This phrase, “seek the better,” has been bouncing around my mind for months now. It started when I had the opportunity to put together a small retreat for my cousins and was choosing the theme of the retreat. As I considered various possibilities for the theme, I had to ask myself what message I felt they needed most right now to strengthen their faith and courage.
And this is what I felt was the best message for the moment – to seek the better. To seek the things of a better world. To seek the better part. To seek the better choices, experiences, goals, values, beliefs. To seek the better in all that they do.
Since the retreat with my cousins, I’ve kept thinking about this phrase. What it means to me. Why I felt that it was so important. And I want to share some of that with all of you because I can’t get over the significance of this phrase in my life recently.
The Challenge of Seeking the Better
First, I want to tell you a bit about where I found this phrase. It’s shortened from a scripture:
10 And verily I say unto thee that thou shalt lay aside the things of this world, and seek for the things of a better.Doctrine and Covenants 25:10
This sounds like a lot of scriptures in the New Testament, but this is actually taken from a revelation given by God through the Prophet Joseph Smith to his wife, Emma Smith. Even though the revelation was directed to Emma specifically, the end of the revelation states that “this is [God’s] voice unto all,” so it seems like a revelation we should all pay attention to.
As I’ve looked around myself this year, as I see the division, the frustration, the pain, the confusion, and so much more, I find myself more and more grateful for this reminder, to seek the better. It’s an empowering phrase, and it helps me consider what is most important. I love this phrase, but I have to admit, it’s a lot easier to talk about than it is to live.
I’ve talked about this before, but there are so many things that beg for our attention every day. Do you know how often I feel like there’s never enough time to do everything I want and need to do? Pretty much every day. But guess what? My phone notified me this morning that my screen time this past week was up 12% to be an average of 2 hours and 20 minutes each day. And just think, that doesn’t even include the time I spent watching TV on other devices.
Maybe you can all relate this example as well. I know that there are so many good things I could spend my time on and that I WANT to spend my time on. But it’s easier to scroll on my phone than it is to work on those things.
So you see that, even with little things like cell phones, it’s challenging to seek the better. I’d feel better about spending 2+ hours on my phone every day if all of that time went to productive and uplifting things like learning a language, reading General Conference talks, checking in on friends and loved ones, and so on.
It’s choosing the time-wasting and depleting things that leave me unsatisfied at the end of the day.
Of course, seeking the better applies to a lot more than cell phones, but I hope this illustrates the challenge of seeking the better.
However, the fact remains that God has asked all of us to “lay aside the things of this world, and seek for the things of a better.” There’s no getting around that command. And since we aren’t perfect, let’s take a look at how we can work on obeying this direction from God.
Lay Aside the Things of This World
Let’s talk about the word “world” for a minute. “World” has several meanings, but we’ll focus on the two most relevant definitions. It first means the planet we live on – so the world around us, from the mountains to the smallest carrot seed. But “world” can also mean the customs of humans or secular life.
When God says to lay aside the things of the world, He doesn’t mean the planet. He means to lay aside the common practices of men that are not of God. It’s important to note that God could also ask us to lay aside good things in favor of better things.
Since we’re all different and have different lives, problems, etc., the things we need to lay aside may vary a bit. For some (like me) that might mean finding ways to set aside distractions like cell phones so we can accomplish more tasks that are important to us. For others, it could mean noticing that family has taken a backseat to other demands. Or realizing that the things you’re choosing to put in your mind aren’t uplifting. Or that you need to step back from people who are hurting you.
The first step of this direction from God is to take a moment to pause and ask yourself, “What am I allowing into my life and time that doesn’t need to be there? What can I let go of that would make me happier, more fulfilled, closer to God if it wasn’t part of my life?”
When you ask yourself this question honestly and sincerely, the Holy Spirit will point you to some things that could change. The Spirit will emphasize the things that are most important for you to lay aside so you can make space for the better things.
Seek the Things of a Better World
Let’s return to the word “world” for a minute. When we lay aside the things of the world, we lay aside the things that are not of God or that might be holding us back from better things. That’s the context of world that is referred to there.
But what “world” is the better world we need to seek? Well, another definition of “world” is “the heavenly world.” A world where everyone has the chance to follow God, where they choose Him and serve Him. A world where the things that matter most are the things we actively prioritize. Where we let go of distractions, anger, division, etc., and rely on God with faith to guide us forward.
So if you lay aside distractions like cell phones, seek to fill that time with something that brings you joy and purpose. If you lay aside things that keep you from your family, seek activities that can renew your family relationships. If you lay aside things that darken your mind, seek media that is clean and brings the Spirit. If you lay aside people who are hurting you, seek to heal and to forgive.
The process of laying aside and seeking the better is extremely personal. There isn’t one right way or order to do this. But it is essential to do both parts of the process.
If you lay aside things of this world, but don’t seek better things, then the things you tried to lay aside will simply creep back in. The best way to let go of one thing is to replace it with something better. But if you try to seek the better things without laying aside the lesser things, you’ll struggle to find the space in your life for both.
Again, this can be a real challenge. And honestly, I don’t think any of us will perfectly choose every better thing overnight. So start by laying aside one thing, and seeking a better replacement. Then do it again. And again.
If you’re like me, it might feel like things aren’t changing much. But each time you choose to seek the better instead of staying where you are, you’ll find that it’s a tiny bit easier to do it again.
One of the best things my cousins pointed out to me during our little retreat was that “seek the better” really means to seek Christ. Because when you seek Christ with a real desire to change, when you make efforts to remember Him always, when you focus on Him first, you’ll be naturally led to seek the things of a better world (these kids are awesome).
Choosing to seek Christ will not make change easier. In fact, it’s often a difficult path because Christ will ask you to make changes that aren’t popular and that will be questioned. God asks us to lay aside the things world because it brings us closer to Him, but the world will fight the changes that you try to make.
But each time you choose Christ, it is easier to do so again. And each time you put your faith in Him, you receive His strength through the Holy Spirit. And, as you seek Christ, you’ll be able to help others to do the same.