It was a mid-April snowstorm that started it all. Not necessarily an unusual occurrence for Utah, but still, I thought the snow-drenched tulips on Temple Square needed to be documented. So I created an Instagram account—one that featured not photos of my cats (as adorable as they are) but rather photos of the temple.
Thus began a year of daily posting (and a few more years of not-so-daily posting). Taking photos of the temple and posting them with temple-related quotes from Church leaders became a fun way to develop talents and deepen my appreciation for the temple.
But the more people I reached, the more I recognized my opportunity to be an influence for good. I’m no social media “influencer,” but I like to think that my efforts make a difference for someone somewhere.
Despite our busy, fast-paced lives, we can all use our talents to bless others and be a force for good. After all, “we believe … in doing good” (Articles of Faith 1:13).
I tracked down some other young adults who are striving to be a force for good. Here’s how they are making a difference.
Graziely Moreira, 25, was pretty much raised to do good. When people in her hometown of Fortaleza, Ceará, Brazil, see someone in need, they help. “It’s a cultural thing,” she explains. And for members of the Church, “it’s also because we just think about, as Jesus Christ said, love others as you love yourself. So we just do it. We do it because we like doing it.”
With her quiet example of watching out for and going out of her way to help those in need—like when she saw an old man struggling to carry heavy bags and crossed the street to help him carry them home—Graziely is a force for good. She also knows that we can do the most good when people know that we’re serving out of love, not obligation. “There’s something I learned from my mom: Do to others what you want people to do to you. It’s Heavenly Father’s plan—He wants us to help people.”
We also can’t let things like technology (AKA our smartphones) get in the way of our reaching outside ourselves to do good, says Graziely. “That’s the thing—we have to know each other, we have to understand others’ needs because our life is not based on apps. Our life is based on people. It’s based on what we have to do to become better and to follow Jesus Christ.” And a big part of following Jesus means doing good.
Normandie Luscher, 29, a Master of Fine Arts student in Maryland, USA, uses her artwork for good. “I’ve been focusing a lot over the last couple of years on the most important commandment, to love God and to love our neighbor,” she explains. “In my artwork I’ve been focusing on telling stories. We can really learn how to be compassionate and love our neighbors more by listening to them and hearing their stories.”
A self-proclaimed “idea person,” Normandie brings people together for good in many ways. A school project led her to put on a fundraiser for a local women’s shelter: a gallery show featuring paintings she created telling the story of Job through a woman’s perspective. “Other women came and shared their stories and their experiences,” she explains. “And I thought that was a really powerful thing.”
Another idea Normandie pursued was for a collaborate zine (a self-published or online magazine). She reached out to other artists, and together they told Book of Mormon stories through the lens of contemporary art.
Personally, Normandie has found that she can be an influence for good by opening up to others. “I’ve been working on developing the courage to be vulnerable and share my own experiences and perspectives. Art is about being honest and sharing ideas. So in terms of being a force for good, I’m just trying to embrace those ideas of being honest and courageous and reaching out to other people and communicating through visual art.”
She encourages other young adults to develop courage to do good too. “Don’t be afraid of not being able to do enough,” she says. “I think a lot of people get overwhelmed with, ‘There’s nothing that I can do,’ and falling into that fallacy prevents so much good from being done. Don’t be afraid. Be courageous to move forward and to act.”
Matt James, 26, of Utah, USA, feels it’s part of his mission in life to help those who weren’t born into the privileges he enjoys. It’s partly a result of being raised by philanthropic parents, and partly because of a sense of responsibility best expressed by the words of “Because I Have Been Given Much” (Hymns, no. 219). After Matt served a full-time mission in Ireland and Scotland, his heart was drawn toward the African refugees he’d taught and baptized there, so when the chance to go to Uganda came up, he went.
Even though he had already traveled to Ethiopia, Peru, and India, “Uganda changed my life,” says Matt. “I know that God led me to that specific part of the world for a very wise purpose.” Part of that purpose was to befriend and eventually baptize a woman named Carolyn. And part was to have his heart touched by the orphans he worked with. When it was time to leave, Matt didn’t want to lose touch with these people he had grown to care for. So he spoke with his parents, who offered to help him with the funds to construct an orphanage with Carolyn in a small town called Mbale.
Carolyn, who herself grew up as an orphan, continues to oversee the orphanage’s operations. Matt returns to Uganda every summer and has partnered with others to build a larger orphanage, providing shelter and education for over 200 children. And he now runs a jewelry-making business that helps sustain the orphanage.
As Matt says, we all have certain things in life that God has blessed us to care about. “I firmly believe that if everybody were to be true to themselves and put the work forth, follow the path that’s laid out in front of them and take the opportunities that are given to them, that everyone would find their cause. And if everyone were to find their cause and be diligent, the world would be a much, much better place.”
Finding your “cause” doesn’t have to be complicated. “Pray to God and strive to find your passions,” Matt suggests. “Pray to find out what those things are that you care about, that you can have your sphere of influence touch, and do it.”
Kaveria ei jätetä. In Finnish, it means “no one gets left behind,” an expression with roots in wartime but something that Finns still take to heart today. For Rolle Rantaniemi, 23, of Uusimaa, Finland, it inspires him to do good.
“I have a rule for myself: if I ever see someone alone, I always go to them, no matter the situation. No one should ever be alone. When I was young, I was really alone in school and at church—I didn’t have any friends, and I know how bad it feels to be lonely. That’s something I’ve taken from the Finnish mentality that no one gets left behind.”
One of his driving forces is knowing that relationships can continue beyond this life. “That’s why I think the most important thing for us to focus on is to improve ourselves. Be a good example, be a good person, become diligent and all of those Christlike attributes. The other thing is to build relationships, to become friends with people, have charity and love and serve other people.”
Rolle believes that developing Christlike charity is our biggest tool in doing good. “It says in Moroni 7:48 that we should pray for charity. And I’ve seen as I do that every day, and I ask Heavenly Father to give me situations where I can serve, I’m more aware of them. If we really open our eyes, there are opportunities to serve that we never thought of.”
“Even small things matter,” says Rolle. “If you just look for those small things and do them, you can still make a big difference.“
Daniel Godoy, 23, radiates light and goodness, and his choices have a lot to do with that. He’s an influence for good just by his example.
As an only child from a small town outside of Santiago, Chile, he grew up seeing his parents’ dedication to service and to the gospel. Daniel was the first in his home stake to serve a mission at 18 after the mission age was lowered, inspiring many young men to prepare to serve earlier too. After his mission in Colombia, he was also the first in his hometown to leave the country to pursue higher education. His drive inspired others to get an education. “In some way I inspired them to aim high,” he says. “It was awesome to know that little step that I did helped to inspire other people.”
Getting an education in the United States is also the key for Daniel’s plans to help others and do good in the future. “My long-term goal is to go back to Chile and help people there—serve them. I came here because I know that I can have opportunities that will lead me to help people in Chile as well.”
Still, Daniel admits: “I’m not perfect. But I’m trying to do my best, and I feel like that will be inspiring for others and give them the motivation to keep going as well.”
After earning a degree in social work, Katelyn Ray, 27, from California, USA, couldn’t settle on a career path but felt drawn to humanitarian aid. She has seen God’s hand guiding her “every step of the way,” leading her to now be the program director for a non-profit organization dedicated to fighting global poverty.
Katelyn has worked with refugees in Greece and victims of abuse in Nepal, who, she explains, are “going through the worst moments of their life. Just being there with them, there’s not a lot I can do. I can’t change the governments or the policies, but the one thing I can do is to love them.” And no matter who she’s with, she sees how important it is for others to feel God’s love. “If I can be a vehicle for that, I’ll feel like I’ve done a pretty good job, that God’s happy with me.”
Her experiences help her see other people’s problems with a broader perspective. “As young adults, it’s easy to get caught up in our own issues,” she says. “We’re so focused on, ‘What’s my career?’ and ‘What am I doing for school?’ and ‘How am I going to find my eternal companion?’ Those are all good things, but if we could somehow look outside of ourselves, I think we’ll find what we really are searching for.”
“If we just remain close to the Spirit, God is going to guide and direct us, and then we’ll be able to do all the good we want to do,” Katelyn says. “I think everyone wants to do good, even if that’s just in your community or within your family. Every little thing, whether it’s uplifting a friend or being there for a family member, just having those small moments of knowing you did what God wanted you to do in that moment will make a powerful impact on your life and others.”
You don’t need to go out and start building orphanages to do good in the world. You don’t need to start an Instagram account of temple photos or become the director of a nonprofit. But you can think of some way to use your unique talents to be an influence for good.
I really believe that these words from President Thomas S. Monson (1927–2018), addressed to women of the Church, also apply perfectly to young adults: “You are a mighty force for good, one of the most powerful in the entire world. Your influence ranges far beyond yourself and your home and touches others all around the globe” (“Three Goals to Guide You,” Liahona, Nov. 2007, 120). So keep doing good—all the good you can. Your influence will spread farther than you know. And together we will be that mighty force for good.