“1975. What Will You Do with It?” Ensign, Jan. 1975, 20
The Bible and the Book of Mormon are replete with accounts of “New Year’s resolutions” and the soul-searching men and women whose lives were changed when they kept such commitments. These resolutions were not necessarily made on New Year’s Eve, but rather on the eve of a rebirth, an eve of becoming spiritually begotten children of Christ.
How frequently we find ourselves at the year’s end solemnly penciling resolutions that we promise to keep during the coming year, only to discover that by January 30 our behavior and attitudes are no different than they were on December 30. Ever so imperceptibly, we slide back into former habits and our conventional hardening of the categories. We mentally place our resolutions in a drawer beneath our socks and handkerchiefs, take out our glittering set of rationalizations, and place them prominently on top of the dresser. We then joke with our friends regarding all of our broken resolutions, and they commiserate with our plight, for they, too, have broken theirs.
Rampant in our society are insidious forces that strive to weaken our resolve to meet our commitments and to walk in the light of the gospel. Movies that received an R rating three years ago, for instance, are reevaluated, receive a “new” PG rating, and then eventually find their way into the sanctity of our homes via television. In another example, the illegality and immorality of abortion was not questioned for centuries, but ever so gradually the courts of the land have begun to treat abortion with the same nonchalance that prevails toward such common ailments as tonsillitis.
It has been said that failure can be most often attributed to weak goals. We often strive to become worthy when we should be striving for perfection. Instead of mere renewal, we should strive for rebirth. At one of the zeniths of spirituality in the Book of Mormon, Alma proclaimed that the saints became sanctified because they “could not look upon sin save it were with abhorrence.” (Alma 13:12.) Alexander Pope poignantly explained the process whereby we stray from the light when he described the stance we take regarding sin: “We first endure, then pity, then embrace.” The man or woman who becomes truly sanctified will not stray far from the gospel’s light.
The adherence to resolutions and covenants, regardless of the time of year we make them, takes dogged determination and persistence. I suppose all of us are somewhat like the man described by Benjamin Franklin, who, upon buying an axe from an ironsmith, “… desired to have the whole of its surface as bright as its edge. The smith consented to grind it bright for him if he would turn the wheel; he turned while the smith pressed the broad face of the axe hard and heavily on the stone, which made the turning of it very fatiguing. The man came every now and then from the wheel to see how the work went on, and at length would take his axe as it was, without further grinding. ‘No,’ said the smith, ‘turn on, turn on; we shall have it bright by-and-by; as yet it is only speckled.’ ‘Yes,’ says the man, ‘but I think I like the speckled axe best.’” (Benjamin Franklin, The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, New York: Roslyn, Walter J. Black, Inc., 1969, pp. 138–39.)
A friend of mine, Dr. Jae R. Ballif, a physics professor at Brigham Young University, put it this way in a recent address at BYU: “Too frequently we strive to live as good a life as our peers, when we should be striving to live like the Savior.”
The greatest tragedies of ancient Israel occurred from the failure of Samson, Saul, David, and Solomon to keep the covenants they had made. Making covenants was not difficult; keeping them became a matter of spiritual life and death. Content with leading a chosen people, they failed to become choosing leaders, not making the wise choices of a Joseph or a Daniel.
Latter-day Saints have long been called a covenant-making people. Through attendance at the temple and through partaking of the sacrament we are also a covenant-renewing people. We should firmly resolve to become a covenant-keeping people.
I know that my life would be better if I kept the following proposed resolutions. Perhaps they are applicable to your life, too:
1. I will read the scriptures daily, for they, and the writings of our modern prophets, are the light that never fails.
2. I will be more willing to sacrifice for the kingdom. Brother Percy Fetzer, a Regional Representative of the Council of the Twelve, has defined sacrifice as giving up something good for something better. While I don’t find it at all difficult to sacrifice time and money for the Church, I still need to emulate the commitment of the father of King Lamoni who promised the Lord: “… I will give away all my sins to know thee, and that I may be raised from the dead, and be saved at the last day. …” (Alma 22:18.)
3. In recent years there has been a tremendous increase in the number of new programs, and modifications of existing programs, in the Church. All of us proudly recite the ninth Article of Faith (“We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal. …” [A of F 1:9],) and we sometimes find that while we welcome continuous revelation, we often resist change. I am going to cheerfully sustain all those who preside over me, our prophet and all of the General Authorities, my stake presidency, my bishopric, and all others who have been called to minister to the spiritual needs of my family.
4. I will improve my prayers. Dr. Stephen R. Covey, another BYU friend, assures us that if we spend half an hour each day with the Lord in daily prayer, we will spend eternity with Him. Instead of occasionally skipping family prayer because I’m late for work, I am going to adhere to a schedule that insures adequate time for prayer. Instead of repetitiously asking the Lord to bless the poor and needy, I will strive to be an instrument in his hands by giving a more generous fast offering, visiting the needy, etc.
5. I will do more genealogical work and visit the temple more often.
6. I will be a more loving husband and father. I will treat my wife and children with all the respect I desire from them.
7. In my relationships with others who sometimes annoy or offend me, I will abide by the advice of a carpenter friend who says “it’s always wise to measure twice before sawing once.”
8. I will take a more active part in civic affairs by contacting elected officials and giving them my views regarding my abhorrence toward pornographic literature and movies in our community, the legalization of abortion, etc. I will contact certain influential businessmen and share my views regarding the Sunday opening of businesses.
I know that I will fall short in certain areas, but I will press forward and not slip back. As Elder Marion D. Hanks, Assistant to the Council of the Twelve, said of the Apostle Paul: “The Lord called him to the ministry, not because of what he had done (or hadn’t done), but because of what he was going to be able to do.” (Eastern Atlantic States Mission leadership seminar, summer 1968.)
What, ultimately, would you like to be able to do?
What, then, will you do with 1975?