I was reading a book on how to write great novels, and in the chapter on characterization, the author had a suggestion he called “measuring moments.” His idea was to have two or more characters in a discussion about their opinion of other characters. Then, later in the novel, there should be another “measuring moment” that shows how those opinions have changed. This gives the reader a deeper understanding of the characters.
That idea has been bumping around in my head all week, and then at fast and testimony meeting, I realized that every Sunday could be our personal measuring moment. No, we shouldn’t be having a discussion during the sacrament, but that short period of time is when we can take out our private yardsticks and see how we are measuring up to what we’ve covenanted to do and become.
So, today I gave myself a measuring moment. I decided to roll back to about twenty years ago to start my self-check. (That way I’d be sure to have grown at least somehow.) I only assessed certain aspects of my life, but in many areas I could see some significant growth—and, most interestingly—that growth came as a direct result of the church callings I had been given.
Twenty years ago, I was the older sister of just one brother. In his early years as a Cub Scout, our whole family went monthly to Pack Meeting, and he couldn’t have had two less enthusiastic sisters. We dragged our feet. We complained more than Laman and Lemuel at their murmuring height. My mother cursed me that I’d have seven boys.
Fast forward ten years, and I was the mother of an infant son. My calling was to be the counselor in primary over Cub Scouts. My murmuring spirit persisted. I am more than a little ashamed to admit the words “We’re just not going to have Cub Scouts” came out of my mouth. I didn’t attend one Round Table or organize one Pack Meeting or show up for a single Scout Committee meeting. I gave them zero support. In fact, I might have had a negative energy influence on them.
My next child was a son.
It dawned on me, my mother’s curse of seven boys just might come true. Either way, even if I only had two sons, there were a lot of Pack Meetings in my future.
Sure enough, when oldest boy turned eight, I was asked to be on the Cub Committee. Luckily, my friend was the Primary president. She had a verve for scouts, even though she didn’t have a son of her own in it yet. She was determined to support it, to make it work. Through her example and persistence (reminder phone calls and cheery attitude) I started to hate it less.
Then I started to think it was important, especially on about my fourth Pinewood Derby, when the experience was so fun for all the boys. We kept it low key—no high tech timing, just eyeballing it on an old wooden track and lots of rice crispy treats for dessert. Cubs could be fun. We had a bunch of boys earn their Arrow of Light, we did lots of Crossover ceremonies, and we had some pretty fun pack meetings—a few of which my little daughters were reminiscing about at Sunday dinner today.
Then, a couple of years ago, in the sunset of my second son’s Cub years (oh, her curse didn’t come true—I had three daughters after that), I was granted a second chance. The Lord is merciful. He gave me another try at being the Primary counselor over Cub Scouts. And my, what a difference the second time around. I’d been those same boys’ primary teacher for the two years prior to the scout calling, and I already loved them—even the ones who needed lots of love.
Through that, an interesting thing happened. Not only did I get into Cubs—to the point of willingly volunteering at Day Camp—I ended up enjoying it enough to become a Boy Scout merit badge counselor to give me continued interaction with a lot of those same boys. Being a mom of boys (even if it had been seven instead of two) wouldn't be a curse.
There were other things I measured, but I won’t drag you through my whole introspection.
However, another aspect of what the novel-writing book said struck me: the measuring moments are for deepening character. I realize the author meant that they are for greater understanding of the characters by the reader—giving them more depth. But that works another way in reality. If we take these measuring moments, I’d like to suggest they actually do deepen our character. We can assess what we have changed, and what we haven’t, and what growth still needs to take place, thus improving our character.
We’re blessed to be in a church that requires more than just Easter and Christmas attendance. The every-Sunday regular introspection we do in Sacrament meeting is an opportunity for a measuring moment for our spirituality and for what we want to change and improve.
Sacrament meeting is also the perfect time to remember that we’re not in the business of growth just on our own. The Savior is the one who helps us grow. He fixes our mistakes and all the damage we do to ourselves and others around us. He is also the yardstick by which we all measure ourselves, His perfection. His great plan for our happiness is that with His atonement, when we grasp onto that immeasurable gift fully, we all measure up.