In the April 2017 general conference, Elder M. Russell Ballard, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, taught, “Over the years, I have observed that those who accomplish the most in this world are those with a vision for their lives, with goals to keep them focused on their vision and tactical plans for how to achieve them. Knowing where you are going and how you expect to get there can bring meaning, purpose, and accomplishment to life.”1
God, our Heavenly Father, has given us the perfect example of setting goals and making plans. He declared to the prophet Moses that His goal is “to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man”2. We know that Our Heavenly Father doesn’t do anything that is not for the benefit of His children3.
He loves us and cares about us. He has blessed each of us with abilities that will help us to succeed during this mortal journey and to prepare to return to live with Him again.
Our journey in life is not a sprint—but a marathon—and in this race of life, we succeed when we learn to make one step forward in the direction that we want to go—every day. In the same way, our journey to become self-reliant starts with a first step. No one will choose or decide on our behalf. The path may be long, but the destination is certain. It requires that we learn to take the initiative to see what is next. We cannot see the next opportunities that are waiting for us without making the effort and sacrifice that are required to take that first step.
“When we perceive a gap between who we are now and who we desire to become, many of us are tempted to choose to lose faith and hope”4.
I have learned that lesson in my own life. After my mission, I felt lost, knowing not where to start and what to do. I complained about my life, as if it was someone else’s responsibility to act on my behalf. It took me a few months before realizing that opportunities are there for everyone. When the sun rises in the morning, it gives light and life to everyone, despite our social, emotional, physical or spiritual situation. It comes up in the morning without being selective and brings hope to everyone. Those who succeed are the ones who see opportunities come with the rising sun and work hard to catch them before the sun sets. There are those who know the destination and make plans to get there.
After doing my self-assessment, I decided to focus on simple things that would allow me to have the companionship of the Holy Ghost daily. I stopped complaining about everything. I set goals to improve my ability to receive personal revelation. I knew that if I could improve my relationship with my Heavenly Father, I would be guided. I decided to improve my daily prayers and my daily scripture study. I fasted every month and paid my fast offerings. I decided to pay my tithing and serve in my callings and keep my covenants. I knew that if I could do my part of the covenant, God would fulfill his part—“For with God nothing shall be impossible”5.
I knew that if I could turn to the Lord with full purpose of heart, and put my trust in Him, and serve Him with all diligence of mind, He would, according to his own will and pleasure, deliver me out of my challenges and limitations6. “Self-reliance is the ability, commitment, and effort to provide the spiritual and temporal necessities of life for self and family.”7
I also know that I am a son of God and that He cares about me. I remembered God’s promises in Doctrine and Covenants 104:14–17: “I, the Lord, stretched out the heavens, and built the earth, my very handiwork; and all things therein are mine.
“And it is my purpose to provide for my saints, for all things are mine.
“But it must needs be done in mine own way; and behold this is the way that I, the Lord, have decreed to provide for my saints, that the poor shall be exalted, in that the rich are made low.
“For the earth is full, and there is enough and to spare; yea, I prepared all things, and have given unto the children of men to be agents unto themselves.”
I decided to stand for my life and decided to stop complaining as I knew that complaints never change anything.
I left my parents’ home, when I was 21 and went to stay with my uncle. I started going to the college at the Institut Superiéur des Techniques Appliquées.
Lacking money to pay for food or transportation, I still went to school, sometimes doing the auto stop, begging for help. I cried sometimes standing on the street—waiting and waiting. I never felt discouraged by my situation. I did that for three years. Then I attended another university for five more years. It was difficult, but I never gave up.
I still remember my dad’s counsel, “My son, if you do not learn the cost of a loaf of bread, you will never know what your life truly means.”
I started doing small jobs here and there. I tutored students. I did everything that was honorable to do. Sometimes people mocked me, but I knew what I was doing. It was for my life.
With my small income, I paid my tithing and saved to pay for my education. I will always be grateful to my mentors, my parents, my priesthood leaders, and friends who were there to encourage me. Those experiences in my early life helped to build who I am today.
I was a student when I decided to get married. My wife loved me as I was and not because of what I had. Surely, I did not have anything materially—but I had faith in our Heavenly Father and His Son Jesus Christ, and I worked hard every day to provide for myself and my family.
Over the years, Nathalie and I have worked together, and she has made me into the man that I am. We are truly the fruit of our faith and of our daily efforts.
My dear brothers and sisters, if you know where you are going and what you want to become, even if you do not fully see the horizon and the future seems dark, trust the Lord, and keep on trying, one step at a time. Knowing where you are going and how you expect to get there can bring meaning, purpose, and accomplishment to life.
I testify that God lives and loves us. Jesus is truly the Christ. He is our Savior and Redeemer and that through His Atonement, we will be able to overcome the obstacles of our life. We can do better and be better.
Thierry K. Mutombo was sustained as a General Authority Seventy in April 2020. He is married to Tshayi Nathalie Sinda; they are the parents of six children.