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Counsel from President Monson You Should Keep in Mind as You Make Your New Year's Resolutions

Even though Christmas is over and our attention turns to making resolutions and the new year, it doesn't mean that we lose our responsibility to light the world. If you participated in the Church's 2016 #LIGHTtheWORLD Christmas campaign, you have served others for over 21 days, which is long enough to form a habit. 

Although the Christmas lights may be gone, the light of Christ can continue to light the world, even in the new year. So to motivate you to keep serving others, here is some past counsel from President Thomas S. Monson that will help you continue your newly formed habit (or to start if you never did):

As I consider the vast membership of the Church, I’m reminded that each of you is one of a kind. Each has had experiences unique to you, and you alone. We come from varied backgrounds. And yet there is much that we have in common one with another. We know where we came from, why we are here, and where we will go when we leave this life. We know that we are children of our Heavenly Father and that He loves us. We know we want to return to Him after we leave this earthly existence. We know that what we do—and don’t do—here in mortality is of utmost importance. We also know that, should we fall short, our Savior has provided us with the precious gift of the Atonement and that, if we change our lives and our hearts and take advantage of the power of the Atonement, our sins and shortcomings will be forgiven and forgotten.

We have in common the gospel of Jesus Christ. And we know it is our responsibility to share the truths of the gospel with others. One of the chief ways in which we can share the gospel is to be a righteous example. The Apostle Paul wrote that the followers of Christ should be “as lights in the world.”

This is what I would hope for each of us—that we might be a light to the world.

What is light? Webster’s dictionary lists no fewer than 15 definitions for the noun light. I prefer the simple, “Something that illuminates.” Just as turning on a light switch in a dark room will bathe the room in light, so providing an example of righteousness—and therefore being a light—can help to illuminate an increasingly dark world.

Each of us came to earth having been given the light of Christ. Said President Harold B. Lee: “Every soul who walks the earth, wherever he lives, in whatever nation he may have been born, no matter whether he be in riches or in poverty, had at birth an endowment of that first light which is called the Light of Christ, the Spirit of Truth, or the Spirit of God—that universal light of intelligence with which every soul is blessed. Moroni spoke of that [light, that] Spirit when he said: ‘For behold, the Spirit of Christ is given to every man, that he may know good from evil; wherefore, I show unto you the way to judge; for every thing which inviteth to do good, and to persuade to believe in Christ, is sent forth by the power and gift of Christ; wherefore ye may know with a perfect knowledge it is of God.’”

Unfortunately, for many, that light with which all were endowed at birth has dimmed—in some cases almost to the point of being extinguished—as outside influences have come to bear and the sometimes harsh realities of life have been experienced. Ours is the responsibility to keep our lights aflame and burning brightly, that they might shine for others to see and follow.

With the decline of religion in our society, many people have come to feel that they are sufficient unto themselves and have no need of a higher power. A loss of religious faith implies a loss of faith in anyone greater than oneself.

In Second Nephi we read these words, so pertinent today: “O the vainness, and the frailties, and the foolishness of men! When they are learned they think they are wise, and they hearken not unto the counsel of God, for they set it aside, supposing they know of themselves, wherefore, their wisdom is foolishness and it profiteth them not. And they shall perish.”

It can at times be easy to fall into the erroneous thinking that we ourselves are capable of handling anything that comes our way, that we have all the answers, and that there is no need for assistance from a higher power. When we realize, as French philosopher and priest Pierre Teilhard de Chardin put it, that “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience; we are spiritual beings having a human experience,” we come to understand where our main emphasis should be and on Whom we are reliant.

In order for us to be examples of the believers, we ourselves must believe. Our testimonies are no doubt of varying degrees. It is up to each of us to develop the faith necessary to survive spiritually and to project a light for others to see. Amidst the confusion of our age, the conflicts of conscience and the turmoil of daily living, an abiding faith becomes an anchor to our lives. Among the most effective ways to gain and keep the faith we need would be to read and study the scriptures and to pray frequently and consistently.

Brothers and sisters, have you read the Book of Mormon? Have you put to the test the promise found in Moroni chapter 10, verse 4, asking your Heavenly Father with a sincere heart, with real intent and having faith in Christ whether or not that which is found in that book is truth? . . .

You may already know that the Book of Mormon is true, that Joseph Smith is indeed a prophet, and that this is the true Church of Jesus Christ. Some of you, however, may still be living on the testimony of others—your parents, your friends, your Church leaders. May I suggest that . . . you set aside time every day to find out for yourself if the Book of Mormon is a true book, for it will change your heart and change your life. If you seek this knowledge with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ, I promise that you will receive an answer. And once you know that the Book of Mormon is true, then it will follow that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God. You will have that burning testimony and knowledge that this Church is true.

Such knowledge, such a personal testimony, is essential if we are to safely navigate the sometimes treacherous paths through life, with the adversary attempting to deceive us at every turn. As you keep the flame of testimony burning brightly, you will become a beacon of righteousness—even a light—for all to see. Said the Savior: “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”

I share with you an example of two individuals who let their lights shine and whose good works were recognized and appreciated. Several years ago I received a letter from a lady whom I did not know but who chose me, for whatever reason, to write to concerning the example of two members of the Church who had an influence for good in her life.

Her letter begins, “Dear President Monson,” and then she writes:

“I would like to commend two of your church members for their extraordinary compassion and faith. I am a practicing Catholic and grew up in Salt Lake City. Oftentimes, as a youth, I remember feeling ostracized by the other children who lived on our block because I was not a member of the LDS Church. I must admit that this impression has stuck with me for many years, until my encounter with Rick and Dan McIntosh.
Last year my sister’s husband, Tom Brown, was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor and was given one year to live. He passed away last week. Of course neither my sister nor her husband are members of your church. For the past year, Rick, who is the bishop of the ward close to my sister, and Dan have spent countless hours with my sister and her family. They have prayed numerous times for Tom, and their wives have brought food to the house. They shoveled the walks in the winter. And each time they have come they have asked my sister if there was anything she needed or that they could do. And they meant it. It was not important to them that my family was not LDS. Tom was their neighbor and their friend and they were there to do whatever they could to help.
These two men truly live their faith, and I felt deeply moved by their compassion and example. From one who used to indulge in Mormon bashing, I am writing this letter to tell you that through the example of these two men, not only will I never again criticize the LDS faith, but I will not allow it to be criticized in front of me. Your church has my deepest respect.”

Our opportunities to shine are limitless. They surround us each day, in whatever circumstance we find ourselves. As we follow the example of the Savior, ours will be the opportunity to be a light, as it were, in the lives of those around us—whether they be our own family members, our coworkers, mere acquaintances, or total strangers.

It has been my opportunity through the years to associate with countless individuals who I would consider to be outstanding examples, even lights to the world. There is a special spirit we feel around such people which makes us want to associate with them and to follow their example. When we encounter them, they are a powerful influence, for they radiate the love of the Savior and help us to feel His love for us.

Lead image from Mormon Newsroom.

Cover 8Read President Thomas S. Monson's full message in A Prophet's Voice: Messages from Thomas S. Monson, available at Deseret Book and deseretbook.com.

Bringing together more than fifty of his classic addresses, including all the major general conference sermons President Monson has given since becoming the sixteenth President of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, these messages demonstrate the worth of every soul and the power of personal examples in our lives.