What is greatness? A quick search on the Internet can give you several definitions. Webster’s Dictionary defines great as “markedly superior in character or quality.” Another online dictionary site defined greatness as being larger than ordinary size or ability, or being higher in degree or importance.
But what is true greatness? Ezra Taft Benson said, “The only true test of greatness is how close a life can come to being like that of the Master, Jesus Christ.” A very similar thought was shared by Howard W. Hunter in Chapter 11, when he said that true greatness “is the thousands of little deeds and tasks of service and sacrifice that constitute the giving, or losing, of one’s life for others and for the Lord.” Using these definition of true greatness, think of all the truly great people you know!
The spouse who sees in you what you cannot seem to see in yourself.
The incredible single mom, who has such a heavy load to bear. And her family and friends who help bear that load with her.
Those who give so much of themselves to their Church callings – the bishop, Primary teacher, Elders Quorum president, early morning seminary teacher, Young Women leader.
Or the husband who lovingly takes care of his wife whose health is failing.
Neighbors who are watching out for each other.
The friend who instinctively knows just when you need her (or him).
The parent who loves even the most wandering child.
And what about those who have put their pasts behind them and are making better futures for those they love.
President Hunter had his own list. His include, “those of you who quietly and consistently do the things you ought to do. I am talking about those who are always there and always willing. I am referring to the uncommon valor of the mother who, hour after hour, day and night, stays with and cares for a sick child while her husband is at work or in school. I am including those who volunteer to give blood or to work with the elderly. I am thinking about those of you who faithfully fulfill your priesthood and church responsibilities and of the students who write home regularly to thank their parents for their love and support. I am also talking about those who instill in others faith and a desire to live the gospel—those who actively work to build and mold the lives of others physically, socially, and spiritually. I am referring to those who are honest and kind and hardworking in their daily tasks, but who are also servants of the Master and shepherds of his sheep.”
These are the people who would never think they are examples of true greatness – but they are! Joseph B. Wirthlin said, “We often don’t know the reach of a simple act of kindness.”1
President Hunter taught, ” To do one’s best in the face of the commonplace struggles of life—and possibly in the face of failure—and to continue to endure and to persevere in the ongoing difficulties of life when those struggles and tasks contribute to others’ progress and happiness and one’s own eternal salvation—this is true greatness.”
Struggles, failure, ongoing difficulties. While those words may sound a little grim – okay, maybe a lot grim – they are real life. And what I love about that quote is President Hunter is telling us that it is especially while we are going through the hard times that we are helping other people along their often bumpy road of life. And to help us keep an eternal perspective, he reminds us that “realizing who we are and what we may become assures us that with God nothing is really impossible.”
Joseph B. Wirthlin taught, “Every one of us has potential we can scarcely imagine. There is within each of us a divine spark of greatness. Who knows of what we are capable if we only try?”1
How very blessed I am to have such incredible people in my life who have kept trying especially when it was hard, who thought of others before themselves, who put God first, and who helped shape my life and my children’s lives. Most of these wonderful people the world would never consider great, but to me they are the epitome of true greatness.
I love this quote by President Hunter, which has a very special meaning today since it is Mother’s Day:
“Let us remember that doing the things that have been ordained by God to be important and needful and necessary, even though the world may view them as unimportant and insignificant, will eventually lead to true greatness.”
1. The Abundant Life – Joseph B. Wirthlin