“What is the best thing you have ever done?”
Chick’s question, sent from a computer in Everett, WA and undoubtedly inspired by his mantle as a missionary, begged a more-thoughtful, less-glib response than I could immediately muster.
What was the best thing I’d ever done?
My mind went immediately to accomplishments, things I’d done for which I’d received public recognition—most of which happened in a small (but very significant—GO DIGGERS!!!!) high school in Idaho. They include:
- Three time state champion and record holder in the 300m hurdles
- Homecoming Royalty
- Recipient of the Spencer W. Kimball Scholarship from BYU
Those were truly great times in my life. My peers gave me a standing ovation when I won the first state championship. The feeling of total acceptance and genuine goodwill I felt at that assembly is one that still warms my soul. And the complete, jaw-dropping, heart-pounding, “Is this really happening to me” feeling I had when a masculine voice on the other end of the line (phones had cords back then) said “Congratulations on being a 1983 Kimball Scholar” still qualifies as best surprise I have ever received. But were these the best things I have ever done? I hope not!
I’ve also done some truly cool—I mean completely and thoroughly awesome—things, including (but not limited to):
- Snorkeling with sea lions in the Galapagos Islands
- Hiking with mountain goats in Alaska
- Watching the Broadway cast of “Les Miserables” perform in Los Angeles
- Going through Cataract Canyon (a “particularly hazardous and isolated 14 miles section of the Colorado River”) in a four man (actually three men and one woman—me!) raft
- Being there when Michael Johnson was the first man to win gold in the 200m and 400m at the Olympic games
The Galapagos Islands were an incredible paradise; playing “fin-sy” (like playing footsie but with the lion’s fins and my fingers) was only one of the magical moments. Stepping around blue-footed boobie nests and admiring dolphin-generated bioluminescence were also spell binding. On the opposite end of the biome spectrum, Alaska’s wild beauty still ranks as my favorite. Watching mini-van sized grizzlies graze in a meadow, hiking beside Exit Glacier to admire the seemingly endless Hardling Ice Field (1,100 square miles of ice randomly punctured by mountain peaks), skinny dipping in the almost-icy waters of the Gulf of Alaska—one truly lives life to the fullest there.
As stunning as Alaska’s beauty was, it did not match the pure power of the feelings I had watching “Les Miserables”--
“Do you hear the people sing, lost in the valley of the night?
It is the music of a people who are climbing to the light…..
For the wretched of the earth there is a flame that never dies.
Even the darkest night will end and the sun will rise.
They will live again in freedom in the garden of the Lord.
They will walk behind the plough-share, they will put away the sword…
Do you hear the people sing? Say, do you hear the distant drums?
It is the future they will bring when tomorrow comes….Tomorrow comes!
Nor has anything matched the pure terror I felt as I viewed the house-sized holes in Cataract Canyon’s turbulent waters. With complete conviction I said to myself, “I am going to die”. I was wrong, thankfully. I lived. (YEA!) I lived to experience the spirit of the Olympics, a feeling of international brotherhood and goodwill that mimics Zion. When Johnson won his historic gold, we were sitting in an international crowd and everyone, irrespective of nation of origin, erupted in celebration. I did not speak the language of the huge Russian who spontaneously gave me a celebratory embrace but I certainly understood his hug…..
Cool things. Yes!! But the best thing I have ever done? No.
I have also done some eternally significant things. I served an honorable LDS mission among a chosen people under a truly visionary President. I am sealed to man who is “loving and kind and thoughtful” (God’s words…and I agree!), a man with whom I anticipate spending time and all eternity. I am mother to four cherished children who bring a joy into my life that is truly unfathomable [Definition of unfathomable: immeasurable, impossible to comprehend] —greater than the Galapagos, Alaska, Les Miserables, Cataract Canyon, and the Olympics combined.
Does one of these sacred experiences qualify as the best thing I have ever done?
The best thing I have ever done is establish a personal daily habit of scripture study and prayer. By consistently and conscientiously studying the scriptures I have come to know God. And by consistently and sincerely praying, I have come to trust Him.
I know I have a Father in Heaven who knows and loves me personally. I know I have a Savior who died for me, who invested His all in my success, and who will redeem me if I let Him. I know I can and will receive divine guidance, comfort, and power when I prayerfully petition.
This knowledge gives me the foundation upon which everything meaningful in my life stands. Every decision I make, every action I take, the way I process thoughts and feelings, the way I face challenges, the way I pursue success, indeed everything I say, think, do, everything I am is influenced by the knowledge that God loves me and by the trust that love inspires.
This knowledge gives me peace—peace “which passeth all understanding” (Philippians 4:7), hope—an assurance of good things to come, and joy—pure happiness. And this peace-invoking, hope-providing, joy-producing knowledge has come to me though consistent, persistent prayer and scripture study. Developing a habit of daily scripture study and personal prayer is unquestionably the best thing I have ever done.
It can be the best thing you ever do too.
Note: All images have been taken from Google Images and are labeled for noncommercial reuse.