In 2009 David A Bednar, a leader in the LDS Church, visited local members in Buenos Aires, Argentina. During a speech he told them: "If you want to get to Salta (the northern part of Argentina) you don't get on a plane heading to Tierra del Fuego (the most southern tip of Argentina)". The idea is that if you have a goal, or even an idea of where you want to go, you can only get there by following the path that leads to that goal. Just following a path won't get you there, you have to be on the right one.
Unfortunately, reaching our goals isn't as easy as boarding a plane; it takes countless decisions and hours of hard work to reach something that is important to you. Every decision you make will either help you continue on your path or deviate from it. When we deviate from our goals just a little, we often rationalize to ourselves that it's okay, because that much of a deviation won't make a big difference in where we end up. Only after we have reached the wrong destination do we fully realize that we've gotten on the wrong plane, or that we've allowed our plane, which was originally on the right course, to be turned completely around.
I've been thinking about this because Ben graduated with his Bachelor's degree this last weekend, and I feel like it's a pretty big deal. He had a goal and worked hard to achieve it. Right now he's in the final interview process for the company he wants to work with, and we have plans to attend BYU and get an MBA in a few years. Overall, we're pleased with where we have ended up so far, and we're excited about our future "destinations". However, these accomplishments don't just happen, we have to make them happen with everyday decisions. Ben didn't earn a degree because he's smart and can afford it; he earned his degree because he put his best effort into every assignment, even the seemingly pointless ones. He made the decision every day for 4 years to get up early in order to work before going to school, or to stay up late to finish assignments, or to put off having a movie night in order to study for a test. Was it fun? No, not always. But was it worth it? Absolutely. We know that because of the little everyday decisions that keep us on track, we eventually reach what we really want.
I bring this up because I personally know people who started out with the goal of going to Salta, and ended up in Tierra del Fuego because they didn't think that small deviations from their goal would put them that far off course. Examples include friends who had the goal to be married in the temple, but then started dating people who weren't worthy to go there; or friends who want to get out of debt, but continue to spend impulsively on "wants". Do not let Satan deceive you into thinking that you'll reach your goal "eventually" if your actions are not currently leading you there!
Ben and I personally have several goals for the future, including getting a good paying job, owning a home, becoming debt free, going on a mission together, and having more kids (not necessarily in that order). While all those goals are important, our biggest goal is to return as a family to the presence of Heavenly Father. We already know the way to do this. Jesus Christ brought His gospel to the earth for this very purpose, and by living it, we will reach our goal of being a forever family. That means that we cannot rationalize occasional sin because "it's not that bad"; if we do that we risk changing which "airplane" we are on. We must make decisions every day that keep us on our path. They aren't always easy, and sometimes it can be really frustrating and it is usually hard work. However, just as all those assignments that Ben put effort into finally culminated in earning his degree, each of our prayers, scripture reading sessions, and times that we stand up for what is right even if others judge us for it will all be worth it in the end when we live as a family in Heaven.
I know that living the gospel is the way to bring happiness to our lives. I saw it over and over on my mission with people of all different circumstances and life situations; no matter who the person was or what they were going through, the gospel never failed to bring happiness and peace as long as they were living it. I also saw over and over again people who had abandoned the gospel because it was "inconvenient", or embarrassing for them. The result was always bitterness and emptiness, and usually involved the break-up of their marriage or relationships with their children. Addiction and financial hardship were also a common results of abandoning the path of the gospel. I feel so much sorrow for these people. They basically sold their birthright for a mess of pottage. Don't sell yourselves short! If you have turned your plane in the wrong direction through sin or just laziness, make the necessary sacrifices now to get yourself back on track. Even if you have to do something "inconvenient" to do so. Tell me which is more "inconvenient": constantly adjusting your flight pattern to make sure you're staying on course, or walking off the plane in the wrong destination?
I encourage you to pay attention to your goals and where you are at on the path to achieving them, and I sincerely hope that you regularly sit down and evaluate what you want to accomplish and where you want to end up in life. It is my greatest hope that your #1 goal is to return to our loving Father in Heaven. Not only is that the end goal that will bring the greatest joy, but it is also the only path in life that will bring you real joy along the way. Christ said "I am the way, the truth and the life" (John 14:6). There is no other way to be truly happy and find the peace and joy we desire. It takes sacrifice and hard work, but living the gospel will always take you to the right destination.