You’ve tried to make good choices. You’ve followed the words of the prophets, read your scriptures, said your prayers. You’ve tried to align your will with the Lord’s as best as you could, and yet, as you look around, the lives others have been handed look nothing like the life you’re leading. How is that possible? How can one life look so different from another when both people strive to living the gospel and its principles?
Could it be possible that the gospel’s not working for you?
Too many of us feel like the odd member out, a forgotten child of God in a world of “cookie-cutter Mormons.” When we compare ourselves to others, we may feel disappointed—cheated, even—especially if we’ve been trying to live the standards we’ve been told will bring us happiness. But by making comparisons, we’re ignoring several crucial facts that can increase our understanding and ease our worries:
1. The Lord Needs Our Diversity
A good too many of us, members or not, tend to pair the word “Mormon” with a very specific stereotype. Now, I don’t know about you, but I don’t recall ever seeing a scripture or even reading a conference talk that states, “Thou shalt live in a very nice house with a spouse and five children and serve as bishop/relief society president until the day you’re surrounded by five-hundred grandchildren.”
While there’s nothing wrong with this particular lifestyle—and there isn’t—the rest of us shouldn’t fall prey to the idea that we’re doing something wrong if our lives don’t match up with this description exactly.
The truth is that the membership of the Church is much more beautiful and diverse than any stereotype will ever allow. That’s because “the gospel of Jesus Christ transcends every culture, race, nationality, and language” (LDS.org). Christlike attributes are universal, and, as Dallin H. Oaks has stated, “His grace is for all.” Not only that, but the Lord needs a diverse people to build up His Kingdom. Don’t believe us? Just check out mormon.org to see how the gospel is lived by millions of people all over the globe.
2. No One’s Life Is Actually Perfect
It’s too easy to make comparisons based on what we think we’re seeing. But as my aunt always says, “If you go to comparison land, you will either come out inflated or degraded.”
How true that is. When have any of us ever made a comparison that hasn’t left us feeling either superior or inferior to somebody else? No question, comparisons drive out charity. Not only that, but they make us feel miserable! As Jeffrey R. Holland jokingly stated, “What a bright prospect that is—downing another quart of pickle juice every time anyone around you has a happy moment!”
The next time you’re feeling slighted by the powers of heaven, try forgetting “fairness.” Let go of any bitterness you may feel towards someone who seems to be living a trial-free life. You never know what people are experiencing beneath a surface of smiles.
3. We Are Subject to the Agency of Others
Sometimes, even when we’re trying to do everything right, life still doesn’t go according to plan. One reason for this is that the Lord allows people to have their agency.
Agency is a critical part of Heavenly Father’s plan. In the words of Robert D. Hales, “Agency used righteously allows light to dispel the darkness and enables us to live with joy and happiness.” So, when people use their agency selfishly, the opposite is also true. If you’ve been the victim of someone’s selfish choices—and all of us will be at some point—it can be difficult to imagine that the Lord still has a plan for you. But He does. As James E. Faust said in his talk “The Forces that will Save Us,” “The disappointments and setbacks to the work of God will be temporary, for the work will go forward.”
Remember, too that the Atonement can ultimately pay for all of life’s disappointments, regardless of what caused them. Never lose hope. The Lord has promised that “all things shall give [us] experience, and shall be for [our] good.”
4. The Lord Has a Plan for You
This truth can be the hardest thing to keep in perspective, especially when we’re faced with adversity. We may be tempted to surrender those daily habits like scripture study and prayer, especially if we don’t believe they’re working for us.
But giving up on the gospel and its principles will deprive you of joys you’d have never thought possible. In his talk “A Matter of a Few Degrees,” Dieter F. Uchtdorf warns, “The difference between happiness and misery in individuals, in marriages, and families often comes down to an error of only a few degrees.” Don’t surrender the guidance of a loving Father in Heaven in a moment of pain.
The Lord’s plan may not always seem to make sense in our limited perspectives, but look back on your life and recognize what He’s done for you so far. Who has he brought into your life? What skills have you developed in your experiences? What talents have you shared? Don’t give up. Trust in Him. His wisdom and love are the two things we can always count on.
5. Living the Gospel Isn’t “Cookie Cutter”
The idea that God wants us all to be the same is a myth. In fact, the only thing that His most faithful followers will have in common with each other in the end is a testimony and a commitment to live the gospel; that’s what makes you a Mormon, not the number of kids you have or where you call home.
Of course, trials are a part of life whether we’re committed to living the gospel or not; keep that in mind before you let yourself believe that the gospel isn’t working for you. The next time we find ourselves making comparisons, Dieter F. Uchtdorf suggests that we ask ourselves the following questions:
- Does my life have meaning?
- Do I believe in God?
- Do I believe that God knows and loves me?
- Do I believe that God hears and answers my prayers?
- Am I truly happy?
- Are my efforts leading me to the highest spiritual goals and values in life?
As long as we’re striving each and every day to make the answers to these questions a confident “yes!” we’re on the right track.
How has the gospel strengthened your confidence and supported your uniqueness? Comment below!