Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Marvin J. Ashton on personal progress in life

Elder Ashton (1915-1994) served as a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles from 1971 until his death in 1994 at age 78.
"There is a natural, probably a mortal, tendency to compare ourselves with others. Unfortunately, when we make these comparisons, we tend to compare our weakest attributes with someone else's strongest. For example, a woman who feels unschooled in the gospel may take particular note of a woman in her ward who teaches the Gospel Doctrine class and seems to have every scripture at her fingertips. Obviously these kinds of comparisons are destructive and only reinforce the fear that somehow we don't measure up and therefore we must not be as worthy as the next person.
"We need to come to terms with our desire to reach perfection and our frustration when our accomplishments or behaviors are less than perfect. I feel that one of the great myths we would do well to dispel is that we've come to earth to perfect ourselves, and nothing short of that will do. If I understand the teachings of the prophets of this dispensation correctly, we will not become perfect in this life, though we can make significant strides toward that goal....
"I am also convinced of the fact that the speed with which we head along the straight and narrow path isn't as important as the direction in which we are traveling. That direction, if it is leading toward eternal goals, is the all-important factor."
- Marvin J. Ashton, "On Being Worthy," Ensign, May 1989, pp. 20-22
Click here to read the full talk
Elder Ashton was a personal favorite from my youth; I loved to hear him speak and teach. He often had insights that spoke directly to me, as this example does. Our personal quest for perfection will do much better as we keep it in a proper eternal perspective.

There's a potential trap here. We might rationalize that we can coast a bit; there is no rush to progress, as long as we're facing the right direction, since progress extends into eternity. Slow progress is just fine. And while that's part of Elder Ashton's message, the real essence is that each of us should be doing the best that we can at the pace that makes sense for us. We don't compare ourselves with others to see how we're doing. But we strive always to do the best that we can. The message of the parable of the talents is very applicable; we must strive to magnify and develop the gifts given to us! (See Matthew 25:14-30)

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