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I’ve always loved the many paintings we see of Jesus carrying a lamb. Usually he’s surrounded by other sheep. Sometimes the lamb is in his arms, or over his shoulders. But it always reminds me that he cares about every single individual.
And we know this, but we don’t always apply it to ourselves. We forget how monumentally important we are to him. But think about it. Each of us is singular, possessing our own separate spirit. We are blessed as babies—even if we’re an octuplet!—one at a time. We gain a testimony one at a time. We are baptized one at a time. We serve the Sacrament to people one at a time. We receive patriarchal blessings one at a time. We become endowed in the temple one at a time. We get revelation one at a time. Christ atoned for us individually and every individual beyond the veil gets to choose, individually, whether to accept ordinances. Isn’t it interesting that ordinances are performed singly, not to groups?
The number 1 is everywhere in the restored gospel of Jesus Christ. Again and again, this symbol should remind us that every single person matters. Every single person can come home again to a loving Father in Heaven who knows them as a distinct individual.
Here are five ways we can magnify that concept and finder greater closeness to Christ in this life:
First, we can rejoice that we are distinct. We don’t have to be like anybody else—in fact, we shouldn’t try to adopt a false personality to fit into the crowd, or to gain acceptance. While we all work to repent of sin and improve ourselves, it shouldn’t involve betraying the heart and soul that makes us who we basically are. God created each of us to be unique and that’s cause for celebration.
I’m pretty sure I have ADD. For years I felt different and more or less cursed in this way, until I finally saw it as a gigantic plus: I can think several things at once! Now I think it’s everyone else who’s missing out. When you feel out of step with those around you, stop and ask yourself why your way has to be changed. Maybe your difference is exactly right for you, and even for the world. Never get stuck in the crowd without an identity of your own.
One of the Young Women Values we teach is “Individual Worth.” Not worth as a group. Ardeth G. Kapp once said, “We must remember that we did not come to this earth to gain our worth– we brought it with us.”
Second, celebrate variety in those around you. I have a friend who is deathly afraid of snakes. We don’t try to change her, explain about helpful snakes, or even worse—torment her with plastic ones. We protect her. We let her know we’re okay with this phobia and love her, warts and all (and don’t we all have things we hope our friends will simply accept?)
This goes for our children as well. Let’s encourage them to find out who they are—what marvelous soul were they born with? Are you a farmer with a son who wants to sing opera, or a librarian with a daughter who wants to play soccer? What wonderful talents and attributes do our children possess, which are completely different from our own? I know a teacher who always wanted his children to attend college, but who had one daughter who wanted to design skateboards instead. He decided to let her find her own passion and she co-founded a well-known skateboard company that made a fortune.
Third, let’s remember that individuality and agency are intertwined. I was talking about our premortal lives with a nonmember last year, and told her that those of us who came to earth wanted the agency to choose for ourselves. We knew it would be wrong to be programmed, captive, unable to make free decisions, forced to behave a certain way. As she smiled I said, “The reason you feel warmth in your chest at hearing this, isn’t because agency is a merely a good idea. It’s because it’s sacred. And the Holy Ghost is confirming that.”
Fourth, let’s be all about searching for the one in our spiritual rescue efforts. I love the scripture, “And if it so be that you should labor all your days in crying repentance unto this people, and bring, save it be one soul unto me, how great shall be your joy in the kingdom of my Father!” Yes, it has an exclamation mark. Individual souls are beloved and important to God.
President Henry B. Eyring said, “There is not one of us that God has not desired to save, and that he has not devised means to save.” We all love the scripture that says, “Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost.” (Luke 15:6) For anyone who struggles to find purpose in life, gathering lost sheep is the perfect choice.
Fifth, let’s always remember that our Savior is the ultimate One. It is through Christ only that we find joy, redemption, and exaltation. He is the key to all of it. He is the One, the Only Begotten, chosen to redeem mankind. He is the One who gave his life for us, who offers us both resurrection and forgiveness. He is the One who knows each one of us by name, and to whom we can turn for the ennobling power of grace, and who has complete understanding of every circumstance and struggle in our lives. If we make a mental list of our priorities, Jesus Christ should be Number One on our lists.
Yes, the numeral 1 is all around us, and what a glorious reminder it is.
Hilton’s LDS novel, Golden, is available in paperback and on Kindle. All her books and YouTubeMom videos can be found on her website. She currently serves as an Interfaith Specialist for Public Affairs.