In Sunday school today, one of the brothers asked us to talk about the gifts we have received from God, and specifically, those gifts that are very personal, and perhaps not obvious to others. The first thing that occurred to me was the gift of a felicity of expression that allows me to organize information and express it with clarity and, on the good days, with power. Then another thought struck me, as thoughts often do at such times, that was so unexpected that I could not express it, and frankly did not believe it. Having pondered it for a while, I believe I will share it now.
I have been blessed with the gift of sin. You can see why that idea did not compute at first! How can a sinful life be a gift? Because it is part of what makes me unique, especially in the church.
The church is filled with men and women who have lived exemplary lives. These folks are the real deal; they are not the self-righteous hypocrites that have turned so many people off to church, and even to God. These are good people – real people – who have lived good lives. Their children, however, are just starting their lives, and there is no end of temptation, negative example, and social pressure to live other than good lives. Like so many parents in all churches, sometimes these adults just can’t relate to that stuff.
But I can, because I have lived a lot of it. I have seen, first-hand, the power of temptation and the corrosion of sin – of how sin creeps upon us in increments. Alexander Pope said, “Vice is a monster of so frightful a mien as to be hated needs only be seen; but, when oft we look on her face, we pity, then endure, then embrace.” Pope nailed it. I have an understanding, albeit an imperfect one, of how cause and effect can be separated by years and by many seemingly disparate events.
The Scriptures tell us there must needs be opposition in all things. If we didn’t have dark, we could never understand light – or wrong, right – or misery, happiness. Had I not lived the life I did, I don’t know if I could have ever grasped the real glory of being cleansed by baptism and living with the Holy Ghost as my companion and comforter. Some men may be capable of that kind of enlightenment without the contrast to the past, but I was not.
Now, having come so far out of the darkness, I can speak to these young people in humility, and, on the good days, perhaps with some power. I would never claim to have exclusive authority over these lessons, or that their parents can never teach them. I do know, though, that some of the lessons and principles are beyond the ken of their parents, and on those occasions, the gifts of sin and expression enable me to impart wisdom to these young people whom I love so dearly. Most precious of all has been those instances when I was able to impart wisdom to my own beloved daughters. For these occasions, alone, I weep in gratitude to My Father in Heaven.
Now the question begged is this: “How many years ago did My Father in Heaven begin to shape me and guide me toward this point?” The answer is in the Scriptures: From the foundation of the world. And that, Brothers and Sisters, friends and neighbors, is mighty humbling.