Music and the Spoken Word: Why we should look deeper than outward appearances

Editor's note: “The Spoken Word” is shared by Lloyd Newell each Sunday during the weekly Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square broadcast. This will be given July 28, 2019.

Some people face so many obstacles and seem to struggle and barely get by as they journey through life. On the other hand, others seem to travel an easy, scenic road with beautiful vistas all around. In reality, it’s likely that neither assumption is entirely true. We usually don’t discover the truth until we look a little deeper than outward appearances.

The well-known British writer C. S. Lewis used an industrial example to teach the same principle in his book "Mere Christianity": “To judge the management of a factory, you must consider not only the output but the plant. Considering the plant at Factory A it may be a wonder that it turns out anything at all; considering the first-class outfit at Factory B its output, though high, may be a great deal lower than it ought to be. No doubt the good manager at Factory A is going to put in new machinery as soon as he can, but that takes time. In the meantime low output does not prove that he is a failure.”

This is a good reminder whenever we are tempted to be judgmental. Each life course is so individual, so personal. There’s so much about every person that we do not and cannot see — experiences and circumstances that shaped him or her in ways we can’t calculate. If we knew the whole story, there are some ordinary-seeming people who would astound us with their productive, happy lives. Some lives that may seem mediocre are actually quite miraculous.

Of course, that doesn’t mean the future is at the mercy of the past. In spite of whatever went into shaping us, we can decide who we want to be. Hundreds of daily choices get us to where we want to go. And the first choice is believing that we have the ability to change, improve and find happiness.

Elder Neal A. Maxwell, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, said: “Circumstances … shape us significantly. Yet there remains an inner zone in which we are sovereign, unless we abdicate. In this zone lies the essence of our individuality. … What we insistently desire, over time, is what we will eventually become” (see “According to the Desire of (Our) Hearts,” general conference, April 1996).

When we look at others, we can remember that we see only part of the course of their lives. And when we look at ourselves, we can similarly remember that the course we’ve known is not irreversible. It is determined by our most sincere desires and efforts.

Tuning in …

The “Music and the Spoken Word” broadcast is available on KSL-TV, KSL Radio 1160 AM/102.7 FM, ksl.com, BYU-TV, BYU Radio, Dish and DirecTV, SiriusXM Radio (Channel 143), the Tabernacle Choir's website and YouTube channel and Amazon Alexa (must enable skill). The program is aired live on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. on many of these outlets. Look up broadcast information by state and city at musicandthespokenword.org/schedules.