As Latter-day Saints, we have high expectations of ourselves. But because we’re human, we stumble and make mistakes, often making us doubt ourselves or feel inadequate. Sometimes, we might wonder if our efforts are “good enough” or acceptable to the Lord. However, despite our challenges, through us, the Lord can work miracles. I know this first-hand through my experience working with my friend and blog photographer, Marc.
When I first met Marc, he was just returning to the church after four years of inactivity. I reached out to him and a friendship developed during the summer. After I met Marc, I received the impression that I should look for fellow LDS single adults to lend their God-given talents to my blog. Marc quickly accepted my invitation to join my team and in the next two months that followed, he became a valuable team member. Marc moved away to Washington, but I learned some life-changing lessons through working with him, which I felt inspired to share with you:
Lesson #1: It doesn’t matter where we’ve been; it matters where we’re going
As we got to know each other during the summer, Marc opened up to me and shared with me his background and some of his past burdens. What I found remarkable about Marc was that despite his life challenges, he was remarkably consistent in his spiritual journey.
Marc reactivated himself without knowing anyone in our ward and without having a support system. When he returned to church, Marc also became the only active member in his immediate family. Marc faithfully attended church every Sunday and although his challenges didn’t go away, I sensed that they became easier to bear because he decided to hold fast to his faith.
Before Marc moved away, I asked him what inspired him to return to church and what gave him the strength to be consistent. Marc’s answer was simple: He told me that he came back to see if he would find joy from being in the church again. He stayed active because he saw that it made him happier and he didn’t want to miss out on these blessings.
Like Marc, we may have challenges in our life that cause us to doubt if we have a place in the church. But the Lord is more concerned about where we’re going than where we’ve been. If we want to be happy, we can’t allow the past to burden us. As long as we learn from it and move on, like Marc, we can find happiness.
Lesson #2: If you treat people as they currently are, they will remain that way. If you treat people as they could become, they will often rise up to the challenge
A week after Marc accepted my invitation to join the blog team, he seemed uncomfortable and asked to meet with me. We met and to my surprise, Marc confided to me about aspects of the gospel he struggled with. Although he didn’t explicitly state it, I sensed he was questioning his ability to serve on the blog team. For a moment, I felt uncertainty and doubted my prompting to invite Marc to join my team. But immediately, I heard the quiet voice of the Holy Ghost that said, “If you treat people as they currently are, they will remain that way.”
After I recognized that prompting, I expressed confidence that Marc could overcome these challenges he faced and make a difference in helping others through the blog. I expressed my commitment to our friendship and offered to support him in any way I could. Consequently, Marc and I had many gospel discussions over the summer. Because of my zeal for the gospel, there were a few times when I came across more strongly than I intended and when I inadvertently went too far, Marc let me know.
I remember one evening when I felt that I was being unsuccessful at getting through to Marc and I expressed my frustration in prayer. The promptings I received came to me as feelings, rather than words. But if Heavenly Father had responded to me in words, it would have been, “Marc’s my son. Help him to remember that.” After that, I changed the way I approached Marc. Instead of trying to help him gain a testimony of specific gospel principles, I tried to help him understand his divine heritage and how our personal relationship with God impacts our lives. Throughout this process, I noticed positive changes in Marc as he rose to meet his challenges and fulfill his responsibilities with the blog.
In hindsight, I can see how it would have been damaging and counter-productive if I treated Marc differently. No one wants to be treated as a “project.” No one wants to feel inadequate or that they’re not good enough. Regardless of someone’s background, we have a sacred duty to help others realize who they really are as children of God and what they can accomplish through tapping into their divine potential.
Lesson #3: Each person has unique value and differences should be embraced, not feared
Sometimes, we have a hard time accepting others who don’t fit into the stereotypical “Mormon mold.” We’re often quick to cast judgment – perhaps we might feel uncomfortable, or even threatened by those who are different. However, these feelings of discomfort are often the result of our own uncertainties and should not be projected on others. Because we are all brothers and sisters, everyone has a place in the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Elder Joseph Wirthlin said, “Some are lost because they are different. They feel as though they don’t belong…Tied to this misconception is the erroneous belief that all members of the Church should look, talk, and be alike. The Lord did not people the earth with a vibrant orchestra of personalities only to value the piccolos of the world. Every instrument is precious and adds to the complex beauty of the symphony. All of Heavenly Father’s children are different in some degree, yet each has his own beautiful sound that adds depth and richness to the whole.”
If you know someone who has strayed away from the church because he or she feels out of place, or if you are distant from the church because you feel different from the mythical “ideal Mormon” – please know that every member of the church has unique value. We need you to add your personal testimony, life experiences, and perspective to our congregations, which strengthens other members and the church as a whole. For example, Marc’s differences allowed him to become a great resource to me in working on this blog.
As a former less active member, Marc’s insights were invaluable in helping me understand the concerns and needs of my brothers and sisters who are disengaged with the church. Working with Marc helped me become more sensitive to how I could support other members who lacked a support system or came from a difficult personal background. Finally, our friendship helped me better understand how to connect with someone whose personality and interests were very different from mine.
Making a difference
Marc and I were able to work together successfully because I accepted his differences and focused on what we had in common – our shared belief that living a Christ-like life would bring happiness to the lives of our fellow LDS single adults. This acceptance empowered Marc and allowed him to make a significant impact on the blog team.
Marc’s pictures of Boise Institute activities were viewed by more than 1,300 people on Facebook, promoting the LDS lifestyle and Institute activities to a wide audience. His gift for photography helped guide me in using visuals on my blog to effectively tell a story and testify of gospel principles. On a personal level, I benefited from Marc’s friendship and it helped me become more accepting, compassionate, and understanding of people.
The Lord knows who we are and sees our potential
Working with Marc reaffirmed the importance of extending friendship to others and trusting in the Lord’s timing. Although there were people who reached out to Marc when he was less-active, it was four years before he decided to return to church. We need to be patient and remember that the seeds of faith we plant now may bear fruit in the future. Before Marc left Boise, he bore his testimony in our ward. I was touched by seeing his personal growth in the space of a relatively short time.
Although we all have challenges in our lives, the Lord knows who we are and what we’re capable of. Don’t forget who you are truly are – you are a son or daughter of God with unlimited potential. As demonstrated through Marc’s story, if we allow Him to, the Lord can work miracles through us.