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The Choice to Become

As we begin a new year, many of us think about choices and priorities—choosing between what is good, better, and best. Of this choice, President Dallin H. Oaks said, “As we consider various choices, we should remember that it is not enough that something is good. Other choices are better, and still others are best. Even though a particular choice is more costly, its far greater value may make it the best choice of all.”[1]

As I pondered my priorities, one particular choice stood out as among the best—if not the best—we can make. It is the choice to become like our Heavenly Father. In fact, becoming like Him or not is the culmination of every choice we make in mortality.

Our Missed Opportunities

Unfortunately, we often miss out on opportunities to “choose to become.” We may make “good” or “better” choices, but without concerted action, we can inadvertently leave undone the “best” choice of becoming like our Father in Heaven. Let me share one such story with you. I share it with permission.

In 2019, I had the opportunity to attend the temple with a young man in our congregation and his family when he received his endowments in preparation for his mission to Brazil. I had known him for many years, having served as his deacon’s quorum advisor and then as his bishop through his entire young men’s experience. It was an honor for me to be with him on such an occasion.

During the endowment session, his mother experienced a severe and persistent cough. It became so intense and loud that the temple workers stopped the session at one point to get her a bottle of water for relief. Eventually, she made it through the session, and we all reunited in the celestial room at the end of the ordinance.

As we chatted quietly, she mentioned to me how badly she felt for having been so disruptive. She got the sense that some of the patrons were annoyed by her coughing, and she felt awful for ruining their evening.

I felt impressed to tell her, “If there were people who felt that way during the session, then they missed the whole point of the temple.” I told her that the temple’s purpose is to help us become like our Heavenly Parents. Instead of being upset that a sister was coughing uncontrollably and loudly, they should have seen it as an opportunity to have patience and compassion for someone who was clearly suffering.

Here was this poor sister—coughing out of control—trying to have a memorable spiritual experience with her oldest son, who was about to leave home for two years. Even without that backstory, they could have seen her as a suffering saint who clearly was in distress.

How different could have been their experience—and their eternal progress—if those same annoyed people could have looked for ways to become more like their Heavenly Father in their choices? Would they have had genuine feelings of love and concern for this sick sister? Would they have approached the temple workers to try and get her water? Would they have said a silent prayer of relief on her behalf? Would they have felt an abundance of compassion that would have led them to approach her in the celestial room and offer words of concern?

As I thought of this particular missed opportunity, I wondered how many times I had personally “missed the point” in my life without realizing it. Perhaps, I was fixated on a particular short-term outcome—like the persons in this endowment session who were fixated on the ordinance itself—instead of being focused on the long-term outcome of becoming more like Heavenly Father.

Certainly, the COVID-related events of the last few years gave all of us myriad opportunities to make the “best” choice of becoming more like our Heavenly Father. To be sure, every experience in life should be seen as an opportunity to demonstrate godly characteristics and become more like him.

I fear that we often “miss the point” of life’s precious developmental experiences. I wonder how many times we make a “good” or a “better” choice rather than making the “best” one? How many times do we “miss the point” and miss a chance to “become?” Most importantly, how do we improve as we move forward into this coming year and beyond?

Our Best Effort to Become

We must more consistently strive to develop the attributes of deity to become like our Heavenly Parents and Their Beloved Son. This is always the “best choice.” We have been commanded by the Savior to be “even as I am” (see 3 Ne. 27:27). As the prophet taught, “If you wish to go where God is, you must be like God, or possess the principles which God possesses.”[2]

The sole purpose of our life on the earth is to have experiences that enable us to develop and demonstrate those godly characteristics, using the restored gospel of Jesus Christ as our guide. We must recognize that every experience we have in this life is, first and foremost, designed to be an opportunity to do just that—become like Them.

The entirety of the gospel of Jesus Christ, including all of its teachings, ordinances, and covenants, is focused on enabling us to become like our Heavenly Parents—on developing their godly traits, attributes, and characteristics amidst the varying experiences of mortal life. It is designed to keep us focused on our eternal goal—of becoming like Heavenly Father.

The gospel of Jesus Christ is a gospel of spiritual progression. This process of perfection and of becoming like Heavenly Father requires repeated, consistent action. Some of our imperfections can and should be changed now, others may need more time to change, and others may not change until after this life.

It takes inspired discernment to know when to act diligently and when to kindly and patiently wait on the pace of individualized progress. None of us will become perfect in an instant or even in this life. Spiritual change and progress as we become more like our Heavenly Parents happens slowly and over time. So, let us be kind to ourselves in this process!

Our neighbors and friends, like us, are imperfectly making their way through life. Interacting with them requires us to have patience and compassion for their shortcomings and their spiritual development, which might be very slow and even imperceptible in some cases.

In all our interactions, we should strive to absorb the bad and enhance the good. We must continue in love and longsuffering until both they and we meet “the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ” (see Eph. 4:13), which will likely only occur in the eternities.

President Dallin H. Oaks taught, “The Final Judgment is not just an evaluation of a sum total of good and evil acts—what we have done. It is an acknowledgment of the final effect of our acts and thoughts—what we have become. It is not enough for anyone just to go through the motions. The commandments, ordinances, and covenants of the gospel are not a list of deposits required to be made in some heavenly account. The gospel of Jesus Christ is a plan that shows us how to become what our Heavenly Father desires us to become.”[3]

May we each make the best choice to become like our Heavenly Father in every instance of our lives. May we never again “miss the point” of our mortal experiences. May we look past the near-term outcomes and see our own extraordinary eternal potential, which lies within the ordinary experiences of life. By doing so, our final interview with the Savior will be “great” and not “dreadful” because our character will shine forth so loudly that words will not be necessary.

Our joy will be full because we will have become more like Him. That is the point of this life. It is the primary point of eternity.

Notes: [1] Dallin H. Oaks, “Good, Better, Best,” Conference Report, Oct. 2007, emphasis added.

[2] Joseph Smith, Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, comp. Joseph Fielding Smith (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 1976), 216.

[3] Dallin H. Oaks, “The Challenge to Become,” Conference Report, Oct. 2000, emphasis added.

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