Individual Worth Stories
CONFERENCE OF THE CARPENTERS TOOLS
One day the carpenter’s tools had a conference. Brother Hammer was in the chair. Upon bringing the meeting to order, he said that he understood that there were complaints among his fellow tools and he thought it would be good to discuss it openly together.
“Yes, Brother Saw, what is your complaint?” Brother Saw stood up and said “It’s that little Bro. Pencil. He gets on everyone’s nerves, he is so small. He can’t be found when he’s needed and when he’s doing service, he is so blunt at times that he makes very bad impressions. He certainly needs to be sharpened up a bit around here if he expects to be of any use”, fumed Brother Saw.
Little Brother Pencil slowly rose to his feet and said “All right, perhaps I am a little blunt at times. It’s only when I spend too long a time in service that I’m like that but at least I’m not like Brother Drill and his family of small bits. They are always going around in circles and really, Bro. Drill seems just a bit boring.”
Brother Drill and his family of small bits stood up and replied, “Yes, I know we have a reputation for going in circles but at least we are not like Bro. Plane. You really have to push him to get him to do anything at all. And then all of his work is on the surface. There certainly is no depth to his work like there is to ours.” All eyes turned to Bro. Plane to see what he would say. Quickly Bro. Plane spoke up.
“Brothers, I guess I’m not the only one around here that has to be pushed to do anything or that has no depth to his service. Brother Sandpaper is worse than I am.” Brother Sandpaper was somewhat new in their midst. “Besides, look how rough he is. I just can’t stand being next to him. He just rubs me the wrong way. How he could accomplish any good in his service being so rough, I’ll never know.”
That remark made Brother Sandpaper really angry. “Brother Plane is just jealous, that’s all! And while everyone is complaining, I’d like to complain about Brother Rule. He makes me grit my teeth always measuring others by his standards as though he’s the only one who is right around here. How about Bro. Level? He is so exacting! And there’s Brother Compass and Brother Tape Measure and that Brother Punch doesn’t finish what he starts most of the time.”
Well, the tools were really getting hot. Their tempers were flaring. All seemed to have legitimate complaints against one another, but just then, when some were even getting ready to walk out of the carpenters hall, some thinking that they were not useful or needed, why who should walk in but the Master Carpenter from Nazareth. He had come to perform his work for the day. His Father had asked him to build a house that they could both dwell in and he was now almost finished with it. He put his work clothes on and started to finish the work his Father had given him to do. He used every tool. Now someone else appeared on the scene. It was the carpenter’s Father. How thrilled and pleased He was to see what His Son had accomplished.”How did you do it my Son?” asked the Father.
“I put to good use all of the tools that I bought and how I love every one of them. I paid a high price for them Father, but they are well worth it. See the hammer over there? He is so useful for both the work of tearing down and building up. He is very effective in service because he really hits the nail on the head. He’s a very solid worker, I must say.
Then there is the saw. He’s really pretty sharp and really puts his teeth into the work, constantly going back and forth in one area at a time for very effective service. I certainly am happy to have my pencil. Although he’s not very big and I have to sharpen him from time to time, just like some of the other tools, he is very useful in the correcting and marking work.
Father, here is another tool I just couldn’t be without. Big drill and these small bits of his family. They are all so good at reaching deep into the heart and are always leaving the way open for additional work. And just look at this plane. He is so handy to have around in service. He’s such a smooth worker and doesn’t bite off more than he can handle at one time. He certainly is good at overcoming obstacles as well. And do you see Brother Level over there? He has a good eye for balance and is very levelheaded. And although little Bro. Punch is very small, with the assistance of Brother Hammer, he does an excellent job of driving his point home. Although Brother Tape Measure is small in size he is always extending himself to meet various circumstances and like Brother Rule are accurate in their statements. Even my new tools like Brother Sandpaper, I wouldn’t want to do without him. Although there is a certain roughness, he will wind up with smooth results. So you see Father, it is because of having all these variety of tools that I’m thankful and with their service I will finish your house. Let me show you around the rest of the building.”
Well, upon their leaving, all of the carpenters tools started rejoicing because of hearing the commendations of the Master and seeing how pleased his Father was with what they all had accomplished together. Brother Hammer now again rose in the midst and said “Brothers, I perceive that all of us are needed. For although we all may have our weak points at times, and we do not do things exactly the way others think we should, whether we are old or new, large or small, we are all important tools in the hands of the Master Carpenter.”
SPENCER W. KIMBALL LEARNS FROM A FRIEND
Harold B. Lee and Spencer W. Kimball had much in common and were close friends. Elder Kimball followed Elder Lee in joining the Quorum of Twelve Apostles, so they were always next to each other in seating and in seniority, which helped develop the kinship. They even shared the same birthday; Elder Kimball was actually four years older than Elder Lee, but had great respect for the man who was his senior in the Quorum.
The following story was told by Sister Norma B. Ashton, wife of Elder Marvin J. Ashton:
“President Kimball said he always admired this friend so very much; in fact, he almost envied President Lee for his talents. He took every occasion to tell Elder Lee how he felt. Often he would say, ‘Harold, I wish I could play the organ as you do.’ ‘Harold, you speak so well. I wish I could do as well.’ ‘Harold, you can see the gist of a problem in such a short time. I wish my mind were so clear.’ Then, related President Kimball, in one
of their weekly meetings in the temple President Lee made a fine presentation to the other members of the Twelve. As they walked out of the temple together, again President Kimball turned to his friend and said, ‘You did a magnificent job with your report this morning. I wish I could do as well as you do.’
‘Well,’ said President Kimball with a twinkle in his eyes, ‘I guess Harold had had enough. He stopped, put his hands on his hips, and, looking me straight in the eye, said, ‘Spencer, the Lord doesn’t want you to be a Harold B. Lee. All he wants is for you to be the best Spencer W. Kimball you can be.’ With a smile on his face, President Kimball said, ‘Ever since then I have just tried to be the best Spencer W. Kimball I can be.’ And would you say that he has been very successful doing that?
That is an answer for all of us. All the Lord asks of us is to be the best we can be with what we have.”
(“For Such a Time as This”, talk at BYU Women’s Conference; reprinted in _Woman to Woman_ (Deseret, 1986), pp. 16-17)
The upstate NY man was rich in almost every way. His estate was worth millions. He owned houses, land, antiques and cattle. But though on the outside he had it all, he was very unhappy on the inside. His wife was growing old, and the couple was childless. He had always wanted a little boy to carry on the family legacy. Miraculously, his wife became pregnant in her later years, and she gave birth to a little boy. The boy was severely handicapped, but the man loved him with his whole heart. When the boy was
five, his mom died. The dad drew closer to his special son. At age 13, the boy’s birth defects cost him his life and the father died soon after from a broken heart.
The estate was auctioned before hundreds of bidders. The first item offered was a painting of the boy. No one bid. They waited like vultures for the riches. Finally, the poor housemaid, who helped raise the boy, offered $5 for the picture and easily took the bid. To every-one’s shock, the auctioneer ripped a hand written will from the back of the picture. This is what it said: “To the person who thinks enough of my son to buy this
painting, to this person I give my entire estate.” The auction was over.
The greedy crowd walked away in shock and dismay. How many of us have sought after what we thought were true riches only to find out later that our Father was prepared to give us His entire estate if we had only sought after His Son alone? (Shared by Duane E. Berry)
HIS NAME IS JOHN
His name is John. He has wild hair, wears a T-shirt with holes in it, jeans and no shoes. This was literally his wardrobe for his entire four years of college. He is brilliant. Kinda esoteric and very, very bright. He became a Christian while attending college.
Across the street from the campus is a well-dressed, very conservative church. They want to develop a ministry to the students, but are not sure how to go about it. One day John decides to go there. He walks in with no shoes, jeans, his T-shirt, and wild hair. The service has already started and so John starts down the aisle looking for a seat. The church is completely packed and he can’t find a seat. By now people are looking a bit uncomfortable, but no one says anything. John gets closer and closer and closer to the pulpit and when he realizes there are no seats, he just squats down right on the carpet. (Although perfectly acceptable behavior at a college fellowship, trust me, this had never happened in this church before!) By now the people are really uptight, and the tension in the air is thick.
About this time, the minister realizes that from way at the back of the church, a deacon is slowly making his way toward John. Now the deacon is in his eighties, has silver-gray hair, a three-piece suit, and a pocket watch. A godly man, very elegant, very dignified, very courtly. He walks with a cane and as he starts walking toward this boy, everyone is saying to themselves, “You can’t blame him for what he’s going to do. How can you expect a man of his age and of his background to understand some college kid on the floor?”
It takes a long time for the man to reach the boy. The church is utterly silent except for the clicking of the man’s cane. All eyes are focused on him. You can’t even hear anyone breathing. The people are thinking, “The minister can’t even preach the sermon until the deacon does what he has to do.” And now they see this elderly man drop his cane on the floor. With great difficulty he lowers himself and sits down next to John and worships with him so he won’t be alone. Everyone chokes up with emotion. When the minister gains control he says, “What I’m about to preach, you will never remember. What you have just seen, you will never forget.
Jean Thompson stood in front of her fifth-grade class on the very first day of school in the fall and told the children a lie. Like most teachers, she looked at her pupils and said that she loved them all the same, that she would treat them all alike. And that was impossible because there in front of her, slumped in his seat on the third row, was a little boy named Teddy Stoddard.
Mrs. Thompson had watched Teddy the year before and noticed he didn’t play well with the other children, that his clothes were unkempt and that he constantly needed a bath. And Teddy was unpleasant. It got to the point during the first few months that she would actually take delight in marking his papers with a broad red pen, making bold X’s and then marking the F at the top of the paper biggest of all. Because Teddy was a sullen little boy, no one else seemed to enjoy him, either.
At the school where Mrs. Thompson taught, she was required to review each child’s records and put Teddy’s off until last. When she opened his file, she was in for a surprise. His first-grade teacher wrote, “Teddy is a bright, inquisitive child with a ready laugh. He does his work neatly and has good manners…he is a joy to be around.”
His second-grade teacher wrote, “Teddy is an excellent student well-liked by his classmates, but he is troubled because his mother has a terminal illness and life at home must be a struggle.” His third-grade teacher wrote, “Teddy continues to work hard but his mother’s death has been hard on him. He tries to do his best but his father doesn’t show much interest and his home life will soon affect him if some steps aren’t taken.” Teddy’s fourth-grade teacher wrote, “Teddy is withdrawn and doesn’t show much interest in school. He doesn’t have many friends and sometimes sleeps in class. He is tardy and could become a problem.”
By now Mrs. Thompson realized the problem but Christmas was coming fast. It was all she could do, with the school play and all, until the day before the holidays began and she was suddenly forced to focus on Teddy Stoddard. Her children brought her presents, all in beautiful ribbon and bright paper, except for Teddy’s, which was clumsily wrapped in the heavy, brown paper of a scissored grocery bag.
Mrs. Thompson took pains to open it in the middle of the other presents. Some of the children started to laugh when she found a rhinestone bracelet with some of the stones missing, and a bottle that was one-quarter full of cologne. She stifled the children’s laughter when she exclaimed how pretty the bracelet was, putting it on, and dabbing some of the perfume behind the other wrist. Teddy Stoddard stayed behind just long enough to say, “Mrs. Thompson, today you smelled just like my mom used to.” After the children left she cried for at least an hour. On that very day, she quit teaching reading, and writing, and speaking. Instead, she began to teach children.
Jean Thompson paid particular attention to one they all called “Teddy.” As she worked with him, his mind seemed to come alive. The more she encouraged him, the faster he responded. On days there would be an important test, Mrs. Thompson would remember that cologne. By the end of the year he had become one of the smartest children in the class and…well, he had also become the “pet” of the teacher who had once vowed to love all of her children exactly the same.
A year later she found a note under her door, from Teddy, telling her that of all the teachers he’d had in elementary school, she was his favorite. Six years went by before she got another note from Teddy. He then wrote that he had finished high school, third in his class, and she was still his favorite teacher of all time. Four years after that, she got another letter, saying that while things had been tough at times, he’d stayed in school, had stuck with it, and would graduate from college with the highest of honors. He assured Mrs. Thompson she was still his favorite teacher.
Then four more years passed and yet another letter came. This time he explained that after he got his bachelor’s degree, he decided to go a little further. The letter explained that she was still his favorite teacher but that now his name was a little longer. The letter was signed, Theodore F. Stoddard, M.D.
The story doesn’t end there. You see, there was yet another letter that Spring. Teddy said he’d met this girl and was to be married. He explained that his father had died a couple of years ago and he was wondering…well, if Mrs. Thompson might agree to sit in the pew usually reserved for the mother of the groom. And guess what, she wore that bracelet, the one with several rhinestones missing.
And I bet on that special day, Jean Thompson smelled just like…well, just like the way Teddy remembered his mother smelling on their last Christmas together.
THE MORAL: You never can tell what type of impact you may make on another’s life by your actions or lack of action. Consider this fact in your venture through life.
The Littlest Screw
There was once upon a time a village that was beautiful and well kept. The people were very proud of their village and loyal citizens. They held a meeting one day to decide what type of monument could be erected on the town square — a final touch — something both useful and lovely. They thought for sometime and finally decided to erect a beautiful, impressive clock.
They sent for the best materials — for they wanted the finest clock they could have. The materials needed should be able to stand all kinds of weather and not tarnish, rust, or warp — the very finest of clock makers was brought to the town to do the work.
Finally, it was finished and all the people came to see the clock and as each went around the clock looking at the exquisite workmanship, they each commented on the huge, impressiveness of the main spring that made the clock run. And each time something was said about the big spring a little screw located just above the spring wiggled and twisted and in envy said, “I’m not important, I’m not needed. No one notices me.” The day went on and more and more people came to see the clock and over and over again the little screw would comment and wiggle and twist and feel very much unnecessary and unhappy. Toward the end of the day just as the last few people were viewing the clock, someone made a remark about the main spring. And it was the last straw for the little screw– it gave a twist and jerk and came right out of its place and as it fell to the base of the clock said, “No one notices me — I’m not important.” But when the screw came out, the big main spring also fell our of place. You see, the whole clockwork depended on the little screw.
One time the animals had a school. The curriculum consisted of running, climbing, flying, and swimming, and all of the animals took all of the subjects.
The duck was good in swimming. Better, in fact, than his instructors; and he made passing grades in flying but was practically hopeless in running. Because he was low in this subject, he was made to stay in after school and drop his swimming class in order to practice running. He kept this up until he was only average in swimming. But average is acceptable, so nobody worried about that. Except the duck.
The eagle was considered a problem pupil and was disciplined severely. He beat all the others to the top of the tree in the climbing class, but he had used his own way of getting there.
The rabbit started out at the top of the class in running, but he had a nervous breakdown and had to drop out of school on account of so much made-up work in swimming.
The squirrel led the climbing class, but his flying teacher made him start his flying lessons from the ground up instead of the top of the tree down, and he developed charley horses from over-exertion at the take off and began getting C’s in climbing, D’s in running.
The practical prairie dogs apprenticed their off-spring to a badger when the school authorities refused to add digging to the curriculum.
At the end of the year an abnormal eel who could swim well, and run, climb, and fly a little, was made Valedictorian.
When I was a little boy, my mother used to embroider a great deal. I would sit at her knee and look up from the floor and ask what she was doing. She informed me that she was embroidering. I told her that it looked like a mess from where I was. As from the underside I watched her work within the boundaries of the little round hoop that she held in her hand, I complained to her that it sure looked messy from where I sat.
She would smile at me, look down and gently say, “My son, you go about your playing for awhile, and when I am finished with my embroidering, I will put you on my knee and let you see it from my side.”
I would wonder why she was using some dark threads along with the bright ones and why they seemed so jumbled from my view. A few minutes would pass and then I would hear Mother’s voice say, “Son, come and sit on my knee.” This I did only to be surprised and thrilled to see a beautiful flower or a sunset. I could not believe it, because from underneath it looked so messy.
Then Mother would say to me, “My son, from underneath it did look messy and jumbled, but you did not realize that there was a pre-drawn plan on the top. It was a design. I was only following it. Now look at it from my side and you will see what I was doing.”
Many times through the years I have looked up to my Heavenly Father and said, “Father, what are You doing?” He has answered, “I am embroidering your life.” I say, “But it looks like a mess to me. It seems so jumbled. The threads seem so dark. Why can’t they all be bright?”
The Father seems to tell me, “‘My child, you go about your business of doing My business, and one day I will bring you to Heaven and put you on My knee and you will see the plan from My side “
“Why was my burden so heavy?” I slammed the bedroom door and leaned against it. Is there no rest from this life? I wondered. I stumbled to my bed and dropped onto it, pressing my pillow around my ears to shut out the noise of my existence.
“Oh God,” I cried, “let me sleep. Let me sleep forever and never wake up!”
With a deep sob I tried to will myself into oblivion, then welcomed the blackness that came over me.
Light surrounded me as I regained consciousness. I focused on its source: The figure of a man standing before a cross.
“My child,” the person asked, “why did you want to come to Me before I am ready to call you?”
“Lord, I’m sorry. It’s just that… I can’t go on. You see how hard it is for me. Look at this awful burden on my back. I simply can’t carry it anymore.”
“But haven’t I told you to cast all of your burdens upon Me, because I care for you? My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.”
“I knew You would say that. But why does mine have to be so heavy?”
“My child, everyone in the world has a burden. Perhaps you would like to try a different one?”
“I can do that?”
He pointed to several burdens lying at His feet. “You may try any of these.”
All of them seemed to be of equal size. But each was labeled with a name.
“There’s Joan’s,” I said. Joan was married to a wealthy businessman. She lived in a sprawling estate and dresssed her three daughters in the prettiest designer clothes. Sometimes she drove me to church in her Cadillac when my car was broken.
“Let me try that one.” How difficult could her burden be? I thought.
The Lord removed my burden and placed Joan’s on my shoulders. I sank my knees beneath its weight. “Take it off!” I said. “”What makes it so heavy?”
I untied the straps and opened the top. Inside was a figure of her Mother-in-law, and when I lifted it out, it began to speak.
“Joan, you’ll never be good enough for my son,” it began. “He never should have married you. You’re a terrible mother to my grandchildren…”
I quickly placed the figure back in the pack and withdrew another. It was Donna, Joan’s youngest daughter. Her head was bandaged from the surgery that had failed to resolve her epilepsy. A third figure was Joan’s brother. Addicted to drugs, he had been convicted of killing a police officer.
“I see why her burden is so heavy, Lord. But she’s always smiling and helping others. I didn’t realize….”
“Would you like to try another?” He asked quietly.
I tested several. Paula’s felt heavy: She was raising four small boys without a father. Debra’s did too: A childhood of sexual abuse and a marriage of emotional abuse. When I Came to Ruth’s burden, I didn’t even try. I knew that inside I would find arthritis, old age, a demanding full-time job, and a beloved husband in a nursing home.
“They’re all too heavy, Lord” I said. “”Give back my own.”
As I lifted the familiar load once again, It seemed much lighter than the others.
“Lets look inside” He said.
I turned away, holding it close. “That’s not a good idea,” I said.
“There’s a lot of junk in there.”
“Let Me see.”
The gentle thunder of His voice compelled me. I opened my burden.
He pulled out a brick.
“Tell me about this one.”
“Lord, You know. It’s money. I know we don’t suffer like people in some countries or even the homeless here in America. But we have no insurance, and when the kids get sick, we can’t always take them to the doctor. They’ve never been to a dentist. And I’m tired of dressing them in hand-me-downs.”
“My child, I will supply all of your needs… and your children’s. I’ve given them healthy bodies. I will teach them that expensive clothing doesn’t make a person valuable in My sight.”
Then He lifted out the figure of a small boy. “And this?” He asked.
“Andrew…” I hung my head, ashamed to call my son a burden. “But, Lord, he’s hyperactive. He’s not quiet like the other two. He makes me so tired. He’s always getting hurt, and someone is bound to think I abuse him. I yell at him all the time. Someday I may really hurt him….”
“My child,” He said, “If you trust Me, I will renew your strength, if you allow Me to fill you with My Spirit, I will give you patience.”
Then He took some pebbles from my burden.
“Yes, Lord,” I said with a sigh. “Those are small. But they’re important. I hate my hair. It’s thin, and I can’t make it look nice. I can’t afford to go to the beauty shop. I’m overweight and can’t stay on a diet. I hate all my clothes. I hate the way I look!”
“My child, people look at your outward appearance, but I look at your heart. By My Spirit you can gain self-control to lose weight. But your beauty should not come from outward appearance. Instead, it should come from your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in My sight.”
My burden now seemed lighter than before.
“I guess I can handle it now” I said.
“There is more,” He said. “Hand Me that last brick.”
“Oh, You don’t have to take that. I can handle it.”
“My child, give it to Me.” Again His voice compelled me. He reached out His hand, and for the first time I saw the ugly wound.
“But, Lord, this brick is so awful, so nasty, so…..Lord! What happened to Your hands? They’re so scarred!”
No longer focused on my burden, I looked for the first time into His face. In His brow were ragged scars-as though someone had pressed thorns into His flesh.
“Lord,” I whispered. “What happened to You?”
His loving eyes reached into my soul.
“My child, you know. Hand Me the brick. It belongs to Me. I bought it.”
“With My blood.”
“But why, Lord?”
“Because I have loved you with and everlasting love. Give it to Me.”
I placed the filthy brick into His wounded palm. It contained all the dirt and evil of my life: my pride, my selfishness, the depression that constantly tormented me. He turned to the cross and hurled my brick into the pool of blood at its base. It hardly made a ripple.
“Now, My child, you need to go back. I will be with you always. When you are troubled, call to Me and I will help you and show you things you cannot imagine now.”
“Yes, Lord, I will call on You.”
I reached to pick up my burden.
“You may leave that here if you wish. You see all these burdens? They are the ones that others have left at My feet. Joan’s, Paula’s, Debra’s, Ruth’s….. When you leave your burden here, I carry it with you. Remember, My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
As I placed my burden with Him, the light began to fade. Yet I heard Him whisper, “I will never leave you, nor forsake you.”
A peace flooded my soul
I just had to send a note to tell you how much I love you and care about you. I saw you yesterday as you were walking with your friends. I walked all day hoping you would want to talk with me also. As evening drew near, I gave you a sunset to close your day and a cool breeze to feast you, and I waited, but you never came. It hurt me, but I still love you because I am your friend.
I saw you fall asleep last night, and I longed to touch your brow. So I spilled moonlight on your pillow and your face. Again I waited, wanting to rush down so that we could talk. I have so many gifts for you, but you awakened late the next day and rushed off to work. My tears were in the rain.
Today you look sad, so all alone. It makes my heart ache because I understand. My friends let me down and hurt me so many times too. But, I love you. Oh, if you would only listen to me. I really love you. I try to tell you in the blue sky and in the quite green grass. I whisper in the leaves on the trees, and breathe it in the color of the flowers. I shout it to you in the mountain streams and give the birds love songs to sing, clothe you with warm sunshine and perfume the air with nature scents. My love for you is deeper than the oceans and bigger than the biggest want or need in your heart.
If you only knew how much I want to help you. I want you to meet my Father. He wants to help you too. My Father is that way, you know. Just call me, ask me, talk with me. Please, please, don’t forget me. I have so much to share with you. But, I won’t hassle you any further. You are free to call me. It’s up to you. I’ll wait because I love you.
At first I saw God as my observer, my judge, keeping track of the things that I did wrong so as to know whether I merited heaven or hell when I die. He was out there sort of like a president. I recognized his picture when I saw it but I didn’t know him.
Later on when I met Christ, it seemed as though life was rather like a bike ride. But it was a tandem bike, and I noticed that Christ was in back helping me pedal.
I don’t know just when it was that He suggested that we change places, but life has not been the same since.
When I had control, I knew the way. It was rather boring, but predictable. It was the shortest distance between two points.
But when He took the lead…. He knew delightful long cuts, up mountains and through rocky places at breakneck speeds. It was all I could do to hang on. Even though it looked like madness, He said “Pedal.”
I worried and was anxious and asked “Where are you taking me?” He laughed and didn’t answer. I started to learn to trust. I forgot my boring life and entered into the adventure. And when I’d say, “I’m scared,” He’d lean back and touch my hand.
He took me to people with gifts that I needed, gifts of healing, acceptance and joy. They gave me their gifts to take on my journey, my Lord’s and mine.
And we were off again. He said, “Give the gifts away. They are extra baggage, too much weight.” So I gave them to people that we met. And I found that in the giving I received, and still our burden was light.
I didn’t trust Him, at first, with being in control of my life. I thought He’d wreck it. But He knows biking secrets, knows how to make it bend to take sharp corners, jump to clear high rocks and fly to shorten scary passages.
And I am learning to be quiet and pedal in the strangest of places. And I am beginning to enjoy the view and the cool breeze upon my face and I journey with my delightful companion, Christ.
And when I am sure that I just can’t do anymore… He just smiles and says “Pedal.”
~ Author Unknown
There once was a big turntable bridge, which spanned a large river. During most of the day the bridge sat with its length running up and down the river parallel with the banks, allowing ships to pass through freely on both sides of the bridge. But at certain times each day, a train would come along, and the bridge would be turned sideways across the river allowing the train to cross. The bridge was just wide enough for a train to cross it.
A switchman sat in a small shack on one side of the river where he operated the controls to turn the bridge and lock it into place as the train passed. One evening as the switchman was waiting for the last train of the day to come; he looked off into the distance through the dimming twilight, and caught sight of the train’s light. He stepped to the controls and waited until the train was within a prescribed distance when he was to turn the bridge. He turned the bridge into the position for the train to cross, and moved the lever to lock the bridge into position, but to his horror, he found the locking control didn’t work. If the bridge was not locked securely into position it would wobble back and forth at the ends when the train came onto it, causing the train to jump the track and go crashing into the river. This would be a passenger train with many people aboard.
He left the bridge turned across the river, and hurried across the bridge to the other side of the river where there was a lever, which he could use to operate the lock manually. He would have to hold the lever back firmly as the train passed. He could hear the rumble of the train now, and he took hold of the lever and leaned backward to apply his weight to it, locking the bridge. He kept applying the pressure to keep the mechanism locked. Many lives depended on this man’s strength.
Then coming across the bridge from the direction of his control shack, he heard a sound that made his blood run cold! – – “Daddy, where are you?” His four-year-old son was crossing the bridge to look for him. His first impulse was to cry out to the child, “Run! Run!” but the train was too close; the tiny legs would never make it across the bridge in time. The man almost left the lever to run and snatch up his son and carry him to safety, but he realized he could not get back to the lever. Either the people on the train or his little son must die.
He took just a moment to make his decision. The train sped swiftly and safely on its way, and no one aboard was even aware of the tiny, broken body thrown mercilessly into the river by the onrushing train. Nor were they aware of the pitiful figure of a sobbing man, still clinging tightly to the locked lever long after the train had passed. They didn’t see him walking home more slowly that he has ever walked – – to tell his wife how he had sacrificed their son.
Now if you can comprehend the emotions which went through this man’s heart, you can begin to understand the feelings of our Heavenly Father when he sacrificed His son to bridge the gap between us and eternal life. Can there be any wonder that He caused the earth to tremble and the skies to darken when His son died? And how does he feel when we speed along through life without giving a thought to what was done for us through Jesus? When was the last time you thanked Him for the sacrifice of his Son?
THE CURRANT BUSH
Elder Hugh B. Brown
You sometimes wonder whether the Lord really knows what he ought to do with you. You sometimes wonder if you know better than he does about what you ought to do and ought to become. I am wondering if I may tell you a story that I have told quite often in the Church. It is a story that is older than you are. It’s a piece out of my own life, and I’ve told it in many stakes and missions. It has to do with an incident in my life when God showed me that he knew best.
I was living up in Canada. I had purchased a farm. It was run-down. I went out one morning and saw a currant bush. It had grown up over six feet high. It was going all to wood. There were no blossoms and no currants. I was raised on a fruit farm in Salt Lake before we went to Canada, and I knew what ought to happen to that currant bush. So I got some pruning shears and went after it, and cut it down, and pruned it, and clipped it back until there was nothing left but a little clump of stumps.
It was just coming daylight, and I thought I saw on top of each of these little stumps what appeared to be a tear, and I thought the currant bush was crying. I was kind of simpleminded (and I haven’t entirely gotten over it), and I looked at it, and smiled, and said, “What are you crying about?” You know, I thought I heard that currant bush talk. And I thought I heard it say this: “How *could* you do this to me? I was making such wonderful growth. I was almost as big as the shade tree and the fruit tree that are inside
the fence, and now you have cut me down. Every plant in the garden will look down on me, because I didn’t make what I should have made. How could you do this to me? I thought you were the gardener here.” That’s what I thought I heard the currant bush say, and I thought it so much that I answered. I said, “Look, little currant bush, I *am* the gardener here, and I know what I want you to be. I didn’t intend you to be a fruit tree or a shade tree. I want you to be a currant bush, and some day, little currant bush, when you are laden with fruit, you are going to say, ‘Thank you, Mr. Gardener, for loving me enough to cut me down, for caring enough about me to hurt me. Thank you, Mr. Gardener.'”
Time passed. Years passed, and I found myself in England. I was in command of a cavalry unit in the Canadian Army. I had made rather rapid progress as far as promotions are concerned, and I held the rank of field officer in the British Canadian Army. And I was proud of my position. And there was an opportunity for me to become a general. I had taken all the examinations. I had the seniority. There was just one man between me and that which for ten years I had hoped to get, the office of general in the British Army. I swelled up with pride. And this one man became a casualty, and I received a telegram from London. It said: “Be in my office tomorrow morning at 10:00,” signed by General Turner in charge of all Canadian forces. I called in my valet, my personal servant. I told him to polish my buttons, to brush my hat and my boots, and to make me look like a general because that is what I was going to be. He did the best he could with what he had to work on, and I went up to London. I walked smartly into the office of the General, and I saluted him smartly, and he gave me the same kind of a salute a senior officer usually gives — a sort of “Get out of the way, worm!” He said, “Sit down, Brown.” Then he said, “I’m sorry I cannot make the appointment. You are entitled to it. You have passed all the examinations. You have the seniority. You’ve been a good officer, but I can’t make the appointment. You are to return to Canada and become a training officer and a transport officer. Someone else will be made a general.” That for which I had been hoping and praying for ten years suddenly slipped out of my fingers.
Then he went into the other room to answer the telephone, and I took a soldier’s privilege of looking on his desk. I saw my personal history sheet. Right across the bottom of it in bold, block-type letters was written. “THIS MAN IS A MORMON.” We were not very well liked in those days. When I saw that, I knew why had not been appointed. I already held the highest rank of any Mormon in the British Army. He came back and said, “That’s all, Brown.”
I saluted him again, but not quite as smartly. I saluted out of duty and went out. I got on the train and started back to my town, 120 miles away, with a broken heart, with bitterness in my soul. And every click of the wheels on the rails seemed to say. “You are a failure. You will be called a coward when you get home. You raised all those Mormon boys to join the army. Then you sneak off home.” I knew what I was going to get, and when I got to my tent, I was so bitter that I threw my cap and my saddle brown belt on the cot. I clinched my fists and I shook them at heaven. I said, “How could you do this to me, God? I have done everything I could do to measure up. There is nothing that I could have done — that I should have done — that I haven’t done. How could you do this to me?” I was as bitter as gall.
And then I heard a voice, and I recognized the tone of this voice. It was my own voice, and the voice said, “I am the gardener here. I know what I want you to do.” The bitterness went out of my soul, and I fell on my knees by the cot to ask forgiveness for my ungratefulness and my bitterness. While kneeling there I heard a song being sung in an adjoining tent. A number of Mormon boys met regularly every Tuesday night. I usually met with them. We would sit on the floor and have a Mutual Improvement Association. As I was kneeling there, praying for forgiveness, I heard their voices singing:
“It may not be on the mountain height
Or over the stormy sea,
It may not be at the battle’s front
My Lord will have need of me:
But if, by a still, small voice he calls
To paths that I do not know,
I’ll answer, dear Lord, with my hand in thine:
I’ll go where you want me to go.”
I arose from my knees a humble man. And now, almost fifty years later, I look up to him and say. “Thank you, Mr. Gardener, for cutting me down, for loving me enough to hurt me.” I see now that it was wise that I should not become a general at that time, because if I had I would have been senior officer of all western Canada, with a lifelong, handsome salary, a place to live, and a pension when I’m no good any longer, but I would have raised my six daughters and two sons in army barracks. They would no doubt have married out of the Church, and I think I would not have amounted to anything. I haven’t amounted to very much as it is, but I have done better than I would have done it the Lord had let me go the way I wanted to go.
I wanted to tell you that oft-repeated story because there are many of you who are going to have some very difficult experiences: disappointment, heartbreak, bereavement, defeat. You are going to be tested and tried to prove what you are made of, I just want you to know that if you don’t get what you think you ought to get, remember, “God is the gardener here. He knows what he wants you to be.” Submit yourselves to his will. Be worthy of his blessings, and you will get his blessings.
The Parable of the Bicycle
By Stephen Robinson, in _Believing Christ, pp.30-33
“One afternoon after work as I sat reading the newspaper, our oldest daughter, Sarah, who was then seven years old, came up to me and said, ‘Daddy, can I get a bike? I’m the only kid in the neighborhood who doesn’t have a bike.’ I mumbled some kind of general and nonspecific assent, but Sarah lifted up the paper and looked me in the eye. ‘How and when?’ she asked.
Now it would not have been easy for us financially to buy Sarah a bike at that particular time, so I tried to stall her. ‘I’ll tell you what, Sarah,’ I said. ‘You save all your pennies and pretty soon you’ll have enough for a bike.’
‘OK,’ she said, and she went away – I was off the hook. A few weeks went by, and I was once again sitting in my chair after work, reading the newspaper. This time I was aware of Sarah doing some chores for her mother and being paid for it. Then she went into her bedroom, and I heard a sound like ‘clink, clink.’
‘Sarah, what are you doing?’ I asked. She came out of her bedroom with a little jar in her hand. It had once been a maraschino cherry jar, but she had cleaned it up and cut a slot in the lid. On the bottom of the jar were a bunch of coins. Sarah showed me the jar and said, ‘You promised me that if I saved my all my pennies, pretty soon I’d have enough to get a bike. And Daddy, I’ve saved every single one!’
Well, she’s my daughter and I love her. I hadn’t actually lied to her. If she saved all of her pennies, eventually she would have enough for a bike. But by then, she’d probably want a car. In the meantime, sweet little Sarah was doing everything in her power to follow my instructions, but her needs were still not being met. I was overwhelmed. ‘OK, Sarah,’ I said, ‘let’s go downtown and look at bikes.’
We went to every store in Williamsport. Finally, in one of the big discount stores, we found it: the Perfect Bicycle (probably the one she knew in the premortal life). From halfway across the store, she knew it was The One. She ran and jumped up on the bike and said, ‘Dad, this is it. This is just the one I want.’ She was thrilled.
Then she noticed the price tag hanging down between the handlebars, and with a smile, she reached down and turned it over. At first she just stared at it; then the smile disappeared. Her face clouded up, and she started to cry. ‘Oh Daddy,’ she said in despair, ‘I’ll never have enough for a bicycle.’ It was her first bitter dose of adult reality.
The bike, as I recall cost over one hundred dollars. It was hopelessly beyond her means. But because Sarah is my daughter and I love her, I have an interest in her happiness. So I asked, ‘Sarah, how much money do you have?’
‘Sixty-one cents,’ she answered forlornly.
‘Then I’ll tell you what, dear. Let’s try a different arrangement. You give me everything you’ve got, the whole sixty-one cents, and a hug and a kiss, and the bike is yours.’
Well, she’s never been stupid. She gave me a big hug and a kiss and handed over the sixty-one cents. Then I had to drive home very slowly because she wouldn’t get off the bike. She rode it home on the sidewalk (it was only a few blocks), and I drove along beside her. And as I drove, it occurred to me that this was a parable for the atonement of Christ.
You see, we all want something desperately, but it’s not a bicycle. We want the kingdom of God. We want to go home to our heavenly parents worthy and clean. But the horrible price – perfect performance – is hopelessly beyond our means. At some point in our spiritual progress, we realize what the full price of admission into that kingdom is, and we also realize that we cannot pay it. And then we despair…
But only at this point, when we finally realize our inability to perfect and save ourselves, when we finally realize our truly desperate situation here in mortality and our need to be saved from it by some outside intervention – only then can we fully appreciate the One who comes to save.
At that point, the Savior steps in and says, ‘So you’ve done all you can do, but it’s not enough. Well, don’t despair. I’ll tell you what, let’s try a different arrangement. How much do you have? How much can be fairly be expected of you? You give me exactly that much (the whole sixty-one cents) and do all you can do, and I will provide the rest for now. You give me all you’ve got and a hug and a kiss (that is, make this a personal relationship), and the kingdom is yours! Perfection will still be our ultimate goal, but until you can get it on your own, I’ll let you use mine. What do you say? You do everything you can do, and I’ll do what you can’t yet do. Between the two of us, we’ll have it all covered. You will be one hundred percent justified.'”
Under His Wings
An article in National Geographic several years ago provided a penetrating picture of God’s wings. After a forest fire in Yellowstone National Park, forest rangers began their trek up a mountain to assess the inferno’s damage. One ranger found a bird literally petrified in ashes, perched statuesquely on the ground at the base of a tree.
Somewhat sickened by the eerie sight, he knocked over the bird with a stick. When he struck it, three tiny chicks scurried from under their dead mother’s wings. The loving mother, keenly aware of impending disaster, had carried her offspring to the base of the tree and had gathered them under her wings, instinctively knowing that the toxic smoke would rise. She could have flown to safety but had refused to abandon her babies. When the blaze had arrived and the heat had singed her small body, the mother had remained
steadfast. Because she had been willing to die, so those under the cover of her wings would live.
He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge; his faithfulness will be your shield and rampart. Psalm 91:4
Back in the fifteenth century, in a tiny village near Nuremberg, lived a family with eighteen children. Eighteen! In order merely to keep food on the table for this mob, the father and head of the household, a goldsmith by profession, worked almost eighteen hours a day at his trade and any other paying chore he could find in the neighborhood. Despite their seemingly hopeless condition, two of Albrecht Durer the Elder’s children had a dream. They both wanted to pursue their talent for art, but they knew full well that their father would never be financially able to send either of them to Nuremberg to study at the Academy.
After many long discussions at night in their crowded bed, the two boys finally worked out a pact. They would toss a coin. The loser would go down into the nearby mines and, with his earnings, support his brother while he attended the academy. Then, when that brother who won the toss completed his studies, in four years, he would support the other brother at the academy, either with sales of his artwork or, if necessary, also by laboring in the mines. They tossed a coin on a Sunday morning after church. Albrecht Durer won the toss and went off to Nuremberg. Albert went down into the dangerous mines and, for the next four years, financed his brother, whose work at the academy was almost an immediate sensation. Albrecht’s etchings, his woodcuts, and his oils were far better than those of most of his professors, and by the time he graduated, he was beginning to earn considerable fees for his commissioned works.
When the young artist returned to his village, the Durer family held a festive dinner on their lawn to celebrate Albrecht’s triumphant homecoming. After a long and memorable meal, punctuated with music and laughter, Albrecht rose from his honored position at the head of the table to drink a toast to his beloved brother for the years of sacrifice that had enabled Albrecht to fulfill his ambition. His closing words were, “And now, Albert, blessed brother of mine, now it is your turn. Now you can go to Nuremberg to pursue your dream, and I will take care of you.” All heads turned in eager expectation to the far end of the table where Albert sat, tears streaming down his pale face, shaking his lowered head from side to side while he sobbed and repeated, over and over, “No .no …no …no.”
Finally, Albert rose and wiped the tears from his cheeks. He glanced down the long able at the faces he loved, and then, holding his hands close to his right cheek, he said softly, “No, brother. I cannot go to Nuremberg. It is too late for me. Look … look what four years in the mines have done to my hands! The bones in every finger have been smashed at least once, and lately I have been suffering from arthritis so badly in my right hand
that I cannot even hold a glass to return your toast, much less make delicate lines on parchment or canvas with a pen or a brush. No, brother … for me it is too late.”
More than 450 years have passed. By now, Albrecht Durer’s hundreds of masterful portraits, pen and silver-point sketches, watercolors, charcoals, woodcuts, and copper engravings hang in every great museum in the world, but the odds are great that you, like most people, are familiar with only one of Albrecht Durer’s works. More than merely being familiar with it, you very well may have a reproduction hanging in your home or office.
One day, to pay homage to Albert for all that he had sacrificed, Albrecht Durer painstakingly drew his brother’s abused hands with palms together and thin fingers stretched skyward. He called his powerful drawing simply “Hands,” but the entire world almost immediately opened their hearts to his great masterpiece and renamed his tribute of love “The Praying Hands.” The next time you see a copy of that touching creation, take a second look. Let it be your reminder, if you still need one, that no one, no one, ever
makes it alone! -Author unknown
By Bob Moore
Isn’t it amazing how few of us ask ourselves the important question?
Several years ago I was invited to hear an important speaker address the student body of a small college in South Carolina. The auditorium was filled with students excited about the opportunity to hear a person of her stature speak. After the governor gave the introduction, the speaker moved to the microphone, looked at the audience from left to right, and began:
“I was born to a mother who was deaf and could not speak. I do not know who my father is or was. The first job I ever had was in a cotton field.”
The audience was spellbound. “Nothing has to remain the way it is if that’s not the way a person wants it to be,” she continued. “It isn’t luck, and it isn’t circumstances, and it isn’t being born a certain way that causes a person’s future to become what it becomes.” And she softly repeated, “Nothing has to remain the way it is if that’s not the way a person wants it to be.
“All a person has to do,” she added in a firm voice, “to change a situation that brings unhappiness or dissatisfaction is answer the question: ‘How do I want this situation to become?’ Then the person must commit totally to personal actions that carry them there.”
Then a beautiful smile shone forth as she said, “My name is Azie Taylor Morton. I stand before you today as treasurer of the United States of America.”
TO EACH IS GIVEN By Tawnya Warnick
As I stood watching my cousin do her gymnastics, I was amazed to see all that she could do. Even though I was older, I couldn*t even do a cartwheel, no matter how hard I tried. Finally, I got tired of watching and went into the house. *Why can*t I do a cartwheel?* I thought. *I really have to work hard, but all she has to do is see something and then she can do it. Why can*t I?* The next day in my physical education class we were required to do a cartwheel for a grade. Again my thoughts turned to my cousin, and I wondered why I couldn*t do such a simple little thing. Sunday came around, and as I was thumbing through my scriptures waiting for church to start, my attention was drawn to two scriptures in the Doctrine and Covenants:
*For all have not every gift given unto them; for there are many gifts, and to every man is given a gift by the Spirit of God.
*To some is given one, and to some is given another, that all may be profited thereby* (D&C 46:11-12). I realized then that each of us has different talents and capabilities and that we should develop those we have so we can lift and help one another. After reading those scriptures, I no longer felt bad that I can*t do gymnastics. I was happy for my cousin because she can! ALICE By Barbara Elliott Snedecor Alice held the crumbled paper in her hand. She clenched her fist tightly and tried hard to erase the horrible words that now burned in her mind. Alice is an idiot, the paper read. Alice didn’t know who had written the words*someone nearby, no doubt but she had found the mean little message sitting on her desk when she had returned to her seat. Now, defeated and miserable, she wished she had never signed up for this section of Speech 1. She wished even harder that she had never had to stand up to give her presentation. And she wished even harder still that she could believe that the words written on the paper were lies. But she couldn’t. She was an idiot, she was sure. Minutes before, Alice had walked to the front of the class to deliver her speech. She had prepared for her presentation carefully, had even read the book for her report twice. But something unexplained had snatched her confidence from her the moment she had opened her mouth to speak. Her voice had trembled as she spoke, unrecognizable, wobbling foolishly, and her hands had shaken so badly she was afraid she would knock the podium over. She had barely made it through her speech. By the end of it, she was visibly on the verge of crying. During the long walk back to her desk, she had been afraid to look at the students in the class. Why? she had thought miserably to herself. Why did I have to go to junior high school? Why did we have to move? Couldn’t I have stayed in the sixth grade forever? Everything within her young, thin frame wanted to be back in Mrs. Martin*s class, to be back in her old neighborhood, where all was familiar and sweet. And then she had sat down at her desk, and there she had found the nasty message she was certain was true. I am a jerk, she thought bitterly to herself. I*m stupid and dumb and I have no confidence. I have no friends, either. And I hate this stupid school. The angry bath of self-hatred washed over her, spilled out of the corners of her eyes, made her feel peculiarly numb in her misery. But the horror was not over yet.
*Alice?* Mr. Goldstein*s voice called to her, as the bell sounded to switch classes. *Alice, can I see you up front for a minute? Alice heard some snickers from a group of boys as she gathered her books. She swallowed, then walked up the aisle to Mr. Goldstein’s desk.
*Alice,* he began. *I was so surprised by your performance today. I know you’re a bright and talented girl. I think you just need another chance.* He paused thoughtfully, then continued, *What if I schedule you to give it another try next time we meet?* Alice opened her mouth to speak, but no words came out. Panic filled her. Wasn’t one humiliation enough? Couldn’t he see she was no good at speaking? But Mr. Goldstein*s soft voice rumbled on, something about fitting her in easily at the end of the next class, that he was certain her classmates wanted her to get another chance, too. Alice walked home from school alone that day. Tami and Susan had offered to walk with her, but she had declined. They weren’t in her speech class, and she didn’t want to have to tell them the sad story of how foolish she had felt. If she didn’t walk with them, she wouldn’t have to speak to any one until she got home. By then, she hoped she could muster a calm hello to her mother, and then take refuge in the room she shared with her older sister until dinner. If she was lucky, Karen would stay late at school, practicing her part for the Autumn Festival play. Alice walked the blocks home from school, acutely conscious of herself. In every storefront, in the windows of every parked car, she saw her face, her thin and sorrowing face. Why can’t I wear eye makeup yet? She wondered angrily to herself. Everyone else does, even most of the girls in the ward. She held her head down before the gusty wind, couldn’t bear to let her bangs blow upward, exposing her large forehead. Oh! it was miserable to be almost 13. Alice managed to pass by her mother*s scrutiny. Something inside her wouldn’t let her tell her mother. She wanted to keep her horrible failure inside. She wanted to be by herself. Alice closed the door to her room, lay on her bed, face down on the pillow, alone in the safety of her home. Her father had been transferred again. They had lived in this new neighborhood just three months. Alice remembered her painful good-byes now. She rolled over, looked up to the ceiling, felt a flash of nervousness. She was terrorized at the thought of having to present her speech again. How could Mr. Goldstein be so mean? Dinner passed. “What’s the matter with the kid, here?” her older brother had asked, affectionately winking at Alice. *You’re quieter than usual. Karen gave the family home evening lesson that night on joy, of all things. Alice listened stonily. Who could feel joy when everyone thought you were an idiot? she thought bitterly. Worse yet, who could feel joy when you had to go through another horrible day at school? Alice hardly heard her older sister’s comments about how prayer had sustained her during the first weeks of their move. Tuesday passed. Alice saw only two of the students that were in her speech class, and both of them were girls. They smiled at her, and Alice felt no menace in them. Inevitably, though, Tuesday evening came, the good-nights, the walk up the stairs to bed, the certainty that tomorrow was coming. Alice turned restlessly in bed. She was still awake when Karen came in. Alice watched the easy confidence with which Karen removed her makeup, fluffed her hair, then reached for the light. There were a few moments of silence as Karen said her prayers beside her bed, then the comforting sound of the bedsprings, the rustling sheets, of Karen settling into sleep. But Alice was still awake. Hours passed, it seemed, but always the horror of the morning prevented Alice from surrendering to the black walls of her heavy eyelids. She had said her speech 300 times by now, had practiced taking deep breaths, had even imagined the entire occasion from start to finish, the perfect delivery and confident self-assurance. But reality always filled her. Alice was afraid. This wasn’t Primary, this wasn’t Young Women, this wasn’t even sacrament meeting. It was a class full of strangers, some of them older than she was, and all of them better at speaking than she would ever be. Alice sat up in bed. She looked over at her sleeping sister, peaceful and at rest. Maybe being 17 did that to a person, Alice thought hopefully. A thin column of white penetrated the dark room, the glow from the streetlight on the corner reaching in from behind the shade. A car passed by, its headlights shadowing wild patterns in the room. The pipes knocked in the basement, followed by the pleasant sound of steam hissing in the radiator. Prayer is the best way to get through the tough times, Karen had said the other night. Alice had not wanted to think about it then, had thought it sounded corny and dumb. After all, Alice wasn’t a Merrie Miss anymore. She no longer had to sit uncomfortably in the back of Primary opening exercises. But prayer? Alice pushed the covers off. The floor felt cold on her feet. She bent down, then knelt awkwardly. Should she fold her arms, or was it enough just to kneel? It was an awkward prayer, she knew, her first attempt since the faith of her family had begun to seem something weird and distant to her, something not to tell her new friends about, something that had to be done, she guessed, when her parents made her, a burden more than a blessing. Alice opened her eyes after the amen, lingered for a moment on her knees, beside her bed, looking at the shadows in the light. And then a feeling warmed her, something real and sweet, a glow not from the hissing radiator, but a quiet warmth just the same. Quite simple, really. As Alice pulled the covers over herself, though, the moment lost its simplicity and became profound. The Holy Spirit had filled her, she knew, had warmed her and given her peace. Alice walked slowly down the hall to her speech class. She avoided the boys who had laughed. She tried hard not to think of her failure or of the horrid little note, or of the minutes until she must surely try again.
*Alice? Are you ready to give it another try now?* It was Mr. Goldstein*s voice, of course, calling her to her second death, she was sure. Alice stood slowly, picked up her paper, told her legs to move to the podium in the front of the classroom. She knew her heart was beating too fast already. She was cold and trembling. She took a deep and trembling breath, smiled weakly to the class, then opened her mouth to speak. And in a timeless moment, suspended somewhere between her trembling breath and her first uneven words, she remembered the warmth of the night before, the sense that her Father loved her, had heard her.
*Mr. Goldstein. Students. Good morning
THE DULCINEA PRINCIPLE By Nancy Crossen Dulcinea was the lady of a knight-errant but wasn’t sure she could be a lady. She had been the barmaid Aldonza all of her life until she met the knight Don Quixote, who gave her a new name and said she was a lady. *Take the clouds from your eyes and see me as I really am!* she yells at one point in the musical Man of La Mancha. *A lady? I*m not any kind of a lady. I am Aldonza!* Finally, at Quixote*s deathbed, Aldonza realizes that because of Quixote*s devotion, she has become the lady Dulcinea. This part of the Don Quixote story illustrates a very basic principle that we too often forget. I like to call that idea the *Dulcinea principle.* This principle simply states that a person*s self-image can be greatly influenced by the way his associates think of him and treat him. It seems that we are often told about how we can improve ourselves by changing our own self-concepts, but we seldom hear about the effect we can have on other people*s attitudes about themselves. After all, Don Quixote made a lady out of a barmaid by seeing her potential and treating her accordingly. I suspect that all of us are what we are in part because of the way our friends think of us. I first encountered this principle in high school. I considered myself to be unattractive, and so it was easier for others to think of me as unattractive*a vicious circle. But I had the fortune to acquire two friends, Janice and Jim. Janice thought that I had a wonderful personality, and it was easy for me to be pleasant around her. Eventually I found it easier to get along with other people because she had instilled confidence in me. Her faith in my desirability helped me improve my grooming. I confided to her that I had always wanted to perm my hair so that it would be curly all over, but I was afraid that the other kids would make fun of it. She was so enthusiastic about this idea that I permed my hair and loved it. Janice also never saw the 15 pounds that I needed to lose; and because she helped me think of myself as thin, I lost the weight. Jim was also a good friend. He was not interested in me romantically, but he still thought that I was attractive. When we became friends, I stopped wondering if the dresses I was buying looked similar enough to what everyone else was wearing and began to consider if Jim would like them. Because Jim was a good enough friend to let me know when I looked good, I gained confidence in my taste and I became able to buy and do things because I liked them. Because these two friends had patience, confidence, and the ability to see the Dulcinea in me, I have become happy with myself. I have also seen this principle work among other friends of mine. One week in Sunday School, the class was laughing about a girl they called *pit face* who had asked one of the boys, Mike, to the girls*-choice dance. I brought in a filmstrip about a girl renowned in her village for her ugliness. The filmstrip taught the class that after a young man was willing to treat her as if she were beautiful, the girl became very attractive. The class was touched, and they learned the Dulcinea principle. Mike went out with the girl and had a INDIVIDUAL WORTH great time. Within a few weeks, two of the girls were able to report that they were becoming good friends with this girl and that she was really very nice. The Dulcinea principle should always be at the center of our lives; it is not something we use at school and with our friends and forget at home. It can go a long way toward making our homes, as President David O. McKay admonished us to do, a heaven on earth. My little brother John was having trouble in school. He refused to listen to his teacher, was forever talking, and would not perform well in his schoolwork. Trying to force my brother to do his homework at home was also useless; he could not seem to remember how to do it. We were becoming exasperated, and John was becoming obnoxious. But then my mother talked to the counselor in the elementary school and learned that John had the potential to be a very quick learner but that he was lazy. In a family council we decided to expect John to be his best*the Dulcinea principle. When I helped John with his homework and he would say, *I can*t remember,* I would respond with, *Yes, I*m sure you can.* At first, he responded with, *No, I can*t* and *I*m not going to do this anymore.* But eventually John began to remember and caught up with his class. Reminding John that he was too old to throw temper tantrums didn*t stop them, but ignoring them because they were beneath his dignity soon did. Now, two years later, John still isn*t convinced he*s very smart; but his schoolwork compares well with his classmates, and he is much easier to live with. We are still helping him to build a good self-image. It is not manipulative to help our associates to think highly of themselves. One of our purposes on this earth is to help bring other souls back to our Father in Heaven, and none can go back to his kingdom without a sense of self-worth. Our responsibility might be made easier if we remember to use the Dulcinea principle. By reacting positively toward others and supporting them, we will bring out the best in our associates, and the Dulcinea principle will become a way of life.