“3 Helps for Being Your Happiest and Best Self,” New Era, June 2018
I was the fifth child in a family of six children. In our home, our parents gave us chores to do. One chore each of us had was to wash dishes after dinner one night each week. Our family rule was you couldn’t go to bed until you had washed the dishes.
I never went to bed without doing the dishes, but it wasn’t because I was super obedient. It was because my mother wouldn’t let me! There was no escape! I would whine, complain, and pester my poor mother because I wanted to watch TV or play with my friends. But eventually, I would do the dishes. Although I was technically obedient and did what my mother asked, I am sure my attitude didn’t please her.
My oldest sister, on the other hand, discovered she could jump up from dinner; put away the food; wash, dry, and put away the dishes; clean off the countertop; clean the kitchen floor; and still have time to play. She was more than just obedient; she was doing what pleased her mother.
The way my sister served my mother reminds me of the way the Savior serves His Father. The Savior said, “I do nothing of myself; but as my Father hath taught me” (John 8:28). Which is to say, He was always obedient.
He further explained, “And he that sent me is with me: the Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him” (John 8:29).
May I suggest two words to give you direction, comfort, and hope? They are Please God. If those two words become an inner compass for you, they will answer a lot of questions and prevent much heartache!
For example, how should you dress for a high school dance? Modestly, of course! But how do you judge what’s modest? You can review the standards of the Church in For the Strength of Youth. You could also ask yourself, “Is the way I’m dressed pleasing to my Heavenly Father?” Then you can ask Him in prayer, and He will tell you!
It shouldn’t be a mystery to know what pleases Heavenly Father. As you strive to please God, the Spirit will move your heart to feel what does or does not meet with His approval. And “then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God” (D&C 121:45). There are many ways we can please God. Here are three ways I have found to be powerful.
At about age 14, while praying, I had a surprising thought: “I wonder what Heavenly Father thought about what I just said in my prayer?” This had a profound impact on me. It changed the way I pray.
Suppose I had an algebra test coming up that I was worried about. While praying for help, if I would ask, “I wonder what Heavenly Father thought about what I just said in my prayer?” I would be more aware of what I was asking, which would lead me to think that He would want me to finish my algebra homework and spend more time studying before the test. If I did so, He would be much more pleased with my prayer.
Seeking His will for us will help us recognize His answers to our prayers. It pleases God when we communicate with Him. He is also pleased when we learn how He speaks to us through the Holy Ghost.
Learning to recognize when God is speaking is more like learning to play the piano or learning a new language than it is like just turning on a light. It takes practice, but you can learn how revelation comes to you, and you can recognize it each time it comes. Revelation is like a light inside us. It’s real, it’s identifiable, and it’s memorable, however it comes. The Lord taught, “He that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day” (D&C 50:24).
We please Heavenly Father when we look for ways to serve others. When I was Young Men president in a ward in San Antonio, Texas, the bishop suggested that the priests quorum help a woman whose husband was on military deployment. She lived in a trailer home with her small children. The steps to her trailer were rotted and damaged. She needed help replacing them.
We met at her home and got to work. Shortly after we started, it began to rain. The priests decided to work through the rain. Soon new steps were in place. They were high quality when we were done! Some years later I had an occasion to talk to one of those priests. I asked him what he remembered from our time in the priests quorum. He remembered that service project. He said he was sure that what the service did for him was much more important than what it did for this dear sister and her family.
Christ’s teaching is infinitely wise: “For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it” (Matthew 16:25). Two wonderful things happen when you serve others: first, those you serve are happier and better, and second, you are happier and better. This works anytime and anyplace.
Think about what you want to be years from now. What can you contribute to the world and to your family? What can you do to bring happiness to others? It pleases God when we go for what I call the long win. This means we don’t take the easy way out, we focus on things that have lasting importance and impact, and we do the right thing for the right reasons.
You can gain so much confidence by saying, “I’m going to do what I know is right.” Instead of being shortsighted, think about how you want things to turn out further down the road. You may not know how a situation will end, but if you can have the courage to say, “I know what’s right, and I’m going to do it no matter what,” you will win in the long run. Always.
Going for the long win will also help you stay away from sin. People often fall into sin because it seems enjoyable in the moment. The problem with the moment is that it only lasts a moment. In the end, sin always causes harm and pain. Going for the long win will lead you to make wiser decisions in the short term and be much happier in the long term.
Here is one more thought. You may feel discouraged as you try to please God and do what’s right. Doing right can sometimes be hard. Everyone experiences discouragement from time to time. Sometimes we’re discouraged because we’ve made a mistake or committed a sin. But feeling discouraged shouldn’t lead to lingering hopelessness. If we take advantage of the tremendous blessing of repentance, Heavenly Father will give us power to rise to our true potential. Repentance is there to redirect and correct our course minute by minute, day by day. We can repent and try again! As you strive to please God, you will be on the path to becoming the best and the happiest you can be.