Since I have had requests from online friends and family to share the talk I gave in church the end of December, here you go. 🙂
I thought I would share a poem I wrote years ago that I think fits the topic assigned to me. It is called My Light.
The darkness gets closer,
I am all alone.
The silence, it’s deafening,
What seeds have I sown?
The light it is familiar
Yet distant to me.
In the darkness of the shadows
I long to be free–
I see the light before me
So brightly it shines
So steady, not a flicker
So different from mine.
My own light is fading
It’s dimming so fast,
My lamp, almost empty,
My oil won’t last.
The light, it comes much closer,
The lamp, it is full.
It shines so ever brightly,
Mine in contrast, is dull.
The owner of the lamp’s before me,
The face it is kind.
I beg to use some oil from her lamp,
To brighten up mine.
With eyes full of sorrow,
A tear on her cheek
A voice full of gentle love,
Humbly did speak;
“I cannot give away my oil
To help your lamp to burn.
A testimony and good works
Are drops of oil you must earn.
“The oil I have within my lamp
Is not enough I fear,
To help us both to reach the side
Of the Savior who is near.”
She turned away and with heavy heart,
I did watch her go…
The light of her lamp was steady,
Her countenance did glow.
I looked upon my tarnished lamp,
My heart about to break,
The steady tears rolled down my face
As from my dream I did wake.
The morning light shone on my face,
The darkness, it had passed.
A brighter light of my own
Was still within my grasp.
The stranger in my dream familiar,
Her face I clearly see…
With a startling recognition,
I realize the stranger is me.
A different sort of person
She’s what I could be,
If I make the effort…
If I clearly see–
My lamp is almost empty
But now I must begin,
To make my oil to fill my lamp,
The light that shines within.
It seems like at this time every year, we begin to think about setting new goals for the New Year. We like new beginnings and fresh starts. We like having a clean slate. So we set new goals to better ourselves and inherently we break them by the end of January.
Yesterday, on my facebook, I posted a meme about goals and it pretty much fits this cycle. It says:
“My goals for 2016 are to accomplish the goals I set in 2015,
That I promised I’d do in 2014,
That seemed like a good idea in 2013,
That I aspired to accomplish in 2012.
It was accompanied by a hashtag that said: #HaveFaithInMe.
Despite the humor of this truthful meme, there is another subtle truth within it: As long as you don’t give up on your goal, you haven’t failed. As long as you keep trying, you get endless 2nd chances. And this pertains not only to temporal goals, but also the more important spiritual goals.
It should be no surprise that goal setting is a principle taught in the church starting at a young age. In Primary, we have the Faith in God program where children are taught a basic program of setting and achieving goals. In Young Women, the Personal Progress program teaches goal setting as they make and achieve goals set around Christlike attributes and values that will help them to become women of God. The Young Men have the Duty to God program where they set and achieve goals that help them prepare to be priesthood leaders in their future homes. By the time we are adults, the Lord hopes we have learned to implement the eternal principle of setting worthy goals and we will use them in our church callings and homes. Goal setting is an eternal principle patterned after our Heavenly Parents.
We have been learning to set goals long before our time here on earth. We learned to set goals in the pre-existence. Goals helped us to progress spiritually there just as they do here. Our main goal in the pre-existence is the same one we have today: To become like our Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother. In order to achieve this major goal, we had to set 3 smaller and specific goals:
1. Come to Earth
2. Receive a Body
3. Prove that we can keep the commandments given to us by the Lord
Since we are here, we have already achieved the first two smaller and specific goals: Come to Earth and Receive a Body. Now we are all working on the 3rd goal we set: Prove that we can keep the commandments given to us by the Lord. Of course, we all have made mistakes in achieving that goal. It’s hard. But our Heavenly Father knew that and provided us a way to have endless second chances while we are here on earth. The first way is when we are baptized by one who has the authority to do baptize us in the name of the Lord. All of our mistakes are washed clean and we are brand new. Of course we still make mistakes after that, as we are human and this is part of our learning process. However, we have been given the gift of repentance. When we use the Atonement, which is something we should be using ALL THE TIME—not just once or twice—but CONTINUALLY, we get to start over with a clean slate again and again. Each Sunday, we get the opportunity to take the Sacrament. This gives us a chance to renew our baptismal covenants and once again it is as if we are washed clean and get a new chance to do better.
Even though the goal of “Proving that we can keep the commandments given to us by the Lord” is a smaller goal of the larger “Become like our Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother” goal, it is still too big for us to do without breaking it down. It helps us to set smaller spiritual and eternal goals that will help us to progress spiritually.
So how do we set spiritual goals for ourselves and our family that will help us meet our big eternal goal? I thought that I would share some of the things we have tried in our family. Now before you think that the Emmett’s are perfect—we are SO NOT perfect. This is not going to be one of those “Do this exactly and then you will reach the celestial kingdom” kind of examples. I fully plan to share not only what HAS worked, but also what HASN’T worked for us. Believe me when I say we are very much a work in progress. But maybe some of what I share will help you come up with new ideas for your own families.
Let’s start with the goal of daily scripture reading as a family. This is a goal that can help us to feel the spirit in our home and bring us spiritual protection if we are faithful in keeping it. We so failed at this one over and over. We would start and stop. Start and Stop. Start and Give UP! I was pretty sure we would never be one of those families who read the scriptures every single day. It seemed impossible. I was just hoping that Chandler wouldn’t be at church and ask what the Book of Mormon or the Bible was. Seriously.
It wasn’t until AFTER we had moved here to Lovell, that we got it finally figured out. About 6 months after we moved here, I decided we should try one last time. So on January 1st, 2009, I sprung it on Gary and Chandler. I asked them if we could try to set a goal as a family to read our scriptures every single day. They agreed. So we set up “The Rules.” We decided to start with The Book of Mormon. We would read just two chapters a night before bed. We would rotate on who started each night. It was that person’s responsibility to say the family prayer at the end. It was kind of a 2-in-1 goal. We decided that we would each read 5 verses at a time and if we got to the end of the chapter and there were only 2 verses left, that person would keep reading to finish it. If there were 3 or more, the next person did it. This worked well until we got to Jacob 5 which has 77 LONG verses. That was when we decided to just read ONE chapter that night. The next night we would read 3 chapters as they were much shorter. We decided that we would be doing 2 chapters a night on AVERAGE.
I wish I could say that we had amazing spiritual experiences right away. We didn’t. There were some nights that one or two of us just didn’t feel like doing it. But the 3rd person always drug us along because we couldn’t break our record after XX days or XX months. So we persevered. We just read them to get it done and say we did it. It worked. We’ve read them for 6 straight years. We’ve read the Book of Mormon several times, the Doctrine & Covenants, the Pearl of Great Price, and even the Bible twice.
One year we decided to see how many times we could read The Book of Mormon in a single year, reading just 2 chapters a day on average. We found out we could do it 3 ½ times. Who knew? Now I am happy to say that we have evolved a bit since those first couple of years. We now often make comments as we go along and share personal insights or ask and answer questions. We discuss what we are reading and it really is an enjoyable time for our family each night.
Now maybe reading 2 chapters a day seems like more than you can possible do in your own family. It really doesn’t take that long. However, if you have small kiddos, then maybe just ONE VERSE is all you can do. It still counts. I promise. Maybe try reading the Book of Mormon reader instead and read one of the scripture stories in it. Maybe read it as a bedtime story. The point is you may have to be creative and think outside of the box to make it work for your family.
One of the challenges we had was that Gary’s job often had him traveling away from the family. We couldn’t always go with him. So how do you read scriptures and have family prayer when Dad is in another state? We chose to do it over the phone. We would put Gary on speaker phone and read scriptures and pray over the phone. Sometimes this would be really late at night (like midnight). Sometimes he would still be driving, so we would read to HIM over the phone and then pray. He was allowed to not close his eyes for the prayer on those occasions. The point is we found a solution and sometimes we had to be creative to make it happen.
The year after we started the scripture and family prayer challenge, we decided to try adding Family Home Evening into the mix. We had a track record with Family Home Evening, much like our previous scripture reading record. We’d hit and miss all over the place. So we decided that we’d make sure we did SOMETHING every single week. Again since Dad was traveling at the time, this meant Family Home Evening wasn’t always on Monday Night. We had to be flexible. Sometimes we watched a movie together. Other times we played a game or went for a walk as a family. Occasionally we had a lesson. The idea was to create the habit.
Once we had this down, I decided to up the stakes. I arranged a time in December to talk with Gary alone. I suggested we set a schedule with themes for the following year. We talked about what we thought we needed in our family and set our themes for each month.
Toward the end of that year, in 2012, I decided we needed to up the stakes again. Once again, I arranged time to discuss this with Gary. I thought we ought to have a monthly scripture and sing a new hymn or primary song each week. So our first week was always a lesson that Gary or I taught out of the Preach My Gospel manual. The second week was a conference talk that Gary chose for our family. Either he or I would teach that, depending on who taught the first week. The 3rd week we had Chandler teach and it was based on the youth theme for that month. The 4th week, I taught a lesson based on a Scripture Hero that we had chosen. If there was a 5th week, we did a family service project.
This worked really well, and we had some amazing progress as a family. However, we forgot to schedule any FUN time into Family Home Evening. We missed our game nights. We needed to improve on that.
At the end of the year, Gary and I had our usual planning meeting. For 2014, I suggested we set our themes around the monthly Youth Themes in the Come Follow Me program. We implemented the monthly scripture again and chose a hymn to sing each week. We set up a schedule where Gary would teach the lesson the first week, based off of a conference talk within that theme. The next week, I taught from another conference talk. On week 3, Chandler shared what he had learned in Young Men and Sunday School so far that month. The 4th week we had a planned Family Game Night. And once again, if there was a 5th Monday, we did a family service project.
Last year, we decided to try something new since Chandler was not going to be in Young Men for much longer at that time. We set the goal that for Family Home Evening, we would read a chapter of Jesus the Christ. We have only been partially successful in keeping that goal. We’ve had Family Home Evening regularly, but sometimes we’ve played a game or watched a movie together instead. Sometimes we have had a lesson that our family needed right then rather than reading from Jesus the Christ. But the times we have read Jesus the Christ together, have been amazing times of learning for our family. I am sure that as Gary and I sit down to plan for next year this week, we will continue with that goal of reading a chapter of Jesus the Christ. I’ve missed not doing our weekly hymns this year, and we are already planning on re-implementing that that along with a monthly scripture to Ponderize as a family.
Now doing some of what we have done might work well for your family. If you have small children, you can teach lessons around the primary theme. Use the Youth theme for your youth. No kids? Adults can choose conference talks or Sunday lessons to study together. Family Home Evening is what you make of it. Be creative. Make it fit your family. But don’t lose sight of the spiritual progress you can make as a family. Anything you can do together can help you progress and keep open the lines of communication. Games are a great way to learn to talk with your kids. It makes you both feel comfortable and will help later on when they have serious things that need to be discussed.
Can’t do Family Home Evening on Monday night? Choose a time that works for your family. Maybe you have a free Saturday and can take a road trip up to the Temple grounds. Walk around the grounds and talk about temples and what they mean. That can totally count as an awesome Family Night during the day. Can’t make that drive? Have a picnic in the park instead. Or play a game. Just do SOMETHING and identify it as Family Home Evening for your kids.
As we set spiritual goals for ourselves and our families, we will help each other become closer to our goal of Becoming like our Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother. They want us to return to live with them. The want us to grow and learn. And a way has been provided for us if we will take advantage of the Atonement of our Savior, Jesus Christ. We can become like them as long as we keep trying and changing our spiritual goals as the Spirit directs us in our own lives and families. Remember: As long as you don’t give up on your goal, you haven’t failed. As long as you keep trying, you get endless 2nd chances. As long as we do this, our lamps will be filled with everlasting oil and our lights will shine for all to see no matter how dark the world may become in these latter days. We will help others “Come Unto Christ”, as we Come Unto Him.
In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen