ed by Catherine K. Arveseth
Not Now, Not Ever
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“No one can have the influence you have been prepared to have on all who come within your sphere of influence. Without question, no one can fulfill your foreordained mission. No one can do what you were sent here to do. No one” (195).
Sheri Dew, beloved female voice for Latter-day Saint women, can still remember attending April General Conference, 1973, when Elder Marvin J. Ashton of the Quorum of the Twelve rose to speak. He told a story of a young man, who in Elder Ashton’s presence, had referred to himself as a “nobody.” Elder Ashton’s response to that man was that “nobody is a nobody.”
Dew writes, “When Elder Ashton spoke those words, my heart began to pound and tears began to pool in my eyes. I was all ears as Elder Ashton went on to say: I am certain our Heavenly Father is displeased when we refer to ourselves as a nobody … We do ourselves a great injustice when we … so identify ourselves. As children of God we are somebody'” (195-196).
At that point in Dew’s life, she wasn’t so sure she was a “somebody”. She felt like a nobody. As a student at BYU she often felt inadequate. “For too many years I had felt that I wasn’t talented enough, thin enough, smart enough, cute enough, or basically anything enough to amount to much” (196). But she hung on Elder Ashton’s words and her spirit recognized them as authentic and true.
Over time, Sheri Dew learned countless lessons about the worth of one individual life, and not just her own; she came to see the need for every son and daughter of God to realize their potential, their calling, their duty to the Kingdom of God. No One Can Take Your Place is a dissertation upon this valuable pearl of truth, a rich collection of personal experiences that led Dew to this understanding.
The book lives up to its title, an alluring one at that. The concept that no one can take your place would attract anyone’s attention. People want to feel needed and valued for their own unique traits and ways. The cover of the book pictures Dew as a very small girl, rake in hand, working the soil of her family’s Kansas farm. Dew explains, “Like the little girl on the cover, hard at work tending her own little plot of ground, we each came here with our own plot of ground, as it were, our own little corner of the Lord’s vineyard to tend and build. No one can do it for us” (202). Dew continues, “It’s possible to fill in for someone. But it’s not possible to take their place. Not now, not ever” (199).
A Rousing but Righteous Female Voice
Dew is one of the most trusted female voices within the Church because of her strong faith and guided intellectualism. She writes and speaks with power from heaven, recognizing that without inspiration from the Holy Ghost, a good talk is just a presentation, nothing more. Dew is the first to recognize her weaknesses, a style that puts her readers and listeners at ease. Her life experience, however, has been unique, shaping her into a rousing and righteous female voice – something the world is lacking.
Written mainly for women, her book addresses plainly the subjects of motherhood and womanhood. This does not, however, exclude men. How can sisters holistically discuss such topics without including fatherhood, priesthood and the family as an entire unit? All are intertwined with the express need for harmonious function. So I do not hesitate to recommend the book to both men and women who are anxious to live more valiantly in their specific God-given roles. In fact, Dew’s book would be a profitable read for all men in the Church, as it would foster an increased appreciation and understanding for the women in their lives, including those with whom they counsel in leadership settings.
“Just as worthy men were foreordained to hold the priesthood in mortality (see Alma 13:2-4, 7-8), righteous women were endowed pre-mortally with the privilege and responsibility of motherhood (see Spencer W. Kimball, Role of Righteous Women, 102.) … Motherhood was not what was left over after our Father blessed His sons with the privilege of priesthood” (30, 31).
It is evident through several chapters on family, motherhood and the roles of women and men that Dew intends to teach readers that differing responsibilities for men and women do not equate inequity. Readers will glean insight and understanding from her service with the Brethren and how she learned that men and women in the Church must complement each other, not compete with each other. “No ward or stake is likely to reach its full potential until husbands and wives, mothers and fathers, men and women work together in unity of purpose, respecting and relying upon each other’s strengths” (41).
And of course, there is the invaluable truth that Sheri Dew has stirred within the hearts of Mormon women, that all women are mothers. “The word mother has layers of meaning” (30). This is taught in poignancy and profundity, as only Dew can teach it, from a place of keen knowing. Unmarried and without children of her own, Sheri Dew has lived this truth in a multitude of ways. Her teaching by example and word has brought a broadened clarity to the meaning of “mother.”
God Wants a Powerful People
No One Can Take Your Place is not full of “never seen before” Dew. Many of her chapters and thoughts come from previous talks she has given, but she seamlessly connects them, one topic leading fluidly into the next. A message you may have heard her purport before is that of God wanting a powerful people. I loved this candid statement, “The last days are not for the faint of heart or the spiritually out of shape” (65). She elaborates, “If God wants a powerful people who can withstand the wiles of the devil (and He does), and if we were born to lead in these latter days (and we were), then we need to understand how God makes His power available to us, and how we gain access to that power” (62).
A good number of chapters are devoted to subject matter that will help members of the Church become a spiritually powerful people. Dew explains how we can access God’s power through the scriptures, within the temple, and by exercising greater faith.
My favorite chapter was entitled, “Bridging the Gaps.” I got the feeling while reading this chapter that Dew expected us to realize that, yes, no one can take our place.
In turn, however, no one and no thing can take Christ’s place. While sensing a greater awareness of Christ’s need for me to do His work, I felt an even greater awareness of my need for Christ. Only through Him would I be able to identify the spiritual “gaps” in my life and work to bridge them.
“When the Savior spoke to Simon Peter, he identified a natural gap we all deal with: the gap between what we say we believe and the way we actually live” (84). Dew offers some examples, “If you believe the Word of Wisdom but don’t fully live it, there’s a gap. If you believe your family is the most important entity on earth but often seem to get pulled elsewhere, there’s a gap. There are gaps if you feel love for your spouse but withhold love for some reason; if you want a strong marriage but don’t make building it a priority; if you believe modesty is important but are tired of coaching teenagers who are tempted to wear clothes that are too tight, too short, too revealing…and therefore you say nothing. There are gaps if you say money isn’t everything but spend your time and energy as though it were; if you believe in a living prophet but manage to slip away most conference weekends to the beach or the lake; if you believe there is power in the word of God but don’t spend much time immersed in the scriptures … and so on” (84- 85).
Did that list not prick your conscience? Dew assures us, “Gaps are a fundamental mortal condition – the process of closing those gaps is also a fundamental mortal exercise” (92). This chapter alone caused me to think about the power from which I am limiting myself because of spiritual gaps. As tiny as they may be, they exist between what we know to be true and how well we live that truth. I recommend this chapter at the very least, for all members to read.
We Cannot Let the Lord Down
There are things the world will never tell you, but the Spirit of God will. Sheri Dew has the affecting ability to point out these things, while opening our eyes to the contrasting ways of both the world and the Lord. Dew’s plea to members of the LDS Church, regarding the work that we must do, is simple: “We just cannot let the Lord down” (37).
No One Can Take Your Place probes the soul for answers to questions like, “Do we have an impenetrable testimony of Jesus Christ? Do we know where and how to turn for help? Do we understand how magnificent and how encompassing the doctrines of the gospel really are” (7)? We may wonder, if we have a role that no one else can fill, how will we know if we are doing our part? How will we know if we are in the right place? This book provides the answers, giving us ways to discern the Holy Spirit and retain his companionship. An entire chapter is devoted to the idea that “sin makes you stupid.” The frankness of this title made me laugh out loud – but how true it is! Sin makes us deaf, dumb and blind to the ways of the Lord.
On the flip-side, Dew is about balance, reminding us that the point of our mortality is not to become perfect. In her words, “Could we all just pledge to give that up once and for all! [The object of this life] is to become increasingly pure, which will eventually lead to perfection” (19). By knowing our place in God’s plan, that we indeed have a place, one that no one else can fill, we can better live up to the Lord’s expectations for us. They are great and magnificent, but His ways are simple.
Immersed in vintage Sheri Dew, readers will love her candidness and strength of testimony. “Here is the simple, sobering, spine-tingling truth: By virtue of who we are, what we know, the covenants we have made, and the fact that we are here now, we were born to help build up the Kingdom of God” (12). No One Can Take Your Place is an encouraging and reassuring treatise that will help church members better fulfill their divinely appointed roles.
As 2005 is upon us and we spend time thinking about raising the bar for our own personal progression, Dew’s insights and optimism can guide us. The Lord will usually find someone else to move His work forward if we don’t step up to the plate. But we will lose out. She is right on target – we who cannot afford to let the Lord down.