Do you follow the New Year tradition of setting goals for yourself? Have you been successful in meeting those goals or do you become frustrated with yourself for failing to meet them? What kind of goals do you set? Why do we need to set goals? What difference does it make in our lives?
Setting goals for ourselves, our families, and our organizations is a plan of what we want to accomplish or where we want to be at some time in the future. It is wise to have goals for different periods of time - daily, weekly, monthly, yearly, five years from now, when we retire, when we die, and where we want to spend eternity.
A goal is a plan and is much like a road map. We usually know where we are and where we want to be, but we don't always know how to arrive at our chosen destination. There are often a variety of ways to travel and eventually reach our destination, but sometimes there is only one road. When my husband and I drive from
Anchorage, Alaska, to Idaho, we know that we have to access the Alaska Highway. We can take the long way up the Parks Highway to Fairbanks and access the Alaska Highway there or we can take the GlennAllen Highway to GlennAllen and make another decision there. We could decide to take the Richardson Highway up to Delta Junction and access the Alaska Highway there or we could take an even shorter route up the Tok Cutoff to Tok which is the last place we could access the Alaska Highway. From Tok, Alaska, to Watson Lake, British Columbia, there is only one road to take - the Alaska Highway. At Watson Lake, another decision needs to be made - continue on the Alaska Highway or drive down the Cassiar Highway. There are no further choices on the Cassiar until the end of that highway, but there are numerous choices if continuing on the Alaska Highway. A road map is always a necessity as well as weather conditions!
Our life here on earth is often called a journey. Sometimes the journey is short, and sometimes it is long, but a "road map" is always necessary for this journey also. Our loving Heavenly Father has a plan - or a road map - whereby all of us, His spirit children, can return to His presence to live with Him forever. His plan is called the Plan of Salvation or the Plan of Happiness. His plan includes our pre-earth life, the Creation of the earth and everything on it, the Fall of Adam and Eve, the Atonement of Jesus Christ, the spirit world, the final judgment, the resurrection of all His mortal children, and a final destination (Celestial Kingdom, Terrestrial Kingdom, Telestial Kingdom, or outer darkness).
Because Heavenly Father loves us, He gave us agency - the power to choose - while we still lived with Him in heaven. We had the choice of whether to come to earth where we could receive bodies or to follow Satan. You can believe it or not, but one-third of all the hosts of heaven chose to follow Satan and will live throughout eternity without bodies because of that choice. They were cast out of heaven along with Satan and came to earth where they tempt us to join them. Their final destination is outer darkness. (See Revelation 12:4, 9.)
Those of us with bodies know that we chose to follow Heavenly Father's plan and to follow Jesus Christ. We came to earth where we received bodies and are allowed to make more choices. Heavenly Father sent us to earth with a plan on how we can return to His presence. The most important part of the plan is the Atonement of Jesus Christ; other valuable parts are prayer, scripture study, and following the counsel of prophets. The choices we make each day will determine where we spend eternity. Knowledge and understanding of Heavenly Father's plan for our eternal happiness helps us to make wise decisions.
Some life experiences help us to understand the plan and why it is necessary. Bishop H. Burke Peterson, who was a member of the Presiding Bishopric, told the following personal story.
My parents and grandparents were born and raised in
. However, my mother and father began their married life in Utah . That is where my three brothers and I were raised. Almost every summer my father and mother would take all of us to Phoenix, Arizona … to enjoy the association with our cousins and other relatives. Utah
… One spring before school was out I asked my father if I could go to Salt Lake City to work and then return to Phoenix at the end of the summer to be with my family and begin school again. After thinking it over, my parents decided it would be fine. When school was out in May, Dad took me with him to the [bus station] and, since I had no money of my own as yet, bought me a ticket to
. I was somewhat taken back when I found out that he had purchased for me a one-way ticket instead of a round trip. He said he would take the responsibility to see that I arrived in Salt Lake City but it would be up to me to do what was necessary while I was there to purchase the ticket for a return home to Phoenix at the end of the summer. As you can imagine, I was most anxious to come back home after my work experience as I had burning in my memory the happy experiences we had always enjoyed in our home. I enjoyed the association with and loved my three brothers and was most happy and comfortable with my parents. Salt Lake City
When I arrived in
City I immediately set about to find work. This I was able to accomplish, and as soon as my first paycheck was given to me, guess what I did. First I paid my tithing, and then I took the rest of the money to the bus depot downtown in Salt Lake Salt Lake City and purchased a return trip ticket to . I wanted to be sure that when summer was over there would be nothing to stand in the way of my returning home. I loved my home very much. For the rest of the summer I was particularly mindful of taking good care of myself and doing everything necessary to insure my return home to Phoenix . More than anything else I wanted to enjoy again the experience of being with my family. (See "Return Trip Ticket Home," New Era, Apr. 1974, 5.) Phoenix
We all had a family in our pre-earth life and were happy there with our Heavenly Parents and our spirit brothers and sisters, particularly our Elder Brother, Jesus Christ. We wanted to stay there, but we understood the plan. We knew that Heavenly Father loved us and wanted us to be with Him for eternity. We knew that we each needed to come to earth in order to gain a body, learn by experience, show that we will be obedient to God's commandments, and return to Him stronger and wiser. We understood that experience on earth was necessary in order that we could be with Heavenly Father again and also be like our Heavenly Father. The decision to leave our heavenly home and come to earth was ours, but Heavenly Father took the responsibility to help us arrive here safely. Heavenly Father provided only a one-way ticket; whether or not we return to His presence to be with Him and our family for eternity is up to us. Where we live for eternity will depend on our choices and actions while we are here on earth.
Heavenly Father's most important work is helping His children to return to live with Him again. God told Moses, "For behold, this is my work and my glory - to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man" (Pearl of Great Price, Moses 1:39).
This scripture names two parts to God's work - to bring to pass immortality and eternal life. The words immortality and eternal life do not refer to the same thing. Immortality is a state of being resurrected, of being free from physical death. This blessing will come to all people. Eternal life is living with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ in the celestial kingdom and being like Them. This blessing - which is also called exaltation - comes only to those who keep the commandments and make the necessary covenants.
The Atonement of Jesus Christ brought to pass the resurrection of all mankind. It also brings the promise that we can repent of our sins and become clean and worthy in order to regain the presence of the Father and the Son. Exaltation is my eternal goal. I will not be satisfied with anything less!