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If you asked me to describe the valley where I live, my response would depend on my point view. From my front porch all I really see of the valley is a tiny patch of sky and land—a few homes, an apple orchard, a small horse pasture, with a glimpse of low mountains in the distance.

If I you asked me to describe my valley as I drive down the freeway, I could give you a much broader idea of my surroundings. From the freeway I could tell you that the valley is wide, encircled by mountains, and dotted with houses, churches, businesses, and universities. I could describe the large lake and parcels of farmland to the south and west.

If, however, my vantage point was a mountaintop, my view of the valley would expand considerably. I learned this firsthand the summer I turned eighteen. When my friend, Scott, learned that I had never hiked nearby Mount Timpanogos, he insisted on escorting (forcing) me to do the deed, saying everyone needed to see the view from the top at least once in their life. At that time I was not much of a hiker, but a muggy August afternoon found me standing with Scott at the base of Timp—struggling to muster some enthusiasm for the twelve thousand foot ordeal ahead of me.

Many hours, rain showers, ankle turns, bug bites, and under-the-breath mutterings later, I stood at the top of Mount Timpanogos with my friend and literally gasped at the vista before us. Far beyond anything I had anticipated, the patchwork of yellows and greens was truly glorious. Every object below—trees, barns, even the football stadium—looked unbelievably small.

The real surprise, however, was that I could see so much more than just my own county. When I turned to the east I viewed a large stretch of sleepy Heber Valley, and the deep blues of Deer Creek Reservoir. Looking north, I caught glimpses into Salt Lake County, then turning back toward my own valley I was surprised how far I could see out across the low western mountains. The scope of my mountaintop view was far bigger and broader than expected.

Nearly two years after “conquering” Mount Timpanogos, I sat in a hotel conference room in mainland China with a group of twenty four university students. We were privileged to have Elder Bruce R. McConkie join us for two weeks of our Asian tour. When it was announced that Elder McConkie would speak to us in a special fireside, I was eager to hear what his topic would be. I imagined that he might talk about marriage, chastity, or gaining a testimony—something relevant to young adults. But this latter-day Apostle surprised me by speaking about: perspective. In the intervening decades I have forgotten the specifics of his talk, but the fact that he chose to teach us about eternal perspective was my first inkling of its importance. Our perception of circumstances is heavily influenced by our perspective. Our point of view even shapes the way we perceive pain, sorrow, and our personal weaknesses.

When our minds are expanded by an understanding of the great plan of happiness and God’s designs for our growth, we are better able to endure our trials. Catherine Thomas states it beautifully, “It is how we interpret what is happening to us that either liberates us or imprisons us. If we interpret what is happening as something that should not be happening, and we can’t change it, then we will suffer. If we can accept that-which-cannot-be-changed as a reflection of what God would have unfold, then we can have peace.” (1)

Displayed in my family room is a fourteen inch wooden plate, painted black and bordered in olive green. In cream colored lettering across the face are the wise words of Ralph Waldo Emerson:

I first read this quote as a young missionary, and though it impressed me at the time, I didn’t know how important Emerson’s expression would become to me as years passed. I have had to remind myself occasionally that this quote is not actually scripture, though its impact on me has been powerful. One of the great truths I’ve learned in my adult years is that God is not obligated to fill me in on every detail of His plans for me and that it would, in fact, be to my detriment if I never had cause to doubt or wonder if He was really there and aware of me. But as I study His word, as I focus intently in His temple, He gradually shows me enough to reassure me that there is so much more than the isolated valley of my current existence. “The Spirit has revealed to me small glimpses of eternity.” (2)

The gospel or eternal perspective, is like my view from the mountaintop, allowing problems that once loomed large to appear a more manageable size, and helping me recognize this mortal existence as the temporary proving ground it is. As we grow in the knowledge of God it becomes abundantly clear that His knowledge—and His perspective—far surpass our mortal view. “Believe in God; believe that he is, and that he created all things, both in heaven and in earth; believe that he has all wisdom, and all power, both in heaven and in earth; believe that man doth not comprehend all the things which the Lord can comprehend.”   (Mosiah 4:9)

Believe that “…all things have been done in the wisdom of Him who knoweth all things.” (2 Nephi 2:24) Believe that we are safe, knowing that God’s awareness extends far beyond what we can see.

  1. Thomas, M. Catherine. Light in the Wilderness. Amalphi Publishing, 2008.
  2. Lynne Perry Christofferson, “Beyond What I Can See,” Keeping Sheep, (album), 2001.

Beyond What I Can See
Words and music by Lynne Perry Christofferson
(from the album Keeping Sheep)
Vocalist: Tammy Simister Robinson

  1. From my front porch
    the world I see
    is houses and
    a grove of trees.
    A tiny patch
    of sky and land—
    that’s all I see
    from where I stand.
    But I have climbed
    a mountainside
    and seen that earth
    is very wide.
    My vantage point
    made clear to me
    earth goes beyond
    what I can see.
    Earth goes beyond
    what I can see.
  1. In mortal view
    our time seems long,
    the months and years
    move slowly on.
    The purpose of
    our life looks small—
    we live and die
    and that is all.
    But there is more
    that I have seen
    in moments of
    deep pondering.
    The Spirit has
    revealed to me
    small glimpses of
    eternity.
    Life goes beyond
    what I can see.
  1. The finite mind
    cannot comprehend
    a soul that never
    has an end.
    But earth life’s brief
    within God’s plan—
    a proving ground
    for mortal man.
    And if we will
    endure it well,
    He’ll raise us up
    and we will dwell
    with Him in a
    Celestial place,
    without constraints
    of time and space.
    Without constraints
    of time and space.
    Life never ends.
    Oh, I know it’s true,
    when seen from
    Heaven’s point of view.