When I think of a “typical” Latter-day Saint, I think of a pregnant mom pulling out of her driveway in her SUV, five kids in the back seat, and a delicious dinner already cooking in the Crock-Pot. Maybe they’re on their way to soccer practice, piano lessons, or playdates, and they might even have little stickers on their back windshield representing each member of the family. Bonus points if the stickers are wearing Mickey Mouse ears.
I think of a young couple celebrating a temple marriage after a very short engagement and six months later posting a pregnancy announcement on Instagram, followed by an elaborate gender reveal party. Their joint social media accounts display how blissful their marriage is and how much they truly love each other.
I think of the darling kids who come to church every Sunday dressed in their cutest outfits. They happily eat their Cheerios while they color or play with their gospel-related toys and their parents lovingly remind them to whisper.
I was born and raised in the Church, and these are only a few of the “typical” Latter-day Saint situations I have seen throughout the years. I think a tiny part of me always wanted to fit into one of these roles, especially after watching my friends graduate high school, attend a year of college at BYU, serve missions, go back to BYU, get married, and start having babies.
That, however, wasn’t how my life played out at all. I got married straight out of high school, graduated from a college that wasn’t BYU, and started getting internships and jobs that would help me in my career. I’ve been married for over three years, and while a “typical” Latter-day Saint might have two kids by now, I’m not in a place to grow my eternal family yet. And that's perfectly okay.
Being raised in the gospel and growing up in a small town in Utah blessed my life in so many ways. I had an incredible community of people who shared my beliefs and morals, which made it easy for me to live the teachings of the gospel. Living in the area I did also made it easy to look at other Latter-day Saints and compare my imperfect life to their seemingly perfect one.
Theodore Roosevelt famously taught us that “comparison is the thief of joy,” and I think it’s something that everyone struggles with at one point or another. It’s so easy to see a “typical” Latter-day Saint living their perfect, righteous, amazing life and wonder why your life doesn’t look the way theirs does.
It’s easy to become obsessed with the way we think our lives should be. We get so addicted to watching others’ lives progress that we forget that we’re on our own journey and we all have the same goal in the end. We all want to become more Christlike and return to His presence. But the truth is that no matter how perfect someone’s life seems or how “typical” of a Latter-day Saint they are, their journey is completely unique—and no one knows exactly what they’re going through except for our Father in Heaven.
In his April 2017 conference talk “Songs Sung and Unsung,” Elder Jeffrey R. Holland taught, “When we disparage our uniqueness or try to conform to fictitious stereotypes—stereotypes driven by an insatiable consumer culture and idealized beyond any possible realization by social media—we lose the richness of tone and timbre that God intended when He created a world of diversity.”
The Church is made up of imperfect people from all different backgrounds trying to do their best. The pregnant mom in the SUV I mentioned earlier could be struggling with unseen medical problems. The blissful couple is likely having a difficult time adjusting to married life and figuring out their role in the Church as a newly created family. And the parents trying to keep their kids quiet at church might be struggling to even get there, fearing their kids will distract the other “typical” ward members trying to listen.
Elder Holland emphasizes the importance of each individual voice in the "choir" of the Church and says:
“There is room for those who speak different languages, celebrate diverse cultures, and live in a host of locations. There is room for the single, for the married, for large families, and for the childless. There is room for those who once had questions regarding their faith and room for those who still do. There is room for those with differing sexual attractions. In short, there is a place for everyone who loves God and honors His commandments as the inviolable measuring rod for personal behavior, for if love of God is the melody of our shared song, surely our common quest to obey Him is the indispensable harmony in it.”
I’m not a “typical” Latter-day Saint because there's no such thing as a “typical” Latter-day Saint. There are people who might do a lot of the same things or follow a common pattern within the Church, but each member is unique and has priceless qualities to share with the world.
God loves and knows each of His children individually. Jesus Christ made the ultimate sacrifice when He died for us so that we could repent and return to live in His presence. There is nothing we have been through that He doesn’t completely understand because He went through it too.
Next time you feel inadequate or like you don’t belong, remember that everyone struggles and you’re not alone. You’re on the Lord’s timeline and He has a perfect plan for your unique situation. Although it can be hard, trust Him and watch as your life becomes exactly what it was meant to be—and chances are that it won’t look anything like anyone else’s.