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Numbers and the value of 1

By Randy Bartlett

For the Deseret News

Published: Friday, Aug. 15 2014 5:00 a.m. MDT

Updated: Thursday, Aug. 14 2014 6:53 p.m. MDT

An image from the “Reflections of Christ” project by Mark Mabry.

Mark Mabry

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Numbers, numbers, numbers.

From the Book of Numbers to the latest computer report, numbers are used everywhere: statistics, lists, reviews, goals, actuals and differences. But numbers still make many people very uncomfortable. They can seem impersonal — or, too personal. They can be used as faceless enforcers to ensure that lines are toed and boats are rowed.

Yet every number can be boiled down to a single digit: “1."

Have you ever thought of “1” as a person? When you do, it becomes a symbol for a son or daughter of God. This includes each person’s divine capacity for endless achievement and growth. So in this light, the beautiful number “1” is infinite.

The Savior said, “The very hairs of your head are all numbered”(Luke 12:7). This level of detailed record-keeping assures that “the worth of a (single) soul is great in the eyes of God.” What we care about, we measure and count. Each infinite 1 is a treasure worth the counting.

When we look at it this way, numbers stop being the dry artifacts of passing programs, projects and initiatives. Instead, they become sums of service that follow the Savior’s example. He walked dusty roads to serve: to stop at one home and bless a single child or to pause at a well and change one seeking heart — forever. Christ says that one repentant soul brings great joy to God (Doctrine and Covenants 18:15).

And yet we need numbers to measure — to gauge our progress and find areas to improve. Enough zeroes in the home teaching ledger add up to nothing. The one less-active is not welcomed, the one child of record is not baptized, or the one seemingly perfect mom with a hidden burden suffers on.

In that light, reports are important, even critical. Reports summarize individual service to each infinite one.

Christ’s visit to the Nephites is a great example of this. First, individual service: He invited each person in the crowd to come to him. They looked into his eyes and saw his kind and glorious smile. Then each one touched the symbols of his atoning love: the prints of the nails in his hands and feet and the wound in his side.

The Savior held and blessed each child there, every one. He personally laid his hands on each person who was ill, deformed or disabled and healed each one.

This was intense, personalized one-on-one service. Each person, old and young, enjoyed a powerful individual relationship with Jesus Christ that day.

Then, a report: A disciple wrote down the scope of this one-on-one service (3 Nephi 17:25): “All did see and hear, every man for himself … they were in number about 2,500 souls.” This was, in essence, a stake ministered to person by person, in one amazing day.

The Savior’s priority was to serve each infinite one.

When we start to see a face each time we read a number, those numbers become valuable. We come to know that success for even one is of infinite value. We are then pleased to record progress.

Where report results are consistently high, they are almost always the sum of great personal love for individuals and families. This follows a pattern of “being with and strengthening” while following the Savior who numbers the very hairs on each head of each infinite one.

Randall Bartlett is a business professional in the Washington, DC area and a " gentleman farmer" living on the sunrise side of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia. Contact him at rgba@aol.com

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