Friday, March 18, 2011

Rest unto Your Souls

This entry is part of my general conference application series.

Rest unto Your Souls, by Per G. Malm
Of the Seventy

We're all familiar with the cartoon images of hollow trees that house all kinds of creatures—owls, squirrels with their stockpile of nuts, Keebler Elves—but sometimes other things fill these trees' holes. Elder Malm tells of such a tree in Sweden that is surrounded by beautiful trees. However, this one tree, while hollow, is filled with all sorts of waste!

I've seen such trees here and there. It's as though some people cannot see a void without needing to fill it with their garbage. Sometimes there needn't even be a hole in the tree—have you seen chewing gum trees that have unwittingly become trash art?

Let's return to Elder Malm's hollow Swedish tree. Surprised that it could stand in its condition, he noticed that it was supported via a belt and wires that were anchored on the surrounding buildings. Without these helps, this tree could not stand.

As I considered the environmental impacts of such a tree, I started to wonder if I'm at all like this tree: surrounded by others who are strong and healthy, but inwardly hollow and filling up with junk. I wondered, if I were like this, what could the supports be? Surely I could find something to help me appear strong and tall.

As I wondered about these things, I thought of something else Elder Malm said:

If we choose to act contrary to the light and understanding that we have, we will experience a bad conscience, which of course does not feel good. But a bad conscience is a blessing in that we immediately are reminded that it is time to repent. When we are humble and desire to do what is right, we will be anxious to act promptly to change our ways.

I liked the idea of a bad conscience being an indicator of a need for change!

Expanding on the tree comparison, sometimes the trash on the inside can spill to the surroundings, weakening others. "What we say, how we act, and how we choose to react will influence not only ourselves but also those around us. We can build up, or we can tear down." This reminded me of a poem that I've committed to memory (read more here):

I passed one day through a lonely town,
and saw some men tear a building down.

With a "Ho, heave, ho," and a husky yell,
they swung a beam, and a sidewall fell.

I asked the foremen, "Are these men skilled?
The kind you'd hire if you had to build?"

"Oh no," he chuckled, "no indeed;
The common laborer is all I need."

"You see, I can destroy in a day, or
two what has taken builders weeks to do."

I thought to myself as I went on my way,
"Which of these roles have I tried to play?

"Am I a builder who works with care,
strengthening lives with rule and square?

"Shaping my peers to a well-made plan?
Helping them be the best they can?

"Or am I a wrecker who walks around,
content with the labor of tearing down?"

Speaking of tearing down, are you at all concerned about that hollow tree? Elder Malm shared a story of the tragic end of the tree; some young people filled the hollow with firecrackers which caught the tree on fire and ended its existence. He concluded with a powerful tie-together warning:

Beware of things that will destroy from the inside out, whether big or small! They can have an explosive effect and cause spiritual death.

How is my conscience? Am I a hollow tree that is filling with junk? These are helpful questions of introspection. Whatever the answers may be, there is always strength and help from "the healing Atonement of of Jesus Christ that we may have the strength to stand tall and strong and to have our souls be filled—with light, understanding, joy, and love."

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