autonomous human beings with whom we are interconnected by ties of love and affection.

Since we are often powerless to avert such changes brought about by others, our approach must be not so much how to avoid them, but how to cope with them. It is more a matter of acquiring healthy mental attitudes that enable us to understand these changes, adjust to them, and help the one with the problem rebuild in the wake of disaster.

Developing such attitudes prepares us to purge ourselves of negativism toward others and about our lot in life. These attitudes also help us recognize the reality of our experiences in life. We are then better able to receive the Lord’s help in accommodating ourselves to these realities and in taking affirmative steps to build our lives on a new and stronger foundation. The purification wrought by our suffering gives us the strength to make this possible.

It is beyond the scope of this article to fully explore this proposition, even superficially. One or two simple guidelines, however, may be helpful.

First of all, in an age of “instant-everything,” our society must learn once more the virtue of patience. In the face of deep disappointment, we tend to become too discouraged, too soon. There may be something we need to learn that hasn’t yet sunk in. Maybe we should complain less and listen more. One plain fact of life is that we often think deeper and learn faster when we hurt. It sometimes takes a disaster to turn our minds and spirits into the sponges required to absorb the things that God is waiting for us to learn.

Furthermore, we must remember that the Lord has placed innumerable resources at our disposal, and he expects us to use them. In addition to the Spirit, the scriptures, and statements by the General Authorities, there is a vast library of scholarly literature discussing the problems here referred to. True, some of the secular literature is unacceptable, but some of it is in harmony with revealed gospel truth. Our prayers and the resulting impressions can help us find sound truths and recognize wisdom in all the disciplines of human study. The Lord seems to be reluctant to give us instant answers to a problem when we do not do our part in studying the problem ourselves. Captain Moroni may have said it best: “… do you suppose that the Lord will still deliver us, while we … do not make use of the means which the Lord has provided for us?” (Alma 60:21.)

The Prophet Joseph Smith well understood this principle. There was probably no man in modern times who received more direct revelation from the Lord; yet we do not find him asking the Lord for enlightenment which he was perfectly capable of obtaining himself. His personal interest in Hebrew and Greek is a good example. The Prophet did not expect the Lord to give him the ability to read these languages. Since studying Hebrew and Greek was something he could do, it is something he did do.

May this example not go unobserved by those who find themselves wrestling with seemingly insoluble problems.

Another suggestion is that we not fall into the trap of oversimplification. It is human to want our solutions quick, easy, and simple, but that isn’t the kind of a world we live in. The answers to our problems are not always a matter of plugging a standard solution into our lives.

As a bishop, I have reached a number of conclusions regarding the scope and complexity of the subject of change, having counseled with a number of people facing the dissolution of their family ties. One conclusion I have come to is that it is difficult to make easy judgments on those who are required to pass through this ugly ordeal. From one perspective, they may seem to carry a certain culpability for the impending tragedy; but upon closer examination, their record may not show the blemishes previously thought to be there. They are therefore required to carry a double burden: their divorce, and the undeserved imputation of self-guilt for their marital failure. The participants in this drama are far more sensitive on this point than those on the outside might surmise. A wise counselor will avoid immediately offering clich├ęs. In this, one of the most wretched and difficult periods in the life of the sufferer, what is needed is not judgment, but love, reassurance, acceptance, and constructive suggestions.

I recall a particular woman who found herself in the above-described situation. I knew her to be as blameless as is possible for an ordinary and fallible mortal to be. Her loyalty to the Church and her love of the Lord were beyond question. In this case, I emphasized the particular love and tenderness which the Savior had for those who carried an extra burden in his service. I felt impelled to reassure her that nothing in the world could diminish the intensity of God’s love for her, and to impress upon her that society was not necessarily judgmental, that she would emerge from this experience with her honor untarnished and her sense of self-worth rejuvenated. I counseled her to participate actively in the various programs of the Church, especially those tailored for those who encountered sudden changes in their lives, and to dip into some of the worthwhile literature on the subject in order to expand her understanding of the problems involved.

Above all, I urged her to call upon the Lord for strength and wisdom and patience, with the assurance that her prayers would be heard and answered in the Lord’s due time and according to his desires.

I pointed out to this good woman that afflictions come to us in various ways, but if our life is acceptable we should never regard them as evidence of divine displeasure. The following verse was comforting to her, and may be comforting to those whose faith is tried in extraordinary ways:

“My people must be tried in all things, that they may be prepared to receive the glory that I have for them, even the glory of Zion; and he that will not bear chastisement is not worthy of my kingdom” (D&C 136:31).

Adversity is no excuse for losing faith. On the contrary, there are many historical examples where faith has been intensified in direct proportion to the intensity of affliction. When the storms of adversity begin to howl, the Lord’s people react by wrapping their faith, like a warm mantle, more tightly around them.

And so the painful changes and vicissitudes of life, instead of breaking down the orderliness and goodness of the universe and its Master-Creator, are actually stepping stones to glory, an assurance that our yearning to attain perfection may one day be satisfied.

David S. King, United States alternate executive director of the World Bank and father of eight children, serves as director of the Church Hosting Committee, Eastern Region, and lives in Washington, D.C., Stake.

How do you handle change?



Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Do Things That Make a Difference

Success what does it mean? This is a dangerous word. Extremes can often bring success in one area and lack thereof in other areas. Today I took Monkey to the park. It was such a joy to watch her play and just be a kid. She has no clue what failure means, and right now I am her example.
This is such a scary thought, I hold how my child views on success in my hands. It up to me to show her it’s a journey that can be redefined many times, and that maybe success is how you are able to handle situations wither they are good or bad. If she knows to learn from her mistakes, and recognize the wonderful person she is then maybe I have done my job a quarter of the way right.
The one thing that I love about this world is that since everybody can define life for themselves It is a learning world. Everybody can teach you a lesson from the example the lead. This can also shift your thinking about success from time to time.
I am so grateful for my life and the lessons it teaches me. I am grateful that lil monkey thinks of everything as a success. When reading today’s talk it stirred something in me that made me want to be a better person, and really keep my resolutions I hope it does the same for you!

Today’s talk is from Elder Ballad and is from the 1983 Ensign

Do Things That Make a Difference

M. Russell Ballard, "Do Things That Make a Difference", Ensign, June 1983, 68

Elder M. Russell Ballard
From a talk given to the Salt Lake Area Young Adults, 18 October 1981

I asked several young adults, some who work at the Church offices, some who live right in my own home, and others who are my friends, two questions: What are your major concerns? What would you like me to say? The response was interesting. Several said, “Speak to us about our needs and how we can cope with the world we are living in.” Hopefully I will be able to say some things that will zero in on some of the needs that you might feel you have.

I pray that I might be able to communicate better than is illustrated in this story recently told by Elder Vaughn J. Featherstone. A judge was interviewing a woman regarding her pending divorce and asked:

“What are the grounds for your divorce?”

“About four acres with a nice little home in the middle of the property with a little stream running by.”

“No,” he said, “I mean what is the foundation of this case?”

“It is made of concrete, brick, and mortar,” she responded.

“I mean,” he continued, “what are your relations like?”

She answered that they were fine. “I have an aunt and uncle living here in town as do my husband’s parents.”

He said, “No, do you have a real grudge?”

“No,” she replied, “we have a two-car carport and have never really needed a garage.”

“Please,” he tried again, “is there any infidelity in your marriage?”

“Yes, both my son and daughter have hi-fi sets. We don’t necessarily like the music, but the answer to your question is yes.”

“No. Does your husband ever beat you up?”

“Yes,” she responded, “about twice a week he gets up earlier than I do.”

Finally the judge asked, “Why do you want a divorce?”

“Oh, I don’t want a divorce. I’ve never wanted a divorce. My husband does. He says that he can’t seem to communicate with me.”

I hope I do better than this woman did before the judge.

Keep Trying to Do What Is Right

What are your concerns in life at your age? One of the questions that might be asked is: How do you cope with living in today’s world? I have been privy to some discussions of the youth of the Church during which they have questioned the advisability of marriage and of bringing children into a world that seems to be as topsy-turvy as our world is today. Like them, some of you have had questions on your minds about schooling, employment, marriage, and other general directions in life—about how to best fulfill the expectations of yourself as well as the expectations the Lord has for you.

As I listen to all of the doom and gloom that is being broadcast in the newspapers and on television, the thought runs through my mind: How grateful I am that I didn’t stop trying to do what was right in my life when I heard on Sunday morning, December 7, 1941, that America had been attacked and war was imminent. I was a little younger than you are, when on that fateful day I came home from priesthood meeting and walked into my home to learn from my father that Japan had bombed Pearl Harbor. I thought: What is the future, what are the possibilities, what is going to be left for me? All of these kinds of thoughts rolled through my mind as the United States of America rolled up its sleeves to move full scale into World War II.

That was a terrible war! There were terrible things that happened, and for a long time everything seemed to be negative. It was discouraging to many, I suppose. But the world did not come to an end—it went on. And I would like to suggest to you tonight that you do not hold back from living a full life, and from working hard to accomplish your goals in life because some people think that great calamities will soon come upon the earth. There have been some who have predicted earthquakes and destruction of all kinds to be upon us momentarily. The Savior himself tells us about many devastating times that lie ahead. (See Matt. 24.) But none of us knows exactly when those times are going to occur. So I would suggest that you follow the advice that I once heard Elder Boyd K. Packer give. He said something like this: “Plant your fruit trees. Cultivate them, fertilize them, watch them grow, and enjoy the fruit thereof. If the end comes during the process, so what? Do not deprive yourself of enjoying the fruits of your labors by living in fear of the world’s problems that lie ahead.”

Develop a Positive Attitude

If I were your age and thinking about life and its meaning, there is one characteristic that I would strive to develop. That characteristic is to have a positive attitude. I am a great believer that what you and I think about will ultimately come to pass. I believe if we think about committing a sin long enough, we will find ourselves entangled in that sin. I believe if we think about what it takes to be successful long enough and if we are willing to discipline ourselves to the principle of success, we will experience success. Yes, I am a great believer that “as [a man] thinketh in his heart, so is he.” (Prov. 23:7.)

I believe in the principle that you ought to act “as if” you were the person you would like to become. As you do that, you will grow into that kind of person. Ultimately your very actions, your attitude, will lead you into being the kind of person that you want to be. George Bernard Shaw said: “People are always blaming their circumstances for what they are. I don’t believe in circumstances. People who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and, if they can’t find them, make them.” (Quoted in John Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations, 15th edition, ed. Emily Morison Beck, Boston: Little, Brown, and Co., 1980 p. 680.) We must learn to become creators of circumstances and not creatures of them. Oh, how important that is at your stage in life.

Often I have been asked the question “Would you like to go back and be twenty years of age again?” My answer is a careful one. The answer is yes, providing I could know then what I know now. I am not sure I would like to be twenty starting with what I knew when I was twenty, which wasn’t very much. In the process of living this past thirty-three years, I have learned that I really do have control to a great degree over my circumstances. If I don’t like them, I’ve found there are certain things I can do to change them. If I want to move to higher ground, if I want to have more positive experiences, I must think about life in positive terms, not dwell on the negative.

Develop the Skill of Setting Worthy Goals

I believe you can train yourself to become a positive thinker, but you must cultivate a desire to develop the skill of setting personal worthy and realistic goals. I suppose that at about every seminar or fireside you go to at your age someone talks to you about goal setting. Maybe some of you get weary of listening to the principle of setting goals. But let me tell you something about goal setting. I am so thoroughly convinced that if we don’t set goals in our life and learn how to master the technique of living to reach our goals, we can reach a ripe old age and look back on our life only to see that we reached but a small part of our full potential. When one learns to master the principle of setting a goal, he will then be able to make a great difference in the results he attains in this life.

I would suggest to you that setting goals is a simple process, but there are two or three things about it you have to learn. I learned in my business career that I could get all excited about a principle, or that I could get all excited about trying to do something, but if I did not write it down and if I did not place it in front of me where I looked at it over and over and over again until it really became part of me, I did not accomplish that goal. I would suggest that if you want to have success in the goal setting process, you learn to write your goals down. I would even put them in a very prominent place—on your mirror or on the refrigerator door. Keep your goals in front of you, in writing. Then, with the desire to reach your written goals, you will be more willing to pay the price that successful goal-oriented people must pay.

I believe if each of you would commit yourself to this one principle tonight, then one of my goals that I set for you at the beginning of my talk would be reached—that goal being that you would be better young men and young women as you leave the Tabernacle tonight than you were before you came in.

Develop Self-discipline

Let me share another important principle with you. This is the principle of self-discipline. You see, you control to a large degree your own destiny. You control your own life. Some of you might cop out by saying, “Well, Brother Ballard, you just don’t understand my environment. You just don’t understand my circumstances. You just don’t understand what kind of a father I have, or what kind of a mother I have, or what kind of a this or that.” “No,” I would say to you, “put all of that in the back of your minds and bring forward to the front of your mind the worthy goals that you want to obtain. Then discipline yourself to the practice of personal self-discipline.”

Benjamin N. Woodson had some good things to say about self-discipline. Let me read to you a few statements from him:

“The longer I live, the more weight I attach to a man’s ability to manage and discipline himself. The longer I live, the more firmly convinced I become that the essential factor which lifts a man above his fellows in terms of achievement and success is his superior capacity for self-discipline.

“Education is a priceless aid to success, of course, but education is not the difference. The educated derelict is a common sight, and so is the man who has achieved resounding success without the opportunity for, or the advantages of, a formal education. It seems a valid conclusion that while formal schooling is an important advantage, it is by no means a guarantor of success, nor is its absence a fatal handicap.”

I believe that when we have the proper attitude, when we learn to reach our goals, then when we apply the ingredient of self-discipline, there is not much that any one of us in this audience tonight could not accomplish, if we are willing to pay the price.

Mr. Woodson goes on:

“For my part, I have concluded that the quality which sets one man apart from another—the factor which lifts one man to every achievement to which he reasonably aspires while the other is caught in the slough of mediocrity for all the years of his life—is not talent, nor formal education, nor luck, nor intellectual brilliance, but is rather the successful man’s greater capacity for self-discipline.”

Mr. Woodson offers a great suggestion, and I would recommend that you write it down. He says:

“All you need to do is this: Beginning this very day, stop doing some one thing you know you should not do.” After you have written this one thing down, stop doing it—tonight! Do you understand the assignment? You will write down one thing you will stop doing tonight that is holding you back.

Some of you will have the necessary self-discipline and courage to do this. Others of you will just sit here and say, “Oh boy.” You won’t pay any attention to it and so a month from now you will still be dragging behind you the same habit that is holding you back from being your best self.

A few of you will stop doing that one thing tonight. Why? Because you are going to write it down and then you are going to discipline yourself in such a way that you are going to take a problem out of your life.

Make Your Goals Happen

Now the second part of Mr. Woodson’s suggestion is this, “Start doing each day some one thing you know you should do!” Write down one thing that you are going to start doing that you have been meaning to do for a long time but that you just haven’t gotten around to. I don’t know what it might be, but place into your life, beginning tonight, one thing that you are going to do that is going to make you a better person. I believe if you make this a regular practice, you will start to fulfill the Savior’s teaching when he asked us, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” (Matt. 5:48.) Perfection is a process and not an event, and we will come to appreciate that perfection is an internal matter, not external. It is a process by which you and I learn to eliminate the things in life that are not good, replace them with the things in life that are eternal in nature, with the objective and thought that perfection is obtainable, but it must be earned. Do you understand that?

I love these recent words from Sister Camilla Kimball. She says, “Each of us has to deal with the conditions that life has given us. To one person the challenge is ill health, another may have a difficult marriage. A third may struggle for faith. Still another may have a hot temper to overcome. Perhaps to some the challenge is that life is just too easy. I believe that we will be judged by God according to his knowledge of our challenges and we may well be surprised, if we get to heaven, to see who else is there. My greatest challenge is to be a righteous follower of Jesus Christ. That takes a great deal of effort and sacrifice. In specific terms, I have covenanted to be a good wife and a mother. If I have not made a success of that, I have been a failure in life. All my other worldly activities, as satisfying as they are, are incidental to that one.”

That is Sister Kimball’s goal. You may have other goals in your life. If your other goals are righteous, of God-given perspective, eternal in their nature, then go for them. Make them happen. You can be what you want to be. You must pray as a goal setter. You must pray for the inner strength to have the discipline necessary to do those things that will guarantee through your activity and your life that you will reach your goals. Then, I think, perhaps as important as anything, we have to have faith. We have to have faith in God. We have to have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. And oh, how desperately we have to have faith in ourselves! I can’t think of anything more difficult to work with as a General Authority than those young people who come to my office who have lost faith in themselves and have a low self-image.

Building a Good Self-image

May I talk to you about self-image for a moment? There should not be anyone here tonight who has a low self-image. How dare you or I to have a low self-image! We are the sons and daughters of God! We belong to Him. We are His children. He gave us birth. He gave us life. That knowledge alone causes every man and every woman, when they understand it, to rise and walk with their head held high. Yes, that is a great blessing.

Let me tell you a true story that happened to me this past August. In a very impressive way, it caused me to realize that I am a son of God. By assignment, Elder Derek A. Cuthbert and I went to Ghana and Nigeria. There we traveled for approximately ten days visiting the branches of the Church in these countries. We have a small number of members of the Church there. In the little community of Aboh, Nigeria, on an early morning, Elder Cuthbert and I joined about one hundred members to break ground for the first chapel to be built in Nigeria. We sang the only song most of the Saints knew, which was “I Am a Child of God.” I fought away the tears as I heard one hundred recently baptized black members of the church, with their eyes glistening, their heads held high, singing from the bottom of their hearts, “I Am a Child of God.” The thought surged through my mind: Oh, Heavenly Father, bless them to know that they really are.

We all are the sons and daughters of God. Therefore, none of us, no not one, should ever have a low self-image. We belong to him. We must struggle always to keep in our minds that our ultimate goal is to inherit eternal life. We work, we struggle, we set goals, we practice self-discipline. We do all of these things to become our very best selves. We exercise our faith in God, faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, faith in his gospel which has been restored, and we build a strong faith in ourselves. If for any reason your faith in yourself is wavering tonight, gird up your loins and fresh courage take. Do what is necessary to kindle the bright, glowing blessings of faith in your life. Always remember, you are a child of God.

Spend Your Energy on Things That Make a Difference

A lot of people worry about things they shouldn’t worry about. Our usual worries can be classified into these categories: (1) 40 percent never happen, (2) 30 percent are over and past and can’t be changed, (3) 12 percent are needless health worries, (4) 10 percent are miscellaneous problems, (5) 8 percent are real problems, of which 95 percent can be solved. (The Treasure Chest, ed. Charles L. Wallis, New York: Harper & Row, 1965, p. 228.)

Sometimes young people will say to me, “Brother Ballard, I have had this problem in my life and I haven’t cleared it up.” Depending upon the nature of the problem, I counsel with that young person and teach this principle: You must clear the problem up and then not spend one more second worrying about it. Past problems are like a stream when you are standing on a bridge—the stream is rolling underneath you and your problems have gone downstream. Regardless of how hard you try, you can’t change the past. You cannot call it back. What I want you to learn to do is look upstream. Watch for the things that are coming down the river of life that you can change and control. Do not wear yourself out, young people, on those things that you cannot change. Now if there are those of you who have committed transgressions that are of the nature that require a visit with your bishop, please get to your bishop. When? Immediately! Get it cleared up! Get and keep your feet planted on the straight and narrow way. Don’t wear yourself out over things that you can’t change. I have watched the healing miracle when people learn to do the right things for the right reasons. So I urge you tonight, don’t wear yourself out worrying about your past problems.

Set clear and specific goals. When you set a goal and when you commit yourself to the necessary self-discipline to reach that goal, you will eliminate most of the problems in your life. Spend your energies doing those things that will make a difference. Then you can become what you think about. If you think you have problems, if you think life is difficult, if you think the world is going to crack in half tomorrow, you work yourself up to be an ineffective you. But if you just have the simple faith that God is in his heaven and he is your Heavenly Father and he does know that you are here and he does love you—and that Jesus is the Christ, that he is your Savior, that he is your Redeemer, and that you love him with all your heart and are going to do all you can to keep his commandments—then peace comes. You are at peace and your life moves forward in a positive direction. It doesn’t become like this story told by Elder Paul Dunn:

“The great Cunard shipping line of Great Britain has built some of the most magnificent ships in history, but one was extraordinary. Commissioned by the government to build a great military vessel, the shipbuilders constructed one that seemed to be engineered perfectly. Every detail was precise; every piece of equipment was the best available. But one little thing was wrong with the ship. Its great propeller was just slightly crooked—not really enough so anyone could notice, but just slightly askew. And when they took the great ship out for its maiden voyage, the builders discovered something terrible. The ship could not be steered in a straight line. It just went around in circles because of its slightly crooked propeller. Because this fine ship had no direction, it had to be scrapped and sold for razor blades.” (With Maurine Ward, Dimensions of Life, Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1979, p. 16.)

Now if your propeller is just slightly crooked, you could be going around in circles. That isn’t where you want to go. Where do you want to get? You are trying to get to the celestial kingdom. We are struggling to become worthy to some day go into the presence of God and Jesus Christ and dwell with them.

I would like to read to you something about life and your position right now. Amulek taught it. Let me read his words to you.

“And now, my brethren, I would that, after ye have received so many witnesses, seeing that the holy scriptures testify of these things, ye come forth and bring forth fruit unto repentance.

“Yea, I would that ye would come forth and harden not your hearts any longer; for behold, now is the time and the day of your salvation; and therefore, if ye will repent and harden not your hearts, immediately shall the great plan of redemption be brought about unto you.

“For behold, this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God; yea, behold the day of this life is the day for men to perform their labors.

“And now, as I said unto you before, as ye have had so many witnesses, therefore, I beseech of you that ye do not procrastinate the day of your repentance until the end; for after this day of life, which is given us to prepare for eternity, behold, if we do not improve our time while in this life, then cometh the night of darkness wherein there can be no labor performed.

“Ye cannot say, when ye are brought to that awful crisis, that I will repent, that I will return to my God. Nay, ye cannot say this; for that same spirit which doth possess your bodies at the time that ye go out of this life, that same spirit will have power to possess your body in that eternal world.

“For behold, if ye have procrastinated the day of your repentance even until death, behold, ye have become subjected to the spirit of the devil, and he doth seal you his; therefore, the Spirit of the Lord hath withdrawn from you, and hath no place in you, and the devil hath all power over you; and this is the final state of the wicked.

“And this I know, because the Lord hath said he dwelleth not in unholy temples, but in the hearts of the righteous doth he dwell; yea and he has also said that the righteous shall sit down in his kingdom, to go no more out; but their garments should be made white through the blood of the Lamb.” (Alma 34:30–36.)

And so, here we are tonight, a group of young adults. What a great time of life. What can we do with this beautiful life that is ours? Make the most of it! Take out of our lives those things that we need to repent of and put into our lives those things that will make the difference and make us better and stronger men and women. At the risk of perhaps offending some of you but hoping that it won’t—if it does, let me apologize in advance, but I am going to say it anyway—I get concerned when I hear any group within the Church say, “What is the Church going to do for us?” or “What is the Church going to do for me?” Be very careful, my dear young brothers and sisters, that you don’t fall into this trap. That is not the right question. The right question is: What can I do to build the kingdom of God? You ought to lose yourself in the service of others. You ought to be anxiously engaged in teaching within your own wards. You ought to be anxiously engaged in doing whatever the bishop asks you to do. You ought to have the calm, peaceful assurance in your own heart that your life is right and you are at peace with the Lord. You ought to be assured that all the blessings of eternity are going to be yours. There is only one way that you can forfeit the blessings of eternity. You can forfeit them by unrepented sins.

Do the Right Things for the Right Reasons

You live a righteous, pure life. You do the right things for the right reasons, and in God’s due time, all of the blessings of eternity will be yours. You see, the key to this is personal self-discipline that leads to righteousness. The key is to do, and to learn to master living the gospel for the right reason, to build the inner self.

What makes President Kimball the great power that he is? Goodness knows, he has suffered more physically than perhaps any of us will ever comprehend. I stood in his presence one day when he was attempting to save a boy who had lost his direction. Yes, a young adult who had lost his direction. His propeller was so much out of kilter that he was not even going around in circles—he was going in the wrong direction toward the devil’s kingdom.

I heard President Kimball say at a very key moment to that young man, “My boy, I have not enjoyed all of the physical sufferings that I have gone through. I would like to have been spared those.” Then he riveted his eyes on this young man and said, “But in all my suffering I have come to know God.” Chills went down my backbone and tears welled up in my eyes. Oh, brothers and sisters, the quest is to come to know God. President Kimball has learned—and you feel it when you walk into his presence—to control his body and physical appetites, by the power of his mighty eternal spirit.

You have a mighty spirit and so do I. The greatest education and the greatest thrust in our lives ought to be to build upon the things of the Spirit. You do that by practicing some of the principles we have been talking about.

I hope we have learned tonight that we cannot ignore keeping the commandments of God. We cannot excuse ourselves or rationalize or justify even the smallest things in our lives that we need to master. We must work to overcome them. We can become the masters of our own destinies by practicing self-discipline, by setting worthy goals that will lead to higher ground so that we can become what our Heavenly Father wants us to become.

I never dreamed that I would ever be called by the Lord to be a mission president. It seems impossible that now I have been called to spend the rest of my life as a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy. Oh, I wish I had thought about this as a remote possibility when I was twenty. You do not covet any position in the Church, but there are things in my life that I could have done better, more thoroughly, more commitedly, to have better prepared me for today.

Now, listen; some of you, before you were ever born, were ordained to do great things. You were set apart to do some marvelous things in the kingdom of God. There is no question but that there are men here among you in this audience who have been ordained to be bishops, set apart to be high councilors, stake presidents, and that you women are to be leaders among the women and girls of the Church. I don’t think I am taking any risk in suggesting that there are mission presidents among you tonight, if you live up to the commitment you made before you were born. That takes self-discipline, that takes mastering the ability to set goals, the ability to think straight, the ability to have faith in yourself, the ability to move in the right direction.

I would ask Heavenly Father, then, to bless each one of you that you might achieve complete peace within yourself so that you might bring peace to others. You can bring many unto Christ on the conditions of repentance when you are at peace within yourself. God bless you and me to seek that peace. Be willing to live your lives in accordance with the teachings of Jesus Christ. Let us be willing to make what changes need to be made tonight, so that we can do a little better in the future than we have done in the past.

May we leave with that kind of a commitment. May we be better tomorrow than we have ever been before in all of our lives. President Kimball would have me leave his blessing with you, which I do. I leave my blessing, my witness, my testimony, that this is the church and kingdom of God. I know that Jesus Christ is the Son of the living God. Some have said to me, “How do you know that, Brother Ballard?” I have answered that the Brethren have sent me on the Lord’s errands to far away places to administer the affairs of the Church, and that I could not have done so without the Lord’s blessing and the teachings from the Holy Ghost. As I have gone and returned on these errands, increasingly I have been able to testify that He lives. I know that. Joseph Smith is a prophet of God. The Book of Mormon is the word of God. We have the truth. We have all the ingredients for a happy, full, and prosperous life. May God grant and bless us to be wise enough to strive with all our hearts for the future privilege of celestial living in the presence of the Lord, I humbly pray in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

Let’s Talk about It

After reading “Do Things That Make a Difference,” individually or as a family, you might wish to discuss some of the following questions during a gospel study period:

1. The article lists several different things that we can do to improve our lives. Which of these suggestions can be especially helpful to you in your efforts to improve yourself in some particular way?

2. The author says that “we must learn to become creators of circumstances and not creatures of them.” In light of this, what can we do to cope wisely with the discouraging influences of today’s world?

3. What must we do in order to achieve worthwhile goals?

4. Although we should not worry about things we cannot change, repentance is necessary if we are to gain eternal life. How can we determine what we can change and what we cannot?

5. Why is it important that we learn to do the right things for the right reasons?