As I previously stated, I was a young executive when I began running Ballet West. I remember clearly that every day was a great challenge for me; I have never felt so much pressure and stress in my life. (Even now, after being in business for more than 40 years, I recognize that running Ballet West was perhaps the toughest assignment I have ever had.)
During this same time, I was also a new bishop with responsibilities over several hundred Mormon single adult college students. They, too, were in need of my time and counsel with many personal trials of their own. Add to this that Jeanne and I were the parents of four small, active children with two more joining us during my career at Ballet West. You might guess just how difficult this time was.
Needless to say, there were many moments during this period of my life when I felt completely overwhelmed and stressed beyond measure.
Fortunately, then-Elder James E. Faust of the Quorum of the Twelve of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was on the board of trustees for Ballet West during this same time. Even with his busy assignment for the LDS Church, he found time to become better acquainted with Jeanne and me. In fact, I can vividly remember an evening when he and his wife, Ruth, hosted us for dinner before a ballet performance in Ogden. They were so kind.
Based on this warm reception, I knew President Faust, who later served as a counselor in the First Presidency before his death in 2007, would be willing to help me during this difficult time in my life. So, I contacted him to see if he would visit with me about how I might better manage my many multiple assignments in life. He graciously agreed and invited me to his office for a personal chat one beautiful spring afternoon.
During our conversation, we talked about the difficulties I was facing and I asked what advice he might have for me. He sat there very kindly and attentively, making some suggestions but not giving me complete answers; he wisely thought that I should come up with my own solutions.
At one point, he asked me to walk with him to the window on the west side of his office. He opened the curtains and we both stood there looking out his large window at the scene below.
After a few minutes, he asked, “Alan, what do you see?” I didn’t know what exactly I was supposed to find so I continued gazing out the window with him. Eventually, he put his arm around my shoulder, prodding me along.
“I can see the Hotel Utah,” I replied.
“Look lower on the ground,” he suggested.
I looked and said, “I see a garden. I see gardeners and gorgeous flowers.”
“Look even more intently,” he said.
To which I replied, “I see row after row of beautiful flowers, all arranged perfectly with amazing and dazzling colors.”
President Faust then paused and said, “Alan, I want you to remember what I am about to tell you for the rest of your life. What you see down there is exactly what I want you to become, a garden of beautiful flowers. I want you to be amazing, I want you to be splendid, and I want your life to reflect the glory and orderliness of that flowerbed. Your ability to achieve this quintessential way of life is highly possible if you will base your thoughts and behavior upon time-tested eternal principles. In short, all your decisions and actions, Alan, should focus on following the Savior’s gospel. If you do so, you will experience inner peace, joy and heartfelt happiness all the days of your life.”
What a glorious lesson I learned from President Faust that day. It has been many years since this conversation transpired and yet his message of comparing our lives to a flower garden has remained ever-present in my life.
Imagine that in our flowerbeds there is a very special gardener who is carefully weeding, watering, fertilizing and pruning each tender plant. Now envision that our gracious Heavenly Father is the gardener of our own personal flowerbeds, constantly and lovingly watching over us night and day.
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