Since she was a small girl, Sister Jean B. Bingham — now the Relief Society general president — has loved to watch the night sky.
“If you look up into the sky on a clear night, you can see glowing planets and twinkling stars,” she told students at Brigham Young University-Idaho during a campus devotional on Nov. 27. “On some nights, you will see the moon, depending on whether there’s clouds or not, sometimes you may see a meteor or shooting star scooting across the sky.”
From the darkest parts of the earth, the naked human eye is able to see about 5,000 stars, but from a brightly lit city street, only around 100 stars are visible, Sister Bingham said. Depending on lighting and location, a person may see a few stars or “an incredible array of stars dusting the velvet expanse that is so numerous it boggles the mind.”
Using some of the world’s most powerful instruments to calculate, astronomers in Australia concluded there are at least 70 sextillion stars in the entire visible universe.
“Does knowing that make you feel small?” Sister Bingham asked. “Contemplating that incredible number fills me with a humble yet exhilarating realization that, among all that vastness, our Father in Heaven knows not only where I am but who I am and what I am thinking and doing and struggling with. And He knows everything about you, and loves you more than you can even comprehend.”
That knowledge helps individuals know that they are valued and essential in God’s plan of happiness.
“Among all those millions and billions and quadrillions of stars, no two are exactly alike,” she said. “They differ in brightness and color, in size and location, in age and mass — and they are all important in God’s design.”
Recognizing that sometimes individuals may feel they don’t fit in or they don’t have much to contribute, Sister Bingham reminded listeners that from a Heavenly Parents’ perfect perspective, each one of Their children has been created for a divine purpose, has infinite worth and has a vital work to accomplish in life.
“Stars produce heat, light and various forms of radiation that influences their celestial neighbors,” she said. “Like the stars which are each placed in a particular orbit and location, we have an influence on those around us. Because you are unique, there are things only you can do in your particular way to bless (others).”
It is up to an individual to make the effort to grow, learn and develop the unique talents and characteristics that contribute to his or her eternal progress.
“I believe we each made promises to our Heavenly Parents to build on what we learned while we lived with Them and to continue to strive to become like Them,” she said. “Not one spirit was created to fail; every single one has the capacity to triumph. It is up to us individually to make the choices that bring us closer to that potential.”
Important to becoming what Heavenly Father has designed a person to be is keeping an eternal perspective, Sister Bingham said.
“How will that help me do all the things I can’t even keep up with now?” Sister Bingham asked. “The real question is, ‘why will having an eternal perspective help me progress?’ Because that reminds us of our ultimate goal and helps us make the daily decisions that help us along the path. Have you ever been so focused on the immediate that you lost track of the important?”
Sister Bingham shared six “do-ables” to help individuals keep an eternal perspective at the forefront of their thoughts.
“Morning and evening and lunchtime and any-time-you-need-it prayer reminds us of the purpose of this life,” she said. “There we also find answers to deal with our daily dilemmas.”
2. Scripture study
“This coming year will provide an amazing opportunity to ‘up our game’ in understanding the gospel through dedicated study of the scriptures,” she said. “Each of you will receive a manual called 'Come Follow Me — for Individuals and Families' that is designed to help you delve deeper into the doctrine and then apply it to your life.”
The new home-centered approach helps individuals recognize and take personal responsibility for their own gospel learning and spiritual progress, rather than waiting for others to supply it to them.
3. Sunday meetings
An important component to maintaining an eternal focus is weekly attendance at Church and holding home evenings.
“These gatherings provide a framework to connect us to others who are on that same life journey, those whom we can strengthen and who also strengthen us,” she said. “Although we are independently responsible for our own choices, we are interdependent in our travels toward our heavenly home.”
4. Temple worship
Worshiping in the temple is one way to remember the ultimate, eternal goal.
“Some of you may have questions about the temple and struggle to understand all that is included in those words and ceremonies,” she said.
She shared that just a few weeks ago while addressing the members in Chile, President Russell M. Nelson invited the youth to prepare spiritually for the temple by studying five topics in the Bible Dictionary: anoint, atonement, covenant, sacrifices and temple.
“If your understanding of the temple is incomplete, this could be a good way to ‘seek to know more (and) to feel more about temples than you ever have before,’ as President Nelson has invited us to do,” Sister Bingham said. “As you seek for answers, I urge you to continue to attend the temple, keep your covenants and ponder and pray for increased understanding.”
5. Embrace the gift of agency
“Understanding that we are personally responsible for our choices and that we are accountable to God for those choices is vital to true progress,” she said. “It can also be liberating! You have the power to act for yourself, and not merely to be acted upon.
“Yes, others have an influence, but we will ultimately be sorrowful or joyful, disappointed or successful, because of our individual decisions. Take control of your life and let your light grow and shine for others who are seeking the true light.”
6. Help others
“Paradoxically, even though we are individually responsible for our choices, interdependence is critical to the success of Heavenly Father’s plan of happiness,” she said.
The greatest example of this is Jesus Christ.
“How many of you are assigned as a ministering brother or sister?” she asked. “Do you think that assignment is unimportant or uninspired? What is your divine responsibility to that person? How you respond to that assignment tells your Father in Heaven how serious you are about returning to live with Him.”
As individuals center their respective lives on Jesus Christ by following His example and keeping His commandments, they receive the spiritual, emotional and even physical energy to meet demands required of them.
“With the pressures of school, work and family, you may sometimes feel the weight of the world on your shoulders,” she said. “Remembering who you are — a child of God with infinite worth — gives you the assurance that your all-powerful Father in Heaven is willing and wanting and waiting to help you, if you put your trust in Him and strive to do your best to keep His commandments. There really is no other way.”