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I’m a dreamer. I have always dreamed of making some kind of significant contribution to the world. When I see greatness in others, whether in academics, sports, business, entertainment, or other fields, I am inspired to achieve greatness myself.
The reality, however, is that in any worldly or public sense, my achievements are quite mediocre. I don’t mean to demean myself or to seem ungrateful for what I have- I try to recognize my abilities as well as my many blessings. Realistically though, unless something drastically changes in my life, my influence will have reached few outside of my immediate family.
About changing oneself- are there things so fundamental to our personality that we cannot change them? For example, I’m an introvert. I’m quiet, reflective, and slow paced. I’m deliberate. I’m conservative. I’m a good listener but don’t articulate myself very well verbally. Not that I want to, but if I wanted to be more of loud, fast paced, spontaneous, risk-taking, quick- talking extrovert, how would I even begin to do that, or can I?
When I see someone like a Randy Pausch, I’m amazed at their accomplishments, their zeal for life, their positive outlook. My wife is like this, and I think that is why I was drawn to her- she compliments my weaknesses. Perhaps the best thing I can do is to look for and appreciate my own strengths more and to focus on ways to develop my own skills and abilities and to use them to serve and help others.
Regarding greatness, I enjoy this quote by President Joseph F. Smith:
“Those things which we call extraordinary, remarkable, or unusual may make history, but they do not make real life.
After all, to do well those things which God ordained to be the common lot of all mankind, is the truest greatness. To be a successful father or a successful mother is greater than to be a successful general or a successful statesman. . . . It is true that such secondary greatness may be added to that which we style common-place; but when such secondary greatness is not added to that which is fundamental, it is merely an empty honor, and fades away from the common and universal good in life, even though it may find a place in the desultory pages of history.”
-originally appeared in “Common-Place Things,” Juvenile Instructor 40, no. 24 (15 December 1905): 752; quoted in BYU Commencement address by Elder Christopherson on 16 August 2007
True greatness then is often not seen by the world but is achieved by quietly serving within our families and helping them to develop their own unique potential. I will probably never be known to the world, but with some help and work, I probably can be a great husband and father.
A recent trip to the temple to do baptisms for the dead caused me to reflect on my first temple excursion as a young deacon well over twenty years ago. This recent trip also caused me to wonder about our youth’s attitude (as well as our own) toward the temple.
I admit having a poor memory of my childhood and youth, but I do remember fairly clearly the reverence and respect that I (and I believe most of the youth) had for the temple. I lived in Texas at the time, and the nearest temple was Mesa, Arizona. We boarded a bus for a long trip to the temple. I vaguely remember staying in a dorm room for the night. I remember how careful we were to whisper, and the awe that we all seemed to have to be at the temple.
A few days ago, I was mildly surprised at the lack of reverence that some of the youth seemed to exhibit. While waiting in the little chapel at the baptistry, for example, one of the young men was slouched down on the bench and had his feet propped up on the hymnal holder on the bench in front of him. The level of talking also seemed to contribute to a general lack of reverence.
I couldn’t help but wonder if the recent proliferation of temples, their proximity for many of us, and the increased frequency in which we attend temples has somehow decreased our reverence and awe for these special buildings and for the ordinances that are performed there.
For me, our reverence (or lack thereof) for sacred things is somewhat a reflection of our own spiritual maturity but is also a reflection of our respect for others. If we understand that our reverence affects another’s ability to worship, perhaps we will make a greater effort to be reverent ourselves.
So, if anyone actually reads this, what do you think? I know generalizations aren’t always helpful, but do you think that our reverence for temples and other sacred things is diminishing? If it is, why, and how can we help improve reverence?