In the month of January, individuals often think about New Year’s resolutions and make goals for the coming year.
During a BYU–Hawaii campus devotional on Sunday, Jan. 16, Elder Neil L. Andersen proudly shared the New Year’s resolutions of his grandson William.
In a short, prerecorded interview, William, who is 10 years old, spoke with his “Papi” about his goal to try to be more kind to his brothers and to read the entire Pearl of Great Price and Old Testament to “strengthen my spiritual foundation.”
William referenced the suggestions offered by President Russell M. Nelson in making resolutions for the coming year. In a social media post on Jan. 1, President Nelson invited individuals to be resolute, to be kind and to strengthen their spiritual foundations.
“This is very wise counsel from our Prophet,” Elder Andersen told students gathered in the Cannon Activities Center on the Laie, Hawaii, campus. Elder Andersen, a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, offered counsel to students just one day after dedicating the new BYU–Hawaii Science Building. He was accompanied by his wife, Sister Kathy Andersen, who also shared a brief message.
“How should we look at New Year’s resolutions and making changes in our lives?” Elder Andersen asked. “The gospel of Jesus Christ teaches us how to approach the New Year, as well as every other part of the year, as we desire to more fully follow our Savior Jesus Christ.”
On the one hand, individuals should be happy with who they are. “You are a daughter of God. You are a son of God. You made righteous choices to follow Jesus Christ in the premortal world and you now find yourself in your mortality.”
Elder Andersen pointed out that his college-age listeners had thus far progressed and were on the right path to becoming who Heavenly Father wants them to become. “I pray that you will think positively about yourself and look forward to the decisions and changes and corrections you will make in your life.”
On the other hand, all can hear the Savior’s call to follow Him and to become more and more like Him, which requires repentance.
Repentance simply means to change, Elder Andersen explained, “to stop doing some things that we need to stop doing and to do some things better than we are now doing them, and to rely more and more on the Savior. Repentance means we continually refine the nature of our spirits. For a few serious sins, this will require the help of a bishop; but in most cases it will be between you and the Lord.”
He then quoted President Nelson, who taught: “Nothing is more liberating, more ennobling or more crucial to our individual progression than is a regular, daily focus on repentance. Repentance is not an event; it is a process. It is the key to happiness and peace of mind. When coupled with faith, repentance opens our access to the power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ.”
Those two truths create two pillars to stand upon, Elder Andersen said. “First, I am a child of God. I have made good choices. I feel good about who I am. Second, I am on an adventure to become more than I am. I want to improve, not just once a year, but continually, as I seek more fully to follow the example of the Savior.”
Acknowledging that many in his student audience have parents who watched over and guided them in their youth, Elder Andersen told students that they are now more responsible for their own choices. “What will you put into your mind? What will you pursue spiritually? What will you do with your time? What will you avoid? What will be your goals? Who will have the greatest influence upon you?” he asked.
Elder Andersen shared a video interview of three General Authority Seventies with ties to BYU–Hawaii who answered the question of what choices they had made when they were college students that have made a difference in their lives.
Elder Peter M. Johnson recalled first attending BYU–Hawaii while not a member of the Church. While at BYU–Hawaii, he learned how to study and do his homework, he learned about prayer, and he began to learn about Jesus Christ by reading the New Testament. He made little decisions and little changes. Slowly over the next two years he began to see a difference in himself and his desire to become a better person.
Elder Chi Hong (Sam) Wong and his wife, Sister Carol Wong, shared how they decided to follow the prophet’s direction to get an education but not put off starting their family.
“It was scary,” Elder Wong recalled of arriving at BYU–Hawaii from Hong Kong with no money. But miraculously the Lord blessed them and “it all worked out.”
A full-time mission was not in the plans of young Elder Vaiangina Sikahema, he recalled to Elder Andersen, but his freshman year at BYU he decided to serve and, if he was going to serve, he needed to read and pray about the Book of Mormon.
“That decision changed the entire trajectory of my life,” Elder Sikahema said.
A power outage prior to playing the video caused Elder Andersen to ask the same question to a few guests sitting on the stand. BYU–Hawaii President John S.K. Kauwe III mentioned finding friends who shared his interests and values and helped him make good choices. Polynesian Cultural Center President Alfred Grace spoke of his conversion to the gospel when he was a young man after accepting his friends’ invitation to read Moroni 10:3-5 and to meet with the missionaries. And Sister Lucy Fakalata ’Ofahengaue Hafoka, matron of the Laie Hawaii Temple, said her parents, religion teachers and Young Women leaders helped her to establish a habit of daily scripture study and prayer that bolstered her in making good choices.
One of the first steps in becoming better and “completed” in Christ is to be honest with one’s self and honest with Heavenly Father, Elder Andersen taught. Those who speak honestly to Heavenly Father, without rationalizing their sins, will be inspired with how to improve, whether it’s reducing time on social media or spending more time in His holy house.
Resolutions to change are not a once-a-year decision, Elder Andersen said. “With your unique place in your own mortality, this is the time to be serious and determined about charting your course for your life ahead.”
Similar to his appeal to students at BYU during a devotional in Provo, Utah, in December 2021, the Apostle encouraged listeners to strengthen their efforts to follow the Prophet’s counsel to make time for the Lord each and every day.
Elder Andersen blessed his young listeners that “as you choose the decisions to have faith in Him, and as you move closer to Him, you will feel the Savior’s love and His approval. I bless you that as you are serious about your daily efforts, your progress as one of the Savior’s disciples will grow, and inch by inch, foot by foot, day by day, week by week, you will become more like Him.”
In her remarks, Sister Andersen recalled traveling to Hawaii many years ago with her husband on a Church assignment. At a dinner with other Church leaders, a “sweet sister” presented her with a beautiful shell necklace. Only later did Sister Andersen learn of the precision and work that goes into creating one of the necklaces.
Just as she could not fathom the worth of the gift she had been given, many do not fathom the value of the words of God’s prophets.
Sister Andersen quoted and reiterated Doctrine and Covenants 1:38, where the Lord says, “whether by my own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same.”