I have known many great men and women. Although they have different backgrounds, talents, and perspectives, they all have this in common: they work diligently and persistently towards achieving their goals. It’s easy to get distracted and lose focus on the things that are most important in life. I’ve tried to remember the lessons I learned and prioritize values that are important to me so that I can keep my eye focused on things that really matter.
I urge you to examine your life. Determine where you are and what you need to do to be the kind of person you want to be. Create inspiring, noble, and righteous goals that fire your imagination and create excitement in your heart. And then keep your eye on them. Work consistently towards achieving them.
“If one advances confidently in the direction of his dreams,” wrote Henry David Thoreau, “and endeavors to live the life which he has imagined, he will meet with a success unexpected in common hours.”
Another lesson I learned on the football field was at the bottom of a pile of 10 other players. It was the Rocky Mountain Conference championship game, and the play called for me to run the ball up the middle to score the go-ahead touchdown. I took the handoff and plunged into the line. I knew I was close to the goal line, but I didn’t know how close. Although I was pinned at the bottom of the pile, I reached my fingers forward a couple of inches and I could feel it. The goal line was two inches away.
At that moment I was tempted to push the ball forward. I could have done it. And when the refs finally pulled the players off the pile, I would have been a hero. No one would have ever known.
I had dreamed of this moment from the time I was a boy. And it was right there within my reach. But then I remembered the words of my mother. “Joseph,” she had often said to me, “do what is right, no matter the consequence. Do what is right and things will turn out OK.”
I wanted so desperately to score that touchdown. But more than being a hero in the eyes of my friends, I wanted to be a hero in the eyes of my mother. And so I left the ball where it was—two inches from the goal line.
I didn’t know it at the time, but this was a defining experience. Had I moved the ball, I could have been a champion for a moment, but the reward of temporary glory would have carried with it too steep and too lasting a price. It would have engraved upon my conscience a scar that would have stayed with me the remainder of my life. I knew I must do what is right.
The Light of Christ helps us to discern right from wrong. When we allow temptations to drown out the still voice of our conscience—that is when decisions become difficult.
My parents taught me to react quickly when temptation comes and to say “No!” instantly and emphatically. I recommend that same counsel to you. Avoid temptations.
Another lesson I learned was the joy of service to others.
Each week during priesthood meeting, Bishop Perschon had the Aaronic Priesthood bearers recite the following phrase: “Priesthood means service; bearing the priesthood, I will serve.”
We all possess spiritual gifts. Some are blessed with the gift of faith, others the gift of healing. In the body of the Church, all of the spiritual gifts are present. In my case, perhaps one of the spiritual gifts for which I am most grateful is that I have been blessed with an obedient spirit. When I heard wise counsel from my parents or Church leaders, I listened and tried to make it part of my thoughts and actions.
Brethren of the priesthood, I urge you to cultivate the gift of an obedient spirit. The Savior taught that “whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man. … And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man.” Matthew 7:24, 26.
How do we know if we are wise or foolish? When we hear inspired counsel, we obey. That is the test of wise or foolish.
What does it profit us if we listen to wise counsel and do not heed the words? Of what use is experience if we do not learn from it? What good are the scriptures if we do not cherish the words and incorporate them into our lives?
President Gordon B. Hinckley has promised that “[Heavenly Father] will shower down blessings upon those who walk in obedience to His commandments.”
Although I didn’t fully understand it at the time, it is clear to me now that these lessons—and many others I learned as a youth—served as the foundation upon which the rest of my life has been built.