I lay in bed at the end of the day doing an inventory. I took my mom and dad to the doctor; I supported a friend who is having a hard time; I donated blood; I made my husband’s favorite dinner; I took a meal to a friend who just had surgery. Yes, it’s ok—I mattered today. But I have to start over tomorrow.
Am I alone in doing this kind of devilish inventory at the end of each day? Devilish, because it is based on a false and deceptive doctrine—that my worth is somehow calculated by my works, that God weighs my efforts in the balance at the end of the day to determine whether I am found wanting, that I earn my place in the Kingdom by my good works.
Many of us, even unconsciously, adopt a “works = worth” mindset, and it is damaging because it misrepresents the nature of God and my relationship with Him.
If my worth is not based on the things I do, how is it measured? Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf addresses this beautifully in his explanation of the parable of the lost sheep. We are His sheep. Why is the sheep worthy of rescue? Elder Uchtdorf explains the “sheep is worthy of divine rescue simply because it is loved by the Good Shepherd.”[i] President Thomas S. Monson teaches that “[t]he worth of a soul is its capacity to become as God.”[ii] A third witness, Sister Joy Jones, declares “[s]piritual worth means to value ourselves the way Heavenly Father values us, not as the world values us. Our worth was determined before we ever came to this earth.”[iii]
Our choices reveal our desires
While worthiness may ebb and flow with our behavior, our worth is fixed and constant. We are of infinite worth to God, so much so that He declares His work to be our immortality and eternal life. So much so that He sent His Son to die for us so that we may live again. We matter to Him. He loves us because God is love and we are His—not because we earn His attention or His love.
If our worth is established before we are born, why do we misguidedly work so hard to establish it and reestablish it through our works? Why do we repeatedly search for worth in what we do, not who we are?
Perhaps it is difficult to separate ourselves from our activities. The way we spend our time is a valuable clue to what matters most to us. If I say I value the scriptures, but I spend the morning time set aside for scripture reading scrolling through Facebook instead, it’s clear I actually value Facebook more in that moment. Our choices do reveal our desires and determine our worthiness, which is subject to change.
However, if my worth were based on what I do, it too would be changeable, subject to illness, circumstances, and mood. This is not so. My worth is eternal, determined by my Parentage and the enduring love Heavenly Father and Heavenly Mother have for me, their daughter.
My worth is fixed, and so is His love
When I separate out my intrinsic worth from my behavior, I am better able to see what I do and don’t control. I do control my choices and behavior, and I can change those behaviors to align more or less closely with my values. If I believe it is valuable to serve others, if I find joy in helping others, then that is how I choose to spend my time. But it doesn’t increase my value or lovability in God’s eyes.
I want to be
“engaged in a good cause, and do many things of [my] own free will, and bring
to pass much righteousness” (D&C 58:27) because I love God, and that love
invites me to love and serve others. But I need to stop fooling myself into
believing that my good works make me more or less valuable in God’s eyes.
I am always valuable to Him. Even on the days I
don’t move far from the couch. Even on the days I binge Netflix. Even on the
days when morning sickness put me into a “life support systems” only mode for
me and my family. If I can take a meal to a new mom, that’s wonderful—He loves
both of us, and He wants His children to serve one another. But it doesn’t make
Him love me more. My worth is fixed, and so is His love. It is infinite.
[i] Uchtdorf, D. F. (2016, April). He Will Place You on His Shoulders and Carry You Home. Retrieved from https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/2016/04/he-will-place-you-on-his-shoulders-and-carry-you-home?lang=eng.
[ii] Monson, T. S. (2006, April). Our Sacred Priesthood Trust. Retrieved from https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/2006/04/our-sacred-priesthood-trust?lang=eng.
[iii] Jones, J. D. (2017, October). Value beyond Measure. Retrieved from https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/2017/10/value-beyond-measure?lang=eng.