Sunday, October 30, 2011

Of Course We Are

Darci, my daughter

This is a talk my daughter, Darci, gave in church, which I entitled:


I skipped work this week and went to Disneyland for a day. I love Disneyland. Where else can you go where it snows bubbles, where people break into song in the streets, and where no matter how small the child, they can still defeat the menacing Darth Vader.

I especially love going at Halloween when all of the kids come in costume. Every girl is a princess and every boy a gallant hero. And when you’re child, why shouldn’t you believe that birds’ can help you get dressed for the day or that you have the power to pull a sword from a stone to claim a regal inheritance?

Although life is not a Disney fairytale, what is true is that WE ARE THE LITERAL spiritual offspring of an HEAVENLY KING, heirs to a royal inheritance and with infinite potential.

There is a reason we are told to become as a little child. They believe it when they sing the words “I am a child of God, and he has sent me here.”

My first niece was born yesterday – little Vivienne. It makes me think of Wordsworth, who our general authorities so often quote, “But trailing clouds of glory do we come from God, who is our home. Heaven lies about us in our infancy!”

I think Wordsworth is also right though when he continues: “Shades of the prison-house begin to close upon the growing boy.”

As we get older I think it becomes easy to we forget the significance of our divine heritage and what it should mean for our lives – and perhaps in the forgetting we do become a little more Malificent and a little less Cinderella.

Case in point being perhaps that my go-to Halloween Costume is Medusa, while my mom’s is Cruella D’Ville.

Nothing can change the fact, however, that we truly are children of a loving and DIVINE Heavenly Father.

Paul declared to the Athenians that we are the “offspring” of God.

And in the Doctrine and Covenants: the “inhabitants [of the worlds] are begotten sons and daughters unto God.”

And the Pearl of Great Price God teaches Moses this important truth: “For behold, this is my work and my Glory to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.”

The God of the universe, the Creator of all things, stands at the ready to help us reach our full potential “for the worth of souls is GREAT in the sight of God.” And oh, what we can become under God’s loving stewardship.


But Satan, the Father of Lies, seeks to distort our view of our great individual worth.

The adversary seeks to make us believe we are less than we are.

We see evidence of this as we look to Moses, who after communing with God on the Mount of Transfiguration is visited by Satan, who immediately challenges Moses’ spiritual lineage by calling him, “Moses, son of man.”

He tries to separate us from the Love of God and convince us that God is not mindful of us. Isn’t that the grossest lie of all? That God, in his heaven, is not mindful of his children.

God is ever mindful us. I was reminded of this when I was set apart as a missionary. After the blessing, my grandma came up to me with a small slip of paper with words she had dictated from the blessing that spoke the simple truth that “God is personally aware of you.”

My parents are nick-name givers and all 10 of us have a random assortment that we answer to. Among the more interesting are Bernaldo for Katherine, Spikapoo for Jack, DeGailing for Jimmie, and they get even weirder. And although I also have my fair share that sound like jibberish, my mom also often calls me her “first born in the wilderness” me, being the first born while my parents were in their wilderness of starving student life.

I remember an experience a few years ago when I was feeling far removed and forgotten by the Lord. I turned to the scriptures. However, like the bratty daughter I was being, I begrudgingly put forth minimal effort, merely flipping the book open at random.

The book fell open to 2 NEPHI 2, and I began to read and in the 2nd verse I read – “Jacob, my first-born in the wilderness . . . thou knowest the greatness of God; and he shall consecrate thine afflictions for thy gain.”

I knew in that moment that I was not forgotten by the Lord, and it was, as Elder Bednar calls them, a tender mercy for a suffering daughter.

On the other end of the spectrum, the adversary seeks to distort our view through PRIDE.

PRESIDENT UCHTDORF explains that to some, “the great deceiver appeals to their prideful tendencies, puffing them up and encouraging them to believe in the fantasy of their own self-importance and invincibility. He tells them they have transcended the ordinary and that because of ability, birthright, or social status, they are set apart from the common measure of all that surrounds them.”

Pride would also have us seek after personal glory rather than the glory of God. In the recent movie, “Tree of Life” by Terrence Malick, a father who struggled for years in business comes to realize that his focus was misplaced and states: “I wanted to be loved because I was great; A big man. I'm nothing. Look at the glory around us; trees, birds. I lived in shame. I dishonored it all, and didn't notice the glory. I'm a foolish man.”

A prideful heart focuses inward, giving little regard to the Lord’s hand or the worth of others.
There is a funny sketch the comedian Brian Regan does where he talks about being the “ME-MONSTER,” which essentially means someone who is prideful and self-obsessed. In the bit, he says, "Me myself right and then I and then myself and me me me me me. I couldn’t tell this one about I cause I was talking about myself and Me.”

The scriptures teach us plainly that it is the meek who will inherit the earth and that “every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.”

Another way, the adversary challenges our view of our individual worth is by convincing us that the world’s view is the right one. And face it, the world’s view of worth splashed on magazines, in crazy reality TV shows, and hundreds of other mediums has strayed far from what the Lord values in us.

SHERI DEW shared the following: A 45-year-old mother of six told me recently that when she stopped pouring over magazines that plagued her with images of how her home and wardrobe should look, she began to feel more at peace. She said, “I may be chubby, gray, and wrinkled, but I am a chubby, gray, wrinkled daughter of God, who knows me and loves me.”

The world would have us believe that we are not pretty enough, good enough, smart enough, successful enough, and that we need more and more and more and more to fill our well of worth that could never possibly be filled with such things, until our faces are puffed up with collagen and our chests are puffed up with pride.

I worked in DC for 10 years, and I love it there. It’s alive with education and opinions, and everyone’s got one. Amidst all the things I love about it however, it is very much a culture based on the idea that “YOU ARE DEFINED BY YOUR CAREER.” In fact, I have some colleagues who wore their failed marriages as badges of honor, claiming that they were sacrificed for THE JOB.

While there, my career gave me the opportunity to work among world and political leaders, business gurus, media and sports personalities and people who have received the greatest accolades, honors, and recognition the world has to offer. It was interesting to note, however, that success by the world’s standards didn’t mean these people were more happy or more fulfilled or by any means BETTER people. In many cases, it was just the opposite.

PRESIDENT UCHTDORF -- The Lord doesn’t care at all if we spend our days working in marble halls or stable stalls. God knows that some of the greatest souls who have ever lived are those who will never appear in the chronicles of history. They are the blessed, humble souls who emulate the Savior’s example and spend the days of their lives doing good.

I love the movie THE LEGEND OF BAGGER VANCE. It’s a sentimental movie set during The Great Depression. In it the main character, who is a professional golfer, is talking to a young boy who idolizes him. The boy is complaining that he is embarrassed and being made fun of because his dad, who once had a thriving business is now sweeping streets to make a living.

The main character responds with wisdom that could instruct all of us: "Oh, grow up Hardy. Your daddy's out sweepin’ streets because he took every last dime he had, and used it to pay up every last man and woman he owed instead of declaring bankruptcy like everyone else in town, including your best friend Wilburs' dad, which is why he's able to sit around all day long on his 'dignity.' Your daddy stared adversity in the eye, and he beat it back with a broom."

I know that it means more to GOD that we are good, than what worldly “dignity” we carry with us.

That’s not to say, however, that there is anything wrong with achieving or doing many things that the world finds praiseworthy. In fact, we are encouraged to be industrious, to pursue education and careers, to develop talents and to share them. And certainly since we are commanded to support one another openly, receiving praise from the world and from others is not bad in and of itself. It’s what we do and how we feel about such recognition. Do we crave it, depend on it, seek after it or do we Glory in God because he has given us “all that we hath.”

The movie “Chariots of Fire” which is about the 1924 Olympics is also, in part, a biography of a Scottish runner and rugby player, Eric Liddle. Besides being a world-class runner, Eric was also a devout theological student studying to become a missionary. In a particularly poignant scene, Eric is speaking with his sister Jenny, who is concerned with his decision to put his missionary work on hold to compete in the games, fearing that he’s seeking for personal glory. Eric says to her, "I believe God made me for a purpose; but he also made me fast. And when I run I feel his pleasure.”

God is happy when we pursue our talents and live up to our potential, but how important it is to acknowledge Him, from whom all such blessings flow and through whom all things are possible.

I love this thought from English author John Ruskin “the first test of a truly great man is his humility. I do not mean, by humility, doubt of his own power. But really great men have a curious feeling that greatness is not in them, but through them. And they see something Divine in every other man, and are endlessly, foolishly, incredibly merciful.”

Once we truly come to understand who we are and to what source we look to for our individual worth, we understand that the worth of souls is great in the sight of God and the worth of others becomes great to us as well.

Scottish essayist Thomas Carlyle said that one of the most Godlike of virtues is the appreciation of human worth as shown by the hearts of men.

How much more secure and free would we feel to live up to our divine potential if we treated one another like the cherished children of God that we are.

Eliza Doolittle, the pupil of Professor Henry Higgins in the play My Fair Lady says, “The difference between a lady and a flower girl is not how she behaves, but how she is treated. I shall always be a flower girl to Professor Higgins because he always treats me as a flower girl and always will. But I know that I shall always be a lady to Colonel Pickering because he always treats me as a lady, and always will.”

We have such an opportunity and indeed an obligation to help one another recognize and fulfill our potential on this earth.

One of the lessons I cherish most that my parents worked to teach all of us was the principle of what they called “being for” people. They taught us that it was important to REJOICE in the success of others, to be in their corner 100% and that our actions should always be to support, encourage, and love.

Elder Glenn Pace said, “I am convinced that when we obtain a witness of who we really are and possess healthy feelings of self-worth because of it, our joy in the accomplishments of others is magnified. When that joy is felt, we should share it.”

ALMA is a great example of this. After being reunited with Ammon and his bretheren, he says, “I do not joy in my own success alone, but my joy is MORE full because of the success of my brethren.”

We should take every opportunity to rejoice in one another. Understanding the worth of souls should guide our behavior even when others have disappointed us or turned away from what we know to be true.

We may at times feel justified to speak ill of people who have exhibited bad behavior but how much clearer is their path back if paved with love rather than criticism. And since all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, we will each have times when we hope that path is clear for us. How much wiser is it then to hold our tongues and to keep people’s names safe in our keeping.

JOSEPH SMITH taught, “Nothing is so much calculated to lead people to forsake sin as to take them by the hand, and watch over them with tenderness. When persons manifest the least kindness and love to me, O what power it has over my mind, while the opposite course has a tendency to harrow up all the harsh feelings and depress the human mind. The nearer we get to our heavenly Father, the more we are disposed to look with compassion on perishing souls; we feel that we want to take them upon our shoulders, and cast their sins behind our backs.”

Isn’t that beautiful?

JOSEPH SMITH also teaches us that “A man filled with the love of God, is not content with blessing his family alone, but ranges through the whole world, anxious to bless the whole human race.”

We have a dear family friend, Anita, who we met in our ward when we lived in England who is just this sort of person. She is a true example of someone who “mourns with those who mourn” and seeks to “comfort those who stand in need of comfort.”

We lived in England in the 80s while there was famine in Ethiopia that received wide news coverage. Anita felt such anxious desire to help the people of Ethiopia, she figured even though she couldn’t offer much, she could still do something. At the time, Anita was working as a nanny for Bob Geldof, of the British band the Boom Town Rats. Hoping to take advantage of the opportunity afforded her by living in the home of a rock star who boasted other rock star friends who frequented the house, she placed a poster in the kitchen with a jar underneath that said, something like “HELP THE STARVING IN ETHIOPIA.” Bob Geldof was inspired by Anita and her poster, and said to her, “I think there is something more we can do about this.” He went on then to organize Band Aid, which produced the song “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” attracting such artists as Sting, Bono, Phil Collins and others and raised 8 million pounds. That led to the Live Aid concert and the recording of “We are the World” in the US the following year, which included artists like Michael Jackson, Billy Joel, Bruce Springsteen, Diana Ross and countless others. It was considered an historic event and the proceeds for this recording reached over $50 million in only one year. In 2005 Geldof again organized a series of concerts to raise money and awareness for Africa, and millions more were raised and Geldof was knighted by the Queen for his efforts.

My mom once asked Anita if she would ever write about this experience, but she simply dismissed the idea. “So,” my mom said, “we’ll be the only ones who ever know what you inspired.” “Yes”, she replied, entirely content with that idea.

Because of one jar on one counter, and one heart who felt so deeply the worth of souls that she had to do something, millions of people have been blessed and even millions more touched by the spirit of love that began with one humble follower of the Gospel of Christ.

Indeed, “the worth of souls is great.” And of this I testify . . .

1 comment:

Michelle McDonald said...

Incredible and profound. Thank you so much for sharing this.