When I was 13 or 14 we had a carnival at my church. Each person earned tickets for winning games. Those tickets could be taken to the prize table that was decked out with amazing prizes! I was dazzled! I found this gorgeous musical merry-go-round with majestic horses. It was delicately sculpted in porcelain and I had never seen anything so beautiful. I was determined that I was going to win that prize! So I became a woman on a mission. I gathered tickets, won games, and was well on my way to owning the merry-go-round when a woman in white tapped me on the shoulder.
I hadn’t realized this carnival had been set up as a symbol for our eternal journey, and what was important and what was not. Some games were about spiritual knowledge, and some were about popular culture. Some gave you many more tickets than others. I had been so focused on my goal that I hadn’t noticed that there were people in white quietly leading one person away here, and another there. The people in white were representing death. And the games represented what we chose to focus on in this “life” carnival.
Nobody got the prizes on the table. I had been so focused on that one goal that I was pulled away from the carnival just before having all I had worked for. I was so frustrated! My disappointment increased as my tickets were counted, and my place in the “afterlife” firmly situated in the lower realms of glory. I was upset because I felt tricked. I not only failed in my short term goal to earn a prize, but I had also failed symbolically to earn a place I wanted in heaven. It was a terrible time of reckoning and a wakeup call to me that my goals needed to be more in line with those of God. And that God may not have the same measurement for success that I did. I was so disappointed.
The Book of Mormon prophet Mormon had even more serious disappointments. He likely wondered if he had been a success. He was a great military leader. He was also the prophet and pled with the people to repent regularly. But the people didn’t listen to him as a prophet and counted on his military prowess to keep them safe from their enemies. The bloodshed raged for years until the entire Nephite nation; men, women, and children, armed themselves and gathered for one last great battle in the land of Cumorrah.
There were hundreds of thousands of people gathered there. They fought for days and days. The bodies kept piling up. Every day Mormon led his people. I’m sure he bled with his brethren. And in the end the Nephite nation fell. Those hundreds of thousands of people were slaughtered. Survivors were hunted down and killed by the Lamanites, the enemy they had been fighting so fiercely. Can you imagine the scene? I can’t, and I hope I never can. It must have been horrific.
Mormon expected to die with his people. I mean, what military man isn’t ready to lay down his life in the defense of his people? But he was spared. He was one of very few. I’m sure he expected to die soon after the battle. Those hundreds of thousands of bodies decayed, and filled the area with disease and toxic conditions. It rendered the area uninhabitable. Yet he survived. According to the Book of Mormon the final battle of the Nephite nation was around 385 AD. But the Book of Mormon’s final entry is around 421 AD. That’s 36 years from the time that I’m sure Mormon resigned himself to die in that gory battle.
What was Mormon’s idea of success? As a military leader, I would assume he felt winning a battle was a sign of success. Keeping his people safe and alive would also be a sign of success. Yet in those two places he did not succeed. But that was not the Lord’s plan for Mormon.
Mormon was the prophet who compiled the Book of Mormon, gathered together and abridged from many other records into what we have today. I know that took a long time, since everything was done by hand. He would have needed to melt the metal to make each page.
He would have needed to be familiar with all the writings from all the many other books to know what was of greatest value to put into The Book of Mormon. Finally, every page needed to be handwritten as he meticulously transferred each piece of information. With that one singular work Mormon has affected the whole world and given us insight into the nature of God and His love for His children in a way I’m sure he never imagined. I know God sees Mormon as a success. Because God saw beyond what Mormon could see.
God’s idea of success is different than ours. He sees our hearts and knows our souls. He is not just making a man or woman great, He strengthening an Eternal Being, and preparing us for the important roles we will fill in Eternity. In life we are going to have disappointments and moments when we fail to accomplish our goals. But God is always there in our cheering section helping us along. He has bigger plans for us than we do. And He has far more resources than we can see working behind the scenes to help us succeed.
I’m so grateful that Mormon didn’t give up on that battlefield. I’m sure he wanted to. But I also know that God was rooting for Mormon to succeed too. And that He helped him, just as He will help us. When this life is over and we have a chance to look back with a clear vision of all that was working together in perfect timing for our success, what will we see? I have a feeling we will marvel, with many tears, when we see just how hard our God is working to support us in all our trials.
So I will remember that God’s idea of success is different than mine. And just because my plans don’t work out the way I wanted them to, doesn’t mean it wasn’t the way it was meant to be. Like Mormon we play a significant role in history. These are the last days, the final hours in the battle between good and evil. Mormon’s role in the Book of Mormon was vital. So is our role in our sphere of influence.
We are succeeding, and we will keep doing so when we are able to start seeing things more as the Lord sees them. We need to do what I should have done as teenager in that carnival and start looking around. Lift up your head and look for the people in white. Our goals can easily become our only focus. But what is the Lord’s idea? If we line up our goals with what the Lord has in mind for us, we will find an infinitely more satisfying level of success.
About Patty Sampson
Patty thrives on all things creative. You’ll often find her in the garden pretending she is a suburban farmer. She loves meeting new people, and is devoted to her friends and family. In her heart she is a Midwesterner even though life has moved her all over the country. She believes in “blooming where you’re planted” and has found purpose in every place she has been. She has a deep and abiding love for the Savior and the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And she loves editing LDS Blogs because it is a constant spiritual uplift. Not many people can say their job builds their witness of the Savior.