As is characteristic of the prophets we've seen thus far in the 21st century, President Nelson spoke multiple times this past Conference. But one address stood out to me as I considered the focus for the program today. President Nelson's address entitled "Hear Him" focused on the Savior in a way that addresses the craziness which now seems to engulf the world. And in light of recent reflections regarding the Savior and what makes the good we bring to the world truly matter, it is ever more vital that we do indeed hear Him.
That sounds a lot like what he said in his first Conference address as President of the Church.
So it shouldn't surprise us that President Nelson mentioned the Holy Ghost as a way to hear the Savior.
When I think of a place to receive revelation and feel the influence of the Spirit, the temple comes quickly to mind. Although the pandemic has restricted most of us from being in the house of the Lord, President Nelson looked ahead to when they will one day reopen.
"And, finally," President Nelson declared, "we hear Him as we heed the words of prophets, seers, and revelators." With that opportunity just a few days away, I'm glad it won't be long now to hear from our inspired leaders as they point the way to the Savior.
But notice that President Nelson didn't say we hear the Savior as we hear His servants. No, he said we hear the Savior when we heed His servants. To heed means more than just to hear.
President Nelson also used the word hearken. He observed that "the very first word in the Doctrine and Covenants is hearken" and then defined hearken to mean "to listen with the intent to obey" before declaring
I like that idea of being more intentional about hearing the Lord. Making conscious choices and acting with intention is key to unlocking much of the joy that surrounds us every day. Our best life comes to us not be accident but by design when act with the intention to have it.
Likewise, we hear the Lord more clearly when we act with the intention of hearing it. Listening with that desire to obey whatever we receive is key to having that right and proper intention.
Of course, listening with the desire to obey makes the next step obvious once we actually do hear. We must obey and heed what we have heard. We must apply our newly acquired knowledge. We must act and obtain the results possible only through action.
President Nelson was quite clear what some of those results would be.
I don't think I've ever been more eager for Conference to arrive than I am after experiencing what 2020 has offered. And a good portion of that eagerness comes from faith that hearing, hearkening to, and heeding the Lord's voice as spoken through His anointed servants will bring the blessings President Nelson has promised and so much more. And that will bring us more joy in our journey.
That's the place where many of us live, or rather the place where many of us exist as the walking dead, wandering zombies in lives on autopilot. We want a better life, we want to change for the better, and many of us sincerely intend both to do better and to become better. Yet the smallest good deed is always better than the grandest intention.
Don't just dream
Why such resistance to embracing positive change? We keep dreaming but never doing. Why is that?
It's not because we're lazy, at least not for most of us. We're biologically hardwired to operate out of habit. That means we're naturally designed to maintain a status quo, and that means resisting change because change by definition doesn't maintain a status quo.
Dreams, on the other hand, don't threaten the status quo, because dreams don't really change anything. Dreaming doesn't require any change in habits, so your natural design can continue business as usual while you dream to your heart's content.
And so, many of us dream and dream. And the life we have in return is the same and the same. Then when we recognize some undesired feature of this same but actual life, the only response many give is to complain and dream of a different life.
But only when you consciously choose to act against your biological design to operate out of habit and step towards your dreams will they ever begin to come true. Results come from one thing and one thing only — action. To get a result you've never had, you've got to do things you've never done. You must act!
Have a little faith
And the best part is it doesn't take a lot to get a lot. Goodness has such inherent power that a little can go a long way. Seemingly small actions can produce powerful results.
Nephi once wrote, "And thus we see that by small means the Lord can bring about great things" (1 Nephi 16:29). He was speaking about the Liahona, the small compass that guided him and his company to the promised land. Alma later spoke to his son Helaman about that compass, saying, "because those miracles were worked by small means it did show unto them marvelous works" (Alma 37:41). By exercising a little faith, the spindles pointed the way those early sojourners should go.
But because the action needed was small, it was also easy to forget. As Alma explained,
It works both ways. Seemingly small actions can produce powerful results.
With as long as I've been single, I've attended literally thousands of singles activities, but the small handful of treasured memories I have of those that actually made a difference in my life are of the small acts of kindness that others extended towards me. Those seemingly small acts produced a powerful result in me that I still carry with me.
Get to work
Each of us could confess to having similar moments in our lives. Seemingly small acts of goodness someone else extended to us have touched us, lifted us, strengthened us, and encouraged us when we needed it. We all can and should pay that forward.
For me, that's the best aspect of these actions. They're so small anyone can do them. You don't need to be terribly gifted in anything. In fact, you already have all the gifts you need to wield the power within seemingly small actions — the gifts of agency and time. When you choose to fill your time with the seemingly small actions that can make a difference in the lives of others and your own, you can effect real change in your life.
So what are you waiting for? Stop wishing and start working. The smallest good deed is always better than the grandest intention. Only action produces results. When you take the seemingly small actions to share goodness with others or to improve yourself, you move yourself closer to making your dreams reality. And with continued, consistent effort over time, you'll begin to see yourself moving closer to your dreams. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
Without question, the words that impressed me most were these: We can spend our lives doing many good things, but in the end all those good things won't count for much if they don't help people come unto Christ. Those words have prompted moments of reflection as I've considered my own ways. How much of what I do leads others to Christ?
Find the real question
In that moment of pure revelation, I understood intuitively the Spirit's impressions applied to every area of my life. And there's one part of my life to which the application seemed most clear. That part is Joy in the Journey Radio.
I've sacrificed and labored endlessly for the past eight years in what is now Joy in the Journey Radio. Some of my contributions have been more well received than others. Most of those others haven't been received at all. They are blog posts without comments, videos without views, podcasts without listens.
One might say all my effort has been for naught. What good is all I've done if no one knows about it? What good is an unreceived gift? Here's my answer: The show isn't over until the fat lady sings, and it's not even close to the time the fat lady takes the stage. By placing it out in the world, my contribution is available to make a difference in someone's life. Just because it hasn't done so to date doesn't mean it never will. God can still use my contribution for His purposes.
Consider what would be had I not made my contribution. I couldn't ever make any difference because nothing would be there to make a difference. The real question at hand is not what difference my contribution does make. The real question is what difference my contribution can make.
Answer the real question
With all we say and do, the most difference to be made is advancing God's eternal purposes. His "work and . . . glory [is] to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man" (Moses 1:39). In that light, what difference could be more significant than helping our brothers and sisters progress along the covenant path?
That's why the real question resulting from my reflections is really this: How effective is the way I use my time? In the end, all we really have in life are our will, our relationships, and our time. President Oaks once observed that
How wise is that timely counsel!
Embrace the answer
The contributions I've made thus far through Joy in the Journey Radio can help LDS singles find more joy in their lives. But is that the better or best contribution I can make?
I haven't completely ignored helping others come to Christ. I've dedicated one monologue blog post and its attendant program each month to returning the most recent General Conference. And I always view issues through the lens of the restored gospel. I always support the Brethren and prioritize walking the covenant path. And I always encourage others to do the same.
But I should be more overt about it. Joy in the Journey Radio should be more forward about bringing souls to Christ. The difference I can make through the purposes already expressed through Joy in the Journey Radio are all good. But are they better or best? They can be when they highlight bringing souls to Christ.
And so can be your purposes in your life. What difference will you make with your contribution? Will it be good, or will it be better or best? The Lord has been hastening His work in preparation for His Second Coming. When you surrender your will and your time to advance His purposes, He will advance yours. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
It wasn't very long, and I don't remember much of what it said. But what my grandfather wrote at the end has stayed with me. He essentially wrote, "I don't know if anything I've said is helpful, but if it is, keep it. Throw the rest away."
In the ensuing years, I've marveled at the wisdom my grandfather gave me in such a compact package. It's part of the heritage I've received from all my grandparents. All have passed on, but their contributions to me remain with me. And it's those contributions that fill my heart with gratitude as I remember grandparents.
Remember the paternal
His wife a real Nosy Nellie, but she also had a kindness of her own while insisting others adopt a vigorous work ethic. She died of cancer while I was on my mission, but I had a special experience at the time through which I understood that she had moved to a better place.
Remember the maternal
I never knew my mother's father — at least not in this life — because he died while my mother served her mission. But I've had a special experience through which I've come to "know" him in a real and connected way.
He lived as a sharecropper growing some soybeans but mostly tobacco. His neighbors could never understand how my grandfather could be a Latter-day Saint and grow tobacco for a living. When asked about it, my grandfather would reply, "I don't smoke it or chew it. I just grow it." He was a down-to-earth, simple man who believed in hard work and worked hard with his own hands to support a growing family.
His wife was the only woman I've ever known who cooked better than my mother. Apologies to my other grandmother, who never would have tolerated something like that said in her presence, but it's true. She was also one of the kindest people I've ever known. The summers my brother and I spent on her farm are among my most cherished childhood memories.
Pay it forward
I've got so many memories flooding my mind now that I can't possibly describe them all in this monologue. But these memories form the bulk of the heritage my grandparents bequeathed me, a heritage I carry with me to this day and hope one day to bestow upon the children I still hope to have.
It's little wonder then why we have a day to commemorate the contribution of grandparents. What is a wonder is why the holiday isn't more well known. Everyone knows about Mother's Day and Father's Day. But I didn't know about Grandparents' Day before this year.
This Sunday, let's remember grandparents. What legacy have your grandparents left you? What memories of them influence you today? If they're still here, take some time on Sunday to thank your grandparents for whatever positive difference they made in your life. And if they're not, then do as I'm doing and reflect on the difference they made.
Either way, when you remember grandparents, you keep them alive in your heart. You carry the heritage they left behind, making it easier to leave that heritage to those who live after you. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
And that's quite an accomplishment. Most of my posts contain just under 800 of my own words each, so by that estimation I've written about 278,400 words. That's more than a quarter million words! It just goes to show you don't know how far you've come until you stop and consider.
Look back and ahead
I had no idea what I'd accomplished with my word count until I stopped to consider it. I don't think I imagined that result when I published the first few hundred words with that first post in 2014. The only thing I imagined was never backing down. And look what that attitude brought.
We all have potential for greatness. But if you're like most people, that potential is largely untapped. I haven't completely untapped my greatness, but as just described, I've started. And I did it by consistent, persistent effort. I did the work to lay the "bricks" in my "building" one at a time. Now, years later, I can look back at the wonderful edifice I've built.
I can also look ahead to the "building" I'll yet have, because what I see today is hardly finished. That's no different from any of us, really. We're all walking construction zones, filled with more imperfections than Swiss cheese has holes. The encouraging part is that God isn't finished with us yet.
Lay your "brick" for today
If I trust that Master Architect to accomplish His grand design, all I need to do is what's right before me today. I have the "building" I have because over time I laid the next "brick" when I needed to lay the next "brick."
And in laying that "brick," I thought hardly anything about future "bricks." I focused simply on the work to be done now, the work that was right in front of me. That work was laying a single "brick" in place.
I'm reminded of something Will Smith said about success in an interview with Charlie Rose.
That's all I've done with the Joy in the Journey Radio blog. I didn't set out to write over a quarter of a million words. I just set out to write a few hundred each week. That was the work that was right in front of me each week. And now, years later, I can look back at the "wall" I've constructed from the accumulation of "bricks" laid for every week after 2013.
Stay slow and steady
In reality, anyone can do this. My accomplishment isn't the only one that can be broken down into individual "bricks." Any greatness you dream of having can come the same way. In fact, there's no other way it can come.
So what are the small, seemingly inconsequential tasks you need to perform to achieve your dreams? What "brick" do you need to lay today (and every day) to build the future you want? If you don't know how to answer that question, perhaps you should stop and consider that.
While you're at it, consider how far you've come already, and schedule appointments with yourself to consider it again at regular intervals into the future. Our modern age has us expecting everything instantly, but that's not how real progress works. You need occasionally to consider how far you've come to remind yourself of what you have done and motivate you towards what you can yet do.
It may not be quick, but slow and steady will win your race. Consider how far you've come. Then look to the work you need to do today and throw everything you have into doing that work the best you can. Do that every single day, and before long you'll begin tapping into your potential and living your dreams. And that will bring you more joy in your journey.
Howdy! I'm Lance, host of Joy in the Journey Radio. I've been blogging about LDS singles life since 2012, and since 2018 I've been producing a weekly Internet radio show and podcast to help LDS singles have more joy in their journey and bring all Latter-day Saints together. Let's engage a conversation that will increase the faith of LDS singles and bring singles and marrieds together in a true unity of the faith.
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