Are you curious about God’s plan for your future? I am very curious because I have a broken back. Since November 7, 2021, I have had seven compression fractures along my spine. I had two other vertebrae fused in May of last year. No, I didn’t fall. I have severe osteoporosis, and the breaks happened spontaneously. Since November seventh, I have spent a combined sixteen days in the hospital. I’m now home and need help with every aspect of life. I lie on my broken back about 80% of each twenty-four hours.
During this time of severe pain and immobility, I’ve had a lot of time to think of others who are also wondering what God’s plan is for them. My fifty-year-old friend down the street has been co-existing with colon cancer for seven and one-half years, which has now spread to his lungs and liver. My fifty-year old son-in-law has advanced Parkinson’s disease. Hard things seem to be everywhere. You would think this was all bad news. But if you talked to these men, they would share examples of tender mercies—the hand of God—in their lives.
This last time, I was admitted to the hospital for severe pain. Next morning, I was taken to get an MRI. I had no idea how I could be moved from my bed to the MRI table, and I had no idea that a tender mercy awaited. As I entered the MRI area, a nice-looking Hispanic man came to my bedside and said, “Hello, Marilynne. I am the technician who will do your MRI. Then with the Spanish pronunciation of his name, he said, “My name is Jesus.” I said with awe, “Jesus is going to do my MRI!” Then with the kindest, most loving look, he said, “Yes, and I will take good care of you.”
You have likely seen “I Will Follow God’s Plan for Me” on t-shirts, wall plaques, and refrigerator magnets. You have probably heard Primary children sing: “I Will Follow God’s Plan for Me.” In the process of writing this essay, I asked my husband for a pencil. Surprisingly, it had “I Will Follow God’s Plan for Me” stamped on it. Later, I got a phone call from a friend. I told her about this essay and the pencil. She told me she had been pondering her role in the plan of salvation and had received an interesting insight.
She said the usual way to think about “I will follow God’s plan for me,” is to believe we have to gear up for the bad things that are surely coming. She said she tends to expect one roadblock after another as she travels mortality’s bumpy, rocky path. She believes Heavenly Father uses experience to teach, mold, and refine. She said her frame of mind includes worrying about problems that haven’t happened yet, causing anxiety. Then when bad things do happen, she feels down, even depressed, and anticipates unpleasant outcomes. She says her way to get through hard times is to buckle up with courage, grit, and perseverance. Candidly, this is how I have lived my life and certainly is one way to get through adversity.
My friend then told me about a more positive way to think about “I will follow God’s plan for me.” She suggested looking forward to challenges with curiosity. It took me a few minutes to think through how incorporating curiosity could make a difference. I looked up the definition: “Curiosity is a strong desire to know or learn something.” Suddenly I realized that curiosity contains optimism and hope. If I look forward to following God’s plan with curiosity, I can be filled with surprise, wonder, awe, and anticipation. I can trust that God’s ways are higher than my ways. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts (Isaiah 55:8-9).”
Remember what Maria in the Sound of Music sang when she learned she had to leave the convent and become nanny to seven children? She felt it was God’s plan, and she would go forward with courage. But then she sings the principle of curiosity: “What will this day be like? I wonder. What will my future be? I wonder.”
In the book of Ether, we meet Jared, the first leader of the Jaredites. He shows amazing curiosity by anticipating something wonderful is in God’s plan for his people. God told all the people who lived in Babylon that if they did not repent, their language would be confounded, and they would be driven to settle in various parts of the world. Jared’s people were righteous. They prayed the language of their family and friends would not be confounded. It wasn’t. They prayed that the Lord would lead them to a promised land. “Jared spake… And who knoweth but the Lord will carry us forth into a land which is choice above all the earth” (Ether 1:38, italics added)? And He did.
God’s plan includes good things. Jesus said: “What man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him” (Matthew 7:9-11)?
Curiosity includes not automatically jumping to conclusions that something is bad. You may have heard the old tale of the farmer who gets a horse, but it soon runs away. A neighbor says, “That’s bad.” The farmer replies, “Good, bad, hard to tell.” The horse comes back and brings seven wild horses with him. Good, you might say. Then the farmer’s son takes one of the horses out for a ride, gets thrown, and breaks a leg. “So sorry for your bad news,” says the concerned neighbor. “Good, bad, hard to tell,” the farmer replies. In a week or so, the emperor’s men come and take every able-bodied young man to fight in a war. Because of the broken leg, the farmer’s son is spared.
In real life, the prophet Moroni was spared—alive, alone. He said: “For behold, their wars are exceedingly fierce… and because of their hatred they put to death every Nephite that will not deny the Christ. And I, Moroni, will not deny the Christ; wherefore I wander for the safety of my own life” (Moroni 1:1-2). This is the worst news imaginable. But Moroni knows that good news will come. He even puts it in writing. In Ether 5, he writes a chapter to the future translator of the plates; plates he will soon bury in the Hill Cumorah. He tells this future translator (Joseph Smith) how to go about translating and that there will be three witnesses.
I thought about Joseph Smith incarcerated in Liberty Jail. In the beginning you would say it was a very, very bad turn of events. Now when you read Doctrine Covenants 121,122, 123, you would say it was good. Thank you, Joseph, for enduring. Because of you we know this priceless truth: “Know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience and shall be for thy good” (Doctrine and Covenants 122:7).
I heard the story of a young man experiencing a faith crisis. With enough testimony still lingering in his heart, he prayed to know if staying in the Church was the right thing. His answer came via words to his mind: “Trust me. It’s going to be good.”
Now as I am traveling on one of life’s rough, bumpy roads, I hope I will:
- Watch for tender mercies, perhaps seeing Jesus at my side.
- Remember “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts (Isaiah 55:8-9).”
- Sing with curiosity: “What will my future be, I wonder.”
- Know that with prayer the Lord will carry me forth to my own promised land.
- Recall that God won’t give me a stone or a serpent. He gave us His Son who is the bread of life. He gives good things to them that ask.
- Not jump to the conclusion that something is bad, rather be patient and think: “Good, bad, hard to tell.”
- Remember that Moroni, though all alone, prepared for the future.
- Remember the Lord’s purpose: “Know thou, my son [daughter], that all these things shall give thee experience and shall be for thy good.”
Since God knows the plan and I don’t, I can remind myself of whom it is I am trusting. Our Father in Heaven is omnipotent, omnipresent, and omniscient, the Supreme Being, ruler of the Universe, who knows the end from the beginning, the Almighty. He is the Eternal Father. We hear His name spoken reverently every week: “O God, the Eternal Father” (Doctrine and Covenants 20:77). He is our Father. We are His work and His glory. He allows mortality to teach us hard things because His plan is for us to become as He is. This is why I am curious about His plan for me. This is why I trust Him, and this is why I know it’s going to be good.