English Faculty Member
Janine Gilbert has lived in Idaho most of her life. She holds a bachelor of arts degree in film from Brigham Young University and a master’s degree in English from Idaho State University.
She served a mission in Tegucigalpa, Honduras and Santiago, Chile. On her return, she met her husband, Byron, while they both worked at a Boy Scout Camp--she directed the rifle range, and he ran the ecology conservation area.
They have two teenage children—both taller than their mother. Janine writes film scripts, gets lost in good books, and loves to go camping with her family. She has served in the young women, relief society, and primary organizations and currently teaches gospel doctrine in her ward.
Please respond to the question below on the devotional discussion board:
We are Heavenly Father’s work and glory (Moses 1:39), but we’re unfinished. We’re still incomplete, imperfect. What does it mean to be a work in progress?
In this week’s discussion board, I cited a scripture with which most of you are familiar: “For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.”  We are God’s work, but we are also imperfect, incomplete. I asked participants in this week’s discussion board to reflect on what it means to be a work in progress. Here are some of their insights:
“We are all living in rough draft.”
“Still under construction.”
“I have to deal with who I am.”
“It means we are never finished.”
“It means that there is always hope.”
“It means I still have a lot of work to do.”
We truly are a work in progress, which is a problem for me because I’m impatient. I don’t like to wait for traffic lights to change, for Internet content to load, or for books to end. We live in a time that champions instant gratification: knowledge without learning, intimacy without love, even food without cooking—my favorite. One researcher even talks about a new skill many of us develop—the ability to maintain eye contact with someone while texting someone else.  We want to be in two places at once, doing two things at once. And wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could just become who we want to become—now?
Progress Takes Time
The adversary offers the perfect example of such impatience. He wanted to cheat on the test of life—to provide everyone with the answers and create a revolving door that we could enter, do what we were told, and return again, just as we left, unchanged. Quick, easy, efficient—and utterly useless. Heavenly Father never intended we remain unchanged.
Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf makes this point clear:
The grace of God does not merely restore us to our previous innocent state. If salvation means only erasing our mistakes and sins, then salvation—as wonderful as it is—does not fulfill the Father’s aspirations for us. His aim is much higher: He wants His sons and daughters to become like Him. 
Our Heavenly Father sees us as President Thomas S. Monson hopes we see each other: “not as [we] are but rather as [we] can become.” 
- Timothy Gallwey illustrates this perspective with a telling analogy:
When we plant a rose seed in the earth, we notice that it is small, but we do not criticize it as “rootless and stemless.” We treat it as a seed, giving it the water and nourishment required of a seed. When it first shoots up out of the earth, we don’t condemn it as immature and underdeveloped; nor do we criticize the buds for not being open when they appear. We stand in wonder at the process taking place and give the plant the care it needs at each stage of its development. The rose is a rose from the time it is a seed to the time it dies. Within it, at all times, it contains its whole potential. It seems to be constantly in the process of change; yet at each stage, at each moment, it is perfectly all right as it is. 
Just as we would never expect a rose to develop from seed to maturity automatically, we can’t expect our own process of becoming to yield instant results.
The adversary, however, loves to take wherever we are in the process and try to convince us this is all we’ll ever be. “Look at yourself,” he’ll say. “Look at you, just a wispy little stem—no branches, no fruit. That’s all you are. That’s all you’ll ever be.” And if we believe him, we may be tempted to abandon the process—stunt our own growth—and give up before we reach our full potential.
But our Father sees us with different eyes. As the Gardener, He recognizes that wherever we are now is just a step in the process to becoming who we truly are. He’s not concerned about wispy stems. Wispy stems are a natural part of the process. He knows that if we trust Him, if we allow Him to work with us, we’ll grow to reach our full potential, we’ll grow strong roots, and we’ll shoot up, expand, and bear fruit that, right now, we can’t even imagine.
Progress is Messy
That kind of growth is not only time consuming, it’s messy. Making progress—in nearly every instance—means making mistakes. Adam and Eve could not grow in the Garden of Eden, and neither could we. Growth requires making choices—some right and some wrong—and learning through experience. A theoretical or abstract acquaintance with godlike attributes is simply not enough for us to become who our Father wants us to become. We need to act.
Elder Uchtdorf explains this concept beautifully: “In my experience, belief is not so much like a painting we look at and admire and about which we discuss and theorize. It is more like a plow that we take into the fields and, by the sweat of our brow, create furrows in the earth that accept seeds and bear fruit that shall remain.” 
Leaving the garden was not a punishment; it was part of the plan. And this part of the plan is not easy. Listen to Wilford Woodruff’s description of settling the Salt Lake Valley:
It was barren, desolate, abounding with grasshoppers, crickets and coyote wolves, and these things seemed to be the only natural productions of the soil. We went to work by faith, not much by sight, to cultivate the earth. We broke almost all the plows we had the first day. We had to let streams of water out to moisten the earth, and by experience we had to learn to raise anything. 
In this life, we too often “work by faith, not much by sight.”  We feel our way, learning by experience how to raise anything—how to change, how to grow. In the process, we will break a few plows, but that doesn’t mean we’re not cut out to be farmers or that the whole institution of farming should be abandoned.
The point is not the plow or even the field. We are God’s work, and it’s in the process of facing challenges and difficulties we learn patience, long suffering, and charity. We learn to turn to Him, and in doing so, we become more like Him.
When Alma asked if the saints had been converted—if they had “spiritually been born of God,” he recognized such a change could only come through refining experience. He asked if they had “experienced [a] mighty change in [their] hearts.” 
Such heart-changing experiences are often heartbreaking. The Lord does not hold back when describing all the calamities that Joseph Smith might experience: the loss of his family, imprisonment, prowling wolves, pits, billowing surges, fierce winds, and even the gaping jaws of hell, and yet the Lord promises Joseph and by extension each of us, “Know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good.” 
As Paul affirmed, “we know that all things work together for good to them that love God.”  When we are striving to live the gospel—when we are trying to be like Jesus—even when we are failing, we are on hallowed ground. As Lehi promised Jacob, “He shall consecrate [our] afflictions for [our] gain.” 
No Effort is Wasted
The willingness to work, to progress, to repent, and to turn to the Lord is all He asks of us. In that process, no effort is wasted.
President Ezra Taft Benson testified, “The Lord is pleased with every effort, even the tiny, daily ones in which we strive to be more like Him.” 
My colleague Jack Harrell introduced me to one of my favorite writing quotes. It’s attributed to writer and teacher Esmé Raji Codell: “The worst writing you did today is better than the best writing that you didn’t do.”  And it’s true in other aspects of our lives as well. The clumsiest, most inarticulate act of kindness you did today is better than the best act of kindness you didn’t do. Every deliberate effort we make to follow Christ brings us closer to Him.
In a letter to her daughter, Sister Marjorie Pay Hinckley illustrates this philosophy beautifully. At the end of a letter recounting long, full days of work and service, she writes this: “I have a new project, 1 chapter a day from each one of the standard works. I have been on it for four days and am only 3 days behind. Better to have tried and failed than never to have tried.” 
We are God’s work. The only way we fail is by refusing to engage in the process. And we don’t need to wait to start. Elder Uchtdorf testifies “that we don’t need to be ‘more’ of anything to start to become the person God intended us to become. God will take you as you are at this very moment and begin to work with you. All you need is a willing heart, a desire to believe, and trust in the Lord.” 
You only have five loaves and two fishes?  He can work with that. Slow of speech? Hated by those around you?  He can work with that. You can “no more than desire to believe”?  He can work with that too.
When you fail in a particularly spectacular way, rather than doubt your worth or the worth of your effort, remember, He can work with that. He can work with me, and He can work with you. He can work with your roommate, with your spouse, with your child. We are His work, and He is able to do His own work. 
How? I do not know, but I don’t need to know everything right now. Nephi taught this principle. The angel of the Lord asked him if he understood the condescension of God, and his reply was profound: “I know that he loveth his children; nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things.” 
Nephi didn’t know everything, but he knew God loved him. And that carried him back to Jerusalem, twice, and through the wilderness, and across an ocean, through family strife and uncertainty. Through all that and more, he could be certain of at least one thing: God loved him. Knew him. Sustained him.
And it wasn’t as if he had it easy. Laman and Lemuel thought he was delusional, following after a father who saw visions. They told him he couldn’t possibly stand against Laban and his 50, couldn’t possibly build a boat, couldn’t possibly know—really know—the Lord. Or trust Him.
But just as the Lord instructed Joseph Smith, Nephi “[held] on his way.”  He chose God’s love over fear and anxiety about the present or the future. As Sister Lauri Arensmeyer pointed out in her devotional address last week, we have “ never [looked] into the eyes of someone God does not love”—even when we look in a mirror. 
President Monson describes His love for us:
Heavenly Father loves you—each of you. That love never changes. It is not influenced by your appearance, by your possessions, or by the amount of money you have in your bank account. It is not changed by your talents and abilities. It is simply there. It is there for you when you are sad or happy, discouraged or hopeful. God’s love is there for you whether or not you feel you deserve love. It is simply always there. 
While we may understand and even feel this love, knowing and accepting God’s love for us is not always easy. We may know God loves us and still have difficulty trusting that love.
My dad worked for over 30 years in professional scouting, so growing up, I spent a lot of time at summer camps, and I loved to go hiking with my dad. He knew the names of all the plants and trees. He made the woods come to life for me. I remember one such hike when I was still very young. We ran out of trail and into a huge boulder that hung on the edge of a steep ravine. The only way forward was down the face of that boulder, but I couldn’t manage it. My dad worked his way down and then stood below and told me to jump, promising he’d catch me.
Now I had no doubt my father loved me, but I remember hesitating. I knew he meant well, but it was a big rock, and it was a long way down. And I probably weighed more than he thought, and what if, best intentions aside, he couldn’t catch me? And so I pulled back. It took a lot of coaxing to get me to take that leap, and of course it all worked out, but it wasn’t easy.
I think sometimes I do the same thing with Christ. In life, the only way forward is to trust in Him. He has promised me that as imperfect as I may be, if I exercise faith in Him, I can trust Him to bring me home. But sometimes I pull back. “Maybe,” I reason, “He doesn’t really recognize how vast the distance is between where I am and where He is. He may not realize how heavy my burden actually is. What if I am simply not good enough?”
In a recent BYU devotional address, Elder Uchtdorf addressed this concern:
Some of you may be thinking, “The gospel might work fine for other people. But not for me. I have made mistakes. Lots of them. Sometimes I make the same mistakes over and over. I try to repent, but it doesn’t take. I feel ashamed and guilty. I am not like others in my family or in my ward.”
To all who feel defective in some way, may I tell you a secret?
We are all defective. You. Me. Everyone.
“But,” you say, “I am a special case. I think I make too many mistakes, too often.”
Yes, you are mortal. And mortals fall short. Time and again.
Mistakes are events on the timeline of your life. But they don’t define your life.
They don’t define you as a person or as a child of God. However, what you do about your mistakes by using the gifts given to us by Heavenly Father and His Son Jesus Christ will go a long way in defining the person you will yet become. 
He knows you. He loves you. His plan is at work in you. I’d like to take just a moment to illustrate this point. Please pull out a piece of paper or a handy electronic device and jot down a response to the following prompts.
When you respond, think in very specific terms. When you name a place, for example, don’t write “the mountains.” Instead, specify the specific place that comes to mind—“a row boat on Lake McDonald.” In a similar vein, describe a specific person in clear details. Okay, here we go.
- Name a place where you have felt God’s love.
2. Describe a person who has shown you God's love.
3. If God’s love were a song or a sound, it would be…
4. Name a specific way you have reached out for God’s love.
Don’t overthink it. Just jot down whatever immediately comes to mind. Got it?
Here is one response from a BYU-Idaho graduate:
- In the sealing room of the Atlanta temple.
2. My husband, especially during surgery recoveries.
3. The sound of waves at the beach.
4. Through studying the Book of Mormon.
Now we’re going to insert our responses into a kind of poetic framework:
God’s love livesin ___ (first response)__.
It is ___ (second response)____________.
I hear it ___ (third response)___________.
And feel it ___ (fourth response)________.
How did it turn out? Here is our example in the framework:
God’s love livesin the sealing room of the Atlanta temple.
It is my husband, especially during surgery recoveries.
I hear it in the sound of waves at the beach.
And feel it through studying the Book of Mormon.
And another example:
God’s love lives in the Loch Lomond Ward Primary room.
It is a spiritual giant who gives powerful priesthood blessings.
I hear it in my baby’s laugh.
And feel it driving in my car in silence, praying and listening.
Reflect for a moment on what you’ve written. Even though we all used the same prompts and the same framework, I am willing to wager that no two responses are alike. The Lord ministers to us one by one. Hopefully, in the process of reflecting on one place, one person, one sound, one act, you’ve felt again His love for you. Think of all the people gathered here today, each with his or her own unique experience with His love. Now expand that to all the people in the world, and then reach back through time to all the people who have lived and all who will live, each with his or her own account of how the Lord transformed their lives.
It’s no wonder in the New Testament that John proclaims: “And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written.” 
You are His work. I am His work. And we’re in progress. I invite you to embrace the process and move forward, trusting that the Lord who knows and loves you can do His work.
Follow the advice of President George Albert Smith: “If you have something that the Lord asks or expects you to do and you don’t know just how to proceed, do your best. Move in the direction that you ought to go; trust the Lord, give him a chance, and he will never fail you.” 
I testify that we are a glorious work in progress and that this mortal life with all its experiences is a natural and necessary part of Heavenly Father’s plan for our happiness. If you are in progress, you are exactly where you need to be. Christ has prepared your way. There is no other. He is true. You can trust Him. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
 Moses 1:39.
 Sherry Turkle, “Connected, but alone?,” TED2012; ted.com/talks/sherry_turkle_alone_together.
 Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “The Gift of Grace,” Ensign, May 2015.
 Thomas S. Monson, “See Others as They May Become,” Ensign, Nov. 2012.
 W. Timothy Gallwey, The Inner Game of Tennis: The Classic Guide to the Mental Side of Peak Performance, 2008, p. 21.
 Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “Believe, Love, Do,” Ensign, Nov. 2018.
Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Wilford Woodruff, “Chapter 14: Remembering Our Spiritual Heritage,” p. 148.
 Alma 5:14.
 Doctrine and Covenants 122:7.
 Romans 8:28.
 2 Nephi 2:2.
 Ezra Taft Benson, “A Mighty Change of Heart,” Ensign, Oct. 1989.
 Esmé Raji Codell, as cited by Kieren Dutcher; jenniferchamblissbertman.com/2011/02/a-peek-at-the-creative-space-of-kieren-dutcher.
 Marjorie Pay Hinckley, Letters, 2004, p. 125.
 Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “It Works Wonderfully!,” Ensign, Nov. 2015.
 See John 6:9.
 See Moses 6:31.
 Alma 32:27.
 See 2 Nephi 27:21.
 1 Nephi 11:17.
 Doctrine and Covenants 122:9.
 Lauri Arensmeyer, “The Words We Speak,” BYU-Idaho devotional, Oct. 8, 2019.
 Thomas S. Monson, “We Never Walk Alone,” Ensign, Nov. 2013.
 Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “Can You Hear the Music?,” BYU devotional, Jan. 15, 2019; speeches.byu.edu/talks/dieter-f-uchtdorf/can-you-hear-the-music/.
 John 21:25.
Teachings of Presidents of the Church: George Albert Smith, “Chapter 17: The Strengthening Power of Faith.”