Each worshipper at the conference could extract their own personally satisfying and needed messages from the talks, but I got mine in three words that took me back to a previous time. A young man whose beginnings in the Church had not been auspicious or helpful and who said he knew nothing about the gospel had been sent to me for help in learning about it. I asked him how he would like to go about learning or where he would like to start. He said that he didn’t know enough to know, so how about starting with the alphabet. I said, “Okay, we’ll start with the A’s.” And in the conference this time, those three A’s that I talked to him about came immediately to the fore: atonement, agency, and accountability. . . Without the Atonement we could not have what we have of assurance, and we could not have the wonderful privilege of responding through our agency, moral agency, which is not only our privilege but our inescapable responsibility to carry and respond to.
One of the adversary’s methods to prevent us from progressing is to confuse us about who we really are and what we really desire. We want to spend time with our children, but we also want to engage in our favorite manly hobbies. We want to lose weight, but we also want to enjoy the foods we crave. We want to become Christlike, but we also want to give the guy who cuts us off in traffic a piece of our mind. Satan’s purpose is to tempt us to exchange the priceless pearls of true happiness and eternal values for a fake plastic trinket that is merely an illusion and counterfeit of happiness and joy. Another method the adversary uses to discourage us from rising up is to make us see the commandments as things that have been forced upon us. I suppose it is human nature to resist anything that does not appear to be our own idea in the first place. If we see healthy eating and exercise as something only our doctor expects of us, we will likely fail. If we see these choices as who we are and who we want to become, we have a greater chance of staying the course and succeeding. If we see home teaching as only the stake president’s goal, we may place a lower value on doing it. If we see it as our goal—something we desire to do in order to become more Christlike and minister to others—we will not only fulfill our commitment but also accomplish it in a way that blesses the families we visit and our own as well. Often enough, we are the ones who are being helped up by friends or family. But if we look around with observant eyes and the motive of a caring heart, we will recognize the opportunities the Lord places in front of us to help others rise up and move toward their true potential. The scriptures suggest, “Whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men.” It is a great source of spiritual power to live lives of integrity and righteousness and to keep our eyes on where we want to be in the eternities. Even if we can see this divine destination only with the eye of faith, it will help us to stay the course.