Find Your Lost Sheep
It is nice to be here this morning. I thank you for the invitation. It was mentioned in the introduction that I was a wildlife artist. I did that for ten years, and the one thing that I learned the most in that career is that I know how to paint fur. So, in a way, that kinds of sets a precedent for what I’d like to talk about today—and that is sheep.
I’d never painted sheep until I started on the project of Christ, but what’s interesting from an artist’s perspective is that the sheep in our country and in surrounding countries have a totally different look than the sheep in Jerusalem. So I have to admit, my first interest for some of the paintings that I’ve painted with sheep in them have been our sheep and not the Savior’s, but it has been corrected.
He taught through his parables, and when I was in Jerusalem, there was an opportunity that I had to stop and observe a shepherd with his sheep. And as the bus that we were on stopped and the people were allowed to get off, it was interesting how domesticated these sheep had become, and they were all—they came over to us. We weren’t quite within touching distance, but they were close and we were getting fantastic footage.
At one point, the shepherd, who had stayed quite a ways in the distance, gave some weird noise, and all of the sheep turned just like a school of fish and took off back to the shepherd. That really left an image in my mind of the shepherd. And the shepherd is who I would like to talk about today—specifically Jesus Christ and our discipleship for Him.
In the first paragraph that I’d like to recite, it talks about the lost sheep:
How think ye? if a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which has gone astray?
And if it so be that he find it, verily I say unto you, he rejoiceth more of that sheep, than of the ninety and nine which went not astray.
Even so it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish (Matthew 18:12–14).
When I was about six years old, our family went to Ogden to see a parade. And after our arrival, it wasn’t long before I became separated from my parents and my family. And what I remember about that experience was sitting in the back of a police car for several hours, completely believing that I was going to have to go home with one of these policemen and live there forever or go to jail. And I was in quite a state. What I remember clearly about that, though, is that after several hours I could see my father in the distance as he came running towards that car, and I remember that feeling of peace and safety that I felt once I saw him moving towards me. It was much like I believe how it will be with our Heavenly Father when we return.
Some time ago, I wrote this in my journal, referring to the lost sheep:
Those lost sheep of which Jesus spoke are those that can’t see their way in the mists of darkness. They have lost their grip on the iron rod and they are skipping along those broad roads. Each day I wake up and think the world can’t get any worse, and yet it does. I follow several friends on Facebook and I worry for some that they have entered that large and spacious building, filled with barbells and treadmills, searching for the praise of men and living the life where Christ is no longer relevant.
I wrote this in response to a dear friend who had actually worked for me for some years. And I had not talked to her for several months after she left our company, and she contacted me and I was excited to hear from her. Before I could say much, she said, “I just want to fill you in on a couple of things. I’m no longer a member of the Church. I found that it was too restrictive in the life that I wanted to lead, and I wasn’t happy. And so I have left that church.”
I continue to follow her on Facebook, and most of her entries are about going to the gym. And it’s heartbreaking to watch, but clearly she is a lost sheep in my life. And that gives me a responsibility. And I’ll talk about that in a second.
This next quote is from President N. Eldon Tanner. He served in the First Presidency years back. In 1982, he wrote this:
Never in our time has there been greater need for all mankind to turn their lives around and live by the teachings of Jesus Christ. One has only to read a newspaper, listen to news broadcasts, or engage in conversation with someone to become despondent with the state of the world, his nation, or the individual plights of his neighbor and himself.
“Where will it all lead” we ask in dismay. What is happening to the leaders of men and of nations that has brought us to such a condition? Where, along the way, have we failed?
The answers are found in an examination of the principles of the gospel of Jesus Christ and the nonconformity in our lives to the truths found therein. It is the individual responsibility of each of us to so live that we may extend our influence for righteousness to others who, seeing our good works, will be led to glorify our Father in Heaven. As we have often heard, the way for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing (“Live By the Savior’s Teachings,” Ensign,Dec. 1982).
Another one is by John A. Widtsoe, written in 1943:
In our pre-existent state, in the day of the great council, we made a certain agreement with the Almighty. The Lord proposed a plan, conceived by him. We accepted it. Since the plan is intended for all men, we bec0me parties to the salvation of every person under that plan. We agreed, right then and there, to be not only saviors for ourselves but measurably, saviors for the whole human family. We went into a partnership with the Lord.
The working out of the plan became then not merely the Father’s work, and the Savior’s work, but also our work. The least of us, the humblest, is in partnership with the Almighty in achieving the purpose of the eternal plan of salvation. That places us in a very responsible attitude towards the human race (quoted in Ardeth G. Kapp, “What Will You Make Room for in Your Wagon,” BYU Devotional, Nov. 13,1990).
Dallin H. Oaks said,
The reality of our total dependence upon Jesus Christ for the attainment of our goals of immortality and eternal life should dominate every teaching and every testimony and every action of every soul touched by the light of the restored gospel (quoted in Barbara Day Lockhart, “Our Divinely Based Worth,” Ensign,Jun. 1995).
To put it in simpler terms, when we are separated from the Spirit, we are lost. Whether we are lost or someone we love or care about is lost, the “wait and see” approach, or the “hope for the best,” or “somebody else’s problem”—those attitudes are irresponsible and dangerous.
Consider Alma the Younger. He didn’t pray for his way; he didn’t know he was lost. But through the prayers of his father, Heavenly Father sent an angel—a literal angel—to help him turn the course of his life and return, and he became one of the greatest prophets of all time. (See Mosiah 27).
Not all lost sheep today are going to be visited by heavenly angels. But there are angels among us, in the form of family and friends and even strangers, that could recognize the voice of the Shepherd and would act accordingly. If we are the eyes and hands of our Savior, then we who have been touched by the light of the restored gospel, especially those touched, are the shepherds of our lost sheep.
Kathleen Hughes said,
The Lord has touched my spirit time and again, and more often than not, His touch has reached me through the hand of a friend. . . . Perhaps [we] would feel more of His love if [we] looked for His hand in the actions of those who care for [us]. . . . God knows the needs of His children, and He often works through us, prompting us to help one another (“What Greater Goodness Can We Know: Christlike Friends,” Apr. 2005 General Conference).
Years ago I was asked to speak at a Women’s Conference in Orem. I was given about a month to prepare my remarks, and then the day came. I felt very comfortable with what I’d prepared. I felt very familiar with it, and so that evening, I arrived at their stake center and, with talk in hand—again, just feeling very confident. I sat down, and they did the opening activities—the prayer and song—and when I stood to give my remarks, I could not put a clear thought in my mind. It was a bit of a panic. Even reading my notes, they made no sense to me. Everything I had studied was just gone.
I began talking about a subject that had nothing to do with what they had asked me to speak on, and that was gossip. And even as I shared my thoughts on it, even listening to myself, I thought, “Wow, I have no idea what is happening here or where this is coming from.”
But I remembered within those remarks a story that my dear friend and colleague, Susan Easton Black, had given in a fireside that I had been to not too long before that. She had talked of an experience with her husband: she woke up one morning, and she and her husband usually did a run around the BYU campus. Upon returning home, her husband, Harvey, decided to stay and work in the yard and not to shower and get into different clothes. He was just going to work in the yard all day, and he thought he would take care of those things at the end of the day. But at the end of the day, as he took off his running shoe, his shoe was full of blood. And because he had neuropathy in his feet, he couldn’t feel the screwdriver that had penetrated between his big toe. This was a pretty dire circumstance; he was about 80 years old. They rushed him to the ER, and he did become very ill, almost to the point of losing his life.
The point that my friend was making with this experience that she shared is that we often don’t realize that the things we do can cause pain and suffering to other people, and we may not even know it. Anyway, I thought it was such a great story, and it certainly fit with what I was trying to convey, and when I finished with the remarks I sat down and thought, “That was just a killer talk! That was awesome. And I have no idea where any of that information came from except for that experience.”
So the meeting was closed and the stake Relief Society president came up to the stand, and she drew my attention to two ladies in the back of the chapel that were hugging. And she said—she knew what my topic was supposed to be—and she said, “I don’t know what prompted you to change your mind, but you have no idea what an answer to prayer your remarks were.”
She went on to say that these two ladies had had some kind of a disagreement, and it had happened about six months before that. What was happening within their stake Relief Society is that it was becoming very polarized. People were taking sides, and it was dividing and really becoming damaging to the spirit of the stake. And she said, “The fact that these two women are in the back of the chapel hugging is obviously what the stake has prayed for these two ladies to take place.”
And so she thanked me, and again, that was a great teaching moment for me. The key was that I was prepared to speak—but Heavenly Father had a different topic that he needed me to speak on, and I was able to speak on it because I had been familiar with the topic beforehand, and I became, I believe, very much an instrument in His hands that night.
The second parable I want to talk about is the one of the Savior, after His resurrection when He appears on the shores of Galilee. As He waits for His apostles to come in, and a lovely story where Peter jumps in the water and can hardly wait to get to shore because he has recognized that it is the Savior. It’s hard to imagine what that would have felt like—especially not knowing really what the resurrection truly was—to there again see their Savior again—that must have been glorious.
But as they come to the shore, and they gather around the fire, the Savior has prepared a meal. He points to the fish that he has on the fire and says, “Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep.
“He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me?” A little bit perplexed now Peter says, “Yea Lord; thou knowest that I love thee.” And “he saith unto him, Feed my sheep” (John 21: 15–16).
And then lastly, “He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me?” And Peter, completely baffled—“Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me?” Are you kidding? “And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep (John 21:17).
We are those souls touched by the light of the restored gospel, and as such, we are the eyes and the ears and the hands of our Heavenly Father and our Savior Jesus Christ. He knows the needs of each of His children, and He knows who will best serve whom in every incident and moment of our lives. And through the power and gift of the Holy Ghost, He will direct us where He needs us. Our ability to accept such a serious responsibility suggests that we pretty much need to have our act together, or at least be working on that.
Part of having your act together is knowing and understanding your role here, and who you are, and the nobility of your birthright. Imagine the kind of world we would have if everybody knew–had that very golden nugget of information—why they were here.
Gordon B. Hinckley said
There is something of divinity within each of you. You have such tremendous potential with that quality as a part of your inherited nature. Every one of you was endowed by your Father in Heaven with a tremendous capacity to do good in the world (“The Light within You,” Apr. 1995 General Conference).
A few years ago in my Relief Society at home, a young teacher just newly assigned and newly married stood to give a lesson that I will never forget. Though, because I was in the presidency at the time and I was actually over the teachers, I felt like—and not knowing this young lady; she had only been in the ward for a few months—but I didn’t hold out that this lesson would be very impressive because she was so young. She hadn’t lived long enough. But she completely proved me wrong.
She told of an experience she had when she was 16 years old. She was certain at that age who she was going to marry, so she went to a Friday night dance with this young man, totally in love with him. But sometime in the course of the night, this young man broke it off with her. She found herself at home later that evening, sitting in the dark in her living room, just sobbing with a broken heart.
She said that after a time, “I felt a hand on my shoulder. I didn’t have to turn and look to see who it was. I knew it was my father, and I knew that hand really signified his love for me, his concern for me. And I felt safe.”
Such a beautiful, beautiful story. She went on to say that five years later she was in Germany on her mission, and she was kneeling in the middle of the night on the kitchen floor in their apartment there. She was asking her Heavenly Father for help in a particularly difficult situation they had with one of their investigators, and she said, “I had that memory of my father’s hand on my shoulder. I honestly felt as if another hand had been placed on my shoulder, and this was the hand of my Heavenly Father. Because He knew me. He knew my needs. He knew my concerns over this investigator, and He was there.” She said, “Again, I felt that safety and that peace come as I did that night with my earthly father.”
This last Halloween, we visited my son in Rexburg, Idaho. My son and his little five-year-old were at the door taking care of the trick-or-treaters. Sometime after the trick-or-treaters left, my son decided to hide behind the door so that when the doorbell rang again, he was going to jump out and scare his little five-year-old, all in the spirit of Halloween. As he did that, his little five-year-old showed no alarm at all. His father said to him, “Didn’t that scare you?”
He said, “No.” And my son, instead of just accepting it, decided to try again, only he would intensify his efforts. And as he did that, again trying to scare his son Kevin, Kevin was unmoved.
He said, “Kevin, didn’t that scare you?” He said, “Why didn’t that scare you? That scared me.”
And Kevin said, “Because Dad, you’re just Dad.” I thought, as sweet as that is in this sweet little boy’s life, how true a statement that is for all of us. Because you’re just Dad. We just have such an edge or a blessing in our lives when we come to know—truly know, not just read it or be told it—in our hearts that we are daughters and sons of our Heavenly Father.
Years ago when I signed with this publisher that was based in Connecticut, part of my contract was that I would have to at some point travel around to the different galleries around the country and be there as a guest of a show that they would sponsor of my work, that I would be meeting the people that would be buying my work in that particular area. My first assignment fulfilling this contract was in Wichita, Kansas.
Prior to this, I had spoken about Joseph Smith over the course of about five years, but always at an LDS venue, about Joseph Smith. This was totally different. This was only about a year of intense study about the Savior, and I would be in places where people would be there that had studied their lifetime on the Savior. My fear for Wichita, as I read the itinerary, was that I would probably be confronted with pastors or leaders of other congregations, and they would ask very good questions, and I was afraid that I wouldn’t have an answer sufficient for them or that also might bring embarrassment not only to me but to the Church. So I had a couple of hard weeks as I prepared for that.
My prayers consisted pretty much of, “Heavenly Father, I can’t get all the information in there that I need to in the next two weeks, so I would be really happy if you would just help me study those things that I’m going to be asked. You know everything, and you know what they’re going to ask me back there.” And of course, what a silly prayer that is, but my Heavenly Father knew I was terrified to go.
Anyway, as I arrived in Wichita they told me the schedule would begin at the Church of the Blessed Sacrament in Wichita. This obviously was not an LDS venue. And again, my anxiety just continued to increase. As we walked into the cultural hall, we were actually at a youth fundraiser for the Catholic Church there. It reminded me a lot of bazaars that we had when I was younger in our church. Anyway, as they walked me through the cultural hall to the back, they had placed me at a booth at the very end of this room where on one side was someone selling rosary beads and on the other side was someone selling angels with wings. It was not my comfort zone, to say the very least.
On the cover of the book that they had placed there in my booth was this picture of Mary and the baby, and I took great comfort in the fact that the Catholic congregation does love Mary, and I felt like that might help me get through this, but I was continually praying as the people went through.
When that finished, the next stop was to the gallery, where I was to then host a show with the proprietors, and the people that were buying the work would be coming in to meet me. So as I arrived at the gallery a couple of hours later, standing around my table was a group of women who had been waiting for me, and the leader of that group was standing with her hands on hips, right where I was going to sit. And she was ready for a fight.
As I walked in and sat down, she said to me without any break in it, “I just wanted to know why you painted the Savior’s eyes blue. He’s Jewish. He wouldn’t have blue eyes.” And I—you can say pretty quick prayers when you have to. My prayer was something to the effect of “Okay, here we are Heavenly Father. This is what I was talking about. I need something to tell this lady because it’s obvious that she’s not LDS, and she’s not going to buy the story that Alexander Neibaur, the first Jewish convert to the Church and dentist to Joseph Smith was told by Joseph that the Savior’s eyes were blue. That’s documented, and it’s in the archives of our Church. She’s not going to go for this; I need something else.”
What came to mind was simply, “Well, Ma’am, we only know one part of the Savior’s genetics. We don’t know what the other is.”
She was right back at me with, “Well, of course we do. Joseph and Mary were both from the line of David.”
I said, “Yes,” and I was really enjoying myself now, “Yes, but we also know that Joseph was not his earthly father.”
And you would have thought I had discovered the cancer cure. She leaned back and she eased up on her posture, and she said, “Oh. I’d never thought of that. You’re absolutely right.” And she bought a lot of art, and she left.
I was so relieved, and I again was praying, “Heavenly Father, please don’t let anybody else come to this show. I’ve only got two more hours, and it will be great if nobody came through that door.”
That wasn’t the way it was supposed to play out, however. A young lady came through the door a time later, and I was sitting at the table. She walked over to me,, and she’s holding her purse very tightly, so I knew she wasn’t from Wichita. She whispered to me, “Are you Liz Lemon Swindle?”
I said, “I am.”
She said, “But are you the Mormon Liz Lemon Swindle?”
And I said, “Yes, I am.”
She became very emotional, and she said, “I was at the airport, there on a layover, and I saw the advertisement that you were going to be here speaking. I’ve never been to Wichita, but I knew that I had to come and just tell you that you will never know the many lives that have been touched by your work.”
At that time, I was traveling a lot and not really liking to travel. And this lady, having never been there either, had to grab a cab, which aren’t really prevalent in Wichita, or she had to rent a car to come and find this gallery, because it was some distance from the airport. After she left those remarks with me, she excused herself to go back to the airport and catch her plane. And my heart was full because that young lady was an angel for me, sent by my Heavenly Father. He knew of my concerns, but He also knew that I needed a strong foundation to be able to go out and share my testimony amongst people who are not of my faith. So that day, I had a great lesson on building that foundation and how aware my Heavenly Father is of me.
My third parable is the sheep and the goats, followed by two others. They come in pretty rapid succession—the ten virgins, and the parable of the talents (see Matthew 25). You’re familiar with the scripture, although I don’t think you’re familiar that it has the sheep and the goats involved. The difference between the sheep and the goats that the Savior was talking about is that the sheep will be on His right hand at the Second Coming and the goats will be on His left hand. And you can draw your own conclusion which is which and how that breaks down.
What’s interesting in these sheep though, is that in Jerusalem, you really have a hard time telling the difference between the sheep and the goats, which also adds great importance to the parable that the Savior gave.
When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory:
And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats:
And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.
The shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:
For I was an hungered and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:
Naked and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.
Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungered and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?
When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?
Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?
And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me (Matthew 25:31–40).
When I began my professional career, I was picked up by the Wild Leaves chain based in Lake City, Minnesota. I was invited by Nancy Glazier, my tutor at the time, to go back with her and serve as a “puller.” She was going back to sign her limited editions. A puller’s job is pull the paper out of the way as quickly as she could sign her signature so that she can sign the next one, because often an artist is signing her name about 10,000 times during that one session. So it’s really a requirement for an artist to have a puller.
So, I went to Lake City with Nancy for this one particular time she was going, and there I met a gentleman who ran the Santa Rosa Wild Leaves chain. And he liked my work that I had been doing on ducks and geese, and he signed me on for a gallery there. That was actually the beginning of my career as a classical artist. Before then I had been painting ducks, and there isn’t really too much classical about them.
So I signed on with him, and Arthur Bond was his name. He was married to a lady, Bonnie. She was a member of the Church, and they had two children. The children were raised in the Church, but Arthur had no interest in the Church at all. A very nice man, he was really a wonderful man, and he really was a great person to have teach me the ropes about dealing with the art market professionally.
When I would fly there or we’d talk on the phone or be visiting here, the topic of the Church would always come up. In fact, the first show that I went to in Santa Rosa—if you’ve ever been to an art show, in the world it usually consists of paintings and cheese and wine. And so, just as a matter of course, Arthur came over to me with a champagne flute to hand me to drink during that first show, not knowing at that time that I was a member of the Church.
As he handed it to me, I said, “You know, I appreciate the gesture, but I’m a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and I would rather not.”
And he said, “Oh, you’re one of those. I married one of those.”
He then went and put apple juice in the flute, and again I said, “I really can’t. I don’t want to ever have someone look at a photograph where I am holding something that looks like an alcoholic drink. I would just prefer not to.”
And that really solidified the relationship for Arthur and me. I think he was baffled by it. He grew up in San Francisco in the Napa Valley where wine is like water, but he found this very intriguing. Over the course of the years that I was there, as I said, the topic usually came around to that of the Church. When I left painting wildlife and went on to do classical realism, which were the projects of Joseph Smith and Jesus Christ, we kind of lost contact. And then years later, I had a gentleman call me on a Saturday morning quite early and ask what I was doing on October 10th or something, and I said, “Well, when I know who you are I’ll tell you what I am doing then.”
He said, “Well, this is Arthur Bond.” By this time Arthur was in his 80s.
I said, “How wonderful! But why do you want to know what I am doing?”
He said, “I’d like you to come to Texas for my baptism.”
That was really, really extraordinary. Years later they moved here—well, they moved to Pleasant Grove. They were close to where we lived. We were able to see them more, and we’d been to lunch one day, he and his wife and my husband and I, and as we were getting ready to leave the restaurant, he was having a hard time getting around because of his age. And he pulled me aside, and he said, “I’m a Mormon because of you.”
After a year, Arthur and Bonnie were able to go to the temple and be sealed. Arthur has since passed on. This was another lesson for me. This is another lesson to me to always be mindful of your circumstances and who might be observing you in many capacities. Always be mindful of it. You are living a life of service to others and emulating the Savior’s life.
James E. Faust said,
You can be powerful instruments in the hands of God to help bring about this great work. . . . You can do something for another person that no one else ever born can do. . . . Blessings and a comforting peace will come to you if you can love God ”with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all the strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbor as thyself.” . . . If you have done your best, which you usually do, your humble offering, whatever it may be, will be acceptable and pleasing to the Lord (“Instruments in the Hands of God,” Oct. 2005 General Conference).
Be mindful of the people around you who you will become a shepherd to. Sometimes these are our families and our friends; sometimes it’s just in the mirror. Another lesson I was taught when I was doing one of my paintings, which is called “Seeking the One”—it’s a very large painting, so it actually went floor to ceiling, and I had to paint this on scaffolding at the top of this painting.
One particular day, I had spent the entire day trying to get the eyes perfect because the story was He was going to look for that one lost sheep, and I wanted His eyes to be riveting. You’ve heard people say that when they see a painting of someone, oftentimes they will feel like the eyes follow them. I don’t know if there’s an actual technique that teaches you that; I’ve never been taught that. But that’s what I was kind of hoping for. I was thinking that I wanted to do a painting that would help the one recognize that they are a lost sheep and to be able to feel that gaze of the Savior.
What I didn’t anticipate, though, was the next day when I came to work and as I walked around my studio getting the morning business out of the way, I noticed that the Savior’s eyes followed me wherever I went in my studio. That was really kind of unnerving, when you think about it. As I would walk someplace—I even started going different places to see if He was actually looking at me, and it really did; it really got on my nerves. But I recognized in that none of us are safe from wandering off into those mists of darkness. The things that we’re told that keep us close so that we’re not among the lost are the very simple things of the scriptures and our prayers and our attendance and our service. And you know the list; you know the drill.
One of the great things of my life is that I had a marvelous father who was my biggest fan. And he was oftentimes my shepherd. One day, I was about twelve years old, and there was a movie that was very popular. It was called Follow Me, Boys! I’m about out of time, aren’t I? We’ll wind it up. I’ll end with this and just one thing.
Anyway, there was an actor in this movie called Kurt Russell, and I was madly in love with Kurt Russell. I had devoted my life to him and my art, and so I drew many, many sketches of Kurt Russell. I’m not sure what I was supposed to do with them—practice, probably—but I would take each one of those to my father, and he would be, “Amazing. These are amazing. Wonderful! I can’t believe how good you are. Maybe you might want to try your hand—you’ve gotten so good at this—maybe you might want to try your hand at painting President McKay.”
And I was twelve. I could paint Kurt Russell or David O. McKay, so there was no contest. Anyway, he suggested that I do a painting of Harold B. Lee. Harold B. Lee and my father served a mission together, and so I did. I loved my dad, and I thought that would be fun. I did it, and sent it off to Elder Lee, and then about a week later I had a letter come to me from President Lee.
He said, “It’s clear that you’ve been given a talent from your Heavenly Father. Use it wisely. Always be mindful that this is a gift.” And “P.S. I’ve enclosed five dollars. Perhaps you could buy art supplies.” I thought about that, and I bought mascara. Now, typically, mascara could be considered an art supply. I’ve got to cut it short here.
We’ve brought something for you today, and we’re out of time, but this was inspired—we’re going to give you a gift, and it was inspired by a movie that I was invited to watch called My Name is Khan. Some of you may have seen it, but it is basically the story of a Muslim who has Asperger’s. He comes to America to fulfill a promise that he made to his mother that he would find a wife and live happy. And he did—he found a lady to marry, a Hindu with a little six-year-old boy, and they were very happy. But when 9-11 happened, the story then completely changed course, and you were taken down a path of the fear that was raging in America. The little boy became a fatality in that at the hands of some very fearful Americans, who had taken his life on a soccer field.
Anyway, the whole movie was so emotional that sometime into it I excused myself so that I could kind of go into the bathroom, wash my face, and blow my nose so I didn’t have a raging headache when it was over because I had been crying so much. I said to my Heavenly Father while I was in there, “How have we become this? How did we get to a place in our lives in our nation where we think that hurting someone else is okay? Or that we excuse it through fear?”
It made no sense to me, and I said, “I don’t know what more I could do than paint the Savior.” And I had a very strong, very strong impression that was “simply continue to paint my Son, and I will take care of the rest.” And so I did.
So we have this project called “Picture of Christ.” As of today, we have placed about 300,000 of these. But the way it goes is this: when you leave today, I want you to take three pictures with you. Keep one and give two away. And be prayerful about where they are going.
I did this at Utah Valley University a number of years ago, and a young lady, after receiving hers, a few months later she came to BYU where I was signing and told me what had happened with the two that she gave away. She said the one that she was most excited about went to a dear friend who had been struggling with pornography, and so she asked him to tape this to his monitor on his computer, which he did. And she said, “And he’s beating it! It is having a very positive influence on him.”
So those are for you when you leave today. Let me just close with this, and we’ll forego the video. This is given by Bruce R. McConkie, his last testimony that he gave. And I remember when he stood in conference and gave that testimony—how what he was saying just penetrated into my heart. His family, because of his illness, had prayed and fasted that he would be able to speak at that conference. And after a complete review of the Savior’s atonement, he testified that Jesus Christ was the Son of the Living God and was crucified for the sins of the world. He testified that he knew, separate from any other soul, that Jesus was our Lord and our God and our King, and he went on to say:
I am one of his witnesses, and in a coming day I shall feel the nail marks in his hands and in his feet and shall wet his feet with my tears.
But I shall not know any better then than I know now that he is God’s Almighty Son, that he is our Savior and Redeemer, and that salvation comes in and through His atoning blood and no other way.
God grant that all of us may walk in the light as God our Father is in the light so that, according to the promises, the blood of Jesus Christ his Son will cleanse us from all sin (“The Purifying Power of Gethsemane,” Apr. 1985 General Conference).
Howard W. Hunter said,
If our lives and our faith are centered upon Jesus Christ and his restored gospel, nothing can ever go permanently wrong. On the other hand, if our lives are not centered on the Savior and his teachings, no other success can ever be permanently right (“Fear Not, Little Flock,” BYU Devotional, Mar. 14, 1989).
So go out there, find your lost sheep, and be mindful of their needs and minister to them with the faith that your Heavenly Father is guiding you. I have a great testimony of this work that I’m involved in, and I have a great testimony of my Savior—that He lives and watches over each of us in all of our endeavors. And I leave this with you in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
If we had more time, we’d have played a really rocking video, but maybe next time. Thank you.