Friday, February 16, 2018

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland on the importance of each unique individual

Elder Jeffrey R. Holland (born December 3, 1940) served as Church Commissioner of Education from 1976-1980, as the president of BYU from 1980-1989, as a Seventy from 1989-1994, and as a member of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles since 1994.
"On those days when we feel a little out of tune, a little less than what we think we see or hear in others, I would ask us, especially the youth of the Church, to remember it is by divine design that not all the voices in God’s choir are the same. It takes variety—sopranos and altos, baritones and basses—to make rich music. To borrow a line quoted in the cheery correspondence of two remarkable Latter-day Saint women, 'All God’s critters got a place in the choir.' (Laurel Thatcher Ulrich and Emma Lou Thayne, All God’s Critters Got a Place in the Choir (1995)) When we disparage our uniqueness or try to conform to fictitious stereotypes—stereotypes driven by an insatiable consumer culture and idealized beyond any possible realization by social media—we lose the richness of tone and timbre that God intended when He created a world of diversity.
"Now, this is not to say that everyone in this divine chorus can simply start shouting his or her own personal oratorio! Diversity is not cacophony, and choirs do require discipline—for our purpose today... I would say discipleship—but once we have accepted divinely revealed lyrics and harmonious orchestration composed before the world was, then our Heavenly Father delights to have us sing in our own voice, not someone else’s. Believe in yourself, and believe in Him. Don’t demean your worth or denigrate your contribution. Above all, don’t abandon your role in the chorus. Why? Because you are unique; you are irreplaceable. The loss of even one voice diminishes every other singer in this great mortal choir of ours, including the loss of those who feel they are on the margins of society or the margins of the Church."
- Jeffrey R. Holland, "Songs Sung and Unsung," General Conference, April 2017
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It's so hard for us to not compare ourselves with others around us. Elder Holland warns about the tendency to evaluate ourselves and see "a little less than what we think we see or hear in others." Others always seem to be doing so much better, or accomplishing so much more! But in reality, all God asks of each of us is to do the best we can with the gifts and the circumstances we are given in our individual lives. And not only that—the power and beauty of the human race require the differences and distinctions between us! Diversity is a blessing, and we should never "disparage our uniqueness or try to conform to fictitious stereotypes" that we think are so important.

It's so important that we learn to "sing in our own voice, not someone else's." We can, and should, learn from the examples of others; we can notice qualities or gifts that we might aspire to and work to develop. But we should never forget that we, too, have unique personality traits and distinct gifts that can be used to help God's work and bless His children.

(Compilation and commentary by David Kenison, Orem, Utah, 2018)

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