My story is quite “ordinary.” Growing up, although I enjoyed learning, I was not the top student in any class. I cannot boast of any expert skills. I play the piano, but only enough to stumble through a hymn. I love to visit art museums to see the paintings and sculptures by great masters, yet my artistic talents were limited to doodling designs in my notebooks. I learned to sew a wearable skirt, but tailoring a suit was definitely beyond my ability. Although I was blessed with good health and loved to run through the park or swim in the lake, I didn’t participate in school sports at any level. I was never asked to the prom, I wasn’t the president of anything, I was never one of the popular group, and one strikingly attractive friend said to me after scrutinizing my features, “Well, you’ll never be beautiful, but you could be cute.” In other words, I was just average.
Some of you may relate to these kinds of experiences, feeling that you are also “just average.” Have you ever felt ordinary, maybe even less than average? If you’re human—and particularly, a female human—you have probably experienced those times of self-doubt and discouragement that you are not all that you want to be.
And yet, even in my “ordinariness,” Heavenly Father saw value and has helped me begin to develop the gifts and graces He knows will help me become all that He has designed me to be. Know that your Heavenly Father will provide all that you need to become “extra”-ordinary as a daughter of God. The wonder of His heavenly economy is that every single one of us can be spectacular because of our unique bundle of talents and abilities. Unlike the world, in His kingdom there is no winner’s platform that only has room for one or two. Each of His daughters has been taught and prepared and gifted premortally with marvelous potential to become a queen in the celestial kingdom.
What do you want to accomplish in your life? What are your goals and aspirations? If your long-term goal is to enter the celestial kingdom to live with our Heavenly Parents and with loved family members forever, that singular focus will take you farther than you now think is possible. We are promised, “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man [or woman], the things which God hath prepared for them that love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9).
We know that God’s “work and glory is to bring to pass the immortality”—which has already been accomplished through the Savior’s Atonement and Resurrection—“and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39). His goal is for every single one of us to return to our eternal home, having increased the talents and gifts with which He blesses us through our obedience and perseverance during this mortal life. We know we cannot do this on our own, but through Heavenly Father’s love and the Savior’s grace, we can accomplish all that is required for exaltation.
That thought sustained me when I was called to this responsibility just a few weeks ago. Knowing that I do not have all the wisdom and ability to fulfill what will be required, I nevertheless take comfort and strength from the knowledge that God “has all wisdom, and all power, both in heaven and in earth” (Mosiah 4:9), and if we just try, just do our best, imperfect as that will be, the Lord will be “on [our] right hand and on [our] left,” and “angels [will] bear [us] up” (D&C 84:88). All He requires is “the heart and a willing mind” (D&C 64:34), and as we are obedient to His commandments, we will be strengthened to accomplish all that is required in this life as well as for entrance into His kingdom in the life hereafter. That choice to become a disciple of Christ gives us the opportunity to wield a more-than-might-be-expected influence on those around us.
Every one of us has this same promise and potential. It matters not where we live, the makeup of our family, the size of our bank account, whether we are a world-class expert in some field, or how long we have been a member of the Church—we can each be a powerful influence for good. Living with integrity at home and in the community, using a gentle voice and kind words with a challenging child or difficult coworker, demonstrating your standards by your modest way of dressing, reaching out of your comfort zone to become acquainted with those who live around you—there are many simple actions we can do that will influence others to also rise to a higher plane.
My story is ordinary. Yours might be too. But God has given each of us gifts, opportunities, and experiences to help us become “extra”-ordinary.
So, what “extraordinary thing” will you choose to do? Choose something according to your available time and resources. “Do not run faster or labor more than you have strength and means … but be diligent” (D&C 10:4). Whether your “work of salvation” is largely in the home at this time in life or your influence extends to a global scale, or somewhere in between, the Lord is pleased with your efforts when you are focused on serving God’s children and the eternal goal of returning to Him as a “new and improved” version of your spiritual self. As President Dieter F. Uchtdorf phrased it so succinctly, “Exaltation is our goal; discipleship is our journey.”
As we go forward in this journey of discipleship, may we each determine to reach out in small and simple ways that bless our families and others in “extraordinary” ways.
From the address “How Vast Is Our Purpose,” delivered at BYU Women’s Conference on May 5, 2017.