By Eric Christensen
The most important skill students need to acquire while at BYU is the ability to solve problems, President Mary Ellen Smoot, General Relief Society president, told students at the Devotional on Tuesday, Nov. 14.
“Individually and as a people, we will make greater progress and do so more joyfully if we focus on solutions rather than problems – whatever the problems may be,” she said.
President Smoot shared four “gems of motherly advice” regarding problem solving.
Her first bit of counsel to students is to stop and consider where you are headed.
“When faced with a problem, search your soul to see if your present thoughts and actions are leading to a solution, feeding the problem, or possibly even creating more problems for you,” she said.
“When you can see you are digging yourself into a hole-stop digging,” President Smoot shared from the old adage.
President Smoot said sometimes we become convinced that our perceptions are correct, that we are doing all that we can do, or that if we simply run faster or longer our problems will be solved. But nothing will get better if we are going the wrong way.
President Smoot shared a valuable exercise when trying to figure out if you are headed in the wrong direction.
“I take a good look at my life, my daily habits, my thoughts and certainly my actions. Then ask myself: ‘Am I headed in the right direction?'” she said.
We do not need to be the victims of a world that rationalizes giving into the temptations we face, she said
“We can each decide for ourselves ways to safeguard our virtue – ways to keep us going in the right direction. There is no sin that is worth the price you have to pay for it,” she said.
We need to determine right now to put on the whole armor of God and not retreat into iniquity nor surrender to vice, President Smoot said.
President Smoot’s second suggestion for solving problems is when faced with a problem, ask “What am I going to do about it?”
“From his prophets on down, the Lord empowers his servants to come unto him, to repent and to seek for solutions,” she said.
President Smoot reminded students they are not alone with God’s inspirations and support.
“Be prayerful. Be responsible when facing a dilemma,” she said. “Ask yourself, ‘What am I going to do about this?'”
No matter what our problems are, we can take charge or our lives and go forward with faith, she said.
“You may not be able to change everything about your circumstances. But the power is in you to determine how you will respond, and what kind of a person you will be,” she said.
President Smoot’s third point is know that the organizations of the Church can help prepare and strengthen us in our problem solving.
“Each of us have an opportunity to be an instrument in the Lord’s hands in making our ward so strong and filled with so much love, devotion, and acceptance, that everyone feels a part of our ward,” she said.
The organizations of the church are established to teach its members how to come to Christ, President Smoot said.
“We need each other. We need visiting teachers and home teachers that are sincerely interested in those they visit and realize the importance of their calling as they strive to reach the one,” she said.
President Smoot’s fourth point is to be an influence for good on others.
“At school, church, and with friends and family,” she said, “Extend a loving hand of service.”
President Smoot said it is not enough for us to simply attend our meeting and fulfill church callings. It is not enough to just “get by.”
“Of all people, we should approach this mortality as a great and grand adventure and fill it with all the wonder, mystery, love and meaning that we anticipated before we came here,” she said.
See related story:
Eternal progression requires problem solving, President Smoot says 11/14/2000