Here we are on the first Sunday of a brand new year, the beginning of 2016. This is the time of year that many people make New Year’s resolutions – and breaks them a few weeks later. It is also the time of year that many people set goals and make plans to reach them.
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles spoke at a January 13, 2009, devotional at Brigham Young University; his topic was “`Remember Lot’s Wife’: Faith Is for the Future.” Anyone who has studied the Old Testament knows the story of Lot and his family fleeing from Sodom with the commandment to not look back; they will remember that Lot’s wife looked back and was turned to a pillar of salt.
“The start of a new year is the traditional time to take stock of our lives and see where we are going, measured against the backdrop of where we have been. I don’t want to talk to you about New Year’s resolutions …. But I do want to talk to you about the past and the future, not so much in terms of New Year’s commitments per se, but more with an eye toward any time of transition and change in your lives – and those moments come virtually every day of our lives…. I just want to talk to you for a few minutes about looking back and looking ahead.
“One of the purposes of history is to teach us the lessons of life. George Santayana, who should be more widely read than he is on a college campus, is best known for saying, `Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it’ (Reason in Common Sense, vol. 1 of The Life of Reason [1905-1906]).
“So, if history is this important – and it surely is – what did Lot’s wife do that was so wrong? As something of a student of history, I have thought about that and offer this as a partial answer. Apparently what was wrong with Lot’s wife was that she wasn’t just looking back; in her heart she wanted to go back. It would appear that even before they were past the city limits, she was already missing what Sodom and Gomorrah had offered her….
“So, as a new year starts and we try to benefit from a proper view of what has gone before, I plead with you not to dwell on days now gone, nor to yearn vainly for yesterdays, however good those yesterdays may have been. The past is to be learned from but not lived in. We look back to claim the embers from glowing experiences but not the ashes. And when we have learned what we need to learn and have brought with us the best that we have experienced, then we look ahead, we remember that faith is always pointed toward the future. Faith always has to do with blessings and truths and events that will yet be efficacious in our lives. So a more theological way to talk about Lot’s wife is to say that she did not have faith. She doubted the Lord’s ability to give her something better than she already had. Apparently she thought – fatally, as it turned out – that nothing that lay ahead could possibly be as good as those moments she was leaving behind.”
Elder Holland told a few stories, quoted a couple of poems, and strongly counseled the students to allow themselves and others to repent of sins and move forward with their lives. I encourage you to read the entire talk.
In addition, please watch this Mormon Message about how faith in Jesus Christ helps us to leave the past behind us and move forward to a better future – “Look not behind thee.” More talks to inspire you about the New Year can be found here.