Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Out of the Mouths of Babes

I usually never hide my age.  The only time I skirt the issue is when I am talking to people older than myself and want them to take me seriously.  Then I avoid it like the plague.  I'd rather be taken for what I know and can do than find myself judged by my comparatively few years.  I have had the experience of judging others in this same way twice.  Both people proved wise far beyond their years, and their work remains some of my absolutely lasting favorites. 

The first was in college when I walked into a lecture hall and could only tell the identity of the professor apart from his students by the tell tale dress shirt and tie.  I confess I raised an eyebrow and in my overwhelming pity concluded that the university must have had extreme budget cuts to place this infant, still sucking proverbial Gerber, in front of a class of two hundred.  I determined to defend this poor kid from the attacks that would undoubtedly fall upon him.

And then he opened his mouth.  A lightening bolt could not have shocked me harder than this professor, suddenly a man and a formidable one, who instantly both intimidated his students into oblivion and impressed them with his intellectual prowess.  Within fifteen minutes I knew that the two hundred of us were no match for this literary passion in the human form of Dr. Greg Jackson.  He later wrote a book entitled The Word and Its Witness: The Spiritualization of American Realism, which proved as groundbreaking as it was breathtaking.  You can catch it on amazon.com but unless you speak fluent professor, don't attempt it without a dictionary at your side.

The second was when the Mormon church appointed a new apostle in the person of David A. Bednar.  A young fellow in his fifties or so took the apostolic position and I sat rather uninspired and swallowed the decision with a grain of salt.  The other apostles were much older.  I tried to stifle yawns and refrain from eye rolling at his appearance. 

God decided I ought to meet him.  I attended a speaking engagement and as I waited for him to make his appearance the thought kept returning "Do not judge this man by his age."  I didn't see him enter the room but when he did the entire congregation immediately and involuntarily hushed.  I have met apostles and prophets before and since but this was altogether different.  Every word he spoke was like pure, unadulterated fire.  He mentioned that he liked to look into people's eyes and see what was in their souls.  When I shook his hand, I took him up on this offer and locked my gaze into his.  I felt my whole being almost melt with fervent heat and literally nearly fell over.  His hand still grasping mine steadied me and I could see in the twinkle of his eyes that he knew exactly what had just hit me with so much power. 

His books, Increase in Learning and Act in Doctrine,  prove profound in the highest degree.  I learned more about teaching in one chapter of the former than in the College of Education and all my teaching experience combined.  Feel free to pick them up at deseretbook.com but be aware that these reads may very well turn your life upside down.  He intended that they should. 

Never judge a book by its cover and never judge abilities by age.  Never assume you can do better or know better than someone simply because you have greater years.  Especially never assume that by virtue of age and pride alone, you know better than young children.  They just might surprise you.

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