Thursday, January 13, 2011


The "official" photo
I would like to tell you about a girl named Alice. Alice was a young, well-mannered girl, who enjoyed adventures and had a very vivid imagination. One day, through a series of strange events, Alice found herself wandering down a long path in a forest. Soon, the path broke off into two, and Alice was encountered by a strange Cheshire Cat. “Cheshire-Puss,” she said, “Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”

“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” replied the cat.

“I don’t care much where, so long as I get somewhere”

“Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” said the cat. “You’re sure to get somewhere, if only you walk long enough.”

With the beginning of each new year, we get to set our new year’s resolutions. Many of these goals we set remain the same from year to year: improve our grades in school, exercise three times a week, lose ten pounds, spend more time with the family, save more money. Usually, these goals are lost or forgotten within a week and don’t get found until the next New Year’s, when they are thrown away and the process starts all over again.

Occasionally though, we decide we actually want to reach our goals. When this happens, we take the next step and come up with a plan on how to reach them. Maybe we decide to post a reminder to read the scriptures everyday on our mirror, and every day we read, we put a check mark on our calendar. Then, on a regular basis we look at our goals, evaluate, and measure them. We see what’s going well, what’s not going well, and what we should start doing that we think will go well. Then, because peer pressure is an excellent motivator, we may have a friend or family member check our progress each month. President Monson summed this idea up when he said, “When performance is measured, performance improves. When performance is measured and reported, the rate of improvement accelerates.”

When I was on swim team, I had a goal. I wanted to qualify for the Western US Sectionals Swim meet. I looked up the time I would need to go in order to qualify for the meet, and posted the time on my mirror, bulletin board, and refrigerator. I then set up some smaller goals to help me reach my ultimate goal. I made a goal to break a minute in the 100 backstroke by my sophomore year, and 57 seconds by my junior year. I made a goal to go to every morning practice I could. I made a goal to research my stroke and know what the fastest way to swim it was. After each swim meet, I would look at my goals and evaluate how I was doing. Step by step, I accomplished each goal, and after several years of reaching my small goals, I made my sectionals cut.

We are all familiar with how goal setting works to accomplish our temporal goals. The same principles also apply to achieving our spiritual objectives. However, many times we, like Alice in Wonderland, forget where we want to go. So let me remind you: our ultimate goal is to return to live with our Father in Heaven and gain eternal life. The problem is that it is so easy to get caught up in things of this world—money, fads, education, girls, work, ourselves. While none of these are bad, each can be taken to an extreme that can “take our eyes off the prize.” We have to remember that these things are not our ultimate goals, but part of our journey, and that if used in the right way, can help us gain eternal life.
Elder Mark E Petersen said, “I believe that in many ways, here and now in mortality, we can begin to perfect ourselves. A certain degree of perfection is attainable in this life. …I am confident that one of the great desires of the Lord our God is that we shall keep that great commandment which says, ‘Be ye therefore perfect’ (Matt. 5:48).”

Many times our spiritual goals may not always be reached in the same way as our worldly goals. Much of the world is obsessed with numbers. The successfulness of a business is determined by its productivity rate or profitability. A student’s success in school is determined by her grades. Spiritual goals, on the other hand, may not always be quantitative. Elder Dean L. Larsen said:

“Spiritual qualities do not necessarily develop in the same environment as that which fosters the attributes esteemed in the material world, nor can these spiritual qualities always be accurately measured in a quantitative way. The qualities of the spirit are susceptible to assessment, but they must be assessed by spiritual means. True, they often are reflected in individual lives in observable ways (through feelings, attitudes, commitments, and perceptions), but they are not always easily measured in a quantitative way at arbitrarily established audit periods.”

Some of the best goals we can set that will get us closer to our Father in Heaven are not easy to measure. The Thirteenth Article of Faith has some good examples of this:

“We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men…if there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.” If we look anywhere in the Book of Mormon, we can find attributes that we should strive for.

President Gordon B. Hinckley’s B’s are some more good examples. Be grateful, be smart, be involved, be clean, be true, be positive, be humble, be still, be prayerful. Each of these are spiritual qualities that we should desire. I’ll give you a few ideas.

Be grateful: When I opened my mission papers, I was ecstatic. Everywhere I went it felt more spiritual and that I had the Holy Ghost with me. But after a while, that feeling went away, and I was having the hardest time keeping the spirit with me. Two things my dad has always taught me is service and gratitude, so I set a goal to be grateful. It wasn’t anything I could really measure quantifiably, but after expressing gratitude to my friends, family, and Father in Heaven, I once again could feel the Holy Ghost as my constant companion.

Be true: Many times, it is so easy to fall to social pressure and not live up to the standards we believe. Maybe a good goal would be to decide now, that you will ALWAYS stand up for what you believe. Then when those circumstances come, you will have already made the decision to do what you believe and stand for what’s right.

Be positive: (2 Nehpi 2:25) “Men are that they might have joy.” One of my professors in college taught that “the best thing to do is to find something you love and do it.” This is an excellent goal. Find the things you like to do in life and do them. I love the gospel, so when I read my scriptures and go to church I don’t want to leave. I love learning, so when I go to school I love it, and many times I just want to stay there and keep learning. When I go swim, I love it, and I don’t want to stop. Then I go hang out with friends, and I love doing that.

Lastly, I would just like to suggest that we don’t make goals a once a year thing. The main reason New Year’s Resolutions fail so much is because people try to accomplish many goals at once, and a person can’t handle it. We shouldn’t overload ourselves with too many goals. Benjamin Franklin came up with his own list of 13 virtues that he desired. He would start with one of his virtues and plot his progresses on a chart until he mastered that virtue, then move on to the next until he mastered them all. Once he had been through them all, he would start over again, back at the first virtue, and cycle through them again. Perhaps we could take a lesson from him and not overwhelm ourselves with tons of goals, but perfect a few at a time as best we can.

When Alice met the Cheshire cat, she didn’t know where she was going, and she didn’t care where she’d end up. Let’s not live like her—not caring where we end up. Something our bishop has talked about several times is the phrase “purposeful living.” We need to remember our purpose in life, and set goals that will help us achieve that. We need to remember to evaluate those goals on a regular basis, and keep in mind that they are not always measured in the same way as temporal goals.
Dropping off a very excited Elder Bailey at the MTC

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