Liahona
“Eternal Perspective”
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Area Leadership Message

Eternal Perspective

Many years ago, while serving as a stake president, a dear sister came into my office in tears. She had served a mission, married in the temple, and served faithfully in her callings. Terrible wildfires had just blazed through our area and many homes in our stake had been destroyed, including hers. To make things worse, her home was a licensed care facility for the elderly and was their primary source of income. Everyone was safely evacuated, but her family’s worldly belongings and livelihood were gone. She cried, “Why did this happen to us? We have kept our covenants!”

I offered a silent prayer and then placed a blank sheet of white paper on the desk in front of her. Then I placed a pin-sized dot in the middle of the paper and said, “This dot represents mortality. Let us assume the paper represents eternity and stretches forever in each direction. I am so sorry this happened to you, but please do not be blinded by the dot.” To this dear sister’s credit, her countenance immediately changed, and she said with a sigh of relief, “Oh, I get it. I’ll be fine. Thank you!”

The wildfires, which devastated our area, were driven by 80-mile-per-hour winds. Their flames indiscriminately whipped through neighborhoods, skipping one house only to randomly burn others. Elder Dale G. Renlund of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles observed in a leadership meeting I attended that “Believing that life will treat you fairly because you are righteous is like believing the bull will not charge because you are a vegetarian.” The scriptures remind us that inequitable conditions are part of mortality, “[God] sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.”1

The reality is that the vicissitudes of mortality are sometimes vicious, but because of the Savior, the promises of eternity eclipse even the darkest of earthly trials. An eternal perspective changes everything once we understand, “all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good.”2

Elder Neal A. Maxwell (1926-2004) of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles offered this insight, “How can you and I really expect to glide naively through life, as if to say, ‘Lord, give me experience, but not grief, not sorrow, not pain, not opposition, not betrayal, and certainly not to be forsaken. Keep from me, Lord, all those experiences which made Thee what Thou art! Then let me come and dwell with Thee and fully share Thy joy!’”3

We need to have our minds firmly centered on our true identity and God’s plan for us in order to not be blinded and derailed by the inherent difficulties of the mortal “dot.” As was expressed in the movie The Other Side of Heaven, which featured the mission of Elder John H. Groberg of the Seventy: “There is a connection between heaven and earth. Finding that connection gives meaning to everything, including death. Missing it makes everything meaningless, including life.”

Having an eternal perspective helps us recognize what really matters. We would be wise to consider that we can only take three things with us when we die: our relationships, our knowledge, and our character. It would be very shortsighted to focus on the irrelevant at the expense of the relevant, yet that is precisely what most of the world does. Job declared, “They spend their days in wealth, and in a moment go down to the grave.”4

The Apostle Paul affirmed the promises of eternity. “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.”5

It would be foolish to trade away such amazing blessings for the proverbial mess of pottage.6 Things that matter most should never be at the mercy of things that matter least! As life’s challenges come our way, my prayer is that we can see past the dot of mortality by taking the long view: recognizing our eternal identity, the purpose of our mortal journey, and the hope of the glorious eternal destiny that awaits the faithful.