The first time I attended church, the lesson was on preparing to . To me, it appeared you had to be perfect. I wrote in my journal that I thought I was a pretty good Christian, but that I could never live up to the Mormon standards. What I didn’t understand, of course, is that you don’t have to be perfect. No one but the Savior has ever been perfect during earth life. We’re supposed to be working on it, but we’re not expected to get there completely. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by all the new commandments you’re learning about, back up a bit. Don’t try to do them all at the same time. Never try to start more than three new changes at once. Begin with the commandments you need to be doing in order to get baptized. These are the most important, since you want to be baptized as soon as possible. Then, after your baptism, choose the three commandments you consider the most important to learn to keep. For instance, you might decide to develop the habit of praying, start reading scriptures daily, and start having Family Home Evening. Work out a plan to help you achieve those. Record your progress in your journal or on a chart. Whenever you decide you’re keeping a commandment well, take it off your list and add a new one in its place. How do you decide which commandments to begin with? This is up to you. You should pray for guidance in choosing your goals. You might want to start with those you’ll need to be doing in order to go to the temple when you’re ready. You can usually go to the temple about a year after your baptism, so starting early gives you plenty of time. Never choose your goals to please others. The commandments you’re working on should be the ones you, Heavenly Father, and perhaps your bishop have chosen for you. You may find an occasional person who will decide you need to work on a different goal than the one you’ve chosen. Ignore those people. In every group, there are some who find it necessary to try to make your choices for you, or who have a “favorite” commandment they think everyone should obey. It’s more important for you to please Heavenly Father than to please another person. Just smile and say, “Thank you. I’ll add it to my list.” Then go back and continue working on your own goals. Don’t let them bother you, because in the end, it’s about you and the gospel, not another person. Take the gospel one step at a time. You’ll be perfect before you know it!
Terrie Lynn Bittner
The late Terrie Lynn Bittner—beloved wife, mother, grandmother, and friend—was the author of two homeschooling books and numerous articles, including several that appeared in Latter-day Saint magazines. She became a member of the Church at the age of 17 and began sharing her faith online in 1992.