I Resolve

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“I Resolve,” New Era, Jan. 1998, 4

The Message:

I Resolve

(From an address given at a Brigham Young University devotional on January 9, 1994.)

Want to improve yourself? These lessons from the life of young Jesus can help turn anyone into a pillar of strength.

I recently conducted an informal survey where I asked 150 young adults to list three resolutions they felt would help them to become more successful and happy during the new year. Almost everyone in the survey (98 percent) included a resolution to increase the level of his or her spirituality. Two out of three indicated they would like to improve their social skills. Half indicated a desire to increase their level of physical fitness, and half wanted to grow intellectually. Everyone indicated a desire to improve.

In the Sermon on the Mount, the Savior said, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” (Matt. 5:48). You remember that following his resurrection the Savior rhetorically asked his disciples, “What manner of men ought ye to be?” He then answered his own question, “Even as I am” (3 Ne. 27:27).

There is only one verse of scripture in the entire New Testament that tells us what the Savior did to develop himself during the span of years from age 12 and his experience in the temple, until he began his formal ministry at age 30. The verse consists of just 14 words. Count them:

“And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man” (Luke 2:52). In other words, the Savior increased or developed in the same areas indicated by those included in my poll:

  • Intellectually (in wisdom and knowledge)

  • Physically (in stature)

  • Socially (in favor with man)

  • Spiritually (in favor with God)

I am convinced that if we make and keep resolutions in these four areas, we will have a happier and more successful new year and every year for the rest of our lives. Consider the four areas already outlined.

I Resolve
to expand my intellectual horizons. I will increase in wisdom.

This year, commit yourself to read good books—not just when you are attending school, but throughout your life. Some people learn to read but don’t read. At some point in our lives, we learned to read. But are we reading? Are we growing in wisdom?

In addition to making a resolution that we will read only the best in print, it would be very beneficial if now we resolved not to watch even one R-rated or NC-17 movie, or television shows with questionable content. That may sound extreme, but I assure you that much of our future happiness and success depends on it.

We cannot justify mentally shifting into neutral and failing to exert our efforts to progress intellectually. Whether or not you are in school, the challenge is the same. We should continue learning throughout our lives.

My father-in-law was a real inspiration to me. He was the 12th of 13 children of a very poor immigrant family from Switzerland. After he had finished elementary school, he, like many others in his time, was encouraged to drop out of school and learn a trade. Then one day he met Mr. Hicks, the new school teacher. Mr. Hicks asked, “Albert, are you coming to school this year?” Albert explained that he was not planning to. Mr. Hicks said, “Well, why don’t you come for three or four days and see how you like it?”

Albert came, and his future life was dramatically changed for the better. He said this new teacher didn’t just answer the questions. Instead he would write on the chalkboard the titles of the books where they could find the answers. A thirst for learning developed in Albert that was never quenched. He was a hard-working farmer, providing for a large family. But when I came to know him, I hardly remember his being in the house without a book in his work-worn hands. He would circle words he didn’t know and write their definitions in the margins. He was a real student of history and the doctrine of the Church. Although he never had the opportunity to attend school beyond the eighth grade, he read much more than most college graduates. He not only learned to read; he read.

We should not waste time reading anything but that which would be uplifting and instructive. There is a lot of frivolous, useless, and morally destructive literature in print that falls far short of that with which we should spend even a minute of our time. Remember the scripture “Seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom” (D&C 88:118).

I Resolve
to preserve and strengthen my physical health.

It is impressive that more than 160 years ago the Lord revealed a health code, the Word of Wisdom, that can make all the difference in how we feel and perform. With good health, we can be happier and more successful. Without it, we are curtailed in almost every other way.

Follow the do’s in the Word of Wisdom. Eat plenty of fresh fruits, vegetables, and grains. Discover that a meal does not have to feature a meat dish in order to be enjoyable.

Then resolve to completely avoid the don’ts—tobacco, alcohol, and addictive stimulants, coffee, tea, and drugs—and you will be blessed in a multitude of ways. What an improved society we would live in if the whole world were to make a similar resolution.

Adequate rest and physical exercise are also important. Get the blood circulating and give your major muscles a workout. An appropriate amount of time and effort spent in exercising will help you to be more effective in all other areas of your life.

There is also a great value that can come to the early riser. Years ago my wife and I were driving with President and Sister Marion G. Romney. Along the way, President Romney shared some of his personal experiences when he was first called to serve as a General Authority in 1941. He felt he needed some advice, so he went to Elder Harold B. Lee, a new member of the Quorum of the Twelve. He asked him how to be a successful General Authority. Elder Lee answered, “Go to bed early and get up early. If you do, your body and mind will become rested, and then, in the quiet of those early morning hours, you will receive more flashes of inspiration and insight than at any other time of the day.”

President Romney said to me, “From that day on, I put that counsel into practice, and I know it works. Whenever I have a serious problem, or some assignment of a creative nature with which I hope to receive the influence of the Spirit, I always receive more assistance in the early morning hours than at any other time of the day.”

You can have a similar experience in your own life. You can change, even if you consider yourself a “night person.” Set the habit in 21 days. When it comes right down to it, it is a matter of strong resolve and “mind over mattress.”

I Resolve
to be a true friend and to become more socially acceptable to people of high standards.

Learn to be the kind of person with whom others of high standards enjoy associating. More than 50 years ago, Dale Carnegie wrote How to Win Friends and Influence People (New York: Simon and Schuster). Among his suggestions that are equally valuable today are these time-honored principles for making friends:

  • Become genuinely interested in other people.

  • Smile.

  • Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.

  • Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves.

  • Talk in terms of the other person’s interests.

  • Make the other person feel important—and do it sincerely.

The Lord expects us to do the best we can with what he has given us. After we have done what we can to improve our own traits and appearances, we need to forget about ourselves and think of others and their needs.

Rather than working so hard to find Mister or Miss Right, work harder to become Mister or Miss Right and you will more likely have the social life and marriage you desire. Your challenge is to resolve to love everyone in the appropriate way. The full expression of romantic, physical affection is designed for you and one other person only, inside the bonds of marriage.

I Resolve
to grow spiritually. I will increase in favor with God.

We must resolve to overcome as much as possible the sin of human pride. Pride causes us to become overly concerned as we compare ourselves with others about how intelligent we think we are, the brands of our clothing, to what organizations we belong, on which side of town we live, how much money we have, what our race or nationality is, what kind of car we drive, what church we attend, and on, and on, and on.

Someone calculated that no less than 30 times throughout the Book of Mormon, the cycles of prosperity and peace were destroyed, principally by human pride. Your opportunities, your relative prosperity, and our stratified society make overcoming inappropriate pride a genuine challenge.

One way to combat that problem is to resolve to read the scriptures daily. Within the pages of the Book of Mormon, there are 3,925 references to the Savior. It really is another testament that Jesus is the Christ. If we started on the first day of January and read just two pages of the Book of Mormon each day, by September we would have finished the entire book.

Another way to increase your spirituality is to really pray and not just say prayers. There is a big difference. Learn to pour out the real in-depth feelings of your heart to your Heavenly Father, rather than merely going through the form of saying about exactly the same trite words and phrases you have become accustomed to using.

It will take energy and effort to keep these resolutions. I pray that we will do this so that we can increase in wisdom, in stature, and in favor with God and man. In so doing, we will become happier and more like the Savior every day for the rest of our lives.

Photography by Steve Bunderson. Photo illustration by Pat Gerber