Which Makes Me Think of You

Dear Will:

I was puttering around the kitchen the other day when my wife, Dana, hollered from upstairs. She needed me. RIGHT NOW.

She was frantic. While changing the cartridge in her printer, a drop of ink had plopped onto the carpet, leaving a dark, unsightly spot. Immediately she tried to wipe it up, but all she managed was to smear it around and make things worse. So the two of us dashed around the house, pulling various cleaning products out from under various sinks until we found a couple of options that we hoped might do the trick. We weren’t successful the first time, but eventually we found just the thing. It looked like just some clear liquid, but properly applied it was magical. It took a little work, but after some vigorous rubbing with a damp cloth the blotch was gone—wiped clean, as if it had never been there before. And I thought to myself: How is that even possible?

Which, in turn, made me think of Enos.

From what we can tell, Enos was a rather sinful guy. He described a life-turning day in the wilderness when he went out to hunt but never lifted his bow. That day, as he reflected on his life and circumstances, he began to wrestle within himself, struggling perhaps with the conflict between his “natural” impulses and the enticings of the Holy Spirit that engendered in him a desire to rise up and become a better man (see: Mosiah 3:19). He began to hunger for a signal from God—some indication that he might be forgiven of his wayward ways. So racked was he, so burdened by the weight of regret, that all day and night he prayed, and yet relief would not come. Finally, after many heartwrenching hours, he heard the voice of God: “Enos, thy sins are forgiven thee, and thou shalt be blessed.” In that very instant, Enos’s guilt was swept away—as if it had never been there before—leaving him both overjoyed and puzzled: “Lord,” he wondered,  “how is it done?”

Which, in turn, made me think of Jesus.

The promise of the Atonement is that we can be freed of our earth-stains, made clean by the blood of Christ. His blood, said John, “cleanseth us from all sin” (1 John 1:7). That cleansing power is freely offered by the Savior to all—not just to Enos, but to every person on the face of the earth. And it’s a good thing: “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).

Including me. One of the primary reasons I go to church each week is to partake of the sacrament,  a sacred representation of the cleansing blood of Christ. It is an opportunity to be made whole—unblemished—on a weekly basis. Or as the scripture says: “And that thou mayest more fully keep thyself unspotted from the world, thou shalt go to the house of prayer and offer up thy sacraments upon my holy day” (D&C 59:9).

From time to time we all say or do things that we regret, make mistakes or commit transgressions for which we would like to be forgiven. So each week in the Santiago Creek Ward a big group of us sinners gather to partake of the sacrament together—to allow that clear liquid to make us clean. As we do so, we experience the renewal of spirit promised by the prophet Isaiah: “Though your sins be as scarlet,” he wrote, “they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool” (Isaiah 1:18). I am so grateful to be blessed with such friends, so privileged to receive that weekly gift from God, so eager for others to enjoy that blessing with me.

Which, in turn, makes me think of you.

PW

Looking on the Heart

Dear Will:

When I was in the second grade, Robert Maxwell and I were appointed by Mrs. Appleton as ball monitors at Mariposa Elementary. What that meant is that at the end of the last recess of the day, when all of the other kids were in class doing Reading Time or whatever they called it, Robert and I were roaming the playground, gathering up all of the balls and putting them away for the night. It was fun and cool at the same time, especially because it meant we got more playground time than anyone.

The trickiest task was detaching the tetherballs from their poles. We could barely reach the chains to which they were clipped, as I recall, so we had to give one another a boost to achieve our purpose. It’s hard to believe, to be honest, because I have since returned to Mariposa and noted with some surprise just how close to the ground those chains hang. Could I have really been that small when I was in Mrs. Appleton’s class?

I suppose it was a bit of a stretch (literally!) to assign two boys so small to that task. But what a terrific affirmation it proved to be. We were unsupervised, trusted to do an important job on behalf of the entire school. And although the chore itself was not especially difficult, it was useful to others and an important assignment for me. It caused me to think of myself in a slightly different light—as one who was worthy of trust and capable of representing others in a meaningful way.

I find myself thinking back to Mariposa School because my youngest son Seth turned 12 yesterday, which meant that today he received the Aaronic Priesthood and was ordained a deacon. His initial assignments as a priesthood-holder will not be especially difficult, but they will be of importance to others. He will be passing the sacrament to the congregation each Sunday, facilitating in this small way the renewal of eternal covenants and commitments. He will gather offerings on behalf of the poor and needy and return them to the bishop. And he will be given ongoing responsibility for the upkeep and care of the chapel in which we meet.

Seth admitted to me that he was unsure of whether he was ready and worthy to become a deacon. Our bishop, Bishop Hales, assured him that he was and authorized his ordination—and you can already see that it is having an impact on my son. He was nervous and excited as he anticipated this day, as I’m sure he will be next week when he passes the sacrament for the first time. As he grows increasingly comfortable with his duties, however, I think we will witness a maturation made possible by his acceptance of the authority to serve others in the name of God.

You may recall that when David was anointed King of Israel, he was young and unimpressive compared to his older brothers. The Lord gently chided Samuel the prophet for not seeing in David the divine potential that lay within. “Look not on his countenance,” the Lord told him, “or on the height of his stature; . . . 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).

Likewise my son isn’t much to look at (he’s only 12, after all). But today he was set apart from most boys his age because of the goodness in his heart. Although he’ll be stretched in the years ahead as he works to fulfill his duties, and although he’ll need a boost from time to time to complete his assignments, I’m confident that he will prove to be more than worthy of the trust that has been placed in him. I’m proud of who he is and what he is becoming, and pleased that others have seen in him the divine potential that makes him, in my view, extraordinary.

PW