The purpose of this lesson is to help us set and achieve personal and family goals.
When President Spencer W. Kimball was 14 years old, a Church leader visited his stake conference and told the congregation that they should read the scriptures. In recalling the experience, President Kimball said:
“I recognized that I had never read the Bible, [so] that very night … I walked to my home a block away and climbed up in my little attic room in the top of the house and lighted a little coal-oil lamp that was on the little table, and I read the first chapters of Genesis. A year later I closed the Bible, having read every chapter in that big and glorious book. …
“I found that there were certain parts that were hard for a 14-year-old boy to understand. There were some pages that were not especially interesting to me, but when I had [finished reading], I had a glowing satisfaction that I had made a goal and that I had achieved it” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1974, 126–27; or Ensign, May 1974, 88).
A goal is something we desire to achieve. In our premortal life, as spirit children of our Heavenly Father, we learned that this life was to be a time to progress toward becoming like our Heavenly Father. This progress should be our primary goal in life. To reach that goal we need to set and achieve secondary goals. Setting such goals will also help us live a full and abundant life.
The first step in selecting a goal is to think about the way we are living and decide how to improve. We can then select personal and family goals to help us improve. If we want to become stronger spiritually, for example, we should examine our spiritual strength and set appropriate goals for improvement. In doing so, we might consider the following questions:
Do I pray as often as I should?
Do I know what the prophet says, and do I follow his counsel?
Do I read the scriptures regularly?
Do I faithfully carry out my priesthood assignments?
Am I honest in paying tithes and offerings?
Do I think clean and worthy thoughts at all times?
Does our family hold family home evening every week?
Has our family been sealed in the temple?
Is our family preparing others to receive the gospel?
We should also consider the progress we hope to make in our education, occupation, and other areas. As we consider each area of our lives, we should determine how we need to improve. We should then set goals to help us do so. Each goal should be challenging, but it should also be something we are able to do.
Invite class members to list and discuss reasonable goals in the following areas: prayer, scripture study, family home evening, temple marriage, family history, home teaching, missionary work, tithing, thinking clean thoughts, education, and occupation.
It takes time and effort to do these things. Consequently, we should begin by choosing only one or two goals to work on. As we improve in one thing, we can concentrate on another. Perfection is something we work toward step by step all our lives and into eternity; it does not happen just because we have set that as our goal.
To set personal goals we must consider our desires and abilities and pray for inspiration from the Lord. We may also want to ask a spouse, parent, Church leader, or trusted friend for advice in setting goals. We should decide what we want to do, how we want to do it, and when we want to finish it.
President N. Eldon Tanner told of an experience he had with a grandson who set a personal goal:
The grandson said: “‘Grandpa, I have been a hundred percenter ever since I was ordained a deacon a year ago. … I haven’t missed a sacrament meeting, Sunday School, or priesthood meeting. …’
“I congratulated him and said, ‘John, if you will continue to be a hundred percenter until you are old enough to go on a mission, I will finance your mission.’ He smiled and said, ‘I’ll do it.’
“I thought I was perfectly safe, but he set about to be a hundred percenter. I remember on two occasions how he disciplined himself in order to accomplish his undertaking. One time his uncle invited him to go for a trip with him and his boys where they would be gone over Sunday. John said, ‘Is there any place I can attend my meetings on Sunday?’ and as he was told there was not, he said, ‘No, I can’t go. I am going to be a hundred percenter,’ and therefore sacrificed a lovely trip to the ocean and an island on which they were going to celebrate.
“Another time near a weekend he broke his leg. The first thing he asked his doctor was, ‘Will I be able to attend Church on Sunday? I have to be a hundred percenter.’ He came, of course, on crutches.
“When he became 19 years of age, he said, ‘Grandpa, I have been a hundred percenter ever since we made that deal.’ I was very happy to finance him on his mission. This achievement has been a great influence in his life” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1975, 113; or Ensign, May 1975, 77).
How long had John worked to achieve his goal? (Six years.) How do you think he felt when he achieved his goal?
To set a family goal, family members should discuss their desires and feelings with each other. Each should take part in establishing the goal, with the father leading the discussion, if possible. Prayer will help in setting the goal.
Elder J. Thomas Fyans told how one family selected its goals:
“Three thousand miles from [Salt Lake City, Utah,] lives a family who will again do a very special thing following this conference. When the Ensign arrives with the conference addresses at their home, the family will immediately read the messages, with the older children reporting on selected addresses.
“But they will do more than read. In family home evenings they will select family and personal goals based upon the conference messages. Their goals are practical: ‘Remember grandmother in our daily prayers, memorize a Church hymn, review our family preparedness, do the Lord’s thing in his way—not ours, bring a nonmember to church.’ They will discuss their goals, pray about them, and review them frequently. Is there any wonder why the father says: ‘Our family regards general conference as the Lord’s list of things we should be concentrating on. It has meant more to us and our children than words can say’” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1974, 89–90; or Ensign, Nov. 1974, 65).
Ask class members to think for a moment about their eternal goals. Invite a few of them to share some of their goals with the class. List these goals on the chalkboard.
As we set goals that help us be more like the Savior and Heavenly Father, we will become worthy to have eternal life with our families. President Joseph Fielding Smith said: “But here [on earth] we lay the foundation. Here is where we are taught these simple truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ, in this probationary state, to prepare us for that perfection. It is our duty to be better today than we were yesterday, and better tomorrow than we are today” (Doctrines of Salvation, comp. Bruce R. McConkie, 3 vols. [1954–56], 2:18).
Show visuals 17-a, “Family scripture study offers many rewards”; 17-b, “Prayer can draw families closer together”; and 17-c, “Family home evening can build spirituality.”
We need to select and achieve goals that will help us prepare for eternal life and draw nearer to Heavenly Father. For example, we may set goals to read the scriptures daily, have family prayer, or have family home evening.
What other goals can help us prepare for eternal life and draw nearer to God?
The following story illustrates how goals help us progress toward eternal life:
When Jerry first met the missionaries, he was 24 years old and very depressed. He had been trained as a teacher but was not working in a job related to teaching. He was not married and saw no real purpose in life. Morning after morning he would ask himself, “Why go through another day?”
One day an old friend who had joined the Church invited him to meet with the missionaries. The elders challenged him to read and pray about the Book of Mormon. As he studied the gospel of Jesus Christ, Jerry felt that life really did have a purpose. As he prayed, he soon knew that the Book of Mormon was true and that he wanted to follow the Savior. Because he wanted to be baptized, he changed his life and began to live the gospel.
After his baptism, Jerry accepted a call from the bishop and was completely faithful in his priesthood duties. He felt a great desire to help others and soon found a job as a teacher of young children. Then he met and married a beautiful young lady, who was also a recent convert. They set a goal to go to the temple and were subsequently sealed together for all eternity. Since then they have found great happiness in following the Lord’s plan.
Have a class member read 2 Nephi 32:9.
Nephi tells us to pray before we try to accomplish anything. One of the most important parts of setting a goal is committing ourselves to achieve the goal. As we pray to our Heavenly Father, we should ask for His help. We should promise that we will do everything we can to achieve our goals.
What can we do to remind ourselves of our goals? (Be sure to mention the following ideas: we can write our goals in a journal, write them on a piece of paper that we will see every day, or discuss them regularly with our family.)
All the righteous desires and goals we may have will not help us unless we work to achieve them. The Lord said, “All victory and glory is brought to pass unto you through your diligence, faithfulness, and prayers of faith” (D&C 103:36). As we work diligently, obey the commandments, and pray, we can accomplish our righteous goals. Each day is an opportunity to come a little closer to achieving our goals. We can also make special efforts to help family members reach their goals.
Often we must sacrifice to reach a goal. President Spencer W. Kimball once explained how he was able to achieve one of his goals through sacrifice:
“After my mission I wanted to attend college, but my family could not afford to send me. So I took a job in the freight yards of the Southern Pacific Railroad in Los Angeles to earn money for school. I worked fourteen hours a day moving freight between warehouses and boxcars on a two-wheeled hand truck. Often I had a thousand-pound load on the hand truck. I’m sure you can understand why I was tired at the end of the day.
“I was living with my sister two or three miles away. The streetcar fare was ten cents, and I trudged the whole distance each way in order to save twenty cents a day. I wanted very much to go to college, and walking that distance made my goal that much nearer. … [Through sacrifice] I was able to save enough to return to my home state of Arizona and attend the University of Arizona” (“Decisions: Why It’s Important to Make Some Now,” New Era, Apr. 1971, 2–3).
Elder O. Leslie Stone said: “We should all constantly evaluate our progress. To live righteous lives and accomplish the purposes of our creation, we must constantly review the past, determine our present status, and set goals for the future. Without this process there is little chance of reaching one’s objectives” (in Conference Report, Apr. 1978, 87; or Ensign, May 1978, 57).
Setting worthy goals, planning and working toward them, evaluating our progress, and then setting new goals are part of the process that will bring us nearer to eternal life. Heavenly Father is pleased when we set righteous goals, and He will help us achieve them.
Prayerfully select a personal goal. You might want to set a goal in one of the following areas: prayer, scripture study, family home evening, temple marriage, family history work, missionary work, tithing, the cultivation of clean thoughts, or home teaching.
Write your goal in your journal or on a piece of paper that you will see often. Commit yourself to achieve the goal. Pray for help and commit to the Lord that you will do your best.
Discuss with your family a goal you can achieve together, and then work toward achieving it.
Before presenting this lesson:
Assign class members to present any stories, scriptures, or quotations you wish.