OGDEN, Utah — The end of January is sometimes referred to as the “graveyard of New Year’s resolutions” because most are forgotten or abandoned by then.
Speaking to thousands of young adults Sunday at the Weber Institute of Religion, Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles championed the value of setting and pursuing goals, overcoming failures and learning from mistakes, and finding hope and strength in Jesus Christ.
“There is something about turning a new page that energizes us and fills us with hope,” Elder Uchtdorf said. “I believe this life is a life of many new beginnings, even daily new beginnings.”
Learning from mistakes
Whether it’s learning to paint, playing a sport or gaining an education, most worthwhile endeavors in life involve a rigorous learning process that includes failures and mistakes, Elder Uchtdorf taught.
“Mastering anything requires constant practice,” he said.
Just as a loving parent encourages a child to keep learning, Heavenly Father encourages His children to carry on through the pain of this mortal existence and learn from the consequences of choices.
“If we embrace our shortcomings as a path to improve, these mistakes can be a great teacher,” Elder Uchtdorf said.
‘Teacher and mentor’
As mistakes occur, Elder Uchtdorf reminded young adults, “Heavenly Father is not an angry God who is constantly wagging his finger at us,” looking for reasons to punish His children.
“Remember, because He loves you, He does not remove obstacles from your paths. He does not lower standards to make things easier for you. But even as you stumble, struggle or try to resist His help, He does not give up — ever,” the Apostle said. “God is not your opposition. He is your coach. He is your guide. He is your healer. He is your Savior. His self-admitted purpose is to be your teacher and mentor.”
The grandest, most glorious being in the universe has the well-being of his children at the center of His attention; it is even His work and His glory, Elder Uchtdorf said.
“He looks at you with compassion and kindness, knowing that failure is part of the coursework in this mortal school,” he said. “When you wonder if anyone cares, be assured, He is there, He will walk alongside you.”
Elder Uchtdorf encouraged young adults to study and use “powerful tools” such as the Church’s “Come, Follow Me” curriculum, seminary and institute, and the principles of the new “For the Strength of Youth” guide to help make good choices. The Savior also offers repentance and forgiveness through His Atonement.
Vincent Van Gogh
Dutch post-impressionist painter Vincent Van Gogh, one of the most famous artists in Western art history, produced as many as 2,000 works of art and is believed to have only sold one while alive.
Despite his discouragement, as well as being misunderstood, ridiculed and ignored by others throughout his life, Van Gogh continued with his art. Today his paintings are worth millions.
“The world is richer because Van Gogh did not give in to discouragement or surrender to the ridicule of critics,” Elder Uchtdorf said. “Had he listened to the voices of those around him, his genius would have been silenced and the entire world would be poorer as a result.”
Joseph of Egypt
Biblical scholars believe Joseph of Egypt was 17 years old when he was hated by his brothers, sold into slavery, then accused of a crime he didn’t commit and sentenced to prison.
He wasn’t promoted to oversee Egypt until he was 30 years old.
“For some 13 years, during the prime years of his life, Joseph was either a slave or a prisoner. ... Joseph must have wondered why the Lord had abandoned him,” Elder Uchtdorf said, asking the young adults to imagine themselves in that situation. “But Joseph’s patience, faith and determination brought him from a state of helplessness to one of prestige and strength.”
Joseph learned that it may not come when or how we expect, but the Lord blesses the faithful, the Apostle said.
As young adults look to the future with new goals and beginnings, Elder Uchtdorf concluded with four key lessons:
- “God loves you and he has a plan for you.”
- “You are never helpless. You are never alone.”
- “Your joy does not come from external circumstances” or “what others think about you.”
- “No matter your disappointments, loneliness, wounds or imperfections, you can find meaning and peace if you stay true to your inner compass and to the covenants you make with Heavenly Father. The Holy Ghost and the light of Christ are available to you — always.”
Elder Uchtdorf referenced the 2023 youth theme found in Philippians 4:13, “I can do all through Christ which strengthens me.”
“For even when the skies appear dark, Jesus Christ will be with you. God asks that you open your heart to Him. Search for Him. Learn of Him. Follow Him,” he said. “As you press forward and never lose hope, you will come to know that Jesus Christ will stand by you. He will comfort and guide you. Jesus Christ is your strength.”
‘I feel very loved’
Hours after his baptism on Sunday, Houston Lacey was sitting in the front row of the chapel when Elder Uchtdorf, accompanied by his wife, Sister Harriet R. Uchtdorf, came down from the rostrum to give him a handshake and a hug.
“I was being told how lucky I am to be in the same room as an Apostle, then he came up and hugged me,” Lacey said. “Words honestly don’t even begin to explain it, but I feel very loved.”
Before departing, Elder and Sister Uchtdorf made their way through the audience greeting people with smiles, handshakes and hugs. Along the way they helped three individuals seated in wheelchairs — two young women and one young man — to feel God’s love.
“It was quite the experience for me. I’ve been going through a tough time,” Christopher Compton said. “It meant a lot. It was like God remembered me.”
Charlotte Elizabeth Poe and her friend Story Turner were also moved.
“In my life I’ve often felt of little worth,” Poe said. “He (Elder Uchtdorf) has a very special way of saying and conveying the love of the Savior in his voice. ... That means so much to me and I feel so blessed to have heard this message from him.”
‘Institute is participation’
More than an hour before the devotional, young adults formed a line that wrapped almost all the way around the Weber Institute building.
Elder and Sister Uchtdorf arrived early to meet with members of the Weber Institute student council. Elder Uchtdorf encouraged the young adults to “jump in,” “have fun” and “participate” in institute.
“Institute is participation,” he said.