Elder Larry R. Lawrence of the Seventy spoke on continual improvement during the Saturday morning session of the 185th Semiannual General Conference on Oct. 3.
As a young adult, he began investigating the Church, being drawn first by his friends, then by the Church's unique doctrine. "When I learned that faithful men and women could keep progressing and ultimately become like our heavenly parents, I was frankly amazed," he said. "I loved the concept; it rang true to me."
Soon after his baptism, he came across this truth while studying the Sermon on the Mount: "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect" (Matthew 5:48).
"I have been a member for over 40 years, and whenever I read this verse of scripture, I am reminded of our purpose here on earth," Elder Lawrence said. "We came to learn and improve until we gradually become sanctified or perfected in Christ."
The journey of discipleship is a course of steady improvement, Elder Lawrence said. "As we travel along that strait and narrow path, the Spirit continually challenges us to be better and to climb higher," he said.
One way to seek improvement is to ask the Lord for direction in how to improve, Elder Lawrence said. The rich young ruler who came to Jesus asking, "What lack I yet?" understood this (Matthew 19:20). However, when Jesus told him, "If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and ... come follow me," he would not make that sacrifice (Matthew 19:21).
"He was humble enough to ask the Lord, but not faithful enough to follow the divine counsel he was given," said Elder Lawrence. "We must be willing to act when we receive an answer."
Elder Lawrence shared several stories of individuals who humbly asked how to improve, and followed through with the promptings of the Spirit. The suggestions surprised each of them, but the customized advice to each individual helped them improve an aspect of their life.
During the sacrament is a perfect time to ask "What lack I yet?" Elder Lawrence said. "The apostle Paul taught that this is a time for each of us to 'examine ourselves'" (1 Corinthians 11:28).
Becoming perfect is only possible through Christ's Atonement, Elder Lawrence said. "We could never do it on our own, but God's grace is sufficient to help us," he said.