The Power of Our Influence

Elder Richard G. and Sister Jeanene Scott
Elder Richard G. and Sister Jeanene Scott – Image from LDS Living

After General Conference Eric casually added a calendar item on his calendar for a General Conference 40-Day Challenge.  The idea behind it is simple.  Every day for 40 days there is an assigned talk from this most recent General Conference for you to listen to/read/study as a way to keep the words of the prophets in our minds.  I liked the idea so I decided to participate as well.  It’s been really great because rather than the full deluge of spirituality that comes with the conference I’ve had the opportunity to reflect on each of the talks in turn and really focus on the things that stood out to me in each one.  As I was listening to today’s talk I remembered a  favorite moment from conference that I wanted to share.

Today’s talk was Elder Richard G. Scott’s talk entitled “I Have Given You an Example”.  This was the part that I especially liked –

[As] I was about to graduate from the university, I fell in love with a beautiful young woman named Jeanene Watkins. I thought she was beginning to have some deep feelings for me also. One night when we were talking about the future, she carefully wove into the discussion a statement that changed my life forever. She said, “When I marry, it will be to a faithful returned missionary in the temple.”

I hadn’t thought much about a mission before then. That night my motivation to consider missionary service changed dramatically. I went home, and I could think of nothing else. I was awake all night long. I was completely distracted from my studies the next day. After many prayers I made the decision to meet with my bishop and begin my missionary application.

Jeanene never asked me to serve a mission for her. She loved me enough to share her conviction and then gave me the opportunity to work out the direction of my own life.

As I heard this simple story I thought to myself, what if Sister Scott hadn’t decided to make that simple statement of convictions to Elder Scott at that pivotal time in his life?  How would the church and the world be different, not to mention Elder Scott himself?  Now, that isn’t to say that Elder Scott would have turned out to be some maniacal criminal without mission experience or anything like that.  There’s every reason to believe he could have gone on to be a faithful wonderful person and done lots of great things.  But I would wager that he would not be the man he is today, and having the influence he does worldwide without that experience.  And perhaps he would have never had it without the simple prompting from a valiant young woman.  Elder Scott’s personal sense of gentle authority has long made him one of my favorite apostles (ok ok, so they all get a turn being my favorite when they come to the pulpit, but all for very different reasons).  When he looks at you as he’s speaking you feel like he can see into the depths of you.  I’m positive even extremely good people walk away and think “I need to do better!  I can be better!”  He gives off almost the sense of…. I want to say disappointment, but it’s not that.  Just the sense that you can do more and be more than you are and you just don’t want to let him down.  The church needs an Elder Scott to fill that role.  Sure, if it wasn’t him perhaps there would be someone else who would have also done an excellent job, but I’m sure not quite in the same way and that makes me sad to think about.

As I reflected on that it made me think more fervently about the influence I have in simple moments every day as a mother, a sister, a wife, a friend, a daughter, a neighbor, a Cub Scout Committee chairperson, a person sitting on the bench at the park, a member of a Sunday School class, a visiting teacher, a Facebook friend etc.  Am I living my life in such a way that I might use those small teaching moments to help someone reach a higher potential than they might otherwise?  How can I do better to uplift others and point them to righteous paths?  I want to be more like Sister Scott and instead of saying, “Eh, you know what?  Richard is going to be just fine the way he is, he’s a good guy!  It doesn’t really matter if he does this one thing right now, he’ll still turn out fine.”  I want to instead say, “How can I help this person to make the very best decision to help them reach their fullest potential?  They shouldn’t settle, they can be awesome!  Let’s help make them awesome!”

Of course, that attitude should be tempered with the next part, which was that we allow people to take their life in the direction that they choose.  I’m not at all proposing making decisions for another person, or judging them for making a different decision than I would have chosen.  But if I can influence someone to do better and be more, then I want to put myself in the position to do just that.

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