During the almost thirty years our family lived in California, I delighted in a tradition of enjoying an annual personal pilgrimage to Provo, Utah, to attend BYU Women’s Conference on the campus. Those few days in the company of other women, both friends and strangers, was always a renewing occasion to sharpen my figurative saw and regroup for another year.

In August 1997, I attended a session taught by a woman who was unfamiliar to me. Her name was Linda Bentley Johnson. I will never forget a poem with which she concluded her remarks. She attributed the poem to Marjorie Pay Hinckley, the wife of President Gordon B. Hinckley. I have since learned that the poem was not actually written by Sister Hinckley. That attribution fits squarely into the category of Mormon Myth. Some form of the poem was originally composed by a woman from Provo named Nadine Miner Hobby, but the version that persists today reflects changes to the original made by Sister Johnson, as well as editors of Goodreads. The complexity of the source, in my opinion, only renders the composition more rich as it reflects a communal effort by assorted people. I love it more for its uncertain and evolutionary texture.

The cooperative poem reads:

I don’t want to drive up to the Pearly Gates in a shiny sports car,
Wearing beautifully tailored clothes, my hair expertly coiffed,
And with long, perfectly manicured fingernails.
I want to drive up in a station wagon that has mud on the wheels
From taking the kids to scout camp.
I want to be there with a smudge of peanut butter on my shirt
From making sandwiches for a sick neighbor’s children.
I want to be there with a little dirt under my fingernails
From helping to weed someone’s garden.
I want to be there with sticky kisses on my cheeks
and the tears of a friend on my shoulder.
I want the Lord to know that I was really here and that I really lived.

At the time she shared the poem at that Women’s Conference, Sister Johnson was 46 years old. So was I. The poem spoke to my circumstances and my heart. Determined to build on her verbiage and adjust it to customize it for me, I promptly used it as a springboard to compose a very similar poem that locked in my own determination to be useful.

I had long loved the popular hymn, “More Holiness Give Me.” I was intrigued by the line that said, “More used would I be.”  Being “used” sounded undesirable in the common vernacular, but as a statement of personal mission and intent, it rang high-minded and holy. I wanted to be more used – especially by heaven as I sought to be a worthy and helpful errand angel of God.

My slightly personalized poem from 1997 read:

I want to drive up to the Pearly Gates in my big blue van
With shin guards hastily discarded in the back
And Popsicle sticks on the seats,
With Bach blasting from the cassette player.
I want to be wearing tennis shoes dirty from the beach.
I want to smell like a bonfire
And have sticky marshmallow on my shirt
And chocolate at the corners of my mouth from our s’mores.
I want all my radio channels set to teenage music
And the well-worn carpet strewn with partly done Seminary worksheets.
I want my cheeks to be covered with the kisses of children,
My heart to be full of the love of youth,
And my head to be spinning with the wisdom of experience.
I want the Lord to know that I was really here and that I really lived. 

Useful: Capable of being put to use. Serviceable. Functional. Working. Accessible. Alive. Busy. Operative. Usable. Available. Obtainable. Reachable. All-around. Providing service or assistance. Helpful. Beneficial. Salutary. Favorable. I want to be all of those things for heavenly purposes. I want to be a contributor – a lifter.

Throughout the scriptures there are accounts of intentional disciples who stepped forward and committed to being used and useful. The examples of those who demonstrate a worthy and determined “Here am I, send me!” attitude are many. Among them, in the Old Testament, was Samuel who, as a young boy serving in the temple, responded to a voice he heard in a dream. With the help of counsel from Eli, he bravely answered the persistent voice from heaven with a willing, “Speak, Lord; for they servant heareth” (1 Samuel 3:10).

Mary, the mother of Jesus, also verbalized and subsequently demonstrated her sacred determination to be used by God as she answered the charge delivered by an angel with the modest, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; Be it unto me according to Thy word” (Luke 1:38).

And certainly, most stunning of all, the Lord himself set the perfect example of willingness to be useful when he answered God’s question, “Whom shall I send?” with the eternity-altering response, “Here am I, send me” (Abraham 3:27).

Many other than prophets also serve as examples of disciples committed to being used as lifters. In Exodus, we read about Amalek engaged in a mighty battle with the Israelites. Following a directive from God, Moses, the Prophet leader of the Israelites, stood on the top of a hill with the rod of God in his hand. Three friends accompanied him. Moses found that as long as he held his hand high, the Israelites prevailed, but if he lowered his hand, the Amalekites gained ground.

Not surprisingly, Moses’ hand grew weary. With a “Here am I, send me” attitude, those three friends took the initiative to find a way to be used and useful. Initially, they put a rock under Moses to lighten his load. When the rock wasn’t enough assist, they each propped up Moses’ hands and lent their strength to keeping them held high. They knew they couldn’t take the rod away from Moses. That burden was his to bear. But they could certainly lend steady support to enable Moses to bear the burden that was his responsibility. With the help of others’ deliberate and inspired determination to be used, Moses’ hands “were steady until the going down of the sun” (Exodus 17:8-12).

A group of modern women recently did as I had done all those years ago. They adapted that original poem about being used to reflect their current commitment. Segments of what one wrote include:

I want my pockets to be full of treasures from my girls.
I want my face to be warm from being cheek-to-cheek with my baby,
My heart to be full of meaningful conversation with family and friends,
And my arms to be worn out from serving my sisters all around.

Another wrote:

I want to have my heart full of memories and my body fully used up
As a mom who loved, lived, and cherished time spent with her people.

Perhaps you will want to compose your own version of your vision of what intentional, personal usefulness looks like for you. Whatever the details of our own visions for being blessedly used by heaven may be, I would hope that we will all do as President Spencer W. Kimball suggested:

Let us get our instruments tightly strung
And our melodies sweetly sung.
Let us not die with our music still in us.
Let us rather use this precious mortal probation
To move confidently and gloriously upward.

More used would I be.