When this semester started, I tried a class in Buddhist meditation until I had to change my schedule. It seemed perfectly natural to me; true principles aren't only to be found in Mormonism, or even mainstream Christianity for that matter. And as a Latter-day Saint, I feel obligated to search out truth wherever it may be found, because all truth does come from God. With the guidance of the Spirit, I can sort through the various practices and teachings of other traditions and discern what is in harmony with the Gospel and would help me grow. So I had no problem incorporating a few pieces of Buddhist practices into my life. I feel very strongly that they are in harmony with the Gospel and the teachings of living prophets (I particularly remember the words of President Hinckley on being still), and they've made me stronger.
One thing that can be useful in meditation is having a mantra--essentially a syllable, or a word, or even a phrase that is concentrated upon and which represents some aspect of spiritual power. In a lot of ways it's kind of like having a personal motto. And that's something I could relate to even before taking that class.
My whole mission experience was awesome, and I feel like I served well; yet it still had its difficult parts, and there was the occasional day when I just couldn't do it--not for myself, at least, and not even for God. On those days, I would look at the wall by my bed or the desk, where there were pictures of family, friends back home, and friends I had made in Texas--companions, members, recent converts, investigators--just a bunch of people. And I would say to myself, "Be a hero to them." That kept me going when nothing else could. Other times, it was simply a good reminder that boosted my productivity. I made it my motto as a missionary.
But it's been a while since I've really had a personal motto. My life is much different now than it was on my mission, so the motto I used back then doesn't really have the same effect it once did. Well, as of this weekend I have several, and the timing couldn't have been better! I will talk here about just one.
During church yesterday, the elders quorum took over the Primary so that all the sisters could attend Relief Society. It was quite a change of pace from our normal third hour because all of a sudden everything became a whole lot more simple. But that's something I needed that day.
The lesson was on the Plan of Salvation, and the kids just went down a list and gave simple, true answers to questions such as "Who am I?", "Why am I here?", and "Where am I going?" Then we sang songs on those topics. I couldn't remember the last time I'd had such an effective lesson on the Plan.
Later in the day, we had a neighbor over to our home with the missionaries. And the elders began teaching her the Plan of Salvation! Once more, this subject was impressed profoundly upon my mind.
What finished me off was the movie One Good Man, which my brother and I watched together before bed. It's very rare that I relate to a movie as much as I did this one; it did remarkably well in portraying many different aspects of life as a busy Latter-day Saint. Throughout the entirety of it, I could see the Plan at work. This family was doing their best to live it, and for me that's what the movie was really about. While I face different challenges than they did, I truly saw myself there. And that really moved me.
I'm at a stage in my life where nothing is set in stone. I have a lot of decisions to make, and I can't really see the outcome just yet. Everything relies on faith. But that can be very difficult because of how fast life goes, and I wouldn't exactly call college itself the most enlightening environment. Time is slipping by; indeed, I have never had a greater need to be mindful of God's Plan than I do now.
Since yesterday I've found myself saying "Stick to the Plan." It's a new motto for me which has significant power. The mental image drives this one quite far: I think of those action movies where the hero walks into some place, and through a radio or headset or some other device his crew reminds him to "stick to the plan," even if things get rough. In a lot of movies, we see this group of people forming the plan before they carry it out. They know what they're gonna do, and they go ahead and do it.
Well hey, I was there with all of you when Heavenly Father presented His Plan, and because He wants us to succeed, He continues to reteach it to us as we go about this operation called life. I may not know how specific details will play out, but I know what the Plan is and where I'm supposed to aim. If I stick to the Plan, I can't fail.
Too tired to serve? Don't want to do homework? "Stick to the Plan, Nathan." All of a sudden there's perspective and motivation. I just gotta remember the Plan.
I'm curious to know what some of my readers' mottoes are. How has this principle or anything like it helped you?