As I reflect back on my childhood, I can see that I really didn’t know my parents. I doubt very many of us did. My parents were always there. They provide the essentials for me—food, clothing and shelter. But at the time I was not aware of the love they had for me. There were those occasions, due to my own disobedience, they had to discipline me for my own good. Much of what they said and most of the things they taught me didn’t really make much sense to me then. Few were the times I did anything that they wanted me to do. My love for them was, I believe, somewhat superficial. However, as I matured, I began to understand and started to apply the truths they had taught me.
Many years passed, I was well into adulthood, before I really came to know my father and mother. It was long after I had children of my own that I began to truly appreciate Dad and Mom for what they had done for me, for the things they had taught me, for the sacrifices they had made in my behalf. It was at this point that I truly began to cultivate a deep love and respect for my parents. By the time I had reached that point in my life, their lives were winding down, coming to a close. Now I felt that I could never do enough for them to express my love and appreciation for all that they had done for me. In their last years, instead of my asking, “Do I have to?” the questions were, “What more can I do?”
My father, just as his father before him, had left me with a good and honorable name. Today, I try to live in such a way as to not only honor the Gladwell name, but to honor my parents, who were good and honest people.
I’ve come to believe that the same holds true with us and our relationship with our Heavenly Father and our Savior, Jesus Christ. As we put forth the effort to grow and mature spiritually, we come to a greater understanding of who they are and what they’ve done for us. And if we are really observant in our lives and in our scripture study, we can begin to see a similarity between us and our children and Heavenly Father and His children. We can come to understand our duel role as both children and as parents.
As an adult, when I reflect upon the disappointments I have caused my dad and mom, I am filled with remorse. When I reflect upon all the disappointments I have caused my Heavenly Father, I am filled with an even greater remorse. This instills a desire, a want to do better.
In his book, That All May Edified, Boyd K. Packer relates the following story of humble submission: “When I was president of the New England Mission, the [Mormon] Tabernacle Choir was to sing at the world's fair in Montreal. The choir had one day unscheduled and suggested a concert in New England. One of the industrial leaders there asked for the privilege of sponsoring the concert.
“Brother Condie and Brother Stewart came to Boston to discuss this matter. We met at the Boston airport and then drove to Attleboro, Massachusetts. Along the way Mr. Yeager asked about the concert. He said, ‘I would like to have a reception for the choir members. I could have it either at my home or at my club.’ He wanted to invite his friends who were, of course, the prominent people of New England—indeed, of the nation. He talked of this, and then he asked about serving alcoholic beverages.
“In answering, Brother Stewart said, ‘Well, Mr. Yeager, since it is your home and you are the host, I suppose you could do just as you want to do.’
“That isn't what I had in mind,” this wonderful man said. “I don't want to do what I want to do. I want to do what you want me to do.”
This humble man, knowing the reputation of the Choir, did not want to do anything that put the Choir members in a bad light. He did not want to create an atmosphere that would compromise their standards. So it should be with us.
As we all know, life is an ongoing series of choices. Long ago I made a choice: I do not want to do what I want to do. I want to do what Heavenly Father wants me to do.
I want to be a good husband, a good father, a good brother, a good representative of Jesus Christ, a good son to my Heavenly Father. It isn’t easy. I don’t always succeed. But I am constantly trying—striving to be good.
Why do I want to be good? Why do I want to be obedient? Because I love my Heavenly Father; because I love my Savior. The Lord himself declared, “If ye love me, keep my commandments.”
Love and obedience go hand-in-hand. You may find obedience without love, such as in a militaristic environment, where men and women are compelled to be obedient, but seldom, if ever, will you find love without obedience.
Love and obedience are the fruits of gratitude. I am grateful to my Heavenly Father and my Savior for all they have done for me, and they have done much! I love them for that. I want to express my love and gratitude by living in such a way that they know of my love and appreciation. I want to do more than merely pay lip service.
A few years ago there was a profound little story in the newspaper that expresses this idea of gratitude. It stands as a similitude of the relationship we have with our Savior: “The District of Columbia police auctioned off about 100 unclaimed bicycles Friday. ‘One dollar,’ said an 11-year-old boy as the bidding opened on the first bike. The bidding, however, went much higher. ‘One dollar,’ the boy repeated hopefully each time another bike came up.
“The auctioneer, who had been auctioning stolen or lost bikes for 43 years, noticed that the boy’s hopes seemed to soar higher whenever a racer-type bicycle was put up.
“Then there was just one racer left. The bidding went to eight dollars. ‘Sold to that boy over there for nine dollars!’ said the auctioneer. He took eight dollars from his own pocket and asked the boy for his dollar. The youngster turned it over in pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters—took his bike, and started to leave. But he went only a few feet. Carefully parking his new possession, he went back, gratefully threw his arms around the auctioneer’s neck, and cried.” How many times have we, figuratively speaking, returned to our Heavenly Father with hearts filled with gratitude and thanksgiving, thrown our arms around His neck and cried?
There is not a day that passes that each one of us does not have such an opportunity. If we would but sit quietly for a few moments and ponder upon all that He has done for us, for all that He has given us, before much time passed we would long for the chance to wrap our arms around His neck and weep with tears of appreciation.
We can best show our love and gratitude to our Father in Heaven by living exemplary lives. The lives we live—our thoughts, our words, our deeds—are either the results of our ignorance or the fruits of our knowledge, the results of our disbelief or of the love for God we possess. We cannot escape from ourselves or from that which we hold in our hearts. We become that which we pursue. The example we set and the life we live is a reflection of who and what we truly are.
At the risk of appearing bold, I would add that the life we live here will evidence the love we have for our God and our King. The Lord himself explained in John 14:15–23: “If ye love me, keep my commandments. And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you. Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more; but ye see me: because I live, ye shall live also. At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you. He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him. Judas saith unto him, not Iscariot, Lord, how is it that thou wilt manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world? Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.”
Hopefully, our lives will stand as a statement of our love and our love will be shown by the exemplary lives we lead as we honor our Heavenly Father and strive to emulate His Son, Jesus Christ.