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Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles focused his conference remarks on the words: “Return and Receive.”

These words, he explained, symbolize “God’s goals for us and our most important goals for ourselves. … To return to His presence and to receive the eternal blessings that come from making and keeping covenants are the most important goals we can set,” he said.

It is good for individuals to have goals and plans for their careers, education, marriages, families, Church councils and callings. “But our greatest and most overriding goals should fit into Heavenly Father’s eternal plan. Jesus said, ‘Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and its righteousness, and all things shall be added unto you,’ ” (3 Nephi 13:33).

Speaking during the Saturday afternoon session of the 187th Annual General Conference of the Church on April 1, Elder Ballard explained, “A key to happiness lies in understanding what destinations truly matter — and then spending our time, effort, and attention on the things that constitute a sure way to arrive there.”

God has given the perfect example of goal setting and planning. “His goal is to ‘bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man’ (Moses 1:39), and His means to achieve it is the plan of salvation.”

Because of Satan’s pre-mortal choices, Satan cannot return nor receive and uses every possible enticement and temptation to make all miserable like himself. “Satan’s plan to accomplish his diabolical goal applies to every individual, generation, culture, and society,” Elder Ballard said.

Satan will use loud voices to drown out the voice of the Holy Ghost. “These voices belong to those who disregard gospel truth and who use the internet, social and print media, radio, television, and movies to present in an enticing way immorality, violence, ugly language, filth, and sleaze in a way that distracts us from our goals and the plans we have for eternity.”

To stay focused on returning and receiving, individuals need to regularly ask: “How am I doing?”

“It’s kind of like having a personal, private interview with yourself,” Elder Ballard explained. “And if that sounds unusual, think about it: who in this world knows you better than you know yourself? You know your thoughts, your private actions, your desires and your dreams, goals and plans. And you know better than anyone how you are progressing along the road to returning and receiving.”

Elder Ballard encouraged listeners to make sure goals and plans align with Heavenly Father’s great plan of happiness. “If you need to repent and change, then consider doing so now. Take the time to prayerfully think about what adjustments are needed to help you keep your ‘eye single to the glory of God’ ” (Doctrine and Covenants 4:5).

Keep the doctrine and gospel of Jesus Christ at the center of goals and plans, Elder Ballard advised. “Without Him, no eternal goal is possible and our plans to achieve our eternal goals will surely fail.”

Elder Ballard urged listeners to study and prayerfully read the documents written by the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles: “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” and “The Living Christ: The Testimony of the Apostles.” Of the latter, he said, “It will increase your faith in the Savior and help you stay focused on Him as you follow your plans to reach your eternal goals.”

Despite mistakes, shortcomings, detours and sins, “Jesus Christ’s Atonement allows us to repent prepare to return and receive the matchless blessings God has promised — to live forever with the Father and the Son in the highest degree of the celestial kingdom,” Elder Ballard said.

In conclusion he testified: “There is no greater goal in mortality than to live eternally with our Heavenly Parents and our beloved Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. But it is more than just our goal — it is also their goal. They have a perfect love for us, more powerful than we can even begin to comprehend. They are totally, completely, eternally aligned with us. We are Their work. Our glory is Their glory. More than anything else, They want us to come home — to return and to receive eternal happiness in Their presence.”

rsterzer@deseretnews.com

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