Saturday, December 30, 2017

Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin on examining life and setting goals

Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin (1917-2008) served as a Seventy from 1976 to 1986, then as a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles from 1986 until his passing in 2008 at age 91.
"I have known many great men and women. Although they have different backgrounds, talents, and perspectives, they all have this in common: they work diligently and persistently towards achieving their goals. It’s easy to get distracted and lose focus on the things that are most important in life. I’ve tried to remember the lessons I learned... and prioritize values that are important to me so that I can keep my eye focused on things that really matter.
"I urge you to examine your life. Determine where you are and what you need to do to be the kind of person you want to be. Create inspiring, noble, and righteous goals that fire your imagination and create excitement in your heart. And then keep your eye on them. Work consistently towards achieving them.
"'If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams,' wrote Henry David Thoreau, 'and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.' (Walden 323)"
- Joseph B. Wirthlin, "Life’s Lessons Learned," General Conference, April 2007
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

What defines greatness? How is it achieved? Elder Wirthlin gives some suggestions in this interesting talk, in which he drew from his own life experiences to show the importance of such principles as setting goals, always doing what is right no matter the consequences, and then reaching out in love to those around us.

I think one of the keys to this message is in the statement, "It's easy to get distracted and lose focus on the things that are most important in life." In our busy, complicated lives, we often have things press upon us that seem urgent. But those are often not the things that matter most in the long run! Learning to balance the demands of the moment, with the long-range priorities and principles, is a critical skill. Elder Wirthlin suggests that having "righteous goals" on which we can fix our attention makes all the difference:

I've always loved the statement from Thoreau that Elder Wirthlin quotes. Having dreams, well-defined dreams, towards which we can be advancing consistently, will enable us to ensure that our overall life direction is as it should be. We need to have the destination firmly in mind in order to travel the right path! This principle applies not just to the grand, eternal goals but also to shorter intermediate stages along the way.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2017)

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