Tonight we had a Family Home Evening. We were originally intending on baking some goodies and delivering them to my Home Teaching families for FHE tonight, but that went bust as both my wife and I were home sick for the day. So we had to scramble to find a topic for tonight, and when we realized the kids needed a bath and they started to complain about doing so, this idea popped into my head: let's talk about being clean!
I remembered a story about a man named Joseph F. Smith, the nephew of the prophet Joseph Smith that was in one of the church manuals from a year or so ago that was about this very topic. Being unable to find my manual quickly enough, I simply did a google search for "i am clean" and voilà! In 15 seconds I had it -- the internet is so awesome. The particular rendition I found was from a talk by the current prophet, Gordon B. Hinckley. I quote from that article here:
Joseph F. Smith was the son of Hyrum Smith, who was the brother of the Prophet Joseph and was martyred with him in Carthage. Joseph F. was born at Far West, Missouri, on November 13, 1838. He came out of Missouri as an infant. As a lad not yet six years of age, he heard a knock on the window of his mother's home in Nauvoo. It was a man who had hurriedly ridden from Carthage and who told Sister Smith that her husband had been killed that afternoon.
When he was 9, he drove an ox team with his mother across the plains to this valley. At the age of 15 he was called on a mission to Hawaii. He made his way to San Francisco and there worked in a shingle mill to earn enough money to buy passage to the islands.
Hawaii was not a tourist center then. It was populated by the native Hawaiians, who were, for the most part, poor but generous with what they had. He learned to speak their language and to love them. While serving there he experienced a remarkable dream. I quote from his narrative concerning this. Said he:
"I was very much oppressed [when I was] on a mission. I was almost naked and entirely friendless, except [for] the friendship of a poor, benighted . . . people. I felt as if I was so debased in my condition of poverty, lack of intelligence and knowledge, just a boy, that I hardly dared look a . . . man in the face.
"While in that condition I dreamed [one night] that I was on a journey, and I was impressed that I ought to hurry—hurry with all my might, for fear I might be too late. I rushed on my way as fast as I possibly could, and I was only conscious of having just a little bundle, a handkerchief with a small bundle wrapped in it. I did not realize . . . what it was, when I was hurrying as fast as I could; but finally I came to a wonderful mansion. . . . I thought I knew that was my destination.
As I passed towards it, as fast as I could, I saw a notice [which read B-A-T-H], 'Bath.' I turned aside quickly and went into the bath and washed myself clean. I opened up this little bundle that I had, and there was [some] white, clean [clothing], a thing I had not seen for a long time, because the people I was with did not think very much of making things exceedingly clean. But my [clothing was] clean, and I put [it] on. Then I rushed to what appeared to be a great opening, or door. I knocked and the door opened, and the man who stood there was the Prophet Joseph Smith. He looked at me a little reprovingly, and the first words he said: 'Joseph, you are late.' Yet I took confidence and [replied]:
" 'Yes, but I am clean—I am clean!'
"He clasped my hand and drew me in, then closed the great door. I felt his hand just as tangible as I ever felt the hand of man. I knew him, and when I entered I saw my father, and Brigham [Young] and Heber [C. Kimball], and Willard [Richards], and other good men that I had known, standing in a row. I looked as if it were across this valley, and it seemed to be filled with a vast multitude of people, but on the stage were all the people that I had known. My mother was there, and she sat with a child in her lap; and I could name over as many as I remember of their names, who sat there, who seemed to be among the chosen, among the exalted. . . .
"[When I had this dream,] I was alone on a mat, away up in the mountains of Hawaii—no one was with me. But in this vision I pressed my hand up against the Prophet, and I saw a smile cross his countenance. . . .
"When I awoke that morning I was a man, although only [still] a boy. There was not anything in the world that I feared [after that]. I could meet any man or woman or child and look them in the face, feeling in my soul that I was a man every whit. That vision, that manifestation and witness that I enjoyed at that time has made me what I am, if I am anything that is good, or clean, or upright before the Lord, if there is anything good in me. That has helped me out in every trial and through every difficulty" (Gospel Doctrine, 5th ed. , 542–43).
The core of that meaningful dream is found in the reproof given by Joseph Smith to young Joseph F. Said the Prophet, "Joseph, you are late."
Replied Joseph F., "Yes, but I am clean—I am clean!"
The result of that dream was that a boy was changed into a man. His declaration "I am clean" gave him self-assurance and courage in facing anyone or any situation. He received the strength that comes from a clear conscience fortified by the approbation of the Prophet Joseph.
I shared this story with the children, and they suddenly quit complaining about taking their baths. It was more interesting, however, to see them understand that I was talking not so much about being physically clean, but about being spiritually clean. They understood that we need to repent when we make mistakes and even though we may sometimes be "late", it is important to be clean when we finally do arrive at our Heavenly home.
It was a good lesson, but as soon as it came time to ask which of the kids were going to get into which shower or tub, they started fighting. *sigh* Funny how even in the act of getting clean, sometimes we get dirty ... and I wish that was something we could grow out of ...