If we can educate our desires in the right way, we will become “what we want to become and what our Father in Heaven would want us to become,” said Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. “It begins by careful contemplation of who we are and what we want in life.”
“What do you absolutely believe?” Elder Andersen asked during the Brigham Young University Investment Professionals Conference, which took place in September 2011. “What are you willing to fight for and never let go?” He then spoke of the power of educating our desires in such a way that our hopes, longings, and anticipations align with the desires of our Father in Heaven.
Responsible for Our Desires
“For me, a desire is a conscious, private longing for which each person is responsible,” Elder Andersen said. “It is a powerful hope, a quiet, soul-felt anticipation originating from that sovereign territory we each possess. We are all influenced by our families [and] our culture, and yet I believe there is a place inside of us that we uniquely and individually control and create. These desires are being constructed or developed, fortified or weakened constantly, whether they are righteous or unrighteous.”
He quoted President David O. McKay (1873-1970), ninth President of the Church, who said, “The greatest battles of life are fought … within the silent chambers of the soul.”
As a young man, Elder Andersen said he once thought those battles to be choices between good and evil, between right and wrong.
Desires Influence Choices
“I have come to understand that before choices, come our desires. Our desires influence our choices,” Elder Andersen said. “Because many of our thoughts are private, protected, and hidden from view, our actions for a time may not always reflect our inner desires. However, eventually, our inner desires are given life and they are seen in our choices and in our actions.”
Educating desires, Elder Andersen said, is not a once-in-a-lifetime job. It requires not only constant preparation, but also constant nourishing of desires that are noble and eternal, while discarding those that are unrighteous and evil.
Educating our desires also requires strengthening and fortifying them through scripture study, prayer, obedience, and righteous experiences.
Temple Perspective Helps
“We pray. We constantly strengthen our desires through the scriptures. And for those of us who are permitted, we spend time in the Lord’s house, the holy temple, receiving the perspective of eternity that we might build upon the righteous desires of our souls,” Elder Andersen said.
The challenges of the world we live in are difficult, Elder Andersen said. But he quoted a promise made by President Thomas S. Monson during the April 2011 general conference: “We are often surrounded by that which would drag us down. As you and I go to the holy houses of God, as we remember the covenants we make within, we will be more able to bear every trial and to overcome each temptation. In this sacred sanctuary we will find peace; we will be renewed and fortified.”
Two Specific Challenges
Those living in the world today face two specific challenges in educating desires, Elder Andersen said. The first is the love of money.
“The Lord’s standard is clear,” Elder Andersen said: “But before ye seek for riches, seek ye for the kingdom of God” (Jacob 2:18).
Second, Elder Andersen said, are the dangers that lasting marriages face today. He spoke of an article he read (entitled, “Is Ever After Just Too Long?”) that told of “men of capacity, of faith, of goodness—men who had served missions, served in the Church, and had fine families—who left their wives after 30 years of marriage.”
How could they do it? Elder Andersen asked. “Men in this situation often protest, ‘Don’t I deserve to be happy?’… but I asked myself, ‘What is happiness to them? What are their deepest desires? How have they educated their desires?’
“In the world in which we live and in which we will live, we will have to build strongly in the depth of our soul a righteous desire for an eternal marriage.”
Quoting President Monson, Elder Andersen said, “Choose a companion carefully and prayerfully; and when you are married, be fiercely loyal to one another. … Choose your love; and love your choice.”
Although there are some situations in which marriage cannot be saved, Elder Andersen said that he felt strongly that for the most part, marriage can and should be saved. “We who are married in the house of the Lord do so for time and for all eternity, and then we must put forth the necessary effort to make it so.”
Build on Righteous Desires
“I encourage you to make your own life of what is important to you. Then we begin to educate, to build upon those desires that will bring about what we really want. And we starve unworthy desires,” Elder Andersen said.
In closing, he said, “I bear testimony of the power of desire. I testify that if we will seek to build our righteous desires, heaven will not abandon us and our Heavenly Father will give us answers to our prayers. He will help us overcome our unrighteous desires and strengthen those things that are true and lasting.”