When SELF inflates, it obscures my view of others. All I can see is myself. Selfishness destroys relationships and blocks spiritual progression. A story is told about a teenage girl who suffered from acne with resulting insecurities and self-consciousness. Her wise mother taught: “You must do everything you can to make your appearance pleasing, but the minute you walk out the door, forget yourself and start concentrating on others” (Susan W. Tanner). And here is another parent’s wise counsel: Young Gordon B. Hinckley’s father responded this way to his son’s complaints: “Forget yourself and go to work.” I can only vanquish human selfishness with Heavenly Father’s help. It’s a daily struggle. This ancient prayer spoken by St. Francis of Assisi mirrors my own desire: “Lord, grant that I may seek rather to comfort than to be comforted, to understand, than to be understood, to love than to be love, for it is by forgetting self that one finds it.”
Everyone entering the United States Military Academy at West Point agrees to the following code: “A cadet will not lie, cheat, steal, or tolerate those who do.” All who attend West Point are expected to live by that code. This code, however, is external. In other words, it is imposed by the institution, and those who violate it are subject to harsh discipline. Men and women of honor have an internalized code of conduct which controls their actions. Their individual codes are much stricter than anything the academy can impose. If that internal code is built on righteous principles, a person will do the right thing, even at great personal sacrifice. Thomas Jefferson said, “In estimating every man’s value, either in private or public life, pure integrity is the quality we take first into calculation, and that learning and talents are only the second.” The Lord acknowledged this valued trait when He said, “Blessed is my servant…for I, the Lord, love him because of the integrity of his heart, and because he loveth that which is right before me” (Doctrine & Covenants 124:15). I want to live my life with honesty and integrity, both in public and in private.
Why do we address our prayers to Heavenly Father and close in the name of Jesus Christ? First, because Christ commanded us to do so: “Therefore ye must always pray unto the Father in my name” (3 Nephi 18:19). The Savior reminds us often in the scriptures of the ascendant order of God the Eternal Father and His Son, Jesus Christ–who performs the will of His Father. They are two distinct beings but united in purpose, attribute, and love. Praying in the Savior’s name is a reminder that salvation and resurrection come only through Christ’s infinite Atonement. At baptism I pledged my willingness to take Christ’s name upon me and follow His commandments. This covenant is renewed each week during sacrament. The Savior’s name is sacred. I should always pronounce it in reverent tone, never casually or rushed. (Too often as prayers are closed, the Savior’s name is hastily spoken, garbled, or unintelligible.) I want to honor Jesus Christ by following and serving Him faithfully all of my life. I can also demonstrate honor by articulating His holy name with reverence when I close my prayers.
Our Sunday school teacher reminded the class that things we want to last a long time must be treated with extraordinary care. I thought of the special care we give clothing worn on special occasions or fine china adorning our holiday tables. Likewise, our marriages deserve special attention if we want them to last. Our teacher counseled us to implement the following suggestions:
- Delight in the happiness of our spouse.
- Celebrate each day together as a treasured gift.
- Listen patiently to each other.
- Be kind, respectful, courteous and generous.
- Forgive freely.
- Be honest.
- Be grateful.
- Be faithful.
There’s nothing surprising in this list. But do we DO them? By striving each day to treat our spouse with delicate care, our marriages will be enhanced and preserved through the eternities.
The act of leaving is an important part of human progression. As spirit children of Heavenly Father, we needed to leave His presence in that holy home in order to be born on earth. Adam and Eve needed to leave the luxurious Garden of Eden to enact the change necessary for procreation. Children leave the comforts of home to attend college and serve missions. Young adults leave parents to marry and begin families of their own. During our spiritual journey in mortality, we try to leave behind us, sin and worldliness. The Lord commands: “Come ye out from the wicked, and be ye separate, and touch not their unclean things” (Alma 5:57). As we leave these things behind, it is important to ask ourselves—where are we going? To what are we coming? “Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind, and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ” (Moroni 10:32). As I come unto Christ and strive to follow Him, He promises: “I will not leave you comfortless; I will come to you” (John 14:18).
While sitting on the patio of a friend’s home, we admired the neatly landscaped and impeccably trimmed backyard, bookended by neighbors on either side who also kept their property in beautiful order. But it is not always this way. Some people take care of front yards which are visible, but leave backyards a messy repository of unused and unattended items. Is there a spiritual parallel here? Do we show our best side and hide messy oversights that others can’t see? “There is room for improvement in every life. Regardless of our occupations, regardless of our circumstances, we can improve ourselves and while so doing have an effect on the lives of those about us. . .I hope that I will be a little kinder to any who may be in distress, a little more helpful to those who are in need, be a better husband, a better father and grandfather. I hope that I will be a better neighbor and friend…All of us have seen those we almost envy because they have cultivated a manner that, without even mentioning it, speaks of the beauty of the gospel they have incorporated in their behavior” (Gordon B. Hinckley). I want to incorporate the beauty of the gospel into my life by correcting mistakes and messy oversights, even those not visible to others, through continual repentance. I want my spiritual front and backyards to be kept impeccably clean.
What does this statement mean to you? “The perfect is the enemy of the good” (Gordon Livingston). To me this statement means that perfection can actually become my enemy if it prevents me from acknowledging the good things in my life. My sister’s philosophy is that life doesn’t have to be perfect to be perfectly wonderful. Does anyone have perfect days? Probably few have these. But lots of us have good days. And all of us have good moments within our days—even in difficult days. We just need to recognize and remember them. I also see other applications to this quote. We should celebrate the good—not perfection—in friendships, marriage, and family relationships. We should acknowledge the good—not perfection—in our jobs, service, learning, and talents. I should measure my own worth by growth and good, not by the impossibly high bar of personal perfection. Good does not have to be perfect to be celebrated. “Cleave to that which is good” (Romans 12:9). Recognizing and remembering the good will give me daily Reasons to Rejoice!