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In early January 1998 I was asked to write a letter of encouragement to the young people of the church where my cousin is the pastor. I decided to take the challenge one step further and write a letter/talk addressed to all the members of the church young and old, single and married. What follows are the original notes from the address that I submitted.

The Lord has really blessed my humble efforts in putting together this little message as it has now gone to Maryland, Georgia, Nebraska, Minnesota, Utah, and even Holland (the Netherlands). I have also shared this message with several of my missionary friends. I now pass this message on to all of you wherever you may be.

Opening Remarks

First of all let me say that I am honored that you would ask me to share a few thoughts with the young people of the church (especially the young men). The following remarks are just a few of my personal thoughts on keys to a successful life. I feel that herein are principles that everyone, young and old, single and married can apply to their lives.

How to be a Success in Life

  1. Set goals and aim high.

I meet a lot of people every day that have no real goals for their life. They have no ambition or desire to make anything out of their lives. They just sort of float along and whatever happens just happens.

Now personally, I never make New Year’s resolutions but I do set goals for things that I would like to accomplish throughout the year and I believe that this is something that all of us should and must do. When I set goals I like to aim high. By that, I mean I set goals for myself that are challenging and require some effort on my part to achieve. For example, this year I have set a goal to: (1) read the Bible through, (2) learn a new foreign language (including brushing up on my “small” knowledge of Biblical Hebrew and Greek), (3) take more college courses in computers and business management, and (4) keep a journal of my thoughts and things that I learn throughout the year. Now your goals may not be along the same lines as mine, but I think that you get the general idea.

Maybe you could set a goal to get better grades in school. Why not strive to get as many A’s and/or B’s as you can? Why not strive to make the honor roll? You can start by being a better student. Become determined this year to pay more attention to what the teacher is trying to teach you and pay less attention to what your peers are doing around you. Do all assignments completely and on time. Even if you don’t fully understand the assignment, seek help, and give it your best effort. Remember, you can do it if you believe you can. I have found that a lot of students get discouraged because they convince themselves that they can’t do something so they don’t even try. The Apostle Paul said, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Philippians 4:13).

For those of you who have already graduated from High School, why not start taking some college courses this year? You are never to old to learn something new. None of us know everything so we can all learn something new.

Another goal that you might set is to read more books and watch less television. Let’s face it, there isn’t that much on television worth watching anyway, but there is a wealth of knowledge to be read from reading great books (and no I am not talking about reading comic books or romantic novels, etc.) Why not set aside some time each night before you go to bed to just sit quietly in your room and read? Along these same lines, why not set a goal to read a certain amount of the Scriptures each day and even memorize some of your favorite verses? In Joshua 1:8 we read these words:

This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth but thou shalt meditate therein day and night, that thou mayest observe to do according to all that is written therein: for then thou shalt make thy way prosperous, and then thou shalt have good success.

And in Psalm 119:11 we read these words: “Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.”

  1. Be a wise steward of time.

The Biblical concept of stewardship (the act of managing that which has been entrusted to us) involves more than just being good stewards of money, but it also involves being good stewards of the talents that we have been given and also good stewards of time.

Each of us are given 24 hours each day to accomplish the task before us. We must learn to use that time wisely. Here are a few helpful tips:

  • Don’t try to sleep the day away! Be an early riser. Get up and get going! Note that this is easily done if you go to bed at night at a decent hour.
  • Start the day with prayer and Scripture reading. Seek guidance and wisdom to get through the day.
  • Have a plan of attack. Make a list of the things that you need/want to accomplish by the end of the day and check the items on your list off as you complete them. Be realistic! You cannot accomplish everything in a single day no matter how hard you try. On a larger scale, why not get yourself a weekly planner and plan a few things to accomplish each day.
  • Be productive! Spend less time being idle and more time getting things done. Help out around the house. Take care of those little projects that you have always been meaning to get to, or those things that your parents (or spouses) have been after you to do for some time.
  • If you find that you have a lot of free time on your hands, why not volunteer to help others get things done.

The point is, be able to lay your head on your pillow at night knowing that you have used the time that God has given you wisely. Go to sleep at night with a sense of accomplishment.

  1. Family first, friends second.

Always remember to look out for your family first of all. Have friends, yes, but don’t allow your friends to take up all of your time.

Spend some quality time with your family. Get to know them and let them get to know you better.

Respect your parents. In Exodus 20:12 we read these words: “Honour thy father and thy mother that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.” In Matthew 15:4 we read these words: “Honour thy father and mother and, He that curseth father or mother, let him die the death.”

Your parents may not always be right, but they still deserve the love and respect that is due them. A rule to remember about respect: If you expect others to respect you, you must first learn to respect others. Respect is always earned! Along with respecting your parents, remember that no matter how old you are their names are still “Mom” and “Dad”. Don’t disrespect them by calling them by their first names or by using such degrading terms as “my old man” or “my old lady” when referring to them.

Young men, always love your mothers and be willing to help them whenever you can. Be a gentlemen. Hold doors open for her. Don’t let her carry heavy objects by herself. Do your part to keep the house clean so that she doesn’t have to spend so much time cleaning up after you. As a general rule I have found that the way a young man treats his mother is a direct reflection of how he will treat his wife some day. Also, get along with your dad. Take an interest in some of the things that he does and get him interested in some of the things that you enjoy doing. Respect his authority as head of the home. Don’t always be quick to rebel against the rules that he may set. Here again, as a general rule, our relationship with our earthly father is a direct reflection of our relationship with our Heavenly Father.

Finally, get along with your brothers and sisters. Don’t waste precious time always fussing and fighting with each other. Try to solve any disagreements among yourselves as quickly as possible. If you are at fault, admit that you are wrong and ask for forgiveness. Don’t hold grudges. If your brother or sister is the one at fault and they ask you to forgive them, do so humbly and move on. Don’t continue to bring the matter up. Always settle any disputes, arguments or disagreements with any family member before going to sleep at night. Never go to bed angry! In Ephesians 4:26-27 we read: “Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: Neither give place to the devil.”

The strength of the family unit is a very vital part of the survival of our society and our nation as a whole. The way that you get along with your family is a direct reflection of how you will get along with others in society.

  1. Be a good listener.

Don’t always try to be right or have the last word in every conversation. Successful communication requires both a speaker and a listener. None of us have all the answers to everything, and therefore, none of us can be right 100% of the time. Take time to listen. You will be amazed how much you can learn just by being silent and listening to what others have to say. There is a “time to keep silence, and a time to speak” (see Ecclesiastes 3:7).

  1. Choose your friends wisely.

Not everyone that claims to be your friend is your friend. Remember, there is no law that says that you must have a lot of friends. I have found that most of the time, one truly good friend is worth more than ten so called friends.

Never compromise your standards, morals or beliefs just to be friends with someone. If a person isn’t willing to accept you for who you are then they are not truly your friend anyway. Also, remember that in order to have friends, you must first prove yourself friendly.

  1. Be yourself. 

Don’t try to impress people by being something that you are not. People will respect you a lot more if you are genuine then they will if you are fake. God made each of us unique and He is no respecter of persons. We are all special as far as He is concerned. The only person that He requires you to be is you. The only person that He requires me to be is me.

  1. Be a person of your word.

Let your word be your bond. If you promise someone that you are going to do something follow through with it. Don’t make idle promises (meaning, don’t make promises that you know you can’t possibly keep). If you make a promise and because of unforeseen circumstances you are unable to keep that promise, let the person(s) know why you had to break the promise and try to make arrangements to fulfill the promise at a later date.

Thanks again for the opportunity to share a few of my thoughts with you. I am sure that there is more that I could say but these thoughts will have to suffice for now. I submit these humble thoughts to you in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.

Keith Lionel Brown

Keflavik, Iceland

7 January 1998

** Note: Two months later, on 10 March 1998. I was baptized a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

This article is dedicated to the loving memory of a very dear and special friend, Mrs. Olive Davis Osmond who passed away on Mother’s Day 2004 at her home in ProvoUtah. She published this article in her ever famous M.O.M. newsletter. She was truly a very special lady.