Standing up from the chapel pew after my first sacrament meeting in my new ward, I wondered where I should go for Sunday School class. Anxiously I stepped to the aisle. Looking around, I noticed the friendly face of a person who turned out to be the Sunday School president. He introduced himself and offered to escort me to class.
As we walked down the corridor, I felt anxious and my confidence wavered momentarily until I whispered a silent prayer. My plea was quickly answered and I felt enough courage that a smile crept across my face as I entered the room. The Sunday School president introduced me to the class, I found a seat near the door, and the teacher began.
Seeing the class full of people younger than myself, I knew immediately that I, at twenty-eight years old, no longer belonged in a class of young adults in their late teens and early twenties.
The next Sunday I found my own way to another class. Every Relief Society room has a Gospel Doctrine class, I thought as I slipped into the Relief Society room and sat down. The time passed quickly and I felt comfortable. As class ended, a sister approached me and introduced herself.
“I think you might be in the wrong class,” she said, wanting to be helpful. My heart sank, but I smiled and thanked her for her concern. How could she know how awkward and insecure I felt as a new member in the ward, longing to find my own niche? “You might enjoy attending the class they teach in the Aaronic Priesthood room,” she continued.
Where do I belong? I kept asking myself as I drove home from church that day. Tears streamed down my face as the words square peg in a round hole kept ringing in my ears. I knew the gospel was true, I knew I wanted to attend my meetings, but why did I have to feel so lonely, uncomfortable, conspicuous?
That second Sunday in my new home found me tearfully pleading with my Heavenly Father to help me find my spot, my little place where I could fit in and be of some use to someone. I continued to attend my meetings, even though I felt lonely and I didn’t know anyone. I was trying to be worthy of my blessings, and every day I prayed for help to adjust to my new home and graciously accept that I was still unmarried.
Prayers are answered, often without our realizing it right away. Though I couldn’t pinpoint the exact moments, slowly and naturally, day by day, I found direction and inspiration, strength and courage. I started enjoying things that I had not really enjoyed before: baking, home decorating, flowers, books, new friends, new challenges in my church and profession.
The bishop called me to direct the ward road show, and I met people in the ward. Soon I found myself leading the music in sacrament meeting and teaching the cultural refinement lesson in Relief Society. Though I was frightened each time I taught, I loved it. My Church callings, my ward friends, and my new hobbies filled up what could have been lonely evenings and weekends.
The brothers and sisters in my ward generously accepted me. They taught me many things by their unselfish service. The sweet, well-meaning sister who tried to help me that second Sunday was my Relief Society president, and she became a dear friend and example to me. My impressions and conclusions that first Sunday were certainly not accurate. A little faith, patience, and trust in the Lord go a long way when there are also loving and good-hearted people within reach who need my touch as much as I need theirs.
More than fifteen years have passed since then, and my understanding has increased and my blessings are beyond measure. The trials come and go, just as they should, and I still counsel with the Lord about his will for me and pray for faith and patience. But now I am more concerned with being worthy of the peace and comfort I feel. What have I done to deserve so many opportunities to grow and feel so much a part of everything around me? One clear answer comes to my heart repeatedly: “If you love me and keep my commandments, I will pour out a blessing that you will not be able to contain.”
This promise is extended to all of our Heavenly Father’s children—sons or daughters, married or single. Our decision to keep the commandments cannot be contingent on our earthly wealth, marital status, or convenience. If we are to find happiness, we must live our lives with the firm resolve to return home to our Heavenly Father.
The Savior’s last commandment to his disciples before his crucifixion was to “love one another, as I have loved you” (John 15:12). He clearly understood that in obeying this commandment, the giver would benefit as much, if not more, than the receiver.
If we become anxiously involved in giving and genuinely loving others, we will feel loved also. I found that when I reached out to others and devoted myself to the Lord’s work, I felt needed and useful. We must not limit ourselves to loving only a husband or our own children or our parents. If we do, then we are also limiting our opportunities to learn about and personally experience the perfect law of love.
Our Father in Heaven is not a respecter of persons. His desire is for each of his children to inherit eternal life. “We were placed here on earth to progress toward our destiny of eternal life,” taught Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. “To realize a fulness of joy, we had to prove our willingness to keep the commandments of God in a circumstance where we had no memory of what preceded our mortal birth” (Ensign, Nov. 1993, p. 72). To have children return home is a desire characteristic of any loving parent.
Women in the Church have an honorable, unique mission and responsibility. President Gordon B. Hinckley defined that mission when he said to the sisters of the Church, “We uphold and sustain you as daughters of God, working in a great partnership to assist him in bringing to pass the immortality and eternal life of all the sons and daughters of God” (Ensign, Nov. 1984, p. 89).
In a revelation given through the Prophet Joseph Smith to his wife, Emma Smith, the Lord admonished her, saying:
“And verily I say unto thee that thou shalt lay aside the things of this world, and seek for the things of a better. …
“Keep my commandments continually, and a crown of righteousness thou shalt receive. And except thou do this, where I am you cannot come” (D&C 25:10, 15).
The Lord closes the revelation, saying, “This is my voice unto all. Amen” (D&C 25:16).
That counsel was not just for Emma and her time only; it is applicable to all people, including all women of the Church since that time. As daughters of God, we cannot allow self-pity to keep us from reaching our full potential. A father, mother, husband, or children do not achieve that blessing for us. Each of us has unique challenges, yet what these are does not matter as much to the Lord as how we meet them. We might not in this life ever know the answers to “Why me?” questions, but a loving Father has promised us strength and comfort along the path if we’ll remain close to him:
“A revelation I give unto you concerning my will; and if thou art faithful and walk in the paths of virtue before me, I will preserve thy life, and thou shalt receive an inheritance in Zion” (D&C 25:2).
There are no square pegs in the gospel of Jesus Christ, only sons and daughters of God with equal worth and eternal potential. As we cultivate happy, loving hearts that reach out beyond ourselves, giving thanks often for our blessings, we will come to recognize our daily challenges as opportunities to grow closer to celestial glory, closer to the promise of one day receiving a “crown of righteousness” (D&C 25:15).