We are very fortunate indeed if we, in our lifetimes, have a good friend or family member, who will be perfectly honest with us when we solicit their feedback. My dear wife, Joanne, is one of those people. I can always count on her to tell me the truth when I ask her opinion regarding a talk I have prepared, or something I have written, or a lesson I have given. Many times over the years, I have had to swallow my male ego and pride as I have asked for her opinion – and have received it!
For example, one Christmas I was asked to speak at a Ward in our stake. I prepared what I thought was a wonderful talk, and had felt great inspiration as I did so. I then had Joanne read what I had prepared and asked her what she thought of it. She was silent for some time, which is always a bad sign, and then said, "Do you really want to know?" I gulped and said, "Go ahead." She then proceeded to tell me that my talk was a very good Education Week talk at BYU, but was just not going to cut it in a sacrament meeting. She told me that I would lose the children and teenagers who would be attending, in about one minute. My first human and male response to such feedback is to get defensive and almost angry. How could anyone find fault with my inspired and well-crafted message? Thankfully, I had the good sense to swallow my pride, and told her I would think about what she had said. As I thought about it, I realized that she was right – and that is what is so infuriating – she always seems to be right. It reminded me of the little pink T-shirt she bought for our daughter Rachel when she was in about the third or fourth grade that had emblazoned on the front in silvery script letters, "Girls Are Smarter!" I have lived long enough to sadly come to realize the truthfulness of that statement.
Well, I went to work and spent hours preparing an acceptable talk. I finally presented it to Joanne, who quickly read through it and said, "This is better, but you are not quite there yet." I began to defend myself and my precious work, but fortunately thought better of it and humbly went back to the drawing board. Finally, because of Joanne's reaction to my work, I did a lot of pondering and praying about what would be more appropriate than I had already prepared. New ideas came flooding into my mind, and writing another draft that I felt good about, and with great trepidation I might add, asked Joanne to read it once again. With me holding my breath while she silently perused the document, finally, and with a smile on her face, she said, "I think you have really got it!" That statement made me happier than when I passed my oral examination defending my doctoral dissertation before a group of learned professors at USC.
I have told Joanne that Adams, Jefferson, and Lincoln's Declaration of Independence, the Preamble to the Constitution, and Gettysburg Address, would have been so much better if they could have passed them by her before going public. Truthfully, however, she is a very gifted editor and has a finely tuned sense of what is good or bad in the written word or a talk.
This time of the year, the beginning of January, I often think of the incident in the Savior's ministry, recorded by Matthew, when the rich young man came to Him and asked Him a searching question – he wanted Jesus' feedback. Matthew recorded: "And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? And he said unto him…if thou wilt enter into life, keep the Commandments. He saith unto him, Which? [Jesus then told the young man to keep the 10 Commandments] The young man saith unto him, All these things have I kept from my youth up: WHAT LACK I YET? Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me. But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions." [Matthew 19:16-22]
I believe the young man's question, "What lack I yet?" is a question for the ages, and one we could all benefit from asking ourselves, a trusted spouse or friend, but especially to ask it of our Heavenly Father frequently. I am convinced if we ask that question of the Lord, and then take the time to listen, through the whisperings of the Spirit to our minds and the feelings that come into our hearts, we will receive an answer to our prayer and question. It of course, may take more than just one prayer.
There is a danger in asking that question, because we may not like the answer, as was the case with the rich young man. I don't know that the Savior would give all of us the same answer he gave to this young man. We are all lacking in different ways, I believe. The rich young man was more attached to his material things than he should have been which kept him from becoming a true disciple of Jesus. All of us, however, are lacking in something which is keeping us from following the Savior with more devotion, putting Him first in our lives, and being his true disciple.
Growth will only come to us as we recognize and honestly admit to ourselves, however hard it may be, what we lack and take the steps to overcome and deal with that weakness.
As Moroni so truthfully and beautifully wrote: "… And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make week things become strong unto them." [Ether 1 phase out 2:27]
The keywords in this teaching of Moroni, I believe, are (1) ",Come unto me," (2) "Humble themselves before me," and (3) "have faith in me." The promise to those who do so is that weak things will become strong unto them.
As I reflect back on my life, as I am sure is the case with all of you as you do likewise, you will see how this true principle has been operative in all our lives.
Especially at the beginning of this new year, I can't think of a more worthwhile question to ask the Lord than, "What lack I yet?"