Moroni was painfully aware of his limitations. As he summarized the Jaredite record, he compared himself unfavorably to one of the authors of the Jaredite plates. Moroni worried that his imperfections would cause future readers to reject his writings, and he shared his anxiety with God in prayer:
Behold, thou hast not made us mighty in writing like unto the brother of Jared, for thou madest him that the things which he wrote were mighty even as thou art, unto the overpowering of man to read them.
Thou hast also made our words powerful and great, even that we cannot write them; wherefore, when we write we behold our weakness, and stumble because of the placing of our words; and I fear lest the Gentiles shall mock at our words.Ether 12:24-25
In response, God reassured Moroni that his words would be impactful to those who were willing to listen, and that His grace would compensate for Moroni’s deficiencies . Then, He gave what might seem at first to be a surprising promise: “If men come unto me,” He said, “I will show unto them their weakness” (Ether 12:27).
Why would we want Him to show us our weaknesses? Wouldn’t we rather focus on our strengths? I think the answer is, it depends on how serious we are about following the path of discipleship. Our Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ want to help us live more abundantly and to have more joy (John 10:10, 2 Nephi 2:25). In order to do that, we must change, and the first step in making those changes is knowing what we can do better.
In the most recent general conference, Elder Scott D. Whiting encouraged us to be more thoughtful and intentional in our efforts to become more like the Savior. He said that we might start with a self-evaluation, like Moroni did in the passage above. But Elder Whiting warned us that our self-assessment may not be accurate: “Sometimes we see ourselves with distorted fun-house mirrors that show us either much more round or much more lean than we really are.”
One remedy is to turn to trusted loved ones, who can be more objective. But because they are also human, their perception may also be somewhat inaccurate. That is why Elder Whiting recommended that we take advantage of God’s promise in the passage above:
It is vital that we also ask our loving Heavenly Father what we are in need of and where we should focus our efforts. He has a perfect view of us and will lovingly show us our weakness. Perhaps you will learn that you need greater patience, humility, charity, love, hope, diligence, or obedience, to name a few.“Becoming Like Him,” General Conference, October 2020
Several church leaders have described their experiences with taking advantage of this promise. Here are a few examples:
While Sister Neill F. Marriott participates in the sacrament each Sunday, she prays for forgiveness of the sins she is aware of. Then, she asks, “Father, is there more?” She explained: “When we are yielded and still, our minds can be directed to something more we may need to change—something that is limiting our capacity to receive spiritual guidance or even healing and help” (“Yielding Our Hearts to God,” General Conference, October 2015).
Sister Michelle D. Craig regularly asks the following two questions: “What am I doing that I should stop doing?” and “What am I not doing that I should start doing?” Then, she acts on the promptings she receives through the Spirit (“Eyes to See,” General Conference, October 2020).
Elder Larry R. Lawrence, who called the journey of discipleship “a course of steady improvement,” shared numerous anecdotes of people receiving practical instruction on simple things they could do better by asking the following questions in prayer:
- “What do I need to change?”
- “How can I improve?”
- “What weakness needs strengthening?”
- “What lack I yet?” (Matthew 19:20)
- “What is keeping me from progressing?”
Elder Lawrence explained that we need to keep asking these questions over and over, because improvement comes incrementally:
The Holy Ghost doesn’t tell us to improve everything at once. If He did, we would become discouraged and give up. The Spirit works with us at our own speed, one step at a time, or as the Lord has taught, “line upon line, precept upon precept, … and blessed are those who hearken unto my precepts, … for unto him that receiveth I will give more.” For example, if the Holy Ghost has been prompting you to say “thank you” more often, and you respond to that prompting, then He may feel it’s time for you to move on to something more challenging—like learning to say, “I’m sorry; that was my fault.”“What Lack I Yet?” General Conference, October 2015
Today I will take advantage of God’s promise to show me my weakness. I will ask him what I can do better, and I will act on the response I receive.