As a young man, President Dallin H. Oaks was hired to sweep out a radio repair shop for 10 cents an hour. He became fascinated with radio. The shop owner taught him the basics of radio repair, and he read books to learn more.
Young Dallin set a goal to pass a federal exam that would certify him as a transmitter engineer. After studying for a few years, he took the exam. He passed and received his license while still in high school. He soon also qualified to be a radio announcer.
“That affected my life a great deal, to have a goal that I developed and to have heavenly help in pursuing that goal,” said the first counselor in the First Presidency during a worldwide Face to Face event on Sunday, Feb. 23. “That was something I could do, and did do, through high school and college. Even after I married, that was my source of support for my family.”
In a question-and-answer format, President Oaks and his wife, Sister Kristen Oaks, taught children, youth, parents and leaders about effective goal-setting and how to utilize personal revelation in the new Children and Youth program launched worldwide in January. Several videos of youth and families around the world were shown to illustrate these experiences.
“We know that you can do this, and that’s what our message is today,” Sister Oaks said. “You can do it individually, you can do it with your family, and you can do it with your friends at church.”
“God will help you,” President Oaks said. “He wants you to succeed. Your leaders, your parents want you to succeed. But there’s some things that you just have to do on your own. And setting goals and accumulating the desire to do what the Lord wants you to do is something that only you can do.”
Personal revelation in goal-setting
When Sister Oaks asked the audience what they have learned so far, one young man said the new program has strengthened his relationship with the Savior as he’s involved Him in his goals.
“As we’re tenacious and we get through tough goals, we’ll find more joy. And that will make us more motivated to accomplish more goals,” he said.
A young woman in the audience said her goal to read the scriptures daily wasn’t challenging enough, so she decided to set a more specific goal and study a chapter of the Book of Mormon every day.
“I think that’s a very important principle in goal-setting,” President Oaks said. “We so often make the mistake of setting a very long-range goal.”
He shared a story of a student who once told him he was studying to be a brain surgeon. President Oaks responded with a smile, “That’s all right, but shouldn’t your first goal be to pass a course in biology?”
The most effective goals for reaching a desired destination are “intermediate” or short-term goals, he taught.
A young woman named McKenna — whose goal to research her medical history turned into finding 200 members of her Indian family — said the biggest thing she has learned is the importance of personal revelation. “My testimony grew so much knowing that Heavenly Father was part of the goal the whole way,” she said.
While completing a goal to memorize “The Living Christ,” Ashley learned to follow promptings from the Lord. “Personal revelation comes through personal action,” she said. “And oftentimes that takes walking a few steps into the dark before Heavenly Father provides you with more light.”
President Oaks added, “It’s important to remember that we prepare ourselves and then the Lord helps.”
Speaking candidly of their own experiences setting goals, President and Sister Oaks shared how one of President Oaks’ goals is to prepare talks he will be giving over the next six months, including at general conference. Sister Oaks added she has a goal to exercise every morning at 7 a.m. Sometimes, “I push the snooze button like every 10 minutes,” she said with a laugh.
In response to a young woman seeking advice for overcoming challenges in accomplishing her goals, President Oaks said, “Keep at it. … Sometimes you just have to be patient, trying to keep on when it doesn’t seem possible.”
Sister Oaks said of President Oaks, “When he sets a goal, he just sticks with it, and he does it.” For example, he often goes walking at 5:30 a.m.
“It’s that persistence. It’s letting Heavenly Father know every day that you love Him,” she said. Heavenly Father can trust President Oaks, “and I want Heavenly Father to be able to trust all of us.”
President and Sister Oaks also explained how the pattern of “Discover, Plan, Act and Reflect” taught in the Children and Youth program is a process 14-year-old Joseph Smith followed.
First, he discovered the principle found in James 1:5. Second, he made a plan to ask God. He acted in faith by praying. He reflected on his experience by sharing it with his family and later recording it.
Just as Joseph Smith faced obstacles, youth will, too. “Part of the process of growth is to face increasing opposition,” President Oaks said.
Support in families and classes and quorums
To best support the youth, President Oaks counseled the parents and leaders to be an example and “practice what you teach” and seek inspiration on how to help them.
“They’ll come to you and they’ll ask you for help in what they’re doing if they can trust you,” Sister Oaks added. “We build up that trust so that they want us to be part of their goal.”
A young boy in the audience named J.J. said participating in the Children and Youth program has brought his family closer together and strengthened their relationship.
J.J.’s father said the new program is forcing him to participate more as a parent. “It not only encourages me to be a better person, but also be involved in their lives. And that’s really important for me because sometimes dads need a little extra push, too.”
His wife added, “It’s important as a family that we gather together, that we find the Spirit, and we teach each other about Christ, because that’s the one thing that I want for my kids is to have a relationship with Christ.
“As we do ‘Come, Follow Me’ and as we do the Children and Youth program, that’s exactly what’s happening — they’re getting that relationship with Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.”
To parents who may have children reluctant to get into the program, President Oaks said, “Just keep on loving and be patient. We don’t all move at the same rate. We don’t all start from the same place. So we shouldn’t try to impose the same direction on everyone.”
President Oaks encouraged leaders to not neglect children and youth who don’t have support at home. As a convert to the Church, Sister Oaks said, “The big influence on my family were teachers who really cared about us and who came to see us.”
Youth also have support in their classes and quorums as they strive to live the gospel and accomplish their goals. “In our ward, we’ve tried to make an effort to reach out to youth, specifically those that aren’t coming,” said a young woman named Jessica. “I think it makes a bigger impact if it comes from one of your peers.”
“The (youth) leaders are the ones that set the tone and the direction for what is being done by the quorum or the class,” President Oaks said.
Within a presidency, the president and counselors openly discuss ideas and all contribute. The president makes decisions and the counselors support. “It’s the same way in the First Presidency of the Church. We follow the eternal principles that we try to teach to you in your leadership capacities,” he said.
An individualized program
In closing, Sister Oaks said to the youth, “You have so many obligations. You’re on soccer teams, you’re in school, you’re involved in so many activities. It seems like every night you have something, and now you have this new program. Do any of you ever feel that?”
Her advice: “Put Heavenly Father first.”
“You’re all so unique, and you have different capabilities and talents. And each one of you is going to build the kingdom of God in a way different way,” she said.
In the early days of the Church, the Saints were told to come to Zion. “They all had the same destination, but they got there using a variety of methods,” Sister Oaks said. “And that’s the same with each of us. We’re all coming to Christ in our very own way.”
Involve the Lord in setting goals, President Oaks counseled. “As you learn more about personal revelation, and as you learn that the Lord doesn’t shout, He only whispers, you will increase in your confidence that you can be guided, personally, by the Lord.”
“And when you go forward on this path, I urge you not to focus so much on the tasks that you’re completing, but on your longer-term goal — what you are becoming,” he said.