N. Eldon Tanner was ordained an Apostle in 1962. In 1963 he began serving in the First Presidency, where he remained until his death in 1982. Here he teaches us to prepare for eternal life—by beginning today.
Supposing today were your last day on earth,
The last mile of the journey you’ve trod;
After all of your struggles, how much are you worth?
How much can you take home to God?
These words from a well-known poem sum up what life is all about. We are born, we live, and we die; and for what purpose? Our knowledge and understanding of the reason for our existence and what our eternal destiny will be should help us in determining how we shall live and how to sift out and strive for the really important things in life.
Each of us might well say: “Today is the first day of the rest of my life. Let me begin now to prepare for eternal life, that I may know a fulness of joy and happiness now and forever.” After all, this is really what each of us wants, and it is most important that we take time to find out how to get it and begin now to work at it day by day.
To accomplish this we must study and learn and increase our knowledge and understanding of the gospel. Then by application of our learning day by day and every day we will have an increase of faith and testimony that is so necessary for our own salvation, as well as for our influence on the lives of those we love, those with whom we want to share our happiness and blessings.
Remember always that the gospel is designed to teach us how to conduct ourselves for the benefit of our spiritual and temporal affairs. It is not enough to attend Church meetings, partake of the sacrament, participate in religious discussions, and then turn a deaf ear to the needs of our families, our neighbors, or our communities; or be dishonest or unscrupulous in our dealings with them.
Neither is it enough to be a good, solid citizen, contributing to charities, serving on community boards, and in general living a good Christian life. Although commendable, this is not sufficient to entitle one to the fulness of joy and the eternal life that our Father in Heaven has promised to those who love Him and keep His commandments.
We recall the scriptural account of one who came to the Savior and said:
“Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?
“And he said unto him, … if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments” (Matt. 19:16–17).
The scriptures recount again and again what the commandments are and that a requirement for eternal life, or living with God, is baptism by proper authority in His Church and kingdom. At the time of baptism, when we become members of the true Church, we take upon ourselves the responsibilities of that membership.
We are admonished to learn our duty and to act in the office in which we are appointed and are warned that if we do not we shall not be counted worthy to stand (see D&C 107:99–100).
How do we keep ourselves headed in the right path for the achievement of our goals and eventual eternal life? Only by disciplining ourselves and by repenting each day of those old habits or weaknesses that will keep us from reaching our God-given potential and destiny. We know that we have to work constantly to attain anything worthwhile in life.
Before entering a tournament a golfer will practice a single shot by the hour. Musicians, artists, and public speakers all must work and practice to become proficient. How much more important it is for us to make preparation to be about the work of our Heavenly Father, who has placed us here for a wise and glorious purpose.
As we reflect on the value of resolving to do better, let us determine to discipline ourselves to carefully select the resolutions we make, to consider the purpose for making them, and finally to make commitments for keeping them and not letting any obstacle stop us. Let us remind ourselves at the beginning of each day that we can keep a resolution just for that day. As we do this it gets easier and easier until it becomes a habit.
I knew a young woman who was taught the gospel and who wanted to join the Church but who was having trouble with the Word of Wisdom. She used cigarettes and coffee, and the thought of never having another cigarette or cup of coffee in her whole life overwhelmed her. One of the missionaries told her to try it for just one day and then just one more day. She found that by living it a day at a time she could make it, and she was soon baptized. The same would be true in changing any bad habit for a good one.
The greatest blessing one can enjoy in life is to go to bed at night with a clear conscience, knowing that he or she has lived that day in harmony with the teachings of the Savior and has accomplished the work assigned to him or her to do.
So we come now to the first day of the rest of our lives. With discipline and determination let us make it a good year and a good life for us and for our families and neighbors. It is desirable to begin each new day with resolves such as these or some others of your own choosing.
I will seek my Heavenly Father in earnest prayer. I will listen for the promptings of the Spirit to guide me.
I will express my love for God and His Son, Jesus Christ, in prayer and will show my love for Them through service to my fellowmen.
I will study and strive for more understanding of the gospel.
I will seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness.
I will listen to and heed the counsel of God’s prophet. I will keep the covenants and commandments.
I will teach someone about the gospel by word or by example.
I will observe the standards of the Church.
I will express through word and deed my love for my family.
I will be honest in all my dealings.
I will prepare myself for the tasks that have been assigned to me.
I will do a kind deed for someone this day.
I will express appreciation and gratitude for all blessings.
I will be loyal where I should be loyal.
Finally, we can do no better than to make and keep the resolves found in our thirteenth article of faith: “We believe in being honest, true, chaste, benevolent, virtuous, and in doing good to all men; indeed, we may say that we follow the admonition of Paul—We believe all things, we hope all things, we have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things. If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.”