The Rich Young Man – I Can Relate

I can relate – I’m not young, and I’m definitely not rich, but – oh, just read the post.

This past week in the Come Follow Me curriculum, a story from the New Testament was highlighted that I have always found interesting: The story of the Rich Young Man. Here it is, as told by Mark: (Mark 10:17, 19-22)

And when he was gone forth into the way, here came one running, and kneeled to him, and asked him, Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?

And Jesus said unto him…Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Defraud not, Honour they father and thy mother.

And he answered and said unto him, Master, all thee have I observed from my youth.

And Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest; go thy way, sell whatsover thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me.

And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions.

Here’s what I find interesting: We use this story to illustrate a man who fell short, yet his was a good guy. He actually ran to talk to Jesus and humbly, voluntarily, asked him to help know what his next step should be. Bad guys don’t do this.

When Jesus grilled him about the commandments, the young man was able to respond that he had been obedient all his life. Even Christ was impressed, as he loved him.

Next came the big challenge: Sell it all, give away the money, and come along. Wow! That would be tough. I know that I would walk away sad.

Wouldn’t you? I sure would. “Oh Goodie! I get to sell my house and all my stuff!”

When I read about the rich young ruler, I cant help but see a sliver of myself. (Not that I’m young, and not that I’m rich.) I can admit that I am not always ultra-quick to obey. I try, but sometimes I have experienced a hesitation, some frustration, or even a heaven-directed eye roll before I have sucked it up and gotten busy doing what had ben asked of me.

I hope that hesitation doesn’t offset the good that I have done.

Most of us have even walked away from appointments with priesthood leaders saddened because we had just been nailed with a calling that we did not really want. Sometimes sad, sometimes even irritated. BUT, we dealt with it, and fulfilled our callings anyway. (Do I hear an “Amen”?)

Is there any indication in this story that the young man did not go and do exactly what the Lord told him to do? I would give him the benefit of the doubt. This young man not only sought out the Lord, but he had a fabulous track record of obedience. Why do we leap to the conclusion that his character – built on a lifetime of obedience – suddenly changed? Just because he responded to a huge challenge with a little sadness?

That is not what I have seen in my experiences.

Maybe he failed – maybe he succeeded. We were never told.

Which brings me to one of the unsung heroes of Church history, a man named “Elisha Averett.” Brother Everett was an early convert in Illinois in 1835. He was neck deep in the struggles that faced the early saints as they were driven out of Missouri and Nauvoo.

He was injured in his service. “Elisha suffered a severe head injury. He was hit in the head by a jagged stone thrown by a member of a mob while he was acting as bodyguard for the Prophet Joseph Smith. It is said the injury was so severe that a metal plate had to be put in his skull to preserve his life.” (link)

Yeah, but a metal plate didn’t slow Elisha down. He was the chief mason during the construction of the Nauvoo temple, after which, he and his family headed west with Brigham Young, interrupted by a tiring march with the Mormon Battalion.

When he finally arrived in Zion, he was immediately put to work. “Orson Hyde called Elisha to move to Dixie and settle, and the family answered the call. While there, he helped to erect many buildings for public use and with his twin brother was a mason on the St. George, Manti, and Salt Lake Temples. They were also instrumental in the building of Cove Fort, Kanab Fort, Dixie Cotton Factory Windsor Castle in Pipe Springs, Arizona, Heber Tabernacle, and many other public buildings. It was said of the Averett twins that when they had a hand in building anything, it was well built.” (link)

Elisha was a good man. A stalwart saint. He spent his life serving and working to further the cause of Zion.

But this is my favorite story about Elisha Averett. (From the excellent book “All That Was Promised.” By Blaine M. Yorgason.)

Elisha Averett, came home “weary” from a hard days work, and heard the news of his call to build the temple in St. George. He “dropped” in his chair and said “I’ll be damned if I’ll go!”

But after a minute he stood up and said, “Well, if we are going to go to Dixie, we’d better start to get ready.”

And he went.

I find great comfort in knowing that such a good man could have a momentary fit of exasperation and fatigue. When all was said and done, he went, fulfilled his calling, and helped construct the St. George Temple – the first temple to provide every temple ordinance required for exaltation.

Attaboy, Elisha.

Moral of the story? It might take a few minutes to “gird up our loins” and enter the battle, but that is human. Taking a deep breath and then entering the fray anyway? That is saintly.

The book I referenced by Blaine Yorgason, (yes, THAT Blaine Yorgason.) is called “All That Was Promised: The St. George Temple and the Unfolding of the Restoration.” (link)

It is a fascinating read of what transpired as the saints settled the St. George area and built the temple.

(I think we forget that behind Kirtland and Nauvoo, the St. George Temple was THE most significant temple of these latter days.)

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  1. Not a Utahn. Something significant about the St. George temple other than the first in Utah?

  2. I am going to be a teaser…I was saying to myself as I read, “Yes, I agree…Yep…Great point…” and then I get to the last line about the the Kirkland Temple. I must ask, are you a Costco shopper? 😉

  3. I had a friend in the Army who was 1. lucky and 2. generous. He once bought $100 worth of raffle tickets for a wive’s group, giving away gift baskets. He won 12 of 18! Then he turned around and gave them all away.

    we were talking once, when the lottery had reached a stupid level. he said that if he ever won the lottery, he would make sure and take care of all of the financial needs of all of his soldiers and their families. Like I said, generous, because I am sure that he would have, because he still took care of his soldiers as best he could with the income that he had.

    as we read this lesson, that experience came to mind. My next thought was…how nice it is to take care of everyone’s temporal needs, but how much better would it be to take care of their spiritual needs, and make them eligible for “wealth” beyond imagination in the next life?

  4. This optimistic speculation on the rich young man’s future has a bit more support in the fact that if he was going to obey the savior – with or without a sad heart – the first step would still be to go back home, the second step then being to start making signs for a massive yard sale.

  5. This reminds me of the question Christ posed about which of 2 sons did his father’s will: the one who refused and then repented and did it, or the other who said he would and then didn’t. Perhaps the rich young man was like the first.

  6. It occurred to me a few years ago that almost all of us today have a much higher standard of living than the richest man alive when Mark recorded that incident. Maybe we are richer than we think. Maybe we have more to consecrate than we think.

    1. I was impressed with the rich young man because he was so close to perfect he needed to do just one more thing. Sell all he had and was given a special invitation from Jesus to go and follow him. When I ask the Lord what I lack it will be much further down on the list than this. (See the conference talk referenced in the manual.) God gives me incremental steps when I ask and occasionally big leaps.

  7. Thank yo, once again I appreciate you insights. One comment I heard about the rich young man was that when he turned away after hearing what the savior ask, his friends and followers turned away with him. Teaching us that we should be aware of who is watching us.

  8. Thank you for your insight. How often are we all so quick to judge, especially when it comes to our youth. We were talking in our family study about how difficult the ask was. We could relate to the sadness of the young man.
    So often people stop reading the story there. However, it is significant to remember the conversations that happened next. Christ said, “That a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven.” I have to think that it was more of an explanation as to why the young man was sorrowful. At that point, we can see that even the disciples were “amazed, saying, Who then can be saved?” In other words, we would all have a hard time giving up everything. Will anyone be able to make it?
    My family was having the same thoughts.

    But we have to keep reading because our Savior shows us exactly how.
    “But Jesus beheld them” (I have to think here that he really acknowledges the difficult task) and then said, “with men this is impossible;” (none of us could do this on our own), “but with God all things are possible.”
    For that very reason, I trust that the young man DID do what was asked. He did it with God’s help because he had already been keeping the commandments and creating a faith filled relationship with his Heavenly Father.

    I also trust that we can do difficult asks as well with the same promise from our Savior.

  9. What a wonderful insight, brother McBride, yes the rich young man went away grieved but like you point out we don’t know maybe he did come back later and do with the Savior had asked. Thank you. Keep up the great work!

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