Sunday, May 04, 2008

A moment of reflection

Every now and then it’s a good idea to take a time out and adjust the rear view mirror, the side mirrors and make sure you have the map oriented properly. This might be the right time for me to “pull in my horns” as my mother would say. When I start writing “to get even” or in anger I’ve found this to be good council; I remembered a line, one which I often ponder from the movie, Harvey.

“Years ago my mother used to say to me, she'd say, “In this world, Elwood, you must be” - she always called me Elwood – “In this world, Elwood, you must be oh so smart or oh so pleasant.” Well, for years I was smart. I recommend pleasant. You may quote me.”

This past week I forgot to be pleasant; I was downright ugly, for that I hope you will accept my apology. I considered removing the article since it really is not how I want folks to think of me; then recognized that it might serve better as a reminder, not to repeat such a mistake.

I have a dent in the side of my truck from one day when I tossed a broken ignition in anger. Instead of going under, as intended, it struck the side and left an ugly dent. I’m reminded not to lose my temper because of that ugly spot on an otherwise smooth and well kept truck. It isn’t often that I back down from being prideful; mostly because I’m right most of the time; there, feeling much better and more like my self.

This weekend we had Stake Conference, a chance to listen to our church leaders, both local and from the “home office” in Salt Lake. We had Elder Douglas L. Callister from the Quorum of the Seventy speak to us, a remarkably agile mind and tongue who appeared to speak without the aid of any prepared notes.

He was reminded of a young man from “days gone by” who had a wonderfully efficient student’s lamp, something which was a matter of pride and, from the account given rightfully so. He kept the wick trimmed perfectly, the chimney spotless and was able to illuminate his study area very nicely.

One evening while sitting on the porch at the beginning of his studies a salesman approached and commented on how fine a lamp he had, expressing the obvious attention and care which had been used to keep it burning with such a brightness. The young student accepted the praise as the salesman explained that he too had a very nice lamp for sale; but rather than insult the one the young student was using, the salesman simply said that he would light the one offered for sale and let its illuminating abilities speak for itself.

Upon lighting the new product it out shown the student’s lamp so that there wasn’t a place in the room which held its secrets, the light being produced from the much broader wick was aided by a much taller protective chimney; a good ten times brighter by comparison. There had never been a need to diminish the less efficient lamp as it became clear upon comparison how much better the newer lamp was.

As I listened to the crafting of words from Elder Callister my heart sank, reflecting on the words which I’d unleashed this past week. I had done nothing to show my admiration for those who held a different opinion; instead my words were angry, cold and unacceptable. There was no reason anyone would want to read constructive words which might be contrary to their own after my barn storming rant. Eating crow is a poor substitute for sharing a meal.

The next story Elder Callister shared had to do with a rich man who had all manner of worldly possessions. When he died it was determined there were no heirs and so his estate was dissolved in pieces to the highest bidders and what was left was given away in order to empty the large house prior to being sold.

There was only one book left, of all the items collected over years of acquiring great works of art, silver, gold and priceless treasures of the earth; only one book which was neither sold nor could it even be given away for free. It was a copy of the Book of Mormon, the only item which had value in the eternities.

This led to one more story which I’ll relate and leave you to decide whether or not these stories have any importance. Elder Callister in his younger years was a lawyer and he was approached by a fellow in the same profession, a man from a different faith.

“Do you really expect me to believe the Book of Mormon is the word of God, that a young boy actually translated this book and claims it came from God?”

Mind you I wasn’t acting as a stenographer during the time Elder Callister was speaking so the exact wording won’t be perfect.

Elder Callister turned the question around and asked, “Do you believe in the Bible?” The other fellow jumped in and answered, “Yes”. A discussion followed where the fellow explained how he’d grown up with the examples in the scriptures, stories from the Old and New Testaments were accepted from his earliest youth without question.

“Let’s say you were new to the information contained in the Bible, the parting of the Red Sea, walking on water, the dead being instructed to come out as was with Lazarus; wouldn’t you question the authenticity of such a book, just as you have with the Book of Mormon?” The other fellow had to pause and reconsider the information as it was presented.

Elder Callister took it another step, “When you hear the words of Shakespeare, you recognize the Shakespearean quality within the verses, When you hear Tennyson you hear the Tennysonian quality, with Emerson the Emersonian quality; so it is with the scriptures. You are able to identify the words which no man wrote, that could only come from God.”

Elder Callister waited a moment, “So it is with the Book of Mormon. You gain the knowledge that this book came from God as you read. The Spirit testifies that no man wrote these words; only God can touch your spirit in such a way.”

I apologize for not being as eloquent as Elder Callister; one of those, “You should have been there”, kind of talks. If you could compare speaking with dancing, Elder Callister just did a Fred Astaire from the podium and never needed anything, not even a broom handle.

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