I recently spent a weekend in Nauvoo, Illinois, to take part in a 40-year class reunion renewing friendships made so many years ago. I walked into the Hotel Nauvoo and realized everyone was old! I only recognized a handful of my fellow classmates from school. It was an interesting experience to see how time had changed members of my class in many ways, but not for others. Personalities, while mellowed with time, hadn’t changed as much as the faces had. Having survived health issues this past year or two, I walked in with my cane and hobbled around the restaurant. I enjoyed remembering good times with wonderful friends.
Spring time is one of my favorite times of year. The air seems cleaner, the sky bluer, the sun brighter. I love to hear the song of the birds as they return and watch the trees begin to transform from gray stems to lush green. Everything seems to be new and fresh. Everything is reborn. I remember the spring of 1979. I was a senior in high school and on top of the world. With the color of spring flowers came the hopes and dreams of youth embarking on a new journey in life. On graduation day we were all decked out in our caps and gowns. The graduation ceremony would take place on the freshly cut lawn in front of the high school. The 47 members of the Nauvoo-Colusa High School class of 1979 were honored, speeches were given, and diplomas given and accepted. We were proud of our “success.”
Fall and I have an agreement. I agree to ignore the death of flowers and the changing leaves and Fall agrees to quietly and quickly do its deed. I really don’t appreciate fall. With graduation came acceptance to Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. In the fall of 1979, with dreams still in tact, I loaded my car and drove the long distance to campus and my fifth floor dorm room at Deseret Towers. I knew I was ready for anything and knew my life would be successful. I was excited and motivated. However, the symbolism of fall and BYU had something else in mind for me.
BYU was a little larger than my high school—by about 25,000 students. I quickly learned my “above average” in high school was pretty much average or below average at the University. I quickly became lost among the crowds of students and mounds of school work. By the end of the year, dreams were dying as fast as my grades did. Life had thrown me a curve ball, and I didn’t know how to handle it. Life seemed to be a daze and I struggled with daily routines. “O that cunning plan of the evil one!” (2 Nephi 9:28). In my mind I was a failure, and the report card proved it.
I was so glad to see spring again. It was such a joy to return home in April as everything was coming back to life in the beauty that is Nauvoo. Suddenly, being home again among family and friends, had reminded me of my self-worth, lifted my moral, and gave me the courage to move forward once again. By summer, my mission papers had been turned in, and I was soon on my way to New Zealand for two wonderful years. My education continued, but in a much more comfortable situation.
Upon returning from my mission, I worked my way through BYU and completed my degree and later continued my education in graduate school at Utah State University. My associations over the years have truly taught me the wisdom of the Book of Mormon statement, “O the vainness, and the frailties, and the foolishness of men! When they are learned they think they are wise . . . their wisdom is foolishness and it profiteth them not” (2 Nephi 9:28).
Letters behind a name do not a wise man make. I found many have forgotten the purpose of education, which in the words of Brigham Young is, “the power to think clearly, the power to act well in the world’s work, and the power to appreciate life.”
Many view success as power, influence, and wealth. They do not honor their covenants in the pursuits of the honors of men. While I respect and honor many learned and successful men of the world, I am reminded of the wisdom of Nephi, “to be learned is good if they harken unto the counsels of God” (2 Nephi 9:29).
Over time, the Lord has continued to school me through the experiences of life. While I appear to be cursed when it comes to success in the eyes of the world, the Lord has provided me with priceless life experiences. As I look around me at those with the blessings of worldly success, I, in mortal weakness, find myself asking why such blessings do not come my way. Quietly, the Spirit whispers the question, what is true success? What is the success we should crave for as followers of Jesus Christ?
Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote that success was, “To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty, to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. That is to have succeeded.”
The Father and Son count success differently than the world, or even a little differently than Emerson, for they declared, “For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39).
Jesus Christ, the Savior and Redeemer has successfully, through his grace and love, provided the means for immortality. We shall live again, of this, there is no doubt. Everything that the Father and Son provide for us is to help us reach the pinnacle of success—eternal life in their presence. Everything they do, everything they desire, every moment of effort is designed to help us succeed. And while the boy Jesus was about his Father’s work, we too should follow him and do likewise.
While the Lord blesses many with great success in the world, those who are truly successful remember that only eternal life with our families in the presence of the Father is true success. Money, position, and fame do not compare to the riches of eternity. “O that cunning plan of the evil one!” (2 Nephi 9:28).
May we gain and maintain an eternal perspective though out our lives. May we be about our Father’s business in becoming successful by helping Him be successful—by teaching our children the gospel, by sharing the good news with others, and by doing temple work. May we smile a little more, love a little more, endure a little more. May the world be a better place because we touched the life of another. May heaven be a little more crowded because we helped someone come to know Jesus and enter into the path to eternal life. May we enjoy the hope of springtime year around.