Saturday, April 21, 2018

President Howard W. Hunter on self-evaluation and the real impact of our lives

President Howard W. Hunter (1907-1995) was called to the Quorum of Twelve in 1959.  He served as Church President from June 5, 1994 to his death on March 3, 1995.
"As we evaluate our lives, it is important that we look, not only at our accomplishments, but also at the conditions under which we have labored. We are all different and unique individuals; we have each had different starting points in the race of life; we each have a unique mixture of talents and skills; we each have our own set of challenges and constraints to contend with. Therefore, our judgment of ourselves and our achievements should not merely include the size or magnitude and number of our accomplishments; it should also include the conditions that have existed and the effect that our efforts have had on others.
"It is this last aspect of our self-evaluation—the effect of our lives on the lives of others—that will help us understand why some of the common, ordinary work of life should be valued so highly. Frequently it is the commonplace tasks that have the greatest positive effect on the lives of others, as compared with the things that the world so often relates to greatness."
- Howard W. Hunter, "True Greatness," General Conference April 1982
Click here to read or listen to the full talk

It's almost impossible not to compare ourselves with others, in evaluating achievements and position in life. But President Hunter points out that it's very easy to evaluate ourselves unfairly, when all we see is the visible, public accomplishments. Other factors he mentions include:

  • Our starting point in life, which may vary greatly from others
  • The talents and stills we have to work with
  • The challenges and constraints, unique to each life, that we contend with

Any judgement of achievements should include a realistic evaluation of all these aspects. And one more thing we often neglect—what has truly been the impact on others around us?

Sometimes the greatest and most eternally-significant accomplishments lie in the small, quiet impact that we might have on others as we serve, interact, share, teach, support, minister, or bless. President Hunter reminds us that often those "commonplace tasks" of life are what really matters most!

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2018)

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