Declaration of Independence

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. - That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Worth of Souls

                    Every human being has infinite worth because each of us is a spirit son or daughter of Heavenly Father.  Everyone has value and importance in the eyes of God.  Each of us has talents and abilities that can bless our own lives as well as the lives of others, but some people do not feel they are valuable and seek to find importance through following the fads and lifestyles of the world.  Each individual is different from every other member of the human race, but each is of great worth to Heavenly Father.

                    In a revelation given to Joseph Smith the Prophet, Oliver Cowdery, and David Whitmer, at Fayette, New York, in June 1829, the Lord Jesus Christ defined the worth of each human being:  "Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God" (Doctrine and Covenants 18:10).

                    As children of God we have infinite worth.  We all are individual and look, sound, and act differently than anyone else, but we are all important in the sight of God.  Our Heavenly Father has given each of us a unique and individual combination of strengths and weaknesses.

                    In another revelation to Joseph Smith the Prophet, given in Kirtland, Ohio, on March 8, 1831, the Lord explained that He gives different gifts to His children in order that we can share them and bless each other's lives.
                    "Wherefore, beware lest ye are deceived; and that ye may not be deceived seek ye earnestly the best gifts, always remembering for what they are given;
                    "For verily I say unto you, they are given for the benefit of those who love me and keep all my commandments, and him that seeketh so to do; that all may be benefited that seek or that ask of me, that ask and not for a sign that they may consume it upon their lusts.
                    "And again, verily I say unto you, I would that ye should always remember, and always retain in your minds what those gifts are, that are given unto the church.
                    "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" (Doctrine and Covenants 46:8-12).
                    The Lord then proceeded to list the gifts given to His children as well as the reasons for those gifts.  "To some it is given by the Holy Ghost to know that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, and that he was crucified for the sins of the world.
                    "To others it is given to believe on their words, that they also might have eternal life if they continue faithful.
                    "And again, to some it is given by the Holy Ghost to know the differences of administration, as it will be pleasing unto the same Lord, according as the Lord will, suiting his mercies according to the conditions of the children of men.
                    "And again, it is given by the Holy Ghost to some to know the diversities of operations, whether they be of God, that the manifestations of the Spirit may be given to every man to profit withal.
                    "And again, verily I say unto you, to some is given, by the Spirit of God, the word of wisdom.
                    "To another is given the word of knowledge, that all may be taught to be wise and to have knowledge.
                    "And again, to some it is given to have faith to be healed;
                    "And to others it is given to have faith to heal.
                    "And again, to some is given the working of miracles;
                    "And to others it is given to prophesy;
                    "And to others the discerning of spirits,
                    "And again, it is given to some to speak with tongues;
                    "And to another is given the interpretation of tongues.
                    "And all these gifts come from God, for the benefit of the children of God" (Doctrine and Covenants 46:13-26).

                    There are many gifts that are not mentioned in the scriptures such as the ability to be cheerful or the ability to be a good listener.  Some people have the gift to be great basketball players while others have great musical abilities.  Some people are excellent photographers while others paint beautiful pictures.  Some people are gifted with the ability to be great speakers while others have the ability to be well-organized.  Some people are totally honest while other people are very dependable.  The list of gifts can go on and on, but when taken as a whole, they bestow great blessings to all mankind.  
                    In addition to receiving at least one gift, we are each given one or more weaknesses.  Moroni, the final prophet in the Book of Mormon - Another Testament of Jesus Christ, sought comfort from the Lord about his weaknesses and was told, "And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness.  I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them" (Ether 12:27).

                    The Lord gives us weaknesses to keep us humble and teachable in order that we can become stronger.  He desires that we come unto Him and seek help in overcoming our weaknesses and turning them into strengths.  An excellent example of weaknesses becoming strengths is found in the life of Demosthenes (384?-322 B.C.).  Demosthenes was a statesman who lived in Athens, Greece,  who is usually considered to be the greatest Greek orator.

                    Demosthenes came from a wealthy family, but his father died when he was just a boy.  He was raised by three guardians who stole most of his inheritance.  Demosthenes studied law and oratory and brought his guardians to court when he became an adult.  He did so well in his lawsuit that he decided to enter politics.  He wanted to become an orator, but he "had a harsh, unpleasant voice and an awkward manner" and "suffered from shortness of breath."  Legend tells us that he overcame his weakness in speaking by going to the beach, filling his mouth with pebbles, and shouting above the noise of the waves.  (See World Book Encyclopedia, Vol. 5, p. 129).

                    A story from more modern times was told by Victor W. Harris ("The Miracle of Jenni," New Era, Mar. 1996, 12-14).
                    "I remember the first time Jenni walked into my seminary class and said hi to me.  She had a very difficult time speaking, her words were slurred and hard to understand, and she limped and hobbled as she tried to make her legs carry her frail body toward her desk.  During Jenni's first week … in my class, she seemed content to be mostly ignored by her classmates, who appeared to be struggling to figure out how to interact with her.

                    "Jenni would try to speak, and very few students could understand her.  …  Most of them distanced themselves from her both physically and socially and, as a result, proceeded to politely ignore her.
                    "However, they weren't aware that inside Jenni's deformed body were a keen mind, a heart of gold, and an indomitable spirit crying out to be heard, to be understood, to be accepted, and to be loved.  She wouldn't be ignored, politely or otherwise.

                    One day Jenni asked her teacher if she could say something in class and asked for a friend to sit by her at lunch.  The class was silent for a long moment, and then a girl named Treasure volunteered.
                    "`I'll be your friend, Jenni.'  … This … gave Treasure's friend Wendy the confidence to raise her hand and tell Jenni that she would also be her friend and sit by her at lunch ever day….

                    "I noticed as the days turned into weeks that Treasure and Wendy began to translate Jenni's words when we couldn't understand her.
                    "As the students began to see what a beautiful, intelligent person Jenni was, they began to invite her to activities [and] help her with her difficulties….  Jenni's classmates helped her realize what a wonderful person she is.  [They] included her in their circle of friends and helped her feel like she belonged; [they] saw through her handicap to the special needs of her heart - a young woman wanting to be accepted and understood."

                    I can almost feel the suspense in that classroom after Jenni requested a friend.  The class ignored Jenni until she would not allow them to ignore her any longer.  When they got to know her, they discovered that Jenni had a beautiful spirit in spite of her physical problems.  The class members learned the importance of looking beyond physical differences to understand the true worth of each person in the sight of God.  Samuel the Prophet learned this same lesson when he was searching for the first king of Israel.

                    "But the Lord said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him:  for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart" (1 Samuel 16:7).

                    If we so desire, we can develop our talents and share our gifts and accomplish much good.   Elder Gordon B. Hinckley while a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles stated:  "The work of the world is not done by intellectual geniuses.  It is done by men [and women] of ordinary capacity who use their abilities in an extraordinary manner" (Ensign, Jan. 1973, 92).

                    What can we do to discover our gifts and talents in order to use them to the fullest extend possible in blessing mankind?  Many years ago I heard an acquaintance say that she wanted to sing in the ward choir but couldn't sing.  She asked the Lord to help her learn how to sing.  In fact, she asked the Lord to take the gift of singing from someone who did not appreciate it and to give it to her.  I do not know if this happened; I do know that she sang beautifully in the ward choir. 

                    There are numerous ways that we can discover our gifts and talents.  One of those ways is to simply try new skills.  One of my daughters taught herself to knit and crochet and makes beautiful items; she even writes a blog about her projects.  Her enjoyment of her new skills rekindled my desires to pull out my knitting needles and start knitting again.  We were both knitting at our recent family reunion, and another daughter became interested in learning to knit.  I happened to have some extra needles and yarn with me, and we proceeded to teach her the basic skills of knitting.  Before the reunion was over, we made a trip to a yarn store where she purchased her own needles and yarn to make a hat for a new baby.

                    Another way we can develop our talents is to accept assignments and responsibilities in the Church, the PTA, etc.  Through serving we learn many different skills and develop new friendships.  Still another way is to plead with the Lord in prayer for knowledge.  Answers to our prayers may come through studying the scriptures, receiving our patriarchal blessing, and/or listening to the promptings of the Holy Ghost, the counsel of parents, the Prophet and other leaders. 

                    The Lord revealed information to Moses that indicates where God's priorities are: "For behold, this is my work and my glory - to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man" (Pearl of Great Price, Moses 1:39).

                    The most important work for God to do is to help His children obtain immortality and eternal life.  This is His primary concern!  He gives us gifts and talents to prepare us to help Him accomplish His work.  If we use our abilities righteously, we can become instruments in the hands of the Lord and help others to return to His presence.  Simply knowing that we are helping God can increase our sense of worth.

                    We can help other people to understand better who they are and how they can contribute to this eternal project.  We can share our gifts with them; we can recognize their gifts and talents, and we can provide opportunities for them to share their gifts and talents with others.

                    Elder Marvin J. Ashton, who was a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, stated:  "As children of God we are somebody.  He will build us, mold us, and magnify us if we will but hold our heads up, our arms out, and walk with him.  What a great blessing to be created in his image and know of our true potential in and through him!" (in Ensign, July 1973, 24).

                    I testify that each person has great worth in the eyes of God and holds an important role in God's plan for His children.  I know that God loves each of His children and has a special plan for each of us to help us return to Him and have eternal joy.  I encourage each of my readers to recognize your own worth as a child of God as well as the great worth of others in the sight of God.                                                    

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