About a month ago my mom sent me a letter and in the letter she included a talk entitled "Look Up" from this January's Ensign. I read the talk and a lot of things really resonated with me. In his talk, Elder Cook talks about how in our lives it is easy to compare ourselves and our lives to those around us--to look to the side. But all the brings is either boastfulness or hurt pride, both of which are harmful. But he proposes a far better alternative and that is to look up and see how our lives compare with what God wants from us and how we are doing in the eyes of God. He then goes on to say "I think the challenge for all of us is to try not to look sideways to see how others are viewing our lives but to look up to see how Heavenly Father sees us."
I read this talk and I just couldn't get the idea out of my mind. It is so evident in today's society that this thought just doesn't exist for most people. You can hear it in the way they talk, in the way they act. "Not get my joy from being better than others? Turn to God to see how I am doing? Why?" And yet this is nothing new. People even had this struggle in the Book of Mormon before Christ was born! The day after I read this talk, I was reading in the Book of Mormon: Alma 45. Alma has been leading the Church for a number of years and finally gives the control of the Church to his son Helaman and is never heard from again. In the early days of Helaman's leadership a great pride begins to grow within the hearts of many members of the Church. In verse 24 we learn we this pride and division occurred, "But they grew proud, being lifted up in their hearts, because of their exceedingly great riches; therefore they grew rich in their own eyes, and would not give heed to their words, to walk uprightly before God." As I read this verse, I realized that underlined part. The people didn't grow rich in the eyes of God, they didn't grow spiritually rich. They became rich because the looked to the side; they compared themselves with those around them and felt superior and prideful because they had more than those around them. That is exactly what pride is--feeling better when others feel worse! And that is what the Nephites were developing.
But then a few chapters later, we are introduced to Pahoran, the chief judge in the land (comparable to the president) who gives us a good example of looking up when faced with a decision.Within the first year of his righteous reign, Pahoran is faced with an insurrection: a group of dissenters want him to change some of the laws. Being the righteous king the he is he knows that this will not be for the good of the people so he refuses to change those laws. In verse 3 it gives us a little more information than that, saying "But behold, Pahoran would not alter nor suffer the law to be altered; therefore he did not hearken to those who had sent in their voices with their petitions concerning the altering of the law." Pahoran knew that it was far more important for him to follow God and hearken to His voice rather than the voices of those opposed to him. When faced with opposition, rather than looking around him for help, this great example looked up and followed the guidance of an all-knowing God.
Last weekend we had our semi-annual general conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. At conference we hear from our leaders on ways that we can improve and how we can grow closer to God. I loved all of the talks and I have enjoyed listening to them again since conference, but one that stands out to me was that very last talk of general conference, by Elder Neil L. Anderson. His entire talk was centered on this idea of focusing our attention on what God thinks of us rather than what others think of us. There were a lot of powerful thoughts that I got from this talk but the biggest one was the simple, introspective question of "What thinks Christ of me?"
There is a lot that could be said to follow that question, but there really isn't anything that needs to be said. That perfectly sums up this entire thought and this whole post! One of the worst things we can do is compare ourselves to those around us and wonder how we are viewed by them. On the other hand, one of the very best things we can do is constantly wonder how we are viewed by God. I know in my life it is hard to not look around and notice how all of the people around me seem to be doing far better than I am. But on the same hand, I know how much more peaceful and enjoyable life is as we do focus our attention of what Christ thinks of us rather than what others think of us. And besides, isn't our whole purpose in life to be continuously trying to improve ourselves; to be better than we were yesterday; to learn what God wants us to learn and become what He has in mind for us?
I invite anyone who is willing and desirous to find more peace and joy in their lives, to whenever you compare yourself to someone else, whenever you feel like less because someone has more to forget the other people and ask yourself "What thinks Christ of me?" I promise that it will help!