As we enter the month of December we realize that we are coming to the close of another year. Businesses will be taking their inventories, filling out their balance sheets, and making their monthly and annual reports to determine how they have done—the success they have had, the progress they have made—and to try to determine how they can improve during the next year. Some will be very pleased with their reports; others will be discouraged; and others will determine to do better.
Many individuals will make a similar survey of their own lives and accomplishments, asking themselves what progress they have made and how much improvement has been accomplished. They are pleased with the progress, or ask why they have failed or where they could have done better, and many set about making resolutions for the new year.
Some of us do, and all of us should, realize that we are gradually coming to the close of the normal productive period of our lives, and we ask ourselves how well we have prepared and are preparing for this period of retirement from active employment. It is difficult for youths and young adults to really realize that some day they too will be old, and they spend their time, energy, and money satisfying their immediate desires, appetites, and passions, rather than planning for comfortable and enjoyable retirement.
It is most important that one enjoy his job or employment and do what he can to contribute wherever possible to the success of the corporation with which he is associated and to the betterment of the community in which he lives and will be raising his family. At the same time he should be preparing for the day when he will be retiring. He should have some hobby or program which he can enjoy after retiring from his employment. For those who have prepared, the declining years of their lives can be the most enjoyable.
It is sad to see someone who has come to the end of his productive years, and had to retire, who was not ready either financially, physically, mentally, or spiritually. So often we find older people, due to no fault of their own, in a state of poverty, ill health, loneliness, or unhappiness.
These are cases where the family, if there is any, should rally around those who need their love and fellowship so much—where home teachers and visiting teachers should show a keen interest and do what is possible to make their lives more enjoyable. Neighbors and friends should also be mindful of those who need their loving kindness.
We should ask ourselves:
“Have I done any good in the world today?
Have I helped anyone in need?
Have I cheered up the sad, and made someone feel glad?
If not, I have failed indeed. …
Then wake up, and do something more
Than dream of your mansion above;
Doing good is a pleasure, a joy beyond measure,
A blessing of duty and love.” (Hymns, no. 58.)
Many of our older citizens are in nursing homes, sometimes forgotten by family and friends. As much as they are able these people should busy themselves in caring for and cheering one another instead of being wholly dependent on visits from outsiders. However, we all should assume some responsibility in remembering those of our families and our neighbors who find themselves confined for any reason—either at home or in nursing establishments. They need to be visited or given transportation to places they wish to go. Just a brief visit at regular intervals would certainly help the confined person and give the visitor satisfaction and joy for the privilege of having “done something good in the world.”
The Church has many programs to assist older members in keeping occupied and useful. The Melchizedek Priesthood MIA “Pursuit of Excellence” is a program of personal development that has a particular message regarding the need for older people, wherever able, to keep physically active, which gives a challenge and often a solution to some of the other problems of discontent and a morose outlook.
Other aids can come through the Melchizedek Priesthood quorums and the Relief Society; the home teaching and visiting teaching programs; Welfare Services, with its volunteer programs and resources; and such other voluntary service opportunities as teachers, leaders, staff workers, temple workers, missionaries, welfare project workers, librarians, genealogy workers, etc. The Church also encourages its members to employ themselves in writing their life history. These and many civic projects and opportunities are available without the expenditure of money.
People of all ages must realize that one day they could be old and life must come to an end—a time for which we should all prepare. The Lord makes it clear that we are here to work out our salvation. He said:
“We will go down, for there is space there, and we will take of these materials, and we will make an earth whereon these may dwell;
“And we will prove them herewith, to see if they will do all things whatsoever the Lord their God shall command them;
“And they who keep their first estate shall be added upon; and they who keep not their first estate shall not have glory in the same kingdom with those who keep their first estate; and they who keep their second estate shall have glory added upon their heads for ever and ever.” (Abr. 3:24–26.)
He has given us a program by which we can prepare ourselves for immortality and eternal life. I would encourage all members of the Church, old and young, to live the principles of the gospel every day and thereby prepare themselves for the time when they have finished their mortal existence, so that they can really retire to eternal life.
Let us all make certain that we do not procrastinate the day of our preparation for becoming older—whatever our age may be. I am reminded of the little boy who said to his friend, “Why doesn’t your grandmother ever do anything but sit in her rocking chair reading the Bible?” The other boy answered, “I guess she’s cramming for final exams.”
Eternal life, or life with God, is our goal. It is a great blessing to know that we can have an eternal family and eternal progression, with continuing opportunity and challenge. The doctrines of the Church should help us all to solve our problems and prepare for our declining years as we put forth the effort to study and live according to the teachings of the gospel. As we learn of the Fatherhood of God, the brotherhood of man, intelligence, eternal progression, endurance, the resurrection, and eternal marriage and family, we are given hope, stability, and purpose for living.
How sad it is to reach an old age and realize that you have wasted your life trying to satisfy appetites and passions and selfish desires of the moment and have failed to do those things which the Lord has pointed out as being the most important things in our lives. We should learn to exercise the principles of repentance and close every day of our lives with a clear conscience.
The Lord has said, “If ye love me keep my commandments.” (John 14:15.) Let me add, “If you love yourself you will keep the commandments of the Lord.” As we do this, we will be happier and more successful, loved, and respected, and we will prepare ourselves for old age and for eternal life.
As we start the new year let us determine to do these things, always remembering that the Lord has promised that:
“All saints who remember to keep and do these sayings, walking in obedience to the commandments, shall receive health in their navel and marrow to their bones;
“And shall find wisdom and great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures;
“And shall run and not be weary, and shall walk and not faint.
“And I, the Lord, give unto them a promise, that the destroying angel shall pass by them, as the children of Israel, and not slay them.” (D&C 89:18–21.)