Day by Day

When it was time for Lehi and his family to begin their journey in the wilderness, God gave them a tool to help them steer a straight course toward their destination. Nephi refers to it as “a round ball of curious workmanship” (1 Nephi 16:10). Alma later explains to his son Helaman that it was called “Liahona,” which means “a compass” (Alma 37:38). Alma further explained that this device helped them ensure that they were moving in a straight line, making progress toward their destination.

If they had faith to believe that God could cause that those spindles should point the way they should go, behold, it was done; therefore they had this miracle, and also many other miracles wrought by the power of God, day by day.

Alma 37:40

He went on to explain that, when they were slothful, they did not make progress. They either stayed still (“tarried in the wilderness”) or they “did not travel a direct course” (Alma 37:42).

Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf recently spoke of a study conducted by scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics. Participants in the study were told to walk in a straight line through a thick forest or in a desert. Here is a picture of the routes taken by four of the participants:

Walking trajectories in the Bienwald forest (Germany). The red dots indicate the starting points. PS, KS, and RF walked on a cloudy day. When SM walked, it was cloudy at first, but sunny after the first 15 minutes.

The researchers observed, “Participants were only able to keep a straight path when the sun or moon was visible. However, as soon as the sun disappeared behind some clouds, people started to walk in circles without even noticing it” (“Walking in Circles,” Aug. 20, 2009, Max-Planck-Gesellschaft,

Elder Uchtdorf then explained the same principle Alma taught his son: “As our days go, so go our lives.” If you want to travel in a straight course, you must ensure that you are moving toward your destination each day. “Do you want to change the shape of your life?” asked Elder Uchtdorf. “Change the shape of your day. Do you want to change your day? Change this hour.” He concluded, “Minutes and hours well spent are the building blocks of a life well lived” (“Daily Restoration,” General Conference, October 2021).

On August 6, 1836, Joseph Smith and three other church leaders were discouraged. They had traveled from Kirtland, Ohio to Salem, Massachusetts hoping for some relief from the financial burdens facing the Church. The journey seemed to be wasted. Nothing was happening as they had planned. The Lord gave them specific instructions about how they should spend their time while they were in Salem. They should set aside their financial concerns, stay there for a while, get to know the people, and learn about the history of the city. And He promised to guide them from moment to moment:

You shall be led…

And the place where it is my will that you should tarry, for the main, shall be signalized unto you by the peace and power of my Spirit, that shall flow unto you.

Doctrine and Covenants 111:3, 8

Nearly a year later, the Lord gave a similar assurance to Thomas B. Marsh, the president of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles:

Be thou humble; and the Lord thy God shall lead thee by the hand, and give thee answer to thy prayers.

Doctrine and Covenants 112:10

Today, I will seek the guidance of the Lord to help me use my time wisely. I will strive to spend my minutes and my hours in a way that helps me achieve my long-term goals.

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