While researching an article on Ziba Peterson, I noticed something interesting about him. One thing I noticed is that you have probably never heard of him, even though, if you study Mormon history, you will have heard of most of the other people in the event that got him into Mormon history at all.
Ziba Peterson became a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, whose members are often referred to as Mormons (a nickname) soon after the Church was organized. He quickly became an elder and was given a missionary assignment with three other men: Parley P. Pratt, Peter Whitmer, Jr., and Oliver Cowdery. Their assignment was to teach the Native Americans, but they took a detour at one point and stopped in at Mentor, Ohio, where they contacted Sidney Rigdon. This was a critical moment in Church history. He was a preacher for a small faith called the Campbellites, and when he allowed them to preach, he and many others in his congregation were converted. Many of those converted on that trip would go on to become important church leaders and even apostles of the Church. It is considered the most important missionary effort in Church history because of both the numbers and the quality of the converts.
The other three men on this missionary journey became important church leaders and made significant contributions to the Church. Most Mormons would recognize their names. Ziba, however, was excommunicated just three years after joining the church. He was chastised for sinning and trying to hide those sins. He repented and regained his priesthood, but lost it again and was excommunicated.
God knew the trip to Ohio would happen, even though it wasn’t planned. He knew it was important, so we can presume he chose his people carefully for their missionary and leadership skills and for their potential. Three of the four lived up to their potential. One did not. The potential for greatness was there and he might even have been ordained to it before his birth. God placed him in a time and a place where he could make a difference. He gave him the companionship of great men in order to provide good examples and motivation. He had, in fact, every possible opportunity to become great. He chose, in time, to reject the potential God placed in him.
As a fan of history, I’ve had many opportunities to see how people use the opportunities and talents God gives them. Some make use of even the smallest spark. Placed in impossible situations—slavery, poverty, abuse, discrimination, persecution—they still rise above all that and find out who God intended them to be. Others use their trials as an excuse to avoid success. Some are given blessings that seem like trials and others are given trials that seem like blessings. It is all in how we view them and use them.
God knows us better than anyone else. Dieter F. Uchtdorf, a Mormon apostle, said:
Our Heavenly Father sees our real potential. He knows things about us that we do not know ourselves. He prompts us during our lifetime to fulfill the measure of our creation, to live a good life, and to return to His presence.
Why, then, do we devote so much of our time and energy to things that are so fleeting, so inconsequential, and so superficial? Do we refuse to see the folly in the pursuit of the trivial and transient?
Would it not be wiser for us to “lay up for [ourselves] treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal”?
How do we do this? By following the example of the Savior, by incorporating His teachings in our daily lives, by truly loving God and our fellowman.
We certainly cannot do this with a dragging-our-feet, staring-at-our-watch, complaining-as-we-go approach to discipleship (President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Of Regrets and Resolutions, October 2012 General Conference).
[Watch the entire talk at the end of the article.]
To become everything God knows we can be means that we have to see ourselves the way God sees us and then organize our priorities so we can focus our attention on the things that really matter. Then we need to think about our attitude towards the steps required to accomplish them. Attitude and eternal priorities can overcome the most extraordinary trials in life.
When we need a lift, we can look to the scriptures for role models. Joseph, in the Bible, was sold by his brothers (talk about a dysfunctional family), framed by a woman and thrown into jail. What did he do? He trusted God and wound up in a critical leadership role that would save the lives of many people. In the Book of Mormon, a teenager named Nephi was the victim of taunting and abuse by two of his older brothers. They even tried repeatedly to murder him. In spite of this, he wrote that he had been blessed every day of his life and he rose to be the leader of his people. In our modern world, we can find other examples of people who have overcome great tragedy and hardship to become someone God knew they could become.
Who we become should be a partnership between ourselves and God.
Terrie Lynn Bittner
The late Terrie Lynn Bittner—beloved wife, mother, grandmother, and friend—was the author of two homeschooling books and numerous articles, including several that appeared in Latter-day Saint magazines. She became a member of the Church at the age of 17 and began sharing her faith online in 1992.