Monday, April 1, 2013

Greatness: God VS The World

"For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways,
and my thoughts than your thoughts."
Isaiah 55:8-9
I love adventure stories. Movies, TV shows, books. Fantasy, Science Fiction, History. Anything that illustrates excitement, action, heroism. The characters (or real people in the case of a historical event) might not become well-known for their efforts but they do something that touches many lives. They save the world, defeat the bad guy, restore the balance of power, etc.

Sometimes they are underdog stories. A lowly person becomes a great ruler. A struggling student becomes accomplished in their field of study. A nobody becomes a somebody.

The string running through all of these stories is that all of the hero accomplish something the world recognizes as great. Maybe their efforts are unheralded by the world at large during their lifetime. Maybe the character's deeds are unknown in his make-believe world.  But to us, the audience, the students of the past, the listeners of their stories, they accomplish something extraordinary.

In my younger days, I looked at my life through a fog of possibilities. My future was an exciting mystery. I could be anything, do anything. Many people in my circle of influence told me that I would do great things some day.

As a Latter-Day Saint youth, I often heard quotes and council from leaders heralding the great work my generation would accomplish. I heard the stories of the restoration and pioneers trek west, the building of Zion and their baptism by fire as they struggled and suffered. I heard these people described as "great" and their efforts as "mighty". I envisioned mythic figures, bold and brave as they ran forward towards any task.

My own life is not over, of course, but it is not exactly what I expected either. It is messy and mundane and frustrating and complicated. I often feel that I have not lived up to expectations. I am supposed to accomplish great things and I'm stuck here in this house with a bunch of kids and an endless list of chores. Major fail, right?

Through the eyes of age, I see the heroic stories of the past with a little less glitter. I can imagine the pain and heartache associated with their trials. I know how difficult their choices must have been at the time. I realize how frightening life must have been at times. And I realize there were many days filled with the messy and mundane. No one escapes that.

"But I am supposed to do something great. My life has a special mission!"

And what might that be, exactly?

The world tells us greatness and success in life must be like those stories I love. We have to be the underdog who fights until he wins. We have to become famous for something. We have to do something that changes lives.


I recently read this story from "Teachings Of The Presidents Of The Church: Lorenzo Snow". As a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, Lorenzo Snow received word that a friend's daughter had passed away. He immediately went to their home and gave the child a priesthood blessing.

During the administration I was particularly impressed with some of the words which he used and can well remember them now. He said: ‘Dear Ella, I command you, in the name of the Lord, Jesus Christ, to come back and live, your mission is not ended. You shall yet live to perform a great mission.’ He said she should yet live to rear a large family and be a comfort to her parents and friends. I well remember these words.
The daughter was soon revived. And what of her "great mission"?

When Ella had been in the spirit world, she had felt such peace and happiness that she had not wanted to return. But she obeyed the voice of President Snow. From that very day, she comforted family members and friends, helping them understand that they did not need to mourn for their loved ones who had died. Later she married, had eight children, and served faithfully in her Church callings.
That's it? She comforted people. She had 8 kids. She served faithfully. The end.

What? She was raised from the dead for that? She didn't become the first woman president or a famous artist? She didn't find a cure for some horrible disease? Did her kids do something important? Come on! Give me something to work with here! What kid of ending is that?

That's what the world would say, isn't it? That story is a let down from a worldly perspective.

But not to our Heavenly Father. What does he call "great"?

At the same time came the disciples unto Jesus, saying,  Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven? And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them, And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven. (Matt. 18:1-4)
But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted. (Matt. 23:11)

Master, which is the great commandment in the law? Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. (Matt. 22:36)

Wherefore, be not weary in well-doing, for ye are laying the foundation of a great work. And out of small things proceedeth that which is great. (D&C 64:33)

Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God...And if it so be that you should labor all your days ... and bring, save it be one soul unto me, how great shall be your joy with him in the kingdom of my Father! And now, if your joy will be great with one soul that you have brought unto me into the kingdom of my Father, how great will be your joy if you should bring many souls unto me! (D&C 18:16)
The scriptures contain hundreds of references to Heavenly Father's definition of greatness. Obedience, humility, love, service to others, these are what make us great in his eyes. Motherhood embodies them all.
Next time you feel that you have somehow failed because you are wiping noses instead of curing cancer or battling for world peace, take a step back and look at yourself through heaven's eyes. What will you see?


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