Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Mortal Overlay
(more thoughts on "the right light")

Many years ago (when I was 15 weeks pregnant with the triplets, to be exact) I went out to Utah for girl's night and to go to the BYU Women's Conference.  The speaker I was most excited to hear at the women's conference was Stephen Robinson, the author of "Believing Christ," a book that had been important in my life.  I was so determined to hear Br. Robinson speak that my sister Margaret and I sat in the lobby (on the floor--ouch!) through the class beforehand to be sure that we would be able to get into the auditorium where Br. Robinson would be speaking.

The format of most classes at the BYU Women's Conference is that there are 2 speakers in every one hour session.  Usually they are speaking on the same or similar topics, but (as we were to find out) their approach is usually different.

Br. Robinson was the 2nd speaker in this hour.  The first speaker was a woman a background in some kind of social work or psychiatry.  I have no idea.  I wasn't too interested in what she had to say because as far as I was concerned, she was just filling time until the main (Stephen Robinson) event. 

Stephen Robinson was really wonderful.  He spoke about the Savior's determination to save us and our need to use his help instead of doing it on our own.  If I remember correctly, he said that this life is like we've fallen into a deep well and the Savior is the ladder that is the only way we can get out--that we can't do it on our own, or even do most of it on our own and then turn to the Savior for help.

That's about all I remember of Stephen Robinson 13 years later--vague and hazy in my mind.

But I have never forgotten something the other speaker said. 

She taught about something called the "mortal overlay."  She said that each of us have a spirit that is bright & clear, like a brilliant light bulb.  She explained that the experiences of mortality sometimes put a covering like a lamp shade over part of our bright light.  Different experiences each contribute their part of the cover.  In my mind I remember thinking--oh, it's like a Tiffany lamp shade.  In some places we have a dark overlay over our light, in other places a lighter one. These pieces obscure our real self and let only a part of us shine through.

I can't tell you how many times I've thought about the concept of the mortal overlay in the intervening years.  (How ironic!) I have needed that reminder that underneath each mortal overlay is a child of God, of infinite worth and beauty.  I have not always done a good job of honoring that understanding.  I have come to understand that some issues (traumatic life experiences, mental challenges) hide a person's light more thoroughly than others, that some lights peek through dimly while others shine more freely.  I try to remember that what I see is not all that is there. And it is definitely a work in progress...

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