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According to a quick Google search, the time it takes to drive the 1,545 miles between Bloomington, Indiana and Provo, Utah is just over 23 hours. I beg to differ. I endured that road trip many times as a child and can testify that it’s more like 23 weeks. At least it felt that way. I clearly recall staring out the side window of the family car, almost numb with boredom, where the only thing in sight for hours at a stretch was row upon green row of mid-western cornfields.

When it was my turn to sit in the middle of the seat, so I was looking through the front windshield, I made a puzzling discovery. A hundred yards or so ahead of our car, there appeared to be a puddle across the highway, yet as we drew close to it the water seemed to magically disappear. For countless miles, as I continued staring out the windshield, this phenomenon repeated itself over and over. I was both fascinated and frustrated. Why couldn’t we ever reach that elusive water?

This was my first experience with a mirage. I have since learned that a mirage is an optical event which happens “when the ground is very hot, and the air is cool. The hot ground warms a layer of air just above [it]. When the light moves through the cold air and into the layer of hot air it is refracted (bent).” (1) This makes distant objects appear displaced or distorted and can create the impression of water where none actually exists.

Eventually, I learned about the opposite of a mirage: an oasis, a fertile area in a desert, surrounding a water source such as a spring or well. An oasis provides a unique, lush environment which supports plant and animal life, in stark contrast to the bleakness of the surrounding landscape. The concept of an oasis inevitably turns my thoughts to the living water of Jesus Christ.

“… whosever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.” (John 4:14)

Lehi’s vision of the Tree of Life, and the great and spacious building described therein, illustrates the powerful contrast between an oasis and a mirage. Though the great and spacious building is a very real concept, it’s enticements, addictions, and the opinions and philosophies of its influencers–however pleasurable or plausible–cannot save us. According to President Russell M. Nelson, “The baseless notion that we should “eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die; and it shall be well with us” is one of the most absurd lies in the universe.

The crucial difference between an oasis and a mirage is that an oasis has the power to satisfy thirst–to sustain life–while a mirage promises what it cannot deliver, or what it cannot sustain long term. A mirage appears to be something it is not. An oasis is everything it appears to be.

There are endless mirages to distract us, but there is only one oasis: Jesus Christ. Elder Dale G. Renlund warns us against chasing a mirage instead of following the Savior: “…we… can be prone to look beyond the mark. We need to guard against this tendency lest we miss Jesus Christ in our lives and fail to recognize the many blessings He offers us. We need Him. We are counseled to rely “wholly upon the merits of him who is mighty to save. (2 Nephi 31:19) He is our mark. If we incorrectly imagine that there is a need for something beyond what He offers, we deny or diminish the scope and power He can have in our lives.” (2)

Turning away from the oasis of Jesus Christ doesn’t usually happen in a minute. The shift can be so subtle that we’re rarely aware that we’re being seduced by a mirage. In my early forties I experienced the unwelcome effects of chasing a mirage. Years of blatant messages received through movies, magazines, and television gradually worked on me, persuading me that having a youthful face and a perfect body were necessary for true happiness. Unconsciously, I began to buy into this lie.

Not long after I first noticed evidence of aging on my face, I developed a strange ritual, repeated nightly for several weeks. No, it wasn’t a new beauty regimen–there was nothing beautiful about it. Once I slipped on pajamas, brushed teeth, and said my prayers, I would lie in bed obsessing over the fact that the crow’s feet around my eyes were sure to be joined any day by sagging jowls, thinning lips, triple chins, and a host of age spots and unsightly growths. Horrors! The picture these thoughts conjured in my mind was enough to make me panic.

I often drifted off to sleep while making a mental head-to-toe list of what I would change about my body. After a few weeks of this twisted thinking, I found myself restless and discontent. So what that I had a wonderful husband, five bright children, a nice home, great neighbors, and the fullness of the gospel? What did any of those blessings matter if I was eventually going to wrinkle like a prune? I actually started to consider taking drastic (read: plastic) measures to “fix” the outward signs of aging.

Looking back, I feel sick inside remembering that thought process. Have I continued to age? Yes. The past eighteen years have proven that aging is inevitable. But in large measure my thinking has changed.

Change began as I watched the broadcast of general conference in October 2005. Two talks stood out to me like neon lights because they directly addressed the issues I was wrestling with each night. Sister Susan W. Tanner spoke powerfully about the sanctity of the body, testifying “that the body is a gift to be treated with gratitude and respect.” (3) In Elder Jeffrey R. Holland’s address, “To Young Women,” he said, “In terms of preoccupation with self and a fixation on the physical…it is spiritually destructive…And if adults are preoccupied with appearance–tucking and nipping and implanting and remodeling everything that can be remodeled–those pressures and anxieties will certainly seep through to children.” (4)

These talks made a deep impression as the Spirit bore witness that I was hearing truth: OASIS. My dissatisfaction had come when I began to entertain the lie that pursuing youth and beauty was worth any cost: MIRAGE. That conference weekend I put an end to my destructive nighttime ritual and felt immediate relief in doing so. I bear witness that “the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:32) (5)

I experienced what Elder Christopher Waddell expressed so well, “The adversary offers counterfeit solutions that may appear to provide answers but take us even further from the peace we seek. He offers a mirage that has the appearance of legitimacy and safety but ultimately, like the great and spacious building, will collapse, destroying all who seek peace within its walls.” (6)

According to Pres. Nelson, “As we strive to live the higher laws of Jesus Christ, our hearts and our very natures begin to change. The Savior lifts us above the pull of this fallen world by blessing us with greater charity, humility, generosity, kindness, self-discipline, peace, and rest.

Now, you may be thinking this sounds more like hard spiritual work than rest. But here is the grand truth: while the world insists that power, possessions, popularity, and pleasures of the flesh bring happiness, they do not! They cannot! The truth is that it is much more exhausting to seek happiness where you can never find it!” (7)

On a recent evening at the temple, as I performed the initiatory ordinances for several young adult sisters, I thought of how many of their generation have left the church in recent years. I prayed silently for these women, that they would recognize the powerful blessings being pronounced upon them. One of the greatest of these is the power of discernment, to be able to see clearly. Keeping our temple covenants strengthens our ability to discern between an oasis and a mirage.

There’s an old gospel hymn that is dear to me. As I examine the crucial difference between an oasis and a mirage, I appreciate this beautiful invitation:

Turn your eyes upon Jesus
Look full in His wonderful face
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace (8)

When we fully turn ourselves toward the oasis of Jesus Christ–His example, His gospel, and His Atonement–we have access to everything we need. To look full in the wonderful face of the Savior is to fill our minds with truth, to emulate Him, to give Him a generous portion of our time, and to let His Holy Spirit be our primary influencer. Then the mirages of this world “will grow strangely dim,” losing their allure. “The Lord is able to give thee much more than this.” (2 chronicles 25:9)


  1. https://www.quora.com/Why-does-Mirage-occur-only-during-very-hot-conditions-on-the-road
  2. Dale G. Renlund, “Jesus Christ is the Treasure,” Oct. 2023 General Conference.
  3. Susan W. Tanner, “The Sanctity of the Body,” Oct. 2005 General Conference.
  4. Jeffrey R. Holland, “To Young Women,” Oct. 2005 General Conference.
  5. Lynne Perry Christofferson, based on an excerpt from the book “Sisters, Arise!”, Covenant Communications, 2016.
  6. Christopher Waddell, “A Pattern for Peace,” April 2016 General Conference, emphasis added.
  7. Nelson, “Overcome the World and Find Rest,” Oct. 2022, General Conference.
  8. Helen H. Lemmel, “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus,” United Methodist Hymnal, #49, c. 1922.