This weekend was stake conference. Lovely, lovely. I went with some specific questions and came away with (challenging!) answers. I love it when I hear something that really makes me think and stretch. The entire stake conference was like that for me this time.
One of my favorite parts came from David Lundgreen, our stake president. At the adult session yesterday evening he talked with us about the box and the pearl.
He started out with a parable told by Elder Boyd K. Packer.
“A merchant man seeking precious jewels found at last the perfect pearl. He had the finest craftsman carve a superb jewel box and line it with blue velvet. He put his pearl of great price on display so others could share his treasure. He watched as people came to see it. Soon he turned away in sorrow. It was the box they admired, not the pearl.”
After the stake president shared the parable with us, he asked to to think about the "boxes" in the Church. From all over the room, people gave a variety of answers: the church building, the scriptures, a ward social, the temple.
At first I was a little surprised that President Lundgren didn't disagree with any of those answers. Even when someone said "the scriptures," or "the temple," his response was, "Very good." What???
The point, of course, is that the pearl of the gospel is Jesus Christ and his Atonement. It is through Christ and his Atonement that you and I can repent and improve and be healed of our wounded experience in mortality.
The temple, the scriptures, are avenues that can bring us closer to Christ, but unless we are constantly seeking Christ in all of our religious experiences--including the ward social--they are just the pretty box around the pearl. We are missing the point.
As a Mormon, I make covenants to consecrate my life to the gospel of Christ. Everything I do. Every breath that is given to me. If I help clean the church building on Saturday morning, it could just be a chore. Or it could be making it so that I and my gospel brothers and sisters can have a place that is clean and free of distractions to feel after the promptings of the spirit. If I smile at a student in the hallway at school, it could just be a friendly, social, human interaction. Or it could be the spiritual soul within me recognizing that every person I see is also a child of God. We all shouted for joy when we found out we could come to earth.
Which reminds me...the earth, too, is just another box. As beautiful as it is, if it doesn't help me come closer to Christ, if it doesn't help me grip one more rung on the ladder back to our heavenly Home, then I've pretty much missed the point.