Being “born of God” (Alma 36:23) includes humbling oneself to the Lord’s will even if it’s not what you expect or want. It is a change of heart in which your desires will no longer become important, and your focus switches to pursuing the opportunities the Lord lays in front of you. Not everyone has the same talents or receives the same opportunities, but that doesn’t make them any less important to the Lord or His work. As stated in the “Ideas for Personal Scripture Study” in the July 20-26 Book of Mormon 2020 Come, Follow Me—For Individuals and Families: “I can be born of God as I am humble and repent.”
Seeking the Tree of Life
Have you ever wondered why it was not an easy process for Lehi and his family to get to the tree of life? The path was neither quick nor short but “strait and narrow” (1 Nephi 8:20). The refinement needed to get oneself to the presence of the Lord took time to travel, and there were many opportunities to fear, fail, or become distracted. One of the main distractions came from those multitudes of “old and young” filling the “great and spacious building” who were “mocking and pointing their fingers towards those who had come at and were partaking of the fruit” (1 Nephi 8:26-27). Those who struggled to stay on the narrow path were judged as being inferior and foolish for their righteous desires and choices.
If we are not watchful, a similar culture of criticizing others can occur among members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. In some cases, peers and overzealous parents may be critical of younger and older people who do not serve a full-time, proselyting mission. Such judgments can cause some individuals to feel ashamed and turn away from other opportunities and blessings to serve the Lord.
A Personal Journey to Serve Christ
I have personal experience with the consequences of letting guilt-driven expectations influence my thinking. Back in 2008, I spent several months doing splits and teaching assignments with the sister missionaries in my area, and I became quite close to them. In 2009, I applied to serve a full-time mission of my own, but my bishop at the time offered me a service mission. He was inspired to recognize that a proselyting mission would be very difficult for me. I would later be diagnosed with a social disability now known as Non-Verbal Learning Disorder. My attitude at the time, unfortunately, was that anything other than a full-time mission was not “a real mission.” I declared that I would serve anywhere except the Bishops’ Storehouse, and, as a result, I did not accept a calling as a service missionary.
I paid dearly for my attitude. All dreams of serving any type of mission disappeared until late 2012. I liken my experiences to those that Joseph Smith had in 1823 when he was first informed about the gold plates. Although he was nearly 18 years old, he was not ready to carry out the Lord’s will: the time was not yet right for him to do so. The Angel Moroni counselled him that he “must have no other object in view … but to glorify God, and must not be influenced by any other motive than that of building his kingdom”(Joseph Smith—History 1:46). In other words, he should be motivated on his course of action because he wanted to do good for the Lord and not because of how he might look in the eyes of others. I worried too much about what others would think, and I spent the next four years striving to repent.
Preserved to Serve
In early 2013, I was finally called as a service missionary to a mission in the Area Field Office and Bishop’s Storehouse. I gratefully accepted that assignment and humbly looked forward to facing the challenges that lay before me. I served honorably for a year. Now that I look back, I was foolish to deny myself the opportunity earlier because I cared more about what others might think rather than what the Lord thought. As a missionary, I truly learned that “by small and simple things are great things brought to pass” (Alma 37:6). I finally received an answer to my prayers that I could serve a mission as I had always wanted to, and “sweet … was my joy” (Alma 36:21).
As the scriptures in the Book of Mormon were preserved for a wise purpose, so are we all. God “entrusted” Helaman to keep a sacred record so that the Lord “may show forth his power unto future generations” (Alma 37:14). How we face our struggles help refine us into our eternal selves. Problems exist whether or not we acknowledge them. If we leave sin, sorrows, and weaknesses unaddressed, we cheat ourselves out of the healing that comes with facing issues. We cannot predict or prevent trials brought upon us by the choices of others, but we can address our own shortcomings and be made strong enough to face our adversities through the blessings of our Savior’s Atonement.
Learning a Measure of Godliness
We can learn a measure of godliness by being willing to introduce Christ’s grace to ourselves and our lives. Being hateful or overly critical about ourselves is inappropriate and will repel the Spirit. We need to let the love of God touch our lives and override our weaknesses: “I give unto men weaknesses that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me” (Ether 12:27).
We were all made in the image of our Heavenly Parents, and they encourage us to learn empathy and love. Facing adversity does not give us justification to quit. There are missions only we can do for the Lord’s kingdom. We can either choose to learn what we can and have joy, or we can give up and drown in despair. To drown in darkness is to allow ourselves a spiritual death and a sentence of apathy. By acting on adversity, embracing what it means for us, and not letting it act upon us, we communicate to the Lord that we trust Him. By accepting God’s will, we will be helped to grow and learn to become what God guides us to be.