If experiences inspire us to keep growing, we will be forever young.
When I was a youth of 18 years, our branch undertook the project of remodeling and enlarging a building which the Church had acquired to serve as a meetinghouse. At that same time, construction of the basketball court was begun, which of course was outdoors, as are all of the basketball courts in Argentina.
The members all helped with the work, thus making it possible to complete the projects. One of my jobs was to operate the cement mixer. I had to constantly add cement, sand, lime, and, of course, water. Having never done this type of work before, I knew very little about it. One day I was working along with a group of fine members preparing the cement base for the basketball court, a job which of necessity had to be completed that same day. Because of my lack of experience and due to the friction caused when cement, sand, lime, and water are mixed together, my hands became blistered by the end of the working day, and I had to wear bandages around my fingers for many days. Today I wear several scars on my hands which remind me of those happy days, of working together in a beautiful spirit of service.
I don’t recall the small incidents of the day, nor do I remember the names of all the people with whom I worked, but the scars are a constant reminder of the beautiful spirit of service, the love of the Lord’s work, and the deep feeling of brotherhood which we enjoyed on that occasion.
But in the palm of my hand I hold another indelible reminder, a glaring scar, one which resulted from a different motive, an act not so pleasant to remember.
I recall—though not in exact detail—that when I was nine years of age my mother sent me with a glass bottle to a nearby store for some milk. She cautioned me, along with other instructions, “Please do not run, because it is dangerous while carrying a glass bottle in your hands.”
Now, what do you suppose I did? I did exactly what my mother told me not to do. I ran, and when I was almost home I stumbled. As I fell my hand landed on the bulk of the broken bottle, leaving a large gash. As a result, today I have a scar on my right hand, and each time I see it or touch it, it reminds me of the experience of a disobedient child.
Each day of our life, and especially during the years of our youth, we are making memories that in some way leave on us an imprint, we might say “a scar.” In some cases these imprints leave an indelible feature, perhaps not on our hands but on our habits, our character, and certainly on our personality.
During the time when I had the privilege of presiding over a mission, I would ask the missionaries at the end of their mission to write the goals, both short-term and long-term, which they wished to achieve in various fields of activity in life. Then each one of them would write his goals concerning matrimony, education, activities in the Church, etc. (That is easy enough to do when a missionary has just fulfilled an honorable mission for the Lord, when he has devoted all his efforts to the growth of the work, and when the young missionary is in a high spiritual state.)
We can then see that writing the goals of future accomplishments can serve a double purpose. The first one is that it leaves an impression, a sign which points the course to follow. And the second one is that it serves as a reminder when rereading them in the future. It will bring to mind and to heart memories and feelings which inspired the missionary at the time he wrote them. In other words, it will serve as an indelible reminder of his experiences in the mission field and the spirit which accompanied them.
With the passing of time, those memories carry sweet impressions of a pleasant spiritual state which had its origin in the performance of deeds.
How important it could be to our eternal existence if we would make a special effort to record rewarding spiritual memories in our book of life. If we were to do this, each page of the book would be a memory which would inspire us to reach for higher goals each day, each one a step higher on our journey toward exaltation.
Thus, our memories become very important. They take on a new value. They should always be launching pads and never points of rest or of regret.
Howard R. Driggs tells of an incident in the life of the poet Longfellow that illustrates the concept I would like to stress:
“It happened that, while the poet, at over eighty years of age, was still teaching at Harvard, one of his appreciative students asked him, ‘How do you keep so perennially young, Professor Longfellow? We never get tired of your classes. You always have something new and interesting to give.’
“‘I’ve never had that question put to me before,’ returned the poet. Then, looking out of the window, he said, ‘Do you see those two apple trees in the yard?’
“‘Do you observe any difference between the blossoms on the older tree and those on the younger one?’
“‘No,’ replied the student, ‘they look just alike to me.’
“‘How do you account for the fact that the old apple tree flowers out as beautifully as does the young one?’ persisted the teacher.
“‘I can’t explain it.’
“‘Let me tell you the secret. That old tree managed last year to grow enough wood to put forth its new blossoms. Blossoms, you know, always come on the new wood.’
“‘Oh, I see,’ said the young man, ‘to keep young one must keep growing.’
“‘Yes,’ came the quiet response” (in Especially for Mormons, comp. Stan and Sharon Miller, Provo, Utah: Kellirae Arts, 1978, 4:2–3).
That is the way it is. We grow each day. We continue to develop every day. We are making memories each moment, and through all of this we gain experience. Solomon said “The memory of the just is blessed” (Prov. 10:7). If we continue to work toward our goals and grow each day, the marks or “scars” that develop out of our experiences will form blessed memories.