Habits. We all have them. Some of them endear us to others, and some drive us crazy, but all of them somehow work their way into our subconscious and make us who we are. Latter-day Saint Stephen R. Covey understood the power of creating good habits and wrote a book about some of the best habits we can cultivate. This list of habits to help Latter-day Saints become closer to the Savior is based off of that model.
All highlight quotes from Stephen R. Covey’s website.
1. The habit of study and preparation.
I know, I know. Everyone knows this one. It’s one of those “little things” we always hear about, but we can’t let our testimony ride on our parents’ testimonies. We need to ask questions. We need to have habits of consistent study and practice being in tune with the Spirit so we can answer questions from others and faithfully deal with trials. Consider this story, shared by Sheri Dew in her newest book, Worth the Wrestle.
“Several years ago, a marvelous young woman who had just graduated with honors from BYU called me, distraught. Through sobs she blurted, ‘Sister Dew, I’m not sure I believe the Church is true, and I’m scared. What if my family isn’t going to be together forever? What if what I’ve been taught my whole life isn’t true?’
“I listened to her attempt to explain her distress and finally asked, ‘Do you want to have a testimony?’
“‘Yes,’ she said.
“‘Are you willing to work for it?’
“Again she answered, ‘Yes.’
“And was she ever! . . . She took me at my word and brought one thorny question after another. She asked question after question that I’d never considered—good, intelligent, probing questions. During one of our study sessions together, as she threw a steady stream of questions at me, I asked her if she was asking questions against a backdrop of faith or one of doubt. ‘In other words, are you saying, “Here’s something I don’t understand, so the gospel must not be true,” or are you willing to say, “Here’s something I don’t understand, but I wonder what the Lord or His prophets will teach us about this?” Are your questions asked with the assumption that there are answers? Are you willing to trust the Lord and give Him the benefit of the doubt?’ . . .
“Her testimony slowly began to grow, our study sessions tapered off, and a couple of years passed. One Sunday evening she called to say: ‘I want you to be one of the first to know that I am holding in my hand a temple recommend. Will you come when I receive my endowment?’ She added her thanks for the time we’d spent together and then said, ‘Do you know what you said that helped me the most? You told me to bring every question I had because questions are good. That simple statement allowed me to see myself as a seeker rather than as a doubter.’”
Successful Latter-day Saints, like this sister, take charge of their own testimonies and work hard to build them, influencing those around them for the better.
Seven Habits highlight: "Instead of reacting to or worrying about conditions over which they have little or no control, proactive people focus their time and energy on things they can control. The problems, challenges, and opportunities we face fall into two areas—Circle of Concern and Circle of Influence."
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2. The habit of remembering the bigger vision.
It is a good habit to practice remembering your eternal identity. I heard it once described this way. Imagine that you wake up in a hospital bed one day. You’ve lost your memory and the only thing you know is what others tell you. Now imagine that someone who tells you they are your mother or father also tells you that before you lost your memory, you were a famous dancer, or a talented chef, or a firefighter. Unable to see or remember this talent, you know you were capable of it before, and so you will work toward it again. Likewise, when we came to earth, the veil caused us to forget who we were before. But we have parents, friends, Church leaders, and especially a loving Heavenly Father who can tell us who we were before (think of your patriarchal blessing) and give us an end goal.
Elder Robert C. Oaks of the Seventy said in a 2006 BYU speech, “What a sweet blessing it is to come to know—to gain a testimony by the power of the Holy Ghost—that there is a God and that He has a plan with an exalted purpose for each of His children. It is also a very powerful, personal driving factor to be able to accept that we each can have a particular role to play in this plan. You owe it to yourself to make an extra effort to discover, in every detail possible, who you really are—to discover your eternal potential in God’s plan.”
By keeping these eternal perspectives in mind, we can come closer to our Savior, focused on what is most important and better able to see others from an eternal perspective as well.
Seven Habits highlight: Habit two is “begin with the end in mind.” The action advice from it applies very well to Latter-day Saints: “One of the best ways to incorporate Habit two into your life is to develop a Personal Mission Statement. It focuses on what you want to be and do. It is your plan for success. It reaffirms who you are, puts your goals in focus, and moves your ideas into the real world. Your mission statement makes you the leader of your own life. You create your own destiny and secure the future you envision.”
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3. The habit of prioritizing gospel living.
We often hear this in the phrase “remember the little things.” Habits such as family home evening, scripture study, Sabbath worship, prayer, and temple attendance must be practiced. We've all heard this before, and many of us have experienced it. Once we’ve missed Church for a few weeks, it can be hard to go back. Neglecting scripture study can make it hard to pick it up again. It is easy to rationalize away time, putting gospel principles on the back burner, but if we are consistent and diligent, we will find greater joy and motivation to keep going.
In an October 2014 conference talk, Elder Richard G. Scott explained, “Our Father in Heaven has given us tools to help us come unto Christ and exercise faith in His Atonement. When these tools become fundamental habits, they provide the easiest way to find peace in the challenges of mortality. . . . Don’t yield to Satan’s lie that you don’t have time to study the scriptures. Choose to take time to study them. Feasting on the word of God each day is more important than sleep, school, work, television shows, video games, or social media. You may need to reorganize your priorities to provide time for the study of the word of God. If so, do it!”
Seven Habits highlight: “Habit three is about life management as well—your purpose, values, roles, and priorities. What are ‘first things?’ First things are those things you, personally, find of most worth. If you put first things first, you are organizing and managing time and events according to the personal priorities you established in Habit two.”
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4. The habit of service and consideration.
Service doesn’t come naturally for many of us. One of our “fallen” characteristics is an inclination toward selfishness. However, this kind of attitude can affect not only your relationship with the friends and family members on earth, but with your Father in Heaven. Learning to serve others and focus on understanding or connecting with those around us builds our confidence in who we are. As we gain confidence in our decisions and connections, we are better able to see the vision talked about in the second habit. We will also more effectively be able to fulfill the call to be charitable, etc., and be willing to serve in a Church calling, mourn with those that mourn, lift the hands of those that hang down.
President Uchtdorf reminded us in April 2014 general conference, “Those who wholeheartedly turn their lives over to our Savior and serve God and fellowman discover a richness and fulness to life that the selfish or egotistic will never experience. The unselfish give of themselves. These may be small gifts of charity that have a grand impact for good: a smile, a handshake, a hug, time spent in listening, a soft word of encouragement, or a gesture of caring. All these acts of kindness can change hearts and lives. When we take advantage of the unlimited opportunities to love and serve our fellowmen, including our spouse and family, our capacity to love God and to serve others will greatly increase.”
Seven Habits highlight: "Many people think in terms of either/or: either you're nice or you're tough. Win-win requires that you be both. It is a balancing act between courage and consideration. To go for win-win, you not only have to be empathic, but you also have to be confident. You not only have to be considerate and sensitive, you also have to be brave. To do that—to achieve that balance between courage and consideration—is the essence of real maturity and is fundamental to win-win."
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5. The habit of prayer and listening for revelation.
In Stephen R. Covey’s book, this is described as “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” Personal revelation is a term that Latter-day Saints cling to—the belief that God can talk to us and inspire us. But sometimes we talk over God and don’t pay attention to what He is trying to tell us. See if this situation sounds familiar. You’ve been struggling with feeling inadequate in life; you start telling a friend about it, and before you even get out the second sentence, your friend is already trying to validate you by trying to tell you their own experience.
This isn’t a good way to learn or share, but sometimes we act like our friend in this scenario and do the same thing to Heavenly Father. We may ask a question, but instead of listening for an answer, we spend most of our energy coming up with counter questions, excuses, or don’t even listen at all. As we practice listening—whether that means praying longer, writing down promptings, or something else—we will be more in tune with the Spirit and more in tune disciples of Christ, able to act and understand spiritual things.
Boyd K. Packer once quoted Joseph Smith about this topic of revelation:
“A person may profit by noticing the first intimation of the spirit of revelation; for instance, when you feel pure intelligence flowing into you, it may give you sudden strokes of ideas, so that by noticing it, you may find it fulfilled the same day or soon; . . . those things that were presented unto your minds by the Spirit of God, will come to pass; and thus by learning the Spirit of God and understanding it, you may grow into the principle of revelation, until you become perfect in Christ Jesus.”
Seven Habits highlight: “You might be saying, ’Hey, now wait a minute. I'm just trying to relate to the person by drawing on my own experiences. Is that so bad?’ In some situations, autobiographical responses may be appropriate, such as when another person specifically asks for help from your point of view or when there is already a very high level of trust in the relationship."
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6. The habit of humility.
Some may think of this habit as charity or tolerance. But I think of it as humility. Humility is what allows us to recognize that our way is not always the best or the only way. It’s being able to learn from others’ perspectives and respectfully recognize differences. It’s being able to recognize, as Joseph Smith once said, that we shouldn’t ask “anyone to give up what good they already have. We invite them to come and get more.” As we build these friendships and relationships, we can draw closer to the Savior, become more humble as we recognize our own weaknesses and sins, and value others as sons and daughters of God.
Elder Ulisses Soares inOctober 2013 general conference said,
“Meekness was one of the most abundant attributes in the Savior’s life. He Himself taught His disciples, ‘Learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart.’
“We are blessed to be born with the seed of meekness in our hearts. We need to understand that it is not possible to grow and develop that seed in the twinkling of an eye but rather through the process of time. Christ asks us to ‘take up [our] cross daily,’ meaning that it must be a constant focus and desire.”
Seven Habits highlight: "Valuing differences is what really drives synergy. Do you truly value the mental, emotional, and psychological differences among people? Or do you wish everyone would just agree with you so you could all get along? Many people mistake uniformity for unity; sameness for oneness. One word—boring! Differences should be seen as strengths, not weaknesses. They add zest to life."
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7. The habits of health and learning.
The Spirit can speak more clearly to a rested mind and listening ear. At least, this has been my experience. Physical health is also fertile practice ground for self-control and righteous dominion over one’s body—a gift from a loving Heavenly Father. Couple this with a desire to constantly learn, through gospel and secular study, and you have the pattern of an effective Latter-day Saint who has a sharp mind and ability to serve the Lord more fully and effectively. As we expand our minds, the mysteries of God will be unfolded to us, our testimonies will be strengthened, and we will be better prepared to meet the world with confidence and provide for and teach our own families.
Spiritual and physical health take practice and consistency (the keys to a successful habit!), but they can also open up rewarding opportunities for increased energy to serve and increased confidence and love. Church leaders have reminded us of the importance of education for years. In 1992, then-Elder Russell M. Nelson admonished:
“Because of our sacred regard for each human intellect, we consider the obtaining of an education to be a religious responsibility. Yet opportunities and abilities differ. I believe that in the pursuit of education, individual desire is more influential than institution, and personal faith more forceful than faculty.
“Our Creator expects His children everywhere to educate themselves. He issued a commandment: ‘Seek ye diligently and teach one another words of wisdom; yea, seek ye out of the best books words of wisdom; seek learning, even by study and also by faith.’ (D&C 88:118.) And He assures us that knowledge acquired here will be ours forever. (See D&C 130:18–19.)
“Measured by this celestial standard, it is apparent that those who impulsively ‘drop out’ and cut short their education not only disregard divine decree but frustrate the realization of their own potential.”
Seven Habits highlight: "Feeling good doesn't just happen. Living a life in balance means taking the necessary time to renew yourself. It's all up to you. You can renew yourself through relaxation. Or you can totally burn yourself out by overdoing everything. You can pamper yourself mentally and spiritually. Or you can go through life oblivious to your well-being. You can experience vibrant energy. Or you can procrastinate and miss out on the benefits of good health and exercise. You can revitalize yourself and face a new day in peace and harmony. Or you can wake up in the morning full of apathy because your get-up-and-go has got-up-and-gone. Just remember that every day provides a new opportunity for renewal—a new opportunity to recharge yourself instead of hitting the wall. All it takes is the desire, knowledge, and skill."