Where there is no vision, the people perish


I have been a lifelong student of human motivation, particularly self-motivation. No, I’m not an expert and what motivates me may not motivate you. A long time ago I discovered something that drives me to action more than anything else. It is found in the scripture quoted in the title of this essay as written in Proverbs 29:18.

When I catch the vision of the way something can be that I want, I find myself willing to give untold hours to moving that vision from a dream to a reality in life. Conversely, if I have not seen myself doing something in my mind’s eye, I find my motivation lacking to do all the work that is required to accomplish a worthy goal.

This is particularly true when someone else has a vision but is ineffective in getting me to see it for myself. For example, you can tell me all day long about the great benefits of eating right and exercising regularly, but unless I see myself benefiting from good eating and exercise habits, I will always find other ways to use my time.

What’s in it for me?

As much as I hate to admit it, in some ways, my personal motivation is selfish. Oh, I have altruistic tendencies and a strong sense of duty that serves me well, but what really gets me excited to be involved in something worthwhile is when I can see how it benefits me, my family, my friends and others with whom I associate.

And I mean that literally – to see. I have discovered that I am a both a visual and a tactile learner. Auditory learning is tertiary to me and is most effective when I hear someone describing something that I can then see myself doing or enjoying. If you can show me how I can accomplish something, you’ve got my attention.

I’ve also discovered over the years, and as much as I may deny it, I enjoy both the satisfaction and the recognition that comes when I complete a difficult task, or when I perform to the best of my ability. I don’t think I am alone in this desire. Where we differ is in what we do to obtain that recognition and yes, admiration.

Role models are important

Think about it. Who are your heroes in life? And why are they examples to you? What have they done that deserves your admiration and respect? Usually it is because they have accomplished something difficult that you would like to do. They have demonstrated that it can be done and that it is worth paying the price.

Fortune and fame are two powerful motivating factors that many in our world will do anything, literally anything, to achieve. I don’t mean to disparage anyone, but Madonna and Britney Spears are two examples that come to mind as someone who has gone overboard in the climb to the top. Much has been sacrificed to get there.

On the other hand, for me personally, I have found great role models in the men who lead this church – the apostles and prophets of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Of course they are not perfect, but they do all within their power to lead others unto Christ. And from what I’ve seen, their wives are special too.

Sharing the vision

One of the reasons why I find it so enjoyable to follow the Brethren who lead this church is because most of them are so good at sharing their vision of the work in which they are engaged. I need that. While I enjoy the instruction I receive in General Conference, I am most spiritually fed when my vision has been enlarged.

Let me see if I can explain better what I mean by sharing the vision. When I was a young man preparing for my mission, I had the luxury of spending every day for the six months immediately prior to leaving, in daily gospel study, from morning until evening. I did not work. I simply read and studied the gospel and learned.

I felt like I was in paradise. I enjoyed a special sense of motivation at this time of my life because the Lord had given me a vision of what kind of a missionary I could be if I really understood the doctrines of the kingdom and knew for myself that they were important and true. I wanted to know how others explained them.

Understanding the doctrine

I read everything I could get my hands on that helped me to see how the gospel could most effectively be taught. I voraciously studied commentaries of others who I considered to be masters in the field of Mormon doctrine. As you can imagine, Bruce R. McConkie was one whose works I devoured incessantly.

My personal religious library had been recently augmented by a large collection of doctrinal and church history books received as a gift from my mother right after she closed her LDS bookstore. I studied all day, worked with the missionaries and then went to Institute classes and Know your Religion lectures with my family.

I caught a love of learning from my mother, but I did not obtain the vision of why it was important to obtain all the knowledge I could until the Lord showed it to me in answer to prayer. It is a sacred experience, but one I have related in a previous essay. With that vision, I understood why I needed to study and know the doctrine.

The vision motivates

Once the Lord showed me what I could accomplish with a deep understanding of the doctrines of the church, I had the drive and ambition to devote all my time to achieving that vision. The kind of vision I’m talking about is not something that can be given by another man, no matter how good he is at describing things.

That vision was intense and it was prophetic. It remains with me to this day, even though it has been thirty-two years since it transpired. It has not yet been fulfilled, nor will it be for many years to come. It is personal and sacred but it has done more for me than anything else to get me to continue my daily study of the gospel.

Because the Lord showed me things in vision when I was so young, I have always felt a desire to do all within my power to accomplish that vision. Perhaps it will not be in this life. Perhaps what I saw is intended to be fulfilled in the life to come. It does not matter. Because of that vision, I am motivated to study and to learn.

Summary and conclusion

I am fascinated by men and women with vision and who know how to share it. I am especially enthralled when listening to someone describe their vision in such a manner that allows me to see it for myself. Once I have that vision in my mind’s eye, I am a changed man, because I want to do all within my power to achieve it.

In my opinion, the visions of the Lord are the most motivating influence in the world. Men will give their lives, and many have, to building up the Kingdom of God upon the earth because they have the vision of what the Lord’s work really is. It is especially powerful when the Lord shows men their place in the kingdom.

I have seen that vision. I know what the Lord wants me to accomplish with my life. I feel extremely blessed to have received this powerful vision when I was so young. It has blessed me all my life and kept me motivated to do things that are hard to do. Someday, I know that vision will be fulfilled just as I have seen it.

4 Responses

  1. Tim:You are definitely among those blessed with the talent of explaining gospel ideas in an understandable manner. One of your skills I appreciate the most is your ability to listen to alternate ideas from those who make comments. I have never seen you treat a reader disrespectfully.Some might get the misimpression that being “visionary” means being deluded into thinking one is 100% correct. Naturally, such a view is plain wrong. We are not infallible. Yet, there are spiritual elements (as you recognize) that are necessary for all of us to SEE CLEARLY. The great news is that ALL of us can develop these abilities, especially in the Church under the Gift of the Holy Spirit. Yet, all people need to have that “vision” and can be influenced by the Holy Ghost.Thanks for making me think. I love your thoughts, as they inspire me.

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  2. My motivating factor and “vision” stem from a friend who had recently returned from his mission when I was 18 and preparing to leave for a mission myself. He opened the scriptures to me in a way that I had never seen before and taught me truths that cleared the fog of my teenage years. He truly inspired me to learn the Gospel and instilled in me a desire to be able to teach it to others in the same way he had taught me.While in law school I was blessed to teach early-morning Seminary and seemingly influence the lives of several young men, quite like myself when I was their age, right before they left on their missions. One of them e-mailed me a few weeks ago saying how he wishes that he could teach his Gospel Essentials class like I had taught him during Seminary. He then indicated that it was his goal to do so, therefore, he was constantly studying to reach that goal. He leaves for Canada on his mission in January.Thanks for the post, Tim.

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  3. I realized after I posted this essay that I had not yet written about the experience I referred to here. I thought I had written about it previously but it was a different one. No matter. The idea is the same.When the Lord fills us with inspiration, or more precisely, with revelation, it does not have to come through our natural senses. We can hear the voice of the Lord in our mind without it passing through our mortal ears.In the same way, we can see things in our mind’s eye that are placed there by the Lord without our having to see them with our natural eyes. That is the process I was trying to describe. I have experienced it and it is real to me, although it has been very rare.I know for myself that there is communication from the spirit world that reaches us through means other than our natural senses. It is very powerful when it happens and, in my case, has been very long-lasting in influence upon me over the years.S.Faux: I so agree with you about the effects of receiving visions. Was Joseph Smith sometimes wrong in some of the things he said and did? Absolutely. He was not at all delusional in this manner. But he stood by his testimony of what he saw to his dying day.Likewise, I could never imagine thinking that I am always 100% correct in the things I say and do just because the Lord was gracious enough to give me a vision of what I could become when I was a young lad. I clearly understood then as I do now that it was conditional upon my obedience and faithfulness.Jeremy: One of my greatest joys in life is teaching the gospel. When I have a teaching position in the church I am so motivated to study the gospel. One of the reasons I started this blog was to find another motivating factor to study the gospel – by sharing my ideas with others. Being a ward clerk, I miss the speaking assignments I used to have on the High Council.Carol and I have also both taught early-morning seminary. As you note, it is indeed a blessing to be able to teach each day mainly because of the study and personal learning that take place as we prepare to teach the lessons. It is a wonderful feeling to be able to look back and remember those sacred teaching moments and hope that they are remembered with equal fondness by our students.

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  4. Tim,I have been thinking about this exact principle, but I had real trouble putting it into words. Your description is clear and deep, thank you.As I think about those of us recovering from addictions or trying to make other difficult gospel change, the motivator that really brings humility and deep repentance is often a vision of what we could be without these devastating addictions in our lives. It’s a vision of the future which motivates.

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