November 29, 2021
Even when we try to look on the brighter side of things and see the best in people, life can be tough — but you probably already knew that. The scriptures say, “men are, that they might have joy.”1 But how exactly can we experience joy when there are so many things that can make life hard?
In the October 2021 General Conference, Elder Clark G. Gilbert, commissioner of the Church Educational System, answered this question when he said, “Whether we start in abundant or difficult circumstances, let us keep our sights and our slopes pointed heavenward. As we do, Christ will lift us to a higher place.”2
Analogy of the slope
In his message, Elder Gilbert shared an analogy about slope (don’t worry — it’s not hard math!). Our starting place in life is our “y-intercept,” and where we are headed is our “slope.” Everyone will have a unique intercept, but what matters is whether our slope is pointed up or down.
Elder Gilbert said, “No matter where we start, Christ considers what we do with what we are given. While the world focuses on our intercept, God focuses on our slope.” Joy can be found when we look to the future with hope rather than focusing exclusively on the challenges in front of us.
Our y-intercept includes the circumstances at birth. Social scientists will often measure this by social, political, or economic status, including access to education and technology, physical and mental health, and innate talents and gifts.
Because only God sees the full picture of our blessings and challenges, it’s helpful to avoid comparing our starting intercept in life to others who may seem to have everything we don’t have. Instead Elder Gilbert says, “In the Lord’s timing, it is not where we start but where we are headed that matters most.”
Lifting your slope
Rather than being concerned with your starting intercept in life, God invites you to have faith and courage by looking ahead to the future. Where are you looking?
Using Elder Gilbert’s analogy of the slope, he taught that we should lift our slope upward toward God. Looking toward the Savior means learning about Him and doing things that bring us closer to Him — creating a pattern of personal prayer, pondering the scriptures, attending church meetings and the temple, and discussing the gospel with friends or family.
Progressing along your slope
Joy is found as you shift your focus from where you started to where you are headed, and that joy becomes even sweeter when you point your slope toward Christ and actively seek to become more like Him. Elder Gilbert said, “One of the miracles of this, the Lord’s Church, is that each of us can become something more in Christ.”
What are you doing to point your slope toward Jesus Christ? How has education helped you point your slope upward?