Jeff Wilks, a professor of accountancy in the Marriott School of Management, spoke to students Tuesday in the Marriott Center in a devotional titled, “Optimism and Joy in the Gospel of Jesus Christ,” and shared five lessons of how to be positive in a world filled with negativism.
1. Righteousness Does Not Mean Perfection
“Perfection can sometimes be the enemy of righteousness,” Wilks said. “When we get so caught up worrying about being perfect, about being a perfect spouse, a perfect son or daughter, a perfect parent, a perfect teacher, or a perfect friend, it’s easy to become discouraged because none of us will ever be perfect in this life. Even though our Savior commanded us to be perfect like him and our Heavenly Father, he has no expectation that we’re going to accomplish that in this life. It’s impossible. Remember, he taught Moroni that he gives unto us weaknesses that we can be humble. And if we humble ourselves, his grace is sufficient to make these weaknesses become strengths, but not perfections.”
2. Keep Trying Anyway
“The second lesson about being positive in a negative world is that life really is hard sometimes, and you’ve got to keep trying anyway.”
When Wilks’ son Tanner first switched from skiing to snowboarding, the tumbles and falls were painful and frustrating. But Tanner wanted to keep trying.
“He kept getting up every time he fell, and by the end of the day, he could butter down the hill pretty well,” Wilks’ said. “And today he can carve a line down any hill his older brothers can ride.”
“Life sometimes really is hard. And all we can do is get back up on the snowboard, even though we know perfectly well how easily that snowboard can slide out from under us.”
Speaking specifically of overcoming addictions, Wilks acknowledged that getting back up after falling off those particular snowboards can be very frustrating.
“You may wonder if you will ever be able to overcome that addiction,” he said. “When you feel this frustration, the physical and mental anguish from trying and failing and trying again, please remember this wonderful counsel recorded in Doctrine and Covenants 123. ‘Therefore, dearly beloved brethren, let us cheerfully do all things that lie in our power; and then may we stand still, with the utmost assurance, to see the salvation of God, and for his arm to be revealed.’ When you’re sitting there, wondering whether you can stand back up one more time, remember that sometimes the test isn’t about overcoming, but about whether we will keep trying no matter how hard things seem to be. Never give up. Do all things cheerfully that lie in your power, and then stand still with the assurance that God will help you.”
3. Keep Your Focus on Heavenly Father
“The third lesson about being positive in a negative world is to keep your eyes focused on Heavenly Father,” Wilks said. “I have learned how deeply Heavenly Father loves each one of us. He is always nearby when we are going through tough times, but it’s up to us whether we will look into his eyes and listen to his voice. We look into his eyes and we hear his voice when we immerse ourselves in the scriptures and we converse with him in daily, meaningful prayer. I testify to you that by keeping our focus on him and listening to his voice, we will see the goodness and wonder that surrounds us even in the most difficult of circumstances.”
4. Heavenly Father’s Approval Matters Most
Wilks’ fourth lesson for being positive in a negative world is that Heavenly Father’s approval is the only approval that matters.
“Why do we care so much about the approval of others?” he asked. “Why do we aspire to the honors of men and forget that Heavenly Father’s approval is all that matters in the end? When we allow our decisions to be influenced by the approval of others, we put ourselves at the mercy of fickle mobs, ever changing fashions, and the devil’s whirlwinds. If instead we seek our Heavenly Father’s approval only, we build our foundation upon a rock that cannot be moved. . . . I testify to you that Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ are our greatest cheerleaders and fan section. And we will feel more joy and hope in this world when we do our best to seek and obtain their approval.”
5. Look for (and Remember) the Joy in our Lives
“The last lesson about being positive in a negative world is that we must look for (and remember) the joy in our lives,” Wilks said.
He has felt greater joy and optimism in his life by keeping a daily journal and following President Henry B. Eyring’s practice of asking himself how he has seen the Lord’s hand in his life each day.
“To look for joy in our lives, we need only look for the way in which God’s hand has touched us or our family or our friends that day,” Wilks said. “Sometimes he touches us through tender mercies. Other times, he touches us with wonderful humor. And frequently, we will see his hand in our lives by the way in which he prompts us to serve someone that day, to lift someone else who is struggling. We don’t have to write lengthy mundane journal entries about our days. Instead, we can simply write one or two lines in which we identify the hand of God in our lives that day. As we do this, we will see more clearly how blessed our lives really are. We will be filled with gratitude and optimism.”
For Wilks’ complete devotional, visit speeches.byu.edu or byutv.org.