At twelve, I felt the first stirrings of destiny. What plan did God have for me, and how could I follow it? I took German and French, discovering I had a knack for languages. Maybe I’d serve a mission. Perhaps I’d become an ambassador, maybe even feed the hungry masses in India. I loved, loved, loved to read and write, so maybe I’d become a writer and uplift millions around the world with my lyrical prose. Perhaps the Lord could use my literary talents to spread the gospel, like the Osmonds used their music. And I would get married (to Donny Osmond, I secretly hoped) and have children, raise up future missionaries, maybe even a prophet. Surely I was destined for greatness. I would emblazon my name across the night sky, make my grand mark on the world.
And then I received my patriarchal blessing, which said nothing of greatness and fame, or marrying Donny Osmond, but which did give me clues about my life’s mission: I would get a good education, be a missionary and spread the gospel through my example, raise a righteous family, and be a “ray of sunshine” to those around me. A good life, to be sure, but rather quiet and unassuming, it seemed to me. Still, I looked for ways to make my mark and fulfill my destiny as I served a mission in Peru, went to graduate school, married and had children, did a little writing. And though I haven’t become famous or written a bestseller (thanks for taking that one, Stephenie Meyer) or cured cancer or saved India, I’m learning that my life’s mission is important, nevertheless, and that it evolves as my life unfolds.
In her essay “Wherever She Is,” published in the Summer, 2009 issue of Segullah, Lani R. Axman shares similar feelings. She describes how she tried to fulfill her “life’s true mission” by following the admonition in her patriarchal blessing to “uplift and strengthen others” through giving them “special care and tender touches.” As Axman explored different avenues for service—learning Spanish, majoring first in social work and then in English, applying to law school, studying to become a doula—she searched for the one true fulfillment of her life’s mission: “I was going to fulfill my purpose, and I was going to do it on a grand scale. I would swing open a mighty door, step in, and dispense my ‘special care’ to the masses. Isn’t a mission from God inherently laced with magnitude?” One day she read a pamphlet written by Sister Hinckley, in which Sister Hinckley quoted Elaine Cannon: “A woman’s significant role is that of being an influence wherever she is.” Is that it, Axman wondered? Is that all? But then, as the weeks passed, Axman understood through the Spirit’s gentle tutelage that she was fulfilling her life’s mission—uplifting and strengthening others—by influencing those closest to her. She realized, “There have been no downtrodden masses uplifted or strengthened by my efforts, but somehow, in all my searching (or perhaps despite it), I managed to touch a few souls here and there.”
Like Axman, I’m learning that a significant part of my life’s mission is to nurture those in my own small circle. And that, though each of us has a unique life mission, making a difference wherever we are seems to be at the heart of each of our missions. “The Master does not focus on the how and the what. He simply savors the why and for whom,” says Axman. I might still do some *big* and *important* things (and I will admit to you that one of my secret ambitions is to one day speak in Women’s Conference—my current version of fame), but right now I seem to be accomplishing my life’s mission by driving my daughter to soccer games; teaching my Beehives how to keep a journal; writing to my missionary nephews; taking a loaf of pumpkin bread to the sweet, elderly widow I visit teach; matching socks and folding laundry; tutoring my son in writing a coherent essay; and writing a blog post here and there. In short, by quietly exerting my influence wherever I am, by being a ray of sunshine in my own tiny section of the garden. And as my life continues to unfold, I hope to remain open to the opportunities the Lord gives me to make my mark, one tiny brushstroke at a time.
Discuss any/all of the following:
What were your ambitions when you were young?
What do you perceive as being your “life’s true mission” and how has that mission evolved throughout your life?
How has being a woman affected your perception/execution of your life’s mission?
In what ways has your patriarchal blessing been fulfilled, and in what ways has its fulfillment been different than you envisioned?
How are you making your mark on the world?