Latter-day Saint Life

Greatness in God’s eyes: How the Church is different than a company

Intellectual Reserve, Inc.

For my first six months as a full-time missionary, I felt like a rising star. I was entrusted with training a new missionary, serving as a district leader, and had completed all of the mission mastery goals in record time. Surely the Lord had great things in store for me as a leader in my mission.

Then, the phone call came with news of transfers. I was being reassigned to serve as a secretary in the mission office – at that time, this was a role that was seen among the missionaries as the ultimate step down or demotion. What’s more, I was to serve as a junior companion, losing all of the preconceived rank I thought I had attained up to that point.

I was heartbroken. Where had I gone wrong? I had followed every rule, completed every goal, and worked with all my strength. For the first time in my mission, rather than get up early and go to work, I felt too deflated and defeated to even leave my apartment. Instead, I sat and sulked. Eventually, I turned to the Book of Mormon. Only minutes into my reading, I came upon the following verse:

And I will give unto him a commandment that he shall do none other work, save the work which I shall command him. And I will make him great in mine eyes; for he shall do my work. (2 Nephi 3:8)

This verse broke free from the context of the chapter and stitched itself directly to my heart. I was called to do the Lord’s work and should be focused on being great in His eyes. I embraced this perspective and the time I spent serving as a referral secretary became among the most impactful and uplifting of my entire missionary service.

Greatness in the Eyes of the World

The world often teaches us that greatness means rising through leadership ranks, and that gaining more money, responsibility, and power, all translate to being more important. Achieving such advancements often requires strong ambition and self-advocacy.

I experienced this early in my career at a large company. After several years of receiving top performance ratings in each annual evaluation, I became frustrated by the lack of meaningful recognition in the form of compensation or promotion. I finally mustered the courage to approach my senior manager and advocate for myself. The result was the largest compensation boost of my career and an opportunity to be promoted to a manager. While I was thrilled with these outcomes, I felt bothered by the need for my self-serving advocacy to bring them about.

Greatness in Church Service

Greatness in the Lord’s Church is built on entirely different principles than those of the world. However, similarities in structure may lead some to make inaccurate connections between the two. For instance, there is a clearly defined leadership structure in the Church, which provides order and minimizes confusion (see 1 Corinthians 14:33). The decision-making authority of church leaders can appear similar in nature to the leadership of a company or other organization. Cultural (and inappropriate) practices of extending congratulations to, or forecasting the likely selection of, others being called to serve in church leadership roles further adds to the erroneous connection.

Despite any perceived similarities, the counsel to Church members regarding positions of leadership is clearly different from organizations in the world. We are to: “Not aspire to preside in any organization in the Lord’s Church. Rather, humbly and faithfully serve in the position to which [we] are called.”[1] Instead of self-advocacy and ambition, in the Lord’s Church and Kingdom we have revelation and Jesus Christ as “[our] advocate, who knoweth the weakness of man and how to succor them who are tempted” (Doctrine and Covenants 62:1). As for the measure of importance or greatness, we are further instructed: “A calling or assignment to preside does not make the person who receives it more important or valued than others.”1

Greatness in the Lord’s work is clearly defined by the Savior’s teaching that “whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant” (Matthew 20:27).

Lift Where You Stand and Let God Prevail

Inspired counsel from general authorities provides further perspective into serving in the church. Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf used an analogy of moving a heavy piano and how it was only accomplished by the brethren standing close together and lifting where they stood. He went on to teach that, “Although it may seem simple, lifting where we stand is a principle of power. …. The Lord judges so very differently from the way we do. He is pleased with the noble servant, not with the self-serving noble.”2

President Russell M. Nelson’s powerful invitation to “let God prevail” included pointed counsel on this same principle: “Are you willing to let whatever [God] needs you to do take precedence over every other ambition?”3

When he felt passed over for a calling to serve in a leadership position, Elder Clayton M. Christensen reflected, “In the crisis of self-confidence that ensued, I realized that because our minds are finite, we create hierarchies and statistically aggregate people. We perceive stake presidents to be higher than bishops and Primary presidents higher than Primary teachers because they preside over more people. But God has an infinite mind. He needs no statistics above the level of the individual in order to have a perfect understanding of what is happening.4

Seeing Through God’s Eyes

Pursuing “success” in our temporal affairs while muting ambitions to lead in our church service is a dichotomy that requires persistence and temperance for many. This struggle is not new. As the Apostle Paul declared, “The wisdom of this world is foolishness with God” (1 Corinthians 3:19). From Old Testament times to the present day, it has been made clear that God’s ways are different from those of men (see Isaiah 55:8).

Since that morning on my mission many years ago when I felt the power of the words in 2 Nephi 3:8 pierce the vain ambitions (see Doctrine and Covenants 121:37) of my soul, I have been reminded of this lesson many times. As I look back across the years of my church service, I could choose to picture a graph showing the level of my leadership authority in a calling versus year. On such a plot, my time in less-visible callings may appear as troughs or low points, whereas my service in leadership positions may be mountains. One may rightly refer to this graph as the “eyes of the world,” where greatness is tied to visibility and authority.

The economy of heaven works quite differently. We are instructed to look to God, instead of man, standing fast and performing with soberness the “work which [He has] commanded [us]” (Doctrine and Covenants 6:35–36, and see Doctrine and Covenants 9:14). As we let God prevail in our church service, we will begin to see things through His eyes. The measure of our success then becomes one of people we have served and loved, sacrifices we have made, and faithfulness we have exhibited over time. Our greatness in the eyes of God is a function of how we serve the one, even “the least of these” (Matthew 20:40, 45), in a way that does not hinge on visibility but rather involves not letting our “left hand know what [our] right hand doeth” (Matthew 6:3), giving our all regardless of the calling in which we labor.

Ongoing, humble, and faithful service that is invariant with the specific calling we hold allows our light to grow “brighter and brighter” (see Doctrine and Covenants 50:24) before the Lord. Indeed, with our eye single to His glory, our “whole bodies shall be filled with light” (Doctrine and Covenants 88:67). We may not know all that we will be asked to do in the church throughout our lives; but we do know that, at the Savior’s coming, having our body full of light will enable us to “see him as he is” because our willingness to be great in His eyes has allowed us to “be like him” (1 John 3:2).


  1. General Handbook: Serving in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, section 4.2.4.
  2. Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “Lift Where You Stand,” October 2008 general conference.
  3. Russell M. Nelson, “Let God Prevail,” October 2020 general conference.
  4. Clayton M. Christensen, “’My Ways Are Not Your Ways’,” Ensign, February 2007.
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