Our accountability to God will be clearer, and our scrambling
to meet the expectations of everyone else will be muted.
That seems to bring sweet relief, doesn't it?
One of the difficult things about life can be all of the conflicting expectations of others.
Everyone needs help; everyone has an idea of who we should be and what we should do.
What if we have submitted our life to God's will?
Then we receive direction from him and answer to him. Not that we won't accommodate and help others. Of course we will be doing that constantly. He has told us that we are to help and serve one another, but how,
where, when, etc., will be answered in the peaceful corners of our hearts—between him and
Sister Marjorie Hinckley recently said:
"We each do the best we can. My best may
not be as good as your best, but it's my best. The fact is that we know when we are doing our best and when we are not. If we are not . . . it leaves us with a gnawing hunger and
frustration. But when we do our level best, we experience peace"
(Church News, 18 Apr. 1998).
Yes, when we have joyfully, voluntarily, and quietly submitted our whole lives to
the Lord's will, we will not have the burden of judging ourselves or others by an outward checklist. We can never judge the inward righteousness of another. What if someone looking at my friend in the psychiatric ward condemned her for failing to do her church work, for failing to adequately take care of her family, for contributing so little to her neighborhood? What if we condemned her, not knowing that in a very real and heart wrenching way she is doing her best by waiting upon the Lord's will and that holding onto
that image of a root that will send forth shoots again—that simple thought—is an heroic
expression of faith and agency.
Think about the Relief Society sister who seems to energetically and consistently
stretch the hours of the day to serve family, church, and community. Loaves of bread,
enthusiasm, and perfect visiting teaching records pour out of her front door. But we can't
judge her, either. Are these things expressions of her faith and choice to align her will with
the Lord's? They may be—or they may not be. Elder Dallin H. Oaks taught us about the
different motivations for service. He said there "are selfish and self-centered [reasons for
service] that "are unworthy of Saints." There are "those who serve out of fear of punishment
or out of a sense of duty." "Although [these] undoubtedly qualify for the blessings of
heaven, there are still higher reasons for service" (Ensign, Nov. 1984, 14). Elder Oaks then
taught us that the highest reason for service is out of a pure love of Christ.
Paul taught the same lesson about service: "Not with eyeservers, as menpleasers; but as the servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart; with good will doing service,
as to the Lord, and not to men" (Ephesians 6:6–7).
What a relief! We don't have to judge ourselves or another against an incredibly long
list. We are plainly and simply accountable to the Lord and to ourselves. President Gordon
B. Hinckley expressed this accountability in a recent general conference address: "The work
in which we are engaged is their work [meaning the Father and the Son], and we are their
servants, who are answerable to them." In another talk he reminded us that it doesn't matter
what others think of us: "How we regard ourselves is what is important" (Ensign, May 1998,
This accountability frees us each night, using the words of President Brigham
Young, to "review the acts of the day, repent of our sins, and say our prayers; then we can
lie down and sleep in peace until the morning, arise with gratitude to God, commence the
labors of another day, and strive to live the whole day to God and nobody else" (Brigham
Young, Teachings of Presidents of the Church Series [Salt Lake City: The Church of Jesus
Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1997], 25)