“Happy New Year” – once upon a time, we all waited for March 25th to say that. Before that, Christmas Day was used as a new year’s day. In England and its empire, it wasn’t until 1752 that New Year’s Day was fixed on January first by an act of Parliament. Should you travel to other parts of the world, you will see different days chosen for a New Year’s Day. But one thing is clear, we humans appreciate cycles of time, and that reveals our connection to Heavenly Father.
“The course of the Lord is one eternal round.” That phrase is unique to scriptures in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and it occurs five times in our scriptures. The first record of it is in Doctrine and Covenants section 3, as Heavenly Father counseled Joseph after the loss of the first 116 pages of the Book of Mormon translation.
1 The works, and the designs, and the purposes of God cannot be frustrated, neither can they come to naught.
2 For God doth not walk in crooked paths, neither doth he turn to the right hand nor to the left, neither doth he vary from that which he hath said, therefore his paths are straight, and his course is one eternal round.
We next see it in 1 Nephi 10, as Nephi reckons with the prophecies of his father:
17 And it came to pass after I, Nephi, having heard all the words of my father, concerning the things which he saw in a vision, and also the things which he spake by the power of the Holy Ghost, which power he received by faith on the Son of God—and the Son of God was the Messiah who should come—I, Nephi, was desirous also that I might see, and hear, and know of these things, by the power of the Holy Ghost, which is the gift of God unto all those who diligently seek him, as well in times of old as in the time that he should manifest himself unto the children of men.
18 For he is the same yesterday, today, and forever; and the way is prepared for all men from the foundation of the world, if it so be that they repent and come unto him.
19 For he that diligently seeketh shall find; and the mysteries of God shall be unfolded unto them, by the power of the Holy Ghost, as well in these times as in times of old, and as well in times of old as in times to come; wherefore, the course of the Lord is one eternal round.
Alma has two references: Chapter 7, as Alma speaks to the righteous people of Gideon about the coming of Jesus Christ, the Savior:
19 For I perceive that ye are in the paths of righteousness; I perceive that ye are in the path which leads to the kingdom of God; yea, I perceive that ye are making his paths straight.
20 I perceive that it has been made known unto you, by the testimony of his word, that he cannot walk in crooked paths; neither doth he vary from that which he hath said; neither hath he a shadow of turning from the right to the left, or from that which is right to that which is wrong; therefore, his course is one eternal round.
In Alma 37, it appears in Alma’s counsel to his son Helaman, as he entrusts the sacred records to him. Alma asks the question, “why were these records preserved?” and answers with:
12 And it may suffice if I only say they are preserved for a wise purpose, which purpose is known unto God; for he doth counsel in wisdom over all his works, and his paths are straight, and his course is one eternal round.
Our last reference came in December of 1830, in a revelation about how the work of the Lord was to be done:
1 Listen to the voice of the Lord your God, even Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, whose course is one eternal round, the same today as yesterday, and forever.
2 I am Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who was crucified for the sins of the world, even as many as will believe on my name, that they may become the sons of God, even one in me as I am one in the Father, as the Father is one in me, that we may be one.
In the Book of Abraham, we read of the governing cycles of the stars, how one rules above the other until we come to the cycle of the star closest to Heavenly Father. And as we take in the vastness of the universe, we must also see the grand rotations and revolutions of things going around each other and spinning on their centers. The spiral arms of our galaxy make their ways around the great gravitational center – our own sun is part of that celestial procession. Planets orbit their stars, moons their planets, and with them, seasons and events occur with regularity.
And if we are to be one with the Father, that means making our course into one eternal round, making a straight, eternal path and not straying from it. We may think of a straight path as one that goes out forever in a certain direction, never to return. But the curves of time and space mean that the straight path will come back to its starting point at the end of time. And what then? It is the eternal round, so there is no stopping on the path: time begins again, and the cycles of the stars begin anew even as creation regenerates itself. Think on that – we are asked to be good people willing to do service for one another in order to prepare us for participating in those grand eternal rounds of creation. If we do not volunteer for service here, if we do not minister actively to each other here, if we do not let our hearts be moved with godly compassion here, of what use are we on the great eternal rounds of the Heavenly Family we aspire to join?
We dwell in untruth if we think that great changes in life are needed only for the demons and devils among us. Great changes are also needed among us, the average sinners that constitute the myriads of human people, the children of our Heavenly Father. He knows us, each of us, and knows when we are striving to be one with Him in doing His work and when we are making up frail excuses to simply watch the world go ’round as others build up the Kingdom of Zion. “Happy New Year” to us in this church is something of a commandment – to make the new year a happy one through our willingness not just to show up at church events, but to make the days of our lives religious events as we tend to the needs of ourselves and others in building faith, repenting, making covenants, keeping covenants, preaching the gospel, redeeming the dead, strengthening the saints, and to serve the poor and needy. Those are the works, designs, and purposes of God. As we do them, we are fulfilling the prophecy that they cannot be frustrated and cannot come to naught. As we do them, we come out of our crooked paths, and make straight our way. As we do them, we become one with Heavenly Father, and make our course one eternal round. Happy New Year, go forth and make it one!
And that brings us to the matter of resolutions. Resolutions are typically a matter of making one’s self better. Let me suggest adding a resolution to better the self by bettering the world around the self. Heavenly Father has one aim, His eternal round of bringing to pass the immortality and eternal life of his children. What can we do to join him in that eternal round? Whatever it is, let us resolve to do it!
More important than using inanimate tools to acquire more inanimate things for ourselves would be to use our thoughts, prayers, words, and actions to reach out to, connect to, discuss with, work with living brothers and sisters in the spirit of what Jesus Christ taught us to do with his life and work. We should frame our resolutions in light of how accomplishing them helps us to build up the Kingdom of Zion, to put ourselves in the same order as the planets and the stars, proceeding forward in the eternal round of God’s work. If we resolve to be more fit – let it be that we might live longer to do more of God’s work, starting now. If we resolve to be more financially ordered – let it be that we might be more able to give of what we have to aiding the poor among us. Put a celestial aim at the end of each resolution, make it something greater than the self, and in pursuing the larger goal, the smaller one will fall into place.
Like babies learning how to walk, we often stumble as we try to follow in the footsteps of Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. But they do not scold us and tell us to give it up, to make way for someone with better talents. They tell us to get up, be proud of the progress we’ve made, and to keep trying, to never give up. This life is for us to learn how to live not by our own rules, but in harmony with the rules of love, compassion, peace, hope, faith, and charity. The commandments are not harsh rules made to set us up for failure. They are important instructions about how to survive, how to keep our souls intact, given to us by a loving heavenly parent who sees what future is in front of us. If we forget to keep them or willfully disobey, that same, loving, heavenly parent is ready to forgive us if we become truly sorry for what we did wrong so that we walk more carefully, that we turn neither to the left or the right, but keep the straight path of the eternal round.
The work and designs of God will not be frustrated – so let us move in harmony with them. When we diligently seek the path to follow, we will find it – so let us study prayerfully the way to go with our lives. The more we trust in Jesus Christ, the more sure our steps on His path. There is great wisdom in noting the cycles of time we exist in and in making them sacred. We sanctify our weeks with the Sabbath Day: we sanctify our hours with prayers. We can sanctify our months with tithing and acts of service and temple attendance. We can sanctify our years with righteous resolutions. We can sanctify our minutes and seconds with acts of service and words of kindness. We can sanctify our decades with steady friendships and long-lasting forgiveness. In doing all those, we hallow out our lives that we spend on a spinning globe with a moon going around it as we travel around a sun that proceeds around the center of the galaxy that itself is bound on a path ordered by Heavenly Father, whose course is one eternal round. The cycles of time remind us all of who we are, children of a Father who wants us one day to be able to do the same as He has done, so let us rejoice in knowing who we are and what we should do with our time in each new year that comes to us, by the grace of our loving Heavenly Father.