President Clark and brothers and sisters, it is indeed an inspiration to look out into your faces and to contemplate the influence for good that you sisters are, and I am sure that if this influence could be measured in some way, it would exceed by far our most extravagant estimate.12
We do appreciate your loyalty to this organization and to the gospel, and appreciate the love and understanding that you exert in your communities.
I pray that the few moments that I stand before you I may have your faith and prayers and that our Heavenly Father will strengthen me.
One of the most glorious principles of life is that we can always rise above our present level. How discouraging life would be if once we found ourselves involved in unworthy conduct we could not lift ourselves up and out and on to better ways, but we do not have to remain as we are. Each day offers a fresh beginning.
An old man once was reviewing his life to a friend. “When I was thirty I was just no good,” he said, “no good at all, not even to myself, and then one day I had the urge, the desire to right-about-face. I decided I was going to change my direction, and from that day to this I have led a life I was proud of.”
A young college girl paused in her round of excitement one day and said: “I guess I am going with the wrong crowd. I do not think I want to go where they are going.” She did not go that way.
A mother of three husky little boys had never deemed it necessary to give them any religious instruction. Oh, yes, she fed them well-balanced meals, kept them as clean as little boys can be kept, and saw that the bedtime was strictly observed. But one day she pondered thus: “I wonder if I am a really good mother. There seems to be much more to raising a family than merely feeding and clothing them. I seem to have time for my bridge club and our social engagements in the evening, but maybe I am neglecting some very important points.”13 She did something about it.
Lives can be changed, can they not? The course of our lives can be rerouted, but how? Let us call it preparing our hearts.
Well, what does preparing one’s heart mean? It means checking up on oneself, scrutinizing one’s daily life to see what is there, to see what is there of value and what should be thrown out. It means humbling oneself before the Lord. It means ridding oneself of bitterness and selfishness. It means complete forgiveness of all wrongs inflicted upon us, real or imagined. It means opening wide one’s heart to righteousness, putting oneself in an attitude to receive good. It means clothing one’s life differently.
Picture in your mind a field, plowed and harrowed from end to end, leveled near perfectly; weeds burned down along the fence line; everything possible done that is conducive to the growth of good seed. We can put our hearts in that very same condition, in an attitude of receptiveness to good. We can plow under the old useless habits and smooth down the rough places of error, but we hear someone say: “I wish I could enjoy working in the church like Mrs. So-and-so does. I wish I could enjoy living the gospel like she does.”
They can. It is all in the set of the heart. It is all in preparing one’s heart to want that sort of living. We hear other people say: “But I don’t see how you ever get the time for it all.”
In one of our recent Relief Society conventions a bishop said something that I think is very important for us to remember. It was this: “If you are too busy to serve the Lord, you are too busy.”
Yes, if we are too busy to serve the Lord, we are too busy doing other things that are not worthwhile.
In the Old Testament we read this: “For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the law of the Lord and to do it. … For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the law of the Lord and to do it.”14
What a lovely ideal for us to work to.
And in the Doctrine and Covenants the Lord said to the Prophet Joseph Smith: “Therefore, prepare thine heart to receive and obey the instructions which I am about to give unto you.”15
I believe preparing one’s heart is perhaps the most decisive point in progress toward any goal. True, the carrying out of our plans is important too, but once our hearts are fully and staunchly prepared, the action is comparatively easy. Like the poem says: “It is the set of the soul that determines the goal.”16
And I fully believe that as far as living the gospel is concerned, we can do what we want to do, if we want to enough.
Now, in Relief Society we have much help in preparing our hearts for righteousness. We have much help in our wonderful lessons and in our work-day activity, and we not only have help in preparing our own hearts to live, but we have an opportunity to help prepare the hearts of others. Visiting teaching is a wonderful opportunity to help bring back those who are not as active as they should be, little by little, into greater activity in the gospel.
We know that living the gospel means sharing it with others, and visiting teaching is indeed a challenge in sharing the gospel. True, it takes great preparation, great thought and tact and wisdom, and I am quite sure that visiting teaching has not as yet reached its full possibility.
Recently I heard a bishop make a very urgent plea for the Relief Society members to put their arms around our sisters who have drifted away and estranged themselves from the church because they married outside the church. We certainly should endeavor to draw these sisters near to us and, through sheer love and personal interest, make them feel wanted, and that they belong and are needed in our organization.
Remember, if you are too busy to serve the Lord, you are too busy. Prepare your heart to seek the law of the Lord and to do it, and in every way possible help others to prepare their hearts for righteousness. I pray to our Heavenly Father that he will help us to plan the course of our lives in the straight and narrow path, and that we may diligently pursue that course, and I ask it, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.