I know it’s a bit late and Christmas has already come and gone, but let’s pause for just a moment to remember the story of the well known Christmas song the “Little Drummer Boy.” This song – also knows as “Carol of the Drum” tells the story of a drummer boy who is summoned to see “the new born king”, and is encouraged to bring his finest gifts to lay before this new king. Yet, this boy – being poor – has no gifts to bring, at least no gifts fit to give a king especially compared with others. That spot – the one where the drummer boy finds himself – that’s where I want us to go mentally. Go to the place where you have to think deeply and honestly about what gift you could possibly bring to “the new born king.”
Now, let’s change gears and go to another place in time (the old world long before the first Christmas):
In chapter 2 of Ether we are with the Jaredites (prior to their great journey across the sea) and the brother of Jared is concerned that their vessels don’t have any light and he is a bit nervous about the long journey without it (not to mention there are women and children that may have expressed some hesitation about 344 days in the dark). He mentioned this problem to the Lord in verse 19 but didn’t get a satisfactory resolution from the Lord – so he brings it up again in verse 22.
The 2nd time he brings it up, he doesn’t ask the Lord to solve the problem, he just states that “there is no light” in the vessels and then asks the Lord if it is his will that they cross the great water in darkness. The Lords answer (in verse 23) is a question – “what will ye that I should do”? The Lord then explains to the brother of Jared all of the reasons that normal thinking and construction won’t work on these vessels, and that the Lord has indeed ‘prepared’ the Jaredites for this journey. Then, the Lord asks the same question again; “what will ye that I shall prepare for you (that ye may have light)”? Thus, the brother of Jared is left in the same place as the little drummer boy. Deep and honest self examination to decide what on earth could I bring to the king?
So often we find ourselves in this place. We are asked or called to lead a group, teach a class, give a lesson, build a boat, cross the sea, raise a family, be an eternal companion, home teach our friends, and make a difference in the world – and we look around and see what everyone else has to give and are left wondering what we have to offer. We must then ask ourselves (just like the drummer and the brother of Jared) what do I have to give that is unique, special, or even worth giving to someone so important, and how could I ever give enough?
The little drummer boy likely thought about his predicament seriously, and maybe even became nervous, anxious, or petrified about it – and I think that the brother of Jared did the same. If the brother of Jared is anything like the rest of us, he probably walked home from his prayer very slowly and with a heavy heart. Not heavy with pain or sorrow, but heavy with responsibility and stewardship and pondering the challenge. He was probably thinking to himself; what can I do? How can I provide light to this whole party? How can I measure up to that task? What on earth can I do that will give light to these 8 barges while we cross the ocean? He probably asked his wife what she thought he could do. He probably asked his family, friends, and certainly his brother. They probably all gave him advice to the tune of “this is what I would do”, or gave him support, or maybe they just told him “you’ll figure it out.” This likely gave him several options, many of which could have worked just fine – but they didn’t seem right.
A few months ago, I was asked/called to be the president of the Young Men organization in our ward. Immediately, those same thoughts went through my head; what can I bring to these boys? What can I do? What can I teach? How can I teach? What approach should I take? How can I make a difference? I could feel the same weight of responsibility on my shoulders. I know that this feeling has and will come many of us as we accept a new calling or responsibility (if it hasn’t happened to you yet – it will). I also think we can learn much from the little drummer boy and from the brother of Jared in how they processed the various options in their minds, and then ultimately in how they responded to that challenge.
I doubt the little drummer boy just decided to play his drum for the king because he couldn’t think of anything else to give – I think in the end he felt like it was his duty to play the drum because that is what he did best. He knew that even if other people were able to give gifts of great worth that wouldn’t be right coming from him (nor could he give those gifts, because let’s not forget who this boy is – he is the little drummer boy), the thing that he was the best at was drumming, and that is what he was going to give. His very best effort using his very best talent. He was humble enough to realize that his drumming talents that he had worked so hard to develop would have to be enough – and if there was anyone who could recognize and appreciate all the effort, love, and desire that went into his emotional drumming – it was this new king.
Just like the little drummer boy, I don’t think the brother of Jared chose stones because they were easy or convenient, or even practical in their size. I don’t think he chose stones because that was the best idea the Jaredite group could come up with. I think he chose stones because that is what he knew the very best. In Ether 3:1 it reads that the brother of Jared “did molten out of a rock sixteen small stones.” Molting already paints a picture of hard work, patience, and attention to detail – yet there is one more piece of the puzzle. The footnote on the word “molten” leads us to the topical guide (TG) to study the word “skill”. Then, as we review the word “skill” in the TG, we also see that it says “see also Art.” Skill and art and their various synonyms are not words used to describe 6th grade science reports (and they aren’t even used to describe any of the college science projects that I’ve seen) and they certainly wouldn’t be used in this situation if the brother of Jared had just wandered around the mountain and picked up 16 small-ish stones. Skill and Art are used together with molting to describe professionals, accomplished craftsmen, and projects or treasures that take months or years to complete. Let us remember that while we continue this story (and as they pertain to the little drummer boy).
I think that the brother of Jared may have considered many different ideas to present to the Lord, and many of them were probably fantastic ideas (and he may have even tried some). He may have tried to go outside of his comfort zone (which is encouraged), or he may have even considered moving forward with something that he had seen others do in the past – yet in the end they just didn’t seem right. So, the brother of Jared used his skill and his art and his talent to “molten out of a rock sixteen small stones” – or in other words, he skillfully crafted sixteen smooth, transparent, glass-like stones and carried them humbly up to the top of the mount to present his best effort to the Lord.
I played my drum for him pa rum pum pum pum
I played my best for him pa rum pum pum
Put yourself in the Lord’s shoes during this time (watching the brother of Jared use his hard work, time consuming skill to artfully craft some seriously awesome stones out of the mountain) – knowing full well the level of effort, care, thought, and love that is going into the process. Don’t forget – the whole reason the brother of Jared asked for light is that he didn’t want his party to cross the ocean in the dark. With that love and admiration for watching the brother of Jared work and really bring his best offering in mind – what the Lord does next is so amazing (I’m not talking about showing himself to the brother of Jared, the veil being rent, his faith becoming a perfect knowledge, because even though that is amazing, as its captured in Ether 3:2-22); It’s what happens after that that we need to remember – I’m going for the next line in the drummer boy’s tale…
Then he smiled at me….
Please imagine the scene – really imagine it. The Lord has watched the brother of Jared search his soul and counsel with his family for the best possible solution, only to humbly identify his own unique talent – a talent that maybe nobody else in the Jaredite party had – and then he maxed out his effort using that skill and art to create a set of smooth, beautiful, amazing stones to present to the Lord with a singular purpose in mind – so that he can “prepare them that they may shine forth in darkness.” This is such a humble and amazing approach to the situation. I can only imagine the smile on the Lord’s face as the brother of Jared presented his gift – a truly unique gift and solution to the problem. One that only he could bring.
Yes, the Lord smiled, and presented himself in spirit as a gift to the brother of Jared (see Ether 3:2-22). But, after that, the Lord does something truly remarkable (and perhaps if the little drummer boy song had another verse it would contain something to do with what the drummer boy received in return) – he gives a gift to the brother of Jared. So the question is; if you are the Lord, what do you give the man who just maxed out his effort, his skill, and his unique art in making beautiful and transparent stones to provide light in the darkness?
In verse 23-25 the Lord says “and behold, these two stones will I give unto thee… these stones shall magnify to the eyes of men these things…” and just to make sure that the brother of Jared knew how well these special stones worked “he [the Lord] showed unto the brother of Jared all the inhabitants of the earth which had been, and also that would be; and he withheld them not from his sight, even unto the ends of the earth.” The Lord gives the brother of Jared the ultimate gift of skillfully and artfully molted stones. He gives him a Urim and Thummim – two stones that will truly illuminate and magnify – just like the stones that the brother of Jared prepared. Who better to care for, appreciate, and look after the Urim and Thummim1 than the brother of Jared? Who else could appreciate the power and perfection and beauty of these two stones? Just imagine how this made the brother of Jared feel.
Sometimes when we are presented with a challenge, or a new calling, or a difficult situation, we may think that we need to be or act or do something different than who we are – and I think that if we just understand and accept that we have something inside of us that is uniquely us – something that only we have to give, that is what the Lord wants. He wants the very best of what is us – but remember that he wants every bit of it. He wants to watch us search our souls, identify what makes us unique and special, and embrace that to the fullest so that we can present our drumming or our stone making in the way that only we know how – and then give it away so that he can smile at us, and then give us two additional stones that are truly magnificent.
1 It is of note that the words Urim and Thummim are often translated directly as lights and perfections – especially in the context of this story of where and why they were given to the brother of Jared.