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Rise Up is a show for the youth and young adults looking for answers and encouragement to the difficult and critical questions that some may face about the doctrines, teachings, and culture of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This episode is presented by Nick Galieti and uses portions of two devotionals from Patricia Holland, and Elder John H. Groberg, both given at BYU in 1989 and 1979 respectively.
What is your mission in life?
Some difficult questions about the Church arise from critics. While other difficult questions come from just living life. This week we approach the difficult question, “What is my mission in life?”
With this question comes several other, let’s call them “sub-questions,” that we often ask at the same time. “What job should I get?” “Where should I go to school?” “Is this a person I should date or marry?” Maybe even, “Is this Church true, or is the Book of Mormon true, and if so, then what?”
Because each individual is given the gift of agency, or the ability to spend the time we have been given in this life for what we choose, it would seem like a good idea that we use that agency in the best possible way. For that same reason, discovering and determining our mission and purpose in life is all the more intimidating.
I want to share with you some thoughts that I hope will reinforce the importance of finding our mission. Not because I want to make the question all the more intimidating, but because I think that the more we realize just how important the decision is, the more we will come to understand that because of this high priority, God has put in place all that is needed for us to discover our mission, but also to succeed in that mission. Knowing how important this is to God, may help us have more confidence to approach Him in prayer, knowing He is anxious to bless us with this knowledge.
As with the all the quotes that I share, I will leave you the link for to the full presentation for the posting of this episode at blog.fairmormon.org, so that you can spend time researching the main source, as well as the context in which the quote is given.
To start off, I want to share some parts of a presentation given by Sister Patricia Holland at a BYU devotional entitled Filling the Measure of Your Creation given back in 1989 when her husband, Jeffrey R. Holland was president of the University. She said the following:
All of us face those questions about our role, our purpose, our course in life—and we face them long after we are children. I visit with enough of you (and I remember our own university years well enough) to know that many of you, perhaps most of you, have occasions when you feel off-balance or defeated—at least temporarily. And we ask, ‘What will I be, when will I graduate, whom will I marry, what is my future, how will I make a living, can I make a contribution?”—in short, “What can I be?”
Take heart if you are still asking yourselves such questions, because we all do. I do. We should concern ourselves with our fundamental purposes in life. Surely every philosopher past and present agrees that, important as they are, food and shelter are not enough. We want to know what’s next. Where is the meaning? What is my purpose?
When asking these questions, I have found it extremely reassuring to remember that one of the most important and fundamental truths taught in the scriptures and in the temple is that “Every living thing shall fill the measure of its creation.”
Every one of us has been designed with a divine role and mission in mind. I believe that if our desires and works are directed toward what our heavenly parents have intended us to be, we will come to feel our part in their plan. We will recognize the “full measure of our creation,” and nothing will give us more holy peace.
I once read a wonderful analogy of the limitations our present perspective imposes on us. The message was that in the ongoing process of creation—our creation and the creation of all that surrounds us—our heavenly parents are preparing a lovely tapestry with exquisite colors and patterns and hues. They are doing so lovingly and carefully and masterfully. And each of us is playing a part—our part—in the creation of that magnificent, eternal piece of art.
But in doing so we have to remember that it is very difficult for us to assess our own contributions accurately. We see the rich burgundy of a neighboring thread and think, “That’s the color I want to be.” Then we admire yet another’s soft, restful blue or beige and think, “No, those are better colors than mine.” But in all of this we don’t see our work the way God sees it, nor do we realize that others are wishing they had our color or position or texture in the tapestry—even as we are longing for theirs.
Perhaps most important of all to remember is that through most of the creative period we are confined to the limited view of the underside of the tapestry where things can seem particularly jumbled and muddled and unclear. If nothing really makes very much sense from that point of view, it is because we are still in process and unfinished. But our heavenly parents have the view from the top, and one day we will know what they know—that every part of the artistic whole is equal in importance and balance and beauty. They know our purpose and potential, and they have given us the perfect chance to make the perfect contribution in this divine design.
This is where faith comes in: learning to trust God to guide our lives in such a way that we will actually get a to a point where our greatest potential is realized. While this may seem scary and even intimidating at times, starting with a simple desire to know our mission and purpose in life is huge step in the right direction. Sister Holland continues in talking about the importance of starting with the right desire.
The Lord. has promised us in D&C 12:7 that the only qualification required to be a part of this magnificent plan is to “have desires to bring forth and establish this work.”
Yea, whosoever will thrust in his sickle and reap, the same is called of God.
Therefore, if you will ask of me you shall receive; if you will knock it shall be opened unto you. [D&C 14:4–5]
Sometimes in our sowing and reaping and sifting, it may seem that God says “no” or “not now” or “I don’t think so” when what we want for him to say—what we wish our tapestry to receive—is an affirmative “yes” or “certainly, right now” or “of course it can be yours.” I want you to know that in my life when I have had disappointments and delays, I have lived long enough to see that if I continue to knock with unshakable faith and persist in My patience—waiting upon the Lord and his calendar—I have discovered that the Lord’s “no’s” are merely preludes to an even greater “yes.”
I have a five year old daughter who is incredibly headstrong and is very determined to get what she wants, when she wants it. But she is also learning that asking Mom and Dad the right way increases her chances of getting what she wants when she wants it. But, just as we may find with our earthly parents, our Heavenly Parents know what is best for us and when is the best time for us to get experience those blessings. In the times in my life when I have sought to find answers to prayers, wether they be prayers for answers to questions about gospel topics, or for what to do with my life, I forget that answers come in a couple different ways. They can be a yes, do that. They can be no, don’t do that, or they can be a not yet. That answer, “not yet.” is probably the hardest for me to get because when that answer comes I feel as if I have to guess as to when that answer turns into a yes. To further complicate things, sometimes, the answer that was a “not yet” can turn into a “not anymore-it is no longer the right thing to pursue.” I can echo Sister Holland’s statement, the Lord’s “no’s” are merely preludes to an even greater “yes.”
Because of this, the quest to discover what is our mission in life, is an ongoing and repeated effort. Elder John H. Groberg gave a really good presentation at BYU back in 1979 entitled, “What Is Your Mission?” He also talked about the importance of finding our mission, and implied the importance of re-discovering or reconnecting with our divine work over and over again throughout our lives. He ushers in this process of discovery with this quote:
“Let me begin by asking you a very simple question. The question is this: What is your mission? You might think, “Well, I served in Japan,” or “I served in Virginia,” or wherever, and that is fine; but it is not what I am asking. I mean—what is your mission now? What is your mission in life? What does God expect you to accomplish during your sojourn here upon the earth? And, are you doing it?
I hope that in the next few moments, with the help of the Spirit of the Lord, we can all realize, if we have not realized it before, or, if we have known it, reaffirm in our lives the importance of at least three things: first, that God, our Father in Heaven, does have a specific mission for all of us to fulfill and perform while we are here upon this earth; second, that we can, here and now in this life, discover what that mission is; and third, that with His help we can fulfill that mission and know and have assurance—here and now in this life—that we are doing that which is pleasing to our Father in Heaven. These are all very important concepts; and they are all true.
If we do not know what our mission is, if we are not sure, if we are uncertain as to whether we are in fact fulfilling it, or if we do not have the positive assurance in our lives that our actions and our performance are pleasing to our Father in Heaven, then it does not really matter what else we are spending our time doing—it is not as important as finding out what we should be doing and having the assurance that we are doing it. Or to put it another way, if we are really interested in doing our Father’s will we had better pay the price—whatever price is necessary. We had better pray however fervently, study the scriptures and listen to the Brethren however intently we need to, or in short do whatever is required so that we can have the assurance that we are doing what our Father in Heaven wants us to do—that we are moving in the general area of the mission he has for us to perform. Obviously, that mission will be different for each of us.”
I want to share my testimony that God can and does reveal His will for our lives to individuals all over the world. I know that he has done that for me in my life at different times. I have also witnessed that people will encounter trials, they may even experience trials of their faith, that will cause them to question their life path. Others may be searching for an answer to other difficult questions, and feel that they are not able to find answers to those questions or overcome those trials. When this happens some feel that the option to give up, to stop trying to live gospel standards, is their best option given the circumstances.
Others may even consider that they must not be loved of God, or that maybe there is no God because he is being silent in their lives. I have felt similarly in some trials that I have experienced and in its own way those feelings can be very scary. When this happens some come to a decision that much of what they believed in their life prior to that is either a lie, or some kind of wasted effort. However, the level of doubt I felt during those times of trial, has been exceeded by the level of assurance and peace that I know feel after having heard the voice of the Lord confirm to me, my life’s mission.
There are things that need to take place in order for us to be receptive to God’s voice, to the influence of our Divine Parents. We need to first, have the willingness mentioned earlier, a willingness to not just want an answer, but, as Moroni put it in Moroni 10:3-5, we must listen to God’s voice with real intent. In this case, real intent is not just really wanting to know, but really wanting to follow the answer that is given. Only doing what God wants if it matches what we want is not obedience, nor is it wise. I can say with surety, that God lives, and that he does guide us back to him if we are willing to follow the path that he will place in front of us, regardless of the challenge that may lie in that path.
Next, look to the unique talents with which the Lord has blessed you. Look at who you are, and the experiences you have, no matter how tragic they may appear. These experiences can be utilized in the work of blessing others, and bringing comfort to those who stand in need—to bring others unto Christ.
For some, our purpose may have little to do with career, or education. For some it might be that, for a time, God may need us to simply be there for someone else. To be a disciple of Christ, to be a comfort to those who stand in need of comfort. This is not a diminished calling, or mission in life. We don’t have to be famous, we don’t have to be rich, sometimes the opposite is what the Lord has in place for us at any given time. The answers are different for each person, therefore, it is important that each person spend time in prayer and meditation to discover what the Lord has in store for each individual. Consequently, this also makes it difficult to pass judgement on the choices of others. This is also why we should not rush the process of coming to know our mission in life. The answers will come. They may not come right away, but they will assuredly come to all who seek with real intent. God is not a revelation vending machine. We don’t just pay a price and get the revelation as soon as we ask for it.
There is much more to consider with this subject, so I would recommend listening to the full talks from both Sister Holland and Elder Groberg as those talks will offer additional insights in this effort to find your mission in life, and to live in such a way so as to fulfill it. For now, Sister Holland shares these thoughts with which we will conclude.
When my daughter, Mary, was just a small child, she was asked to perform for a PTA talent contest. This is her experience exactly as she wrote it in her seven-year-old script.
“I was practicing the piano one day, and it made me cry because it was so bad. Then I decided to practice ballet, and it made me cry more; it was bad, too. So then I decided to draw a picture because I knew I could do that good, but it was horrid. Of course it made me cry.
“Then my little three-year-old brother came up, and I said, ‘Duffy, what can I be? What can I be? I can’t be a piano player or an artist or a ballet girl. What can I be?’ He came up to me and whispered, ‘You can be my sister.’”
In an important moment, those five simple words changed the perspective and comforted the heart of a very anxious child. Life became better right on the spot, and as always, tomorrow was a brighter day.
The Lord uses us because of our unique personalities and differences rather than in spite of them. He needs all of us, with all our blemishes and weaknesses and limitations.
So what can I be? What can I be? We can be what heavenly parents designed us and intend us and help us to be. How does one fill the measure of his or her creation? We do so by thrusting in a sickle and reaping with all our strength—and by rejoicing in our uniqueness and our difference. To be all that you can be, your only assignment is (1) to cherish your course and savor your own distinctiveness, (2) to shut out conflicting voices and listen to the voice within, which is God telling you who you are and what you will be, and (3) to free yourself from the love of profession, position, or the approval of men by remembering that what God really wants us to be is someone’s sister, someone’s brother, and someone’s friend.
I bear my testimony that each of you has a purpose. It is different, it is distinct, it is divine. God lives. God loves you. And I do, too. I say this in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.