Leaving Footprints

Last month an artist and a handful of volunteers in Finland decided it would be fun to strap on some snowshoes and walk around on a golf course. Imagine their surprise when it turned out like this!

I’m teasing of course. Obviously, it didn’t just “happen.” It took a lot of planning by the artist, Janne Pyyko, and the eleven volunteers who tramped around on the snow-covered golf course for two days. The design measures at 160 meters in diameter – which is nearly two football fields. (link)

The result: A beautiful design that received recognition throughout the world. Yes, it is a temporary design: The first windstorm or snowstorm to come along afterwards would have obviously obliterated it.

Even so, it is remarkable, and I’m glad those folks took the time to share their art with the world.

This year, as we have been studying the restoration of Christ’s gospel and church, my thoughts turn towards all those who were instrumental in leaving behind such a beautiful creation.

It is a creation far more complex and beautiful than any man-made art. Nor is it temporary. It is built to stand until the day that the Savior returns to this earth to wrap things up.

Obviously, Christ, himself, is/was the designer of such a grand design. All glory to Him and Heavenly Father. But he did have many willing and able men and women who followed that design and left behind something that has outlived them. I am grateful to them.

Joesph Smith is clearly the to go-to mortal when it comes to leaving those footprints embedded on earth. His brothers, wife, parents, grandparents and others family members were there will him until the end.

Names like Harris, Whitmer, Pratt, Rigdon, Cowdery, Knight, and others are ever-linked with the creation of that grand design No matter what they did with the rest of their lives, those restorative footsteps will forever be there. Each of them left their contribution in those early days.

To me, one of the great blessings of studying the founding of the church and the Doctrine and Covenants is the constant reminder that these stalwart people were just people. They weren’t trained for what they did. They weren’t geniuses, or have superhuman powers. They probably underestimated what they were getting themselves into! (Except Joseph, I imagine.)

I wonder if those people recognized themselves when they read Alma’s words, “by small and simple things are great things brought to pass.” (Alma 37:6)

It is reassuring to me that God can and does use ordinary people to accomplish extraordinary things – precisely because I am “ordinary people.” President Gordon B. Hinckley summed it up nicely:

“The major work of the world is not done by geniuses. It is done by ordinary people, with balance in their lives, who have learned to work in an extraordinary manner.” (Link)

I’m staring down sixty later this year and it gives pause for reflection. One can’t help but look back and try and guess what footprints left behind will be permanent, and which will be obliterated by the next storm.

Pericles, the statesman from Ancient Greece, said, “What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others.”

Rather than veer off on a Hamilton-esque discussion on leaving a legacy, I would rather proffer a simple conclusion.

We are leaving footprints wherever we go, whatever we do. Some will be wiped away almost instantly, but others will outlive us. Some might even give another soul joy, comfort, understanding or peace. What we choose to do with the time we’ve been given – on our own personal paths – allows us to leave beautiful things behind us.

The walk must always forward. There is much truth from a wizened character, in conversation with his friend:

“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.

“So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.” (Lord of the Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien)

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  1. I like this. And we never know what footprints will remain and which will blow away. I was thinking today in testimony meeting, those bearing testimony don’t know if what they say will be quickly forgotten, or whether it will powerfully impact one or more people who are listening. I guess the trick is to try to leave lots of good footprints and hope some of them stick.

  2. Thank you. This could have been about my mother, who recently passed away. Every week for years and years she wrote a two page news letter about happenings in the family and in the little town where I grew up. She also included cute saying she had found during the week or that someone had sent to her. She sent this letter to about 150 people either by email, snail mail or delivered to the door of neighbors. These were family members and people who used to live in our town and like to hear local news. Many of the recipients then forwarded the letter to their family members. We are sad now on Sunday night knowing we will not read grandmas letter before we go to bed.

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