I was electronically thumbing through President Thomas S. Monson's remarks at the last general conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints when something he said on Sunday jumped out at me.
He said: "I never cease to be amazed by how the Lord can motivate and direct the length and breadth of his kingdom and yet have time to provide inspiration concerning one individual."
President Monson's amazement concerning the Lord has been my wife's amazement at President Monson — and other general authorities — for years.
Sometimes in my column I'll mention the name of a colleague or acquaintance and — out of nowhere — I'll get a note from an LDS leader commenting about that person and sharing a personal insight or two. Over the years I've gotten at least a half dozen such notes from President Monson, and more than that from the late Elder Neal A. Maxwell. When I wrote about my grandson's fishing exploits, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve sent him a package of fishing lures.
"Given all they have to do," my wife will say, "where do they find time to single you out for such special attention?"
I've often wondered that myself.
Going back to President Monson's remarks about the Lord "ministering to the one," I find it interesting that when people focus on others and not on themselves, they are often touched and impressed by qualities they see in them without realizing they also have those qualities in spades.
On the other hand, when people become focused on themselves, every fault they perceive in themselves they tend to project onto those around them.
It's the difference between looking inward and looking out.
I remember sitting in the office of Elder Maxwell after one of his chemotherapy treatments. He was talking about a mother and son he knew who had cancer. He was moved to tears by the fact they felt no resentment or bitterness.
He didn't seem to realize many of us were moved to tears by those same virtues in him.
I've heard actors say that one of the sweetest moments in acting comes when they lose their self-consciousness and simply project their energy and emotion into another character.
I have to think that's also one of the sweetest moments in gospel living.
Lose yourself and you shall find yourself, the Master said.
He wanted us to find ourselves in the lives of others.
The day we can admire someone for their virtues without realizing we, ourselves, embody those virtues, that's the day we — I think — become fellow citizens with the Saints.
That's the day we truly start living.
Jerry Johnston is a former Deseret News staff writer. "New Harmony" appears every other week in Mormon Times. Email: [email protected]