Sunday, March 8, 2009

Developing a Christlike Character

In Word and Deed He doth require

My will to His, like son to sire
Be made to bend and I, as son
Learn conduct from the Holy One
LDS Hymns 187

President David O. McKay tells of a visit to a sculptor's yard in Florence, Italy:

"Scattered about were unbroken, irregular piecesof granite from which a sculptor was preparing to cut out a vision which he saw in his mind...

"If you had stood in that yard, and a man had placed in your hands a chisel and a hammer, would you have dared to take one of the shapeless blocks of stone and carve a human image out of it? You could not do it. Or if someone had placed before you a canvas and given you paints and put in your hands a brush, would you have undertaken to paint on that canvas he picture of an ideal soul? You probably would have said to the first, 'I am not a sculptor," and to the second, 'I am not a painter. I cannot do it."

"Nevertheless, each of u is carving a soul this very minute-- our own. Is it going to be a deformed one, or is it going to be something admirable and beautiful?

"Your is the esponsibility. Nobody else can carve it for you. Parents may guide, and teachers may help with suggestins, but each young man and young woman has the responsibility to carve his own character."

There has been only one perfect man in this world. One who was perfect in character, conqueror over weakness and temptation. One who was perfect in truth, justice, wisdom, benevolence and self control. One who's every thought, word and deed were in harmony and true. As christians we honor him, not because he was a great poet or scientist or discoverer, inventor or statesman but because He was a great man. He was and is our pattern for whom we should become.
Photo courtesy of Altus Fine Art: Simon Dewey

When I was 15, my young women's advisor decided that we, the young women, needed a way to keep track of the goals that we set. In our stake was an artist, Sister Jones. Sister Jones agreed to help us all paint a goal chart. Sort of like Bob Ross young women's addition. We would all purchase a canvas and paint brushes and meet at Sister Jones' house where she would guide us step by step in creating our painting. When we were done we would have a landscape painting- sky, mountains, a few bushes and a path that led towards the top of the canvas, representing the path that our goals were taking us. We, the young women, would then write our goals on slips of paper and tape them to the painting. In theory each goal would build on the one before it until we reached the final goal in that set, then we could start all over again.

Let me tell you a bit about my artistic ability. My mom paints. She paints beautiful paintings. I have some of it hanging in my house. I didn't get even the smallest slice of the artistic gene from her. None. If you gave me a blank piece of paper, a pencil and a ruler, I could not draw a straight line. All through elementary school I wondered how other girls made their coloring book pages look like a work of art. Outlining, shading, staying in the lines- all lost on me. So the prospect of sitting in Sister Jones' studio where other people could see the mess I was making of my canvas was pretty scary and I was not sure if I wanted to do it. Maybe Mom would decide that driving that far was a bit much (I didn't grow up in Utah and a stake encompases a lot more than a couple of blocks)

I went because I was a good girl and did as I was told. I sat there as Sister Jones explained how to pepare our canvas, how to mix the paint, how to apply it. And I sat there as everyone else got started. They all had pretty blue skies, I had blue paint on my canvas. It got better. Sister Jones was patient, though I am sure she wished that I was not so lacking in the artistic gene. I could have cooked just about anything you wanted, or done an interpretive dance. Crying baby? Hand it to me and it will be asleep in no time. But painting a landscape?

I did learn a lot from Sister Jones before the paintings were done. Do you ever lay on your back and watch the clouds and try to find all the shapes in them? Me too. Did you know that clouds are flat on the bottom? Neither did I. Not until Sister Jones told me. Now whenever I look at a cloud, I think of Sister Jones and then I study it and really look at it. I see more than white fluffy shapes. I see the flat bottom, the lights and darks and every shade in between.

You know what else I learned from Sister Jones? I learned how to make mountains look like mountains. I learned how to make a flat brown streak of paint look like a bank of dirt. You know how to do it? You have to know where the source of light is in your painting then apply your contrasts according to that. That is the most important thing to know, where the source of light is.

So it is when we are developing a Christlike character. We need to know where our source of light is and then follow it. President McKay said, "If you keep your character above reproach, no matter what others may think or what charges they make, you can hold your head erect, keep your heart light, and face the world undauntedly because you, yourself, know that you have kept your soul untarnished."

As for my goal chart? I finished it and it hung in my bedroom until I graduated from high school, then it hung in my bedroom at college. Today it hangs in my sewing room where I can look at it and remember that I need to always know where my source of light is.

Next week: maintaining righteous thoughts


add to kirtsy


Anonymous said...

Very well done, sweetheart. Love Mom

G. Parker said...

Wow...that's cool!

loretta said...

I think your email is not working

Noelle said...

I think your painting is beautiful! And I loved this post. Would you mind if I used a portion of a quote from Pres. McKay in one of my upcoming posts? It sums up perfectly what I have wanted to write about.

Sandra said...

Loretta- working on it

Noelle- Of course you can use it. I took it from the David O. McKay RS manual lesson 23

loretta said...

Oh, btw, I don't remember the story, but I remember the painting. If it makes you feel better, I thought it was Mom's. I never got to do anything like that in YW. Maybe because I was the only one my age?