I don't think I will ever hear the word "privileges" again without thinking of the story by President Dieter F. Uchtdorf about the man who signed up for a cruise, and in an effort to save his money for the various ports the ship would be stopping at, he packed in his suitcase some beans and crackers and powdered lemonade so that he would not have to spend his money on food while he was on board. When the ship was at sea, he stayed in his cabin nibbling on beans and crackers and drinking his powdered lemonade. On the final night he learned that ALL the food, amenities, entertainment, pool, etc., was included in the price of the cruise!
The point being that he was "living far beneath his privileges," as said by President Uchtdorf, second counselor in the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Many years ago, when I was just a little girl, friends of my parents invited them to leave the "cabin," the world, and come to the "dining hall" and enjoy the amenities of the gospel of Jesus Christ. They actually enjoyed the "cabin," they had made it home, they were happily married and doing the best they could raising their three little kids; they were enjoying their beans and crackers — that was all they knew.
However, after venturing out into the gospel and expanding their appetite and enjoying some vegetables, steak, lobster and hot fudge sundaes, they began to feel a contentment, joy and happiness that was beyond anything they had ever experienced in the cabin. They realized that raising their kids on beans and crackers would never give them the nutrients they would need to reach their potential. They wanted the best for their family, plus they knew they would never be content with beans and crackers now that they had tasted fine dining.
I have to admit that there were times in my youth when I wished we were in the cabin eating beans and crackers. That is where most of my friends were, and it seemed to be good enough for them. I really couldn't understand why our family couldn't just stay in the cabin with the rest of the world. Why did my parents have to haul us off to the dining hall for church on Sundays, early morning seminary, Sunday evening firesides, a weeknight for Young Women, to the welfare farm for grape picking, church volleyball, basketball and musicals, and all those other things they do in the dining hall. Why couldn't I just go to the cabin and enjoy my beans and crackers? After all, if we dressed up, served the beans on fancy dishes, surrounded ourselves with a lot of important people and nice things, then certainly it would equal the experience they were having in the dining hall, right?
I have to admit, my parents are seriously the happiest people I have ever known. They loved the dining hall! They would never love or treat anyone less for choosing to stay in the cabin, but they took every opportunity they could to invite people to the dining hall, and many of them came. It wasn't long before I not only saw how these people changed but also came to appreciate the spiritual diet that my parents raised me on. Just like there are privileges to eating right, exercising, being fiscally responsible, getting an education, etc., I saw with my own eyes the privileges that came to those who chose to leave the world and come unto Christ.
I was reminded of this principle a couple of months ago when I went in for knee surgery. I was told I would be down for about a week, so my mom flew in to help, and with my crutches and friends, I was ready to tackle anything. To my surprise, I came home from surgery feeling pretty good. I woke up the next morning and hopped out of bed like any other morning. It was amazing. My mom was questioning why she flew all the way from California to help me out. My friends were sneaking in my front door so as not to wake me, and there I stood going about my day. We were all in awe at how this knee surgery was so easy. I even mentioned to my friends, "If this is knee surgery, I'll do it every day of the week."
However at 11 p.m. that night, my knee started to hurt. At midnight I received a text from the doctor: "Becky, your knee should be hurting right about now! I pumped your leg with (painkiller) so you could enjoy the first day, now good luck." I kid you not, by the next morning I was in so much pain I didn't think I would ever walk again.
There are other reminders that anything the world offers us can only last about a day. Disneyland closes each night; movies come to an end; drugs, alcohol and pornography leave us, insisting we return for more to get through another day. Materialism and appearances fade with time. The beans and crackers of the world are so fleeting and in stark contrast to what the Lord has to offer us.
Admittedly, there have been many times in my life when I have gone to the cabin. There were many there who were trying to order out from the dining hall. They wanted to taste the food, but not at the expense of leaving the cabin.
When I entered the cabin, I instantly felt pressure to have the perfect body or share stories of going to a certain concert, traveling the world or touting my material things. In fact I found myself needing to feel validated, and it seemed that everyone was looking for someone else to agree with their choices, therefore helping them to feel justified and right.
It seemed that a lot of time was spent playing intellectual volleyball, proving to one another that each was right, debating even the things of God. It was interesting to watch as this game never seemed to bring anyone contentment or happiness even when they thought they had won; they were always looking for another battle to wage.
In the dining hall, I was taught that my self-worth wasn't attached to how I looked or what I owned or who I knew. I was taught that I was a daughter of God and his validation was the only one that mattered. And that God was God regardless of how much debating about him took place.
Probably the biggest contrast between the cabin and the dining hall were the feelings that I felt. I never felt the peace and joy in the cabin that I felt in the dining hall. Oh, trust me, they were having a lot of fun in the cabin, but it always came to an end really fast and kept me wanting.
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I found that the fine dining of the gospel offered joy, peace, contentment and a happiness that the world could never offer me. The privileges of the gospel have gone far beyond anything I could have imagined or hoped for.
In the dining hall, I have friends of other faiths who also actively seek Jesus Christ and have little concern for the cabin. I share the same kinship with them as I do with those of my own faith.
Words cannot express how grateful I am that my parents insisted on raising me in the dining hall.
'Your Potential, Your Privileges'
Becky Thomas has a degree from Brigham Young University. She was a weekly columnist with Mormon Times for two years. Her email is firstname.lastname@example.org