Your Past Does Not Define You

I was struck this morning by something Elder S. Gifford Nielsen observed about Joshua: He was raised as a slave in Egypt. How did he become the successor of Moses, leading the children of Israel into the promised land? Certainly not by dwelling on his own weaknesses or lack of qualifications. Here is Elder Nielsen’s commentary:

Consider the Old Testament hero Joshua. He was a devoted follower of Moses, one of the greatest leaders in history. After Moses departed, it was Joshua’s time. He was to lead the children of Israel into the promised land. How would he do that? Joshua had been born and raised in slavery in Egypt. He had no handbook or instructional videos to help him. He didn’t even have a smartphone! But he did have this promise from the Lord:

“As I was with Moses, so I will be with thee: I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.

“Be strong and of a good courage” (Joshua 1:5–6).

This is Our Time!” General Conference, April 2021

The call and the words of encouragement were unequivocal. Joshua needed to accept those assurances and act in faith.

Many stellar leaders have come from less-than-ideal backgrounds. Lehi acknowledged that his son Jacob had suffered much in his early years, due to being born in the wilderness and the “rudeness” of his older brothers (2 Nephi 2:1). When Alma organized the church at the waters of Mormon, he had previously served as a corrupt priest under the wicked king Noah (Mosiah 17:1-4, 18). Mormon and Moroni lived in a time when “wickedness did prevail upon the face of the whole land” (Mormon 1:13) and when the people around them committed horrific atrocities. (See Moroni 9.) How did they overcome these circumstances and fulfill their God-given callings? By focusing on what they needed to do and trusting that God would help them do it.

Elder Nielsen assured us that we can also accomplish great things with God’s help:

When we hear stories of God’s mighty servants who came before us…they seem bigger than life. But they were not that different from us. They were regular people who faced challenges. They trusted the Lord. They made the right choices at pivotal moments. And, with faith in Jesus Christ, they performed the works required in their time.

This is Our Time!” General Conference, April 2021

Elder Nielson also reminded us that President Russell M. Nelson said:

Our Savior and Redeemer, Jesus Christ, will perform some of His mightiest works between now and when He comes again. We will see miraculous indications that God the Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, preside over this Church in majesty and glory.

Revelation for the Church, Revelation for Our Lives,” General Conference, April 2018

We need to be willing to do our part as the Savior calls upon us to assist with these “mighty works.”

Today, I will remember that the Lord is willing to work with us where we are. I will not allow suboptimal circumstances, whether self-inflicted or beyond my control, to distract me from exercising faith in Him and doing the work He calls me to do.

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