Question:

What do you think about New Year’s resolutions? Sometimes I feel like there is so much pressure on members of the Church to be “perfect” and all of this goal setting just feeds into it. I dread having to sit through a bunch of sacrament meeting talks next week on how to set goals for the New Year. It just all seems so scripted and formulaic. I just wondered if you had any thoughts on the subject.

Answer:

You’re right that most people set goals and then don’t keep them. I think gyms count on that truth to boost new membership enrollments in the month of January! You’re also right that, as a people, we certainly care about self-improvement that can create some painful perfectionist pressure.

I have nothing against setting goals and achieving measurable results. Many wonderful things have happened in our world because someone decided they wanted to achieve something. Deciding to lose weight, learn an instrument, or even spend more time writing in a journal, for example, are all commendable goals.

I think what you’re referring to is the challenge of trying to perfect our natures, which, as taught in the Book of Ether, have become “evil continually.” Because we are fallen and live in fallen conditions, it is unrealistic, not to mention unhealthy, to seek perfection in areas that are highly resistant to change.

I love how Dr. Wendy Ulrich interprets the famous scripture in Ether 12:27. The verse reads:

And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.

She teaches that God is the author of weakness (“I give unto men weakness”) and has a specific purpose for planting in us weakness. Notice how the word “weakness” is singular. It’s not written as “weaknesses”, implying that there is a group of weaknesses that we’ll eventually overcome with enough willpower. We are built with weakness. It comes standard as a human. It’s a state of being. We are weak, dependent, fallen, frail, and utterly hopeless without God’s grace.

When the New Year approaches, I do think we have a tendency to get sucked into the seductive doctrine taught by Korihor in Alma 30 that teaches that we only prosper “according to [our] genius” and by “the management of [our] creature.” In other words, if we are disciplined and smart enough, we can overcome our fallen natures. Unfortunately, there is no truth in that, which is why we give up on our lofty aspirations soon after we set them.

While I think we should continually work to improve our character and eliminate undesirable traits that separate us from God and others, it’s best to recognize from where that improvement originates.

Let’s go back to Ether 12 and outline the pattern as simply as possible. We acknowledge our brokenness, we believe He can change us, we go to Him to seek how we can change, and then He makes those weak and fallen parts of us stronger.

I love that the New Year begins shortly after the winter solstice, when the days are getting longer and brighter. It’s a reminder to me that our growth and improvement is possible because of the Light of the world. He illuminates our minds, hearts, bodies, and spirits to improve so we can bless and build others.

Go ahead and study out and ponder ways you can improve this New Year. Just don’t forget to ask Heavenly Father where he needs you to be and what he needs you to become. Any growth we achieve comes from his perfect plan for each of us and he can guide us to the best use of our limited resources.

I’m going to be thinking about this past year and the growth and blessings an involved Father has given me. I’m going to take inventory and look for those things I can improve as I surrender my weakness and humanness to the Lord. I don’t have a formula or specific plan for all of the changes He’ll ask of me this next year, even though there are a few things I’d like to improve. The only thing I really want to get right this year is my ability to surrender everything to Him.

Geoff will answer a new family and relationship question every Friday. You can email your question to him at geoff@lovingmarriage.com

About the Author

Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in St. George, UT. He is the owner of Alliant Counseling and Education (www.alliantcounseling.com) and the founding director of LifeStar of St. George, an outpatient treatment program for couples and individuals impacted by pornography and sexual addiction (www.lifestarstgeorge.com). He is the co-author of “Love You, Hate the Porn: Healing a Relationship Damaged by Virtual Infidelity”, available at Deseret Book, and the audio series “Strengthening Recovery Through Strengthening Marriage”, available at www.marriage-recovery.com. He also writes a weekly relationship column for the St. George News (www.stgnews.com). He holds a bachelors degree from BYU in communications studies and a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy from Auburn University. He served a full-time mission to the Dominican Republic and currently serves on the high council of the St. George, Utah young single adult second stake. He is married to Jody Young Steurer and they are the parents of four children. You can connect with him at:

Website: www.lovingmarriage.com

Twitter: @geoffsteurer

Facebook: www.facebook.com/GeoffSteurerMFT