Monday, December 28, 2009

Thoughts on the New Year

My talk on's all about learning right? I learned that I have a lot to learn on this subject.

When I think of setting goals, I think of the many lists of good intentions that I’ve made over the years. Exercise, eating, housekeeping, scripture study, musical instruments, journaling, photo albums, quilting projects, scheduled time with those I love and many other great ideas have been on these lists. Some even detailed with how’s and when’s and cute little boxes to check off when accomplished. I often find these lists after months of abandonment. My heart sinks as I realize I’ve forgotten my goal list, and then jumps with joy as I realize many of the things on the list have been achieved. Those that lie uncompleted on paper and in my life usually lack one of two things…desire or discipline.

A goal without desire and discipline is just a wishful thought. Our desires should be aligned with the Lord’s, and disciplined by His word.

I don’t think it is by chance that the holiday season is set up the way it is. Beginning with Thanksgiving, and the focus on gratitude, not just gratitude for the accomplished and obvious beauty, but gratitude in all things; gratitude in the journey, in the learning, the humility; the understanding that through gratitude all experiences can bring us closer to Christ.

With this renewed awareness, we are ready to celebrate the ultimate gift of the Father, the birth and life of our Savior; the giver of all we have and the completer of all that we lack.

With these things in our hearts and minds, we approach the New Year, and it is our turn to give a gift….the only gift that is ours to give, to submit our hearts, our desires, our will to the Father. When this is our true desire, we are well on our way to accomplishing any goal that aligns with His.

So what is a good goal, a good gift? Anything that will bring us closer to the Savior is worthy of our time. In January Ensign President Uchtdorf quotes Harold B. Lee,
“Testimony isn’t something that you have today and you keep always. Testimony is either going to grow and grow to the brightness of certainty, or it is going to diminish to nothingness, depending upon what we do about it. I say, the testimony that we recapture day by day is the thing that saves us from the pitfalls of the adversary”
Worthy goals are those that strengthen our testimony. They are not singular events, but character changing events, thus affecting several different aspects of our lives.

Some goals require cutting out the sinful and replacing it with that which glorifies. Elder Neil A. Maxwell, in a talk entitled “According to the desires of our Hearts” said this:

"… when people are described as “having lost their desire for sin,” it is they, and they only, who deliberately decided to lose those wrong desires by being willing to “give away all [their] sins” in order to know God (Alma 22:18). Even a spark of desire can begin change.."
A goal is not just something to move us from one place to the next, but a mode of change; this requires work, work that should be based on gospel truth. Elder Maxwell continues with this:

".. educating and training our desires clearly requires understanding the truths of the gospel, yet even more is involved. President Brigham Young confirmed, saying, “It is evident that many who understand the truth do not govern themselves by it; consequently, no matter how true and beautiful truth is, you have to take the passions of the people and mould them to the law of God” (in Journal of Discourses, 7:55)."
As a few of you may know, I enjoy running. Most runners I know are a very driven, goal setting and goal achieving bunch. But that’s not why I run. I run because I’m happy, or stressed, need a break, or just can’t contain myself any longer. I can smell a good run in the air, or see it in the shadows across the road. I crave the empowering runners high and desire the clarity of mind that results. As much as I enjoy running, I am in no condition to run a marathon, right now. But because of my desire, it would be a simple step to add habitual training…..perhaps even writing something down on paper with cute little boxes to check off, and it would be very possible.

Elder Maxwell continues quoting Brigham Young with this:

“Do you think that people will obey the truth because it is true, unless they love it? No, they will not” (in Journal of Discourses, 7:55). Thus knowing gospel truths and doctrines is profoundly important, but we must also come to love them. When we love them, they will move us and help our desires and outward works to become more holy”.
How much do you love your Savior and the eternal truths he has taught? Do you crave his Word more than an extra hour of sleep in the morning? Do you desire his presence more than relaxing in front of the TV? Do you love his truth enough to open your heart and share it with those around you? What if you don’t, is there still hope?

Start with what you know, with what you love, or even what you desire to love. Make a place for it in your life, however small; it may require the removal of habits not in line with your new direction. Write it down. There is power in writing things down in a place we will see often. Writing down our goals helps to strengthen our commitment and remind us of thoughts and impressions we once had. I’m pretty sure the goals that I have made and not achieved out number the ones I have successfully completed, but not one has been a wasted effort. Simply recognizing the need and having the desire to do better begin the change desired.
Elder Maxwell continues:

“Each assertion of a righteous desire, each act of service, and each act of worship, however small and incremental, adds to our spiritual momentum. Like Newton’s Second Law, there is a transmitting of acceleration as well as a contagiousness associated with even the small acts of goodness.”

Then the work begins. Just like good study habits, it is a good idea to have a set time or place to work on your goal. At first it may seem like you are constantly white knuckled with teeth clenched, but since this is a goal based on righteous desires, you can also depend on your Savior for added strength, even completing what you cannot. Keep in mind that it is not just the end result that we desire, but an actual change in our character. This type of discipline is more than just the ability to get things done; it is the cultivated ability to get the right thing done at the right time.Elder D. Todd Christofferson calls this type of discipline, “moral discipline” in the last General Conference he made this connection:

By “moral discipline,” I mean self-discipline based on moral standards. Moral discipline is the consistent exercise of agency to choose the right because it is right, even when it is hard. It rejects the self-absorbed life in favor of developing character worthy of respect and true greatness through Christ like service (see Mark 10:42–45). The root of the word discipline is shared by the word disciple, suggesting to the mind the fact that conformity to the example and teachings of Jesus Christ is the ideal discipline that, coupled with His grace, forms a virtuous and morally excellent person.~ D. Todd Christofferson, “Moral Discipline,” Ensign, Nov 2009, 105–8
A common New Years resolution has to do with food consumption. What we will eat or what we will abstain from. In the beginning, it may be hard to envision a life without the sweet, or salty, or caffeinated succulence that we have long depended on, but after a while of what may seem extreme measures of abstinence, we come to notice that the craving is not so strong, we have learned to enjoy other flavors, and even, if we dare, to sample our previous addiction, we find it too strong, or no longer what our body desires. We are changed.

And they all cried with one voice, saying: Yea, we believe all the words which thou hast spoken unto us; and also, we know of their surety and truth, because of the Spirit of the Lord Omnipotent, which has wrought a mighty change in us, or in our hearts, that we have no more disposition to do bevel, but to do good continually. Mosiah 5:2
Such a change may seem distant and unattainable, such as the command “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in Heaven is perfect. (Matthew 5:48) But, the creation of the earth was not done in one day, and the creation of the soul we desire can only be done in a lifetime. Pres. Uchtdorf offers this encouragement.

“If ever you are tempted to become discouraged or to lose faith, ….Hold on a little longer. You can do this! …. The Lord has blessed you with a testimony of the truth. You have felt His influence and witnessed His power. And if you continue to seek Him, He will continue to grant you sacred experiences. With these and other spiritual gifts, you will be able not only to change you own life for the better but also to bless your homes, wards or branches, communities, cities, states, and nations with your goodness. It may be hard to see that a times, but hold on a little longer, for “eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him”
Cleaning up, scraping out, replacing and trying again; consistently purifying our efforts through His atoning sacrifice, we will become all we truly desire.


  1. somehow, I missed the first line...that this was your talk, I was thinking it was just another blog post & I was feeling REALLY inadequate to even read it. I am glad to know it was your talk. Dad mentioned it, then I connected it - GOOD TALK!

  2. Esther--That's amazing. Good talk...I love the holiday progression also. For FHE last week we wrote our "gifts" to Jesus for 2010 on a piece of paper and put them in a pretty bag hanging in our dining room to remind us...then I'm reading your blog and thinkig, "We forgot the next part!" I guess maybe we should write down how it will be done because we keep easy to forget.


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