This year, I am instituting only one New Year’s Resolution. It is the same resolution I made at the end of last year. That resolution has changed my life in a very profound way, so I am changing the specifics but keeping the overall focus. It deals directly with my personal understanding of the true meaning of “perfection” as commanded in Matthew 5:48. I wish I had undertaken this effort decades ago, but I am grateful I have done so now.
I believe that the Sermon on the Mount is Jesus’ penultimate sermon – what I consider to be the blueprint to perfection. I focused on Matthew 5 this year; I will be focusing on Matthew 6 & 7 starting tomorrow. First, a recap of this year’s resolution:
In Matthew 5, I count 12 character traits applicable to me and within my control that I believe, when fully internalized, make someone perfect. In my opinion, everything else in scripture revolves around these traits. Also, I have a hard time focusing on anything for more than a month. Therefore, I focused my efforts this year on those 12 traits – emphasizing one per month in successive order – thinking about it and looking for ways to acquire it and not worrying about any other spiritual goals during that month. I also write each Saturday on my own blog about what I have learned throughout the week, which forces me to not let it drop each day.
The following is the plan I created:
January: Become more poor in spirit. (Matthew 5:3)
February: Look for ways to mourn with those who mourn – then mourn with them. (Matthew 5:4)
March: Become more meek. (Matthew 5:5)
April: Hunger and thirst more after righteousness. (Matthew 5:6)
May: Become more merciful. (Matthew 5:7)
June: Become more pure in heart. (Matthew 5:8)
July: Become more of a peacemaker. (Matthew 5:9)
August: Control my anger better. (Matthew 5:21-24)
September: Become more chaste in thought and deed. (Matthew 5:27-30)
October: Keep my promises more diligently; make them a simple “Yes” or “No”. (Matthew 5:33-37)
November: Give more freely and do not revile as quickly. (Matthew 5:38-42)
December: Love those who revile me; seek situations of interaction with those who will do so. (Matthew 5:43-47)
I am planning currently to tackle Matthew 6 & 7 in 2009, then repeat the first seven traits (The Beatitudes) each year until I feel impressed to stop. I intend to change the last five each year to other traits found in the scriptures. I have come to believe that if I focus on becoming more “perfect” (complete, whole, fully developed), my actions will begin to take care of themselves – that as I replace my natural tendencies with those demanded by the Savior, that internal change will alter my very nature and allow me to do more naturally what He would have me do.
In that spirit, my plan for 2009 is as follows:
January: Search for ways to help others without recognition, blogging about the general concept – not about the specific examples. – Matthew 6:1-4
February: Pray more fervently, daily. – Matthew 6:5-13
March: Forgive more fully and immediately. – Matthew 6:14-15
April: Fast more fervently, weekly during this month. – Matthew 6:16-18
May: Judge less often. – Matthew 7:1-5
June: Ask God more for specific desires. – Matthew 7:7-8
July: Treat others how I want to be treated. – Matthew 7:9-12
August: Bring forth good fruits through a stronger connection to the Vine. – Matthew 7:17-20
September: Seek for and do the will of the Father. – Matthew 7:21-23
October: Refocus on the Beatitudes. – Matthew 7:24-27
November: Refocus on prayer and fasting. – Matthew 7:24-27
December: Refocus on serving others. – Matthew 7:24-27
I do not believe this exact path is the blueprint for everyone, but I do believe (based on my own experience this year) that the general idea is empowering and life-changing. I hope that in posting it here someone else will be benefitted by a process that truly has been a marvelous work and a wonder in my own life.
And I just want to lose 20 lbs.
Your list is very commendable Ray and all from scriptures out of the New Testament. Perhaps I can even help you with some of those goals by providing you some opportunities to shine! Like during May, August, November, and December in your original plan. 🙂
Most of the traits you desire are inclusive in the word charity. I believe the BoM may have even had a bit of inspiration in Moroni chapter 7 and 8 where it talks to the virtues of this principle. Thanks for reminding me of what I’ve always believed true religion is all about no-matter which creed you choose to follow.
Just as a side note and something to stir the juices this new year. During the years I served as a High Councilmen, our list of assigned subjects to speak on each month was a long way from your list. We had things like tithing, repentance, missionary work, temple attendance, keeping the Sabbath, Word of Wisdom, etc. I wonder how much better the church could be at it mission of bringing people to Christ if it focused on your list instead of the standard lists of do and don’ts that appear to support the organization and our uniqueness as Mormons instead of Christ like virtues spoken of in Matthew, 1 Corinthians chapter 13, and Moroni? Just a thought… Happy New Year!
Doug, I have been talking about the general topic (acquiring the characteristics of godliness) a lot whenever I speak, and the topics being assigned in our stake are moving toward what you described. It’s neat to see, and I really believe you are correct about the impact it has on the spirit of our meetings.
Happy New Year!
I’m not quite sure why your list makes me uneasy. It may be because of the sense that if a person does something good then he’ll/she’ll get something, i.e. perfection/blessings in return. I guess it’s tied to the “there is a law irrevocably decreed…” thing. If a person isn’t careful about just doing or being good for the sake of doing, it can turn into something of a commercial exchange in a spiritual sense. List making and goal setting are good if they help a person with the way they live their life today and not in what they feel they’ll be entitled to tomorrow. My sense from reading your posts over the last months is that this would not be the case for you but but given what the LDS Church teaches about works and blessings, I’m not sure about others.
I think you are correct, GB, that such a pursuit can be misapplied as “works”. However, the Beatitudes do call those who gain these characteristics “blessed” – so it is a fine line. I personally believe the ultimate goal is not to “acquire” but rather to “become” – and if someone “becomes” humble, meek, comforting, merciful, a peacemaker, etc. I think that growth is antithetical to selfishness and working to gain stuff. I think it’s about the specific goals and the type of being into which they mold us.
I also think I am walking a fine line with these characteristics in even posting my resolution publicly. Perception is important to others, so does this post seem arrogant or proud to others? Does it give the appearance similar to doing alms for the glory of men – and, by posting this here, am I limiting my reward to public recognition? How do I share something in which I have come to believe deeply without appearing to be smug or self-righteous or boastful? I wonder about those things, but, in the end, I know I have been blessed (as Jesus promised) in my resolution this year – and I want to share that with others.
Life is interesting, and this has been an interesting year for me – so I decided to share this for what it’s worth to everyone else.
I like your lists Ray and its great that your blogging reinforces your commitment to keeping your goals. Many of my goals, in absence of that type of check, end up only as good notions. I gave a talk this year at a combined Priesthood/RS meeting that included some of your ideas and references on being poor in spirit, so maybe others will do the same and fulfill Doug’s wish. With our high council talks, we’ve seemed to get a couple of repeats on family history and indexing this year. I know indexing is great, but hearing about it couple of months in a row as if it was a new concept gets tiring. I also wonder about how interesting a talk on indexing is to investigators and visitors. I would think they would be more inspired with talks on subjects of the beatitudes.
Do your alms in secret and you’ll be fine.
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Thanks for your post. I understand your concerns and simultaneously have to say that your post has blessed my life. I have found some inspiration that I feel could help me critically at the moment to overcome some humps in the road. I think perhaps these things should be shared more freely, albeit there is a risk of recognition and seeking open reward from man vs the Giver of all good things, per se. I think there is a solution and have some thoughts, but will share those later. I simply want to thank you at this moment.