This past Sunday I was asked at the last minute to fill in for our full time missionaries who had been asked to teach the Elders Quorum about goals (one of our missionaries had fallen ill and had no business being at church). I did teach the class but ended up heading in a very different direction than the missionaries had intended.
As we talked about goals, I suggested that goals are generally linked with repentance, since goals are often intended to help us where improvement is required. I then linked our ability to improve to the atonement of Jesus Christ, since it is that atonement which enables us to repent.
The Book of Mormon includes an account of a famous vision to the prophet Lehi – the vision of the Tree of Life. We learn that the tree bears a most wonderful fruit, which represents the Love of God. Between the prophet Lehi (with his family) and the tree is a rod of iron that serves as a railing along the straight and narrow path that leads to the tree. If one holds to the rod, he’ll arrive at the tree. Along the way is a mist of darkness, making passage without holding onto the rod difficult, and many who let go are lost.
We discussed what happens when we get lost. One of the class members is an expert outdoorsman. He said when we’re lost in the woods, first we yell for help. And second, we stop. I would have assumed that one ought to reverse the order (stop first, yell second), but I’m not going to quibble. The point is that when we’re in trouble, we need to stop doing whatever it is we’re doing wrong, and then get help to find our way home. Getting back to the rod usually means turning around, and that’s what repentance is all about – turning ourselves back to the Lord. As we call out for help, we might call on the Lord in prayer, seek His counsel in the scriptures, or go to His trusted servants for counsel and advice. That help might come from a well meaning friend or spouse, or even a child who reminds us that we need to walk a different path.
I’m not a big fan of New Year’s resolutions – perhaps because my dad always made us write them. But I am a huge fan of repentance, and of goals the help me return to the right path when I stray.