Two hundred and eight years ago today, a baby boy named Joseph Smith came into the world. The LDS Church released an article today concerning the life of Joseph Smith and I would encourage all of you to take a moment today and read it.
What I wanted to focus on today in this piece was a lesson that we all can learn from Joseph Smith. This lesson is the habit of constantly comparing ourselves to those around us. Joseph Smith was a “rough stone rolling” and had within him many faults and shortcomings that can be found of almost anyone who comes into this life. However, he learned early on that this was not his church, but God’s church and as such it would be run in a manner that was pleasing to him. When the church was first organized on Tuesday, April 6th 1830 at the Whitmer home in Fayette, New York, there were roughly 60 individuals who gathered together to witness the formal start of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.
Joseph easily could have been discouraged thinking to himself how few they were in numbers. Even later as the church continued to grow, he could have looked at church’s like the Catholic Church or other Evangelical groups of the time and been discouraged that they were not greater in numbers as they were. However, Joseph understood where the church was relative to where the Lord wanted them to be. He knew that he was precisely where he needed to be at that time and that the church was on the path that God wanted it to be regardless of its position relative to other churches at the time. As he famously spoke that day to the small group of priesthood brethren that attended “Brethren, I have been very much edified and instructed in your testimonies here tonight, but I want to say to you before the Lord, that you know no more concerning the destinies of this Church and kingdom than a babe upon its mother’s lap. You don’t comprehend it…It is only a little handful of Priesthood you see here tonight, but this Church will fill North and South America –it will fill the world.”
Joseph was not discouraged with the small turnout that day as he was not comparing the church or himself for that matter to other churches or ministers at the time. He was not focused on what he didn’t have but instead focused on what he did have. He didn’t focus on the blessings that the Lord had not given to him at that point in his life but focused on what He had given him. He knew that he was doing what the Lord wanted him to do and that allowed him to be happy in the situation that he found himself in. He knew that so long as he continued to grow, so long as he continued to move forward along the path that God had laid out before him, that he would be happy and would fulfill his responsibilities as the first prophet of this dispensation.
So what about us? How often do we find ourselves in our lives focusing on what we don’t have? How often do we focus on material possessions, spiritual blessings or gifts of others rather than on what the Lord has given to us already?
We all do it. We all fall victim to this habit and if asked, most of us would respond with something along the lines of “yeah, I know I compare myself to other too much. I really need to work on not doing that” but yet day after day, year after year we continue to fall into this same self-destructive habit of constantly evaluating the successfulness of our lives to the accomplishments of others. We continue to fall into the same comparisons and same feelings of inadequacy/envy/discouragement day in and day out, constantly trying to keep up with the neighbors next door.
We also need to remember that comparing ourselves to other individuals is a double edge sword. We all know and understand that external comparisons can overly discourage us unnecessarily at times but often fail to remember that it can also prevent us from achieving our full potential when we compare ourselves to others who are not as far along the track as we are. Internally reflecting on what we need to improve on is much more effective and productive than external comparisons.
Astronauts would not be astronauts if they believed that the sky was the limit. It takes times and actively being engaged and self-reflection to get over any habit that we may have. Overcoming this constant comparison to others is no different. Remember that to the extent you base your own internal motivation and desire to accomplish or achieve some tangible goal on someone else’s accomplishment/situation/wealth, you have given control of your life to that individual.
We also need to let go of this idea of who others want us to be and embrace who our Heavenly Father want us to become. You’re not dumb – you’re learning. Knowing the difference will change your entire outlook on life and how you face challenges that will be coming your way. Heavenly Father has a plan for all of us and we will never be that person that He wants us to be if we are constantly trying to guess and figure out what others want us to become. Authenticity goes a long way in the eternal aspect of things. Be true to who you are and to what you know to be right and be the very best “you” you can be.