Sometimes it’s easy to feel a little put out that my particular trial is one that is difficult, poorly understood, professionally treated with what I cannot do, and often mis-judged by others. When I start to feel like that, I have to go back to a principle that is, oddly, both a little trite and immensely profound: Count your many blessings.
I didn’t really understand the true import of this for many years. I knew rather vaguely that counting your blessings was a way to reinforce the positive in your life and help cheer you up. But I didn’t even start to understand what that really meant until I heard President Eyring first speak.
I must admit to my utter shame that when I first saw President Eyring, my immediate thought was, “He doesn’t look like an Apostle. He looks more like a math teacher.” That’s not to say I ever doubted that he was called of God, or that he would serve faithfully. I just had this pre-conceived notion of what Apostles look like, and he didn’t fit it. Imagine, then, how sorely I had to repent of my silliness when he started to speak, and I was immediately overwhelmed with the Spirit. In fact, pretty much every time I’ve heard him speak since them, I have been overwhelmed by the Spirit. He has an ability to communicate with me personally that I have otherwise seen only in Elder Neal A. Maxwell. So I am immensely grateful to the Lord that He didn’t consult my notion of what an Apostle was supposed to look like before He called this amazing, humble, intelligent man to serve Him.
Elder Eyring’s first talk was entitled “Always Remember Him.” By the title, you would think it was a talk about counting your blessings. But more to the point, it was a talk on humility. I needed this talk, because GID is not my only trial. I am not, by nature, a humble person. I am a little bit arrogant, and I have to strive constantly to be more humble. Even in 1995, when I was a young man getting ready to go on a mission, I recognized this. One thing that had always seemed a little tough is that we’re told to be humble, but I didn’t know of any concrete action I could take to develop humility.
This talk addressed that concern very directly. President (then-Elder) Eyring spoke of riding in a car with two sister missionaries in Brazil. They asked him how they could be more humble. He didn’t remember what he told them, but he remembered being dissatisfied with his answer. He reflected that if he could speak with those sisters again, he would tell them that they had taken the first, important step by recognizing the need to be humble (“Well,” I thought, “there’s a start. At least I know I’m arrogant”). Elder Eyring continued:
And then I would have given them just this one bit of counsel, counsel about what to do. I would have said just this: “Always remember him” (Moro. 4:3; Moro. 5:2; D&C 20:77, 79).
I would have tried to help them do that by taking them in their minds to a garden where they would hear the Savior of the world’s words: “Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done” (Luke 22:42).
And then I would have taken them forward in time to that glorious day reported in the Book of Mormon when the resurrected Lord appeared to the people in the Americas and said: “And behold, I am the light and the life of the world; and I have drunk out of that bitter cup which the Father hath given me, and have glorified the Father in taking upon me the sins of the world, in the which I have suffered the will of the Father in all things from the beginning” (3 Ne. 11:11).
Now, I’m embarrassed to admit that as strongly as I felt the Spirit while President Eyring spoke, what he said kind of baffled me. I had been taught the scriptures since I was young. I had gone to Seminary. I had read both the New Testament and the Book of Mormon. The story of that prayer in Gethsemane was not news to me, nor was the story of Christ’s visit to the Americas. I didn’t see how this was supposed to make me more humble.
It has taken me a very long time (I guess 13 years running now) to even start to comprehend this talk. I have heard President Eyring speak many times since then, and I worry that I will never catch up if I’m going to need 13+ years to digest every talk (though I have cheated a little—I have spent the last two years digesting his 2006 talk “As a Child”).
If we truly remember that terrible night in Gethsemane—when the Savior bore the sins and grief of all God’s children, when the Savior was amazed and troubled when He started to comprehend what He had to face, when the burden was so awful that even He, God, the greatest of all, trembled and shrunk and would that He might not partake, when at the very height of His agony, even His Father, whose presence He was wont to enjoy, left Him alone, that He might the more be glorified—if we truly remember that, there is no room for pride in our hearts. We can only recognize that we are His children, that He loves us so immensely that He was willing to bear that terrible burden for us, that He, the God of Israel, was willing to purchase our wretched souls with His own life and blood. That remembrance compels us to our knees in gratitude, and leads us, if we are truly grateful, to want to serve Him. Lehi taught Jacob, “Wherefore, how great the importance to make these things known unto the inhabitants of the Earth, that they may know that there is no flesh that can dwell in the presence of God, save it be through the merits, and mercy, and grace of the Holy Messiah.” We are greatly impoverished, for we owe a debt of gratitude we can never repay. Yet Christ lifts us out of our spiritual poverty and makes us, if we will obey Him and serve Him, even like Himself. The man who recognizes that cannot boast in his own strength. When I remember that, I cannot rely on my own wisdom or the wisdom of the world to deliver me.
Think of the Sacrament prayers. When the bread is blessed, we are placed under a covenant that we are “willing to take upon [us] the name of [the] Son, and always remember Him, and keep His commandments, which He hath given [us].” But when the water is blessed, our covenant contains only one of those three prongs. When we partake of the water, we covenant that we “do always remember Him.” There are no excuses to be had for this one. It is well for us to be willing to take His name upon us and keep His commandments. But in the second and greater covenant (with apologies for bringing Star Wars into this), we do or do not, there is no try. And the promised blessing for this is that we shall have His Spirit to be with us. If you refer to the footnotes associated with that promise, you will see that it is not merely a promise that we shall have the Holy Spirit to light our ways and guide our actions. Beyond that, it is the promise that our covenants and ordinances shall be ratified by the Holy Spirit of Promise—that great and final element necessary for our exaltation as we learn from Section 76 of the Doctrine and Covenants.
So after 13 years, I have started to realize that increased humility—borne of a greater understanding of our relationship with God—is only the beginning of the blessings we receive by always remembering Him in gratitude. We also receive a greater sense of self worth. We are moved to serve others. We increase in our love for the Savior. And even our covenants are made thereby effective to our exaltation.
When I pridefully feel that I am alone, that I am misunderstood, that I am unable to endure, if I can nevertheless draw my mind to that moment in Gethsemane, both poignant and terrible, then I cannot remain and wallow in my prideful self pity. If I follow President Eyring’s recent counsel to document how I have seen the Lord’s hand reaching out to me and my family every day, there is no room for excuses or laments. If I always remember Him, I will remember the blessings He has given me, and as I count them, I am moved to even greater gratitude.
So allow me for a moment to recount some few of the many blessings I have received. I have the most beautiful, compassionate, understanding, loving wife in the world. I have three marvelous, healthy children, including one whose safe birth was a very visible miracle. I have had the opportunity to receive an outstanding education. I have a great job. I passed the bar exam (with much help from the Lord), which means I didn’t lose my great job. I am a member of the Lord’s true Church, and have been given a burning, abiding testimony of its truth. I receive knowledge and revelation through the Spirit daily as the Lord guides me in my life and opens my mind to the meaning of the scriptures. I have a comfortable home, working cars, hot water, modern utilities, in-door plumbing—things that are easy to take for granted, but that many people in the world are without. I have great parents who have been supportive as I work through my problems. I have a father who honors his Priesthood and has been able to give me many Priesthood blessings. I have myself been privileged to give my own family Priesthood blessings, including a number that have opened my eyes to a small degree of the noble stature of my wife and children before the Lord.
I could go on, but the point is, I have much to be grateful for. Sometimes, I think I’m a little bleak and somber—maybe even a little angsty—with my posts. But do not think that I am without reason to rejoice. I have been richly blessed, and my voice shall forever ascend up unto my rock and mine everlasting God (see 2 Ne. 4:35).