Saturday, April 25, 2009

I See... Doorknobs on Your Mansions in Heaven

Now ye may suppose that this is foolishness in me; but behold I say unto you, that by small and simple things are great things brought to pass; and small means in many instances doth confound the wise.”

Alma 37:6

Once upon a time there was a faithful member of the church named Br. Smith. He had been a pillar of his community and his stake. He went on a mission to some foreign, unpronouncable place, married a startlingly spiritual AND beautiful young woman in the temple, and raised a large family. He made no major mistakes in the course of his almost undeniably stellar lifespan. He paid his tithing, provided for his family, held family night almost every Monday night, and served in several responsible positions in his ward and stake with a passion that inspired many others to emulate him. He made decisions early on in life to be ethically, morally, and physically clean, and for the most part, he was able to stick to those commitments until the end. In short, it was obvious he had a lot to look forward to when he moved on to his third estate.

The day came when the elderly Bro. Smith, after enjoying a full and enriching life, died very naturally and appeared before the judgment bar of God to receive his eternal reward. He should not have been, but was, surprised beyond belief (which, I guess, happens a lot when you are walking around a place that cannot be seen and just barely comprehended in concept from our earthly stations) when he was escorted down a bright, elegant street in the high-class neighborhood of Heaven and up to the door of the most opulent and expansive mansion at the end of a cul-de-sac.

Br. Smith approached the front gate of the perfectly manicured garden prefacing an inviting porch that by itself was larger than his own house on earth, which was considered by earthly standards to be impressive. He had never seen any structure so glorious and imposing during his mortal life. The mansion’s walls, towers, and perfectly clear bay windows seemed to go on forever, which was quite possible seeing that they were in Heaven.

Infused with an overwhelming sense of reverence and awe, he tiptoed cautiously up to the gleaming picture windows near the front of the house and peered inside. The inner walls and floors were immaculately adorned with furnishings, coverings, and other accoutrements that literally glowed with greatness.

He leaned over hesitantly to his angelic escort and asked in an incredulous whisper, “is this mine?” The glowingman broke out in a reassuring smile and responded, “yes.” Br. Smith still did not grasp the depth of his reward from this simple answer, so his escort offered more explanation. “You built this marvelous home with your many substantial and impressive good works on earth. It is time to enjoy the fruit of your labors.” With that and a hearty “congratulations,” the glowing man slipped away almost unnoticed and left him to be alone with his new abode.

Br. Smith inspected the grounds to his satisfaction and resolved to reverently venture up to the front porch. He wished to enter and explore the mansion’s endless rooms and hallways. He envisioned himself relaxing in a huge library in front of a massive fireplace or simply tasting the interior grandeur of one of its many other sitting rooms. He was puzzled, however, when he approached the imposing front door, which looked more a vault opening; he could not find any kind of doorknob, handle, knocker, or even bell that he could use to either enter on his own or signal to a servant inside that he had arrived. He initially attributed this condition to either unintentional oversight by the builder or his lack of knowledge of how doors worked in heaven. However, like the rays of a rising sun that slowly but confidently spread across the horizon and light everything underneath it, the terrible truth dawned on him as he frantically tested the multitude of doors, windows, and other entrances; there was absolutely no way to for him to enter inside.

His mansion in heaven had no doorknobs.

It didn’t take long for a palpable panic to overwhelm the sparkling sensation of pride and accomplishment he first felt upon learning what his good works had built. Towards the end of his exterior inspection tour Bro. Smith could be seen frantically running from one entrance to another banging loudly on doors and begging for entry.

Finally, out of sheer frustration, he raced back up the street and barely caught up with the angel who had brought him there. Between desperate gasps of air he expressed his anger and annoyance. “What’s the meaning of this! What good is a palatial mansion I can’t use?”

The angel responded by walking him back to his home, and, with remarkable restraint politely instructed him on the procedures for building mansions in heaven. “I am not the architect. You built this house with the quality of your good works.” Pointing over to the sparkling east wing, he noted, “Do you see that part over there? Your tithing built that. The tower over there was constructed during your service in the Stake Presidency. You paid for the crushed jewels that make the outer walls glisten with a lifetime avoiding alcohol and drugs. You have been truly blessed.”

The relationship of what he did in the past with what he owned now did not fully connect with him, so he dismissed it immediately. “But what about the doorknobs?” he cried in a pained and raised voice rarely heard in these parts of Heaven. “Where are my DOORKNOBS?”

Oh yes,” replied the angel, in an almost nonchalant tone. “You get doorknobs for your mansion by doing the small things. Tell me Bro. Smith, how many times did you read your children a bedtime story? Tell your wife you loved her before leaving for work in the morning? Saunter to the back of the chapel to shake the hand of a new young brother in the ward? Let the other guy go before you at a four-way stop?”

Instantly, unconsciously, the big movie of his life played again before his eyes, another benefit of heavenly living. He had postponed nighttime book reading sessions with the kids to prepare his high council presentations; raced out the front door without a word of encouragement for his wife so he wouldn’t make the car pool wait; rationalized not coming off the stand to meet lonely ward members in the back because sacrament meeting would start late; and rolled through four-way stops to get back at the other guy who was acting like a jerk revving his engine.

Br. Smith had nothing left to say. He returned to his mansion and enjoyed eternity keeping the grounds spotless and rocking listlessly in the hammock on the front porch, but he never went inside.

The moral of this fairy tale is that small things matter. The big commandments we keep might get us into heaven, but the small things will allow us to enjoy our stay there.

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