Envy and Verrocchio

Last year my family and I were able to spend some time in Florence, Italy while I taught a study abroad course.  Every day we were able to see amazing works of art.  I enjoyed the stories behind the art almost as much as the art itself.

One of my favorite stories is regarding the painting, Baptism of Christ, by Andrea del Verrocchio and his young pupil, Leonardo da Vinci.  According to artist-historian Vasari, the story goes that Verrocchio had his pupil Leonardo complete parts of the background as well as the outer angel.  After seeing Leonardo’s skill Verrocchio was overwhelmed.  At that moment he decided to give up painting forever.  If such a young student could already outshine his master, then he would no longer spend his time painting.

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I can’t help but feel for Verrocchio.  He must have been frustrated and felt jealous of his young student.  He had spent his whole life studying the art of painting and along comes a young man with such incredible talent.  It would be easy to resort to jealousy and throw your hands up in despair.  It’s sad that we only have a few surviving works by Verrocchio.  He obviously had amazing talent and I’m sure we would all enjoy seeing more from him.  But instead he chose to give in to envy.  He must have loved painting and yet he chose to give it up simply because someone else was better than he.

Envy never builds up, it only tears down.  Elder Jeffrey R. Holland said it best “envy is a mistake that just keeps on giving. Obviously we suffer a little when some misfortune befalls us, but envy requires us to suffer all good fortune that befalls everyone we know! What a bright prospect that is—downing another quart of pickle juice every time anyone around you has a happy moment!”

Envy is certainly another of the universal sins.  No matter how much we have, it never seems enough if the person next to us has more.  Whenever I begin to envy others I stop and think of poor Verrocchio.

 

Archery with Mikayla

Mikayla was asked to give a talk today in Sacrament Meeting about how Girls’ Camp helped her to grow closer to Jesus Christ.  It was an awesome talk, so I’ve decided to share it with y’all:

My favorite thing to do at Girls’ Camp was archery.  I spent almost all my free time at the archery range.  Here are five lessons that I learned and how they relate to the gospel.

Lesson #1: Pick your target and aim.  

You’re going to hit what you aim at, so aim wisely.  

In this life, we’ve got plenty of things to aim at, like material items, wealth, popularity, a good job, etc.  They aren’t necessarily bad things, but our ultimate goal in this life is Celestial glory with Jesus Christ.  Make sure you’re always aiming at it.

Lesson #2: Have a good stance.

If you don’t have a good, solid stance your shot is most likely going to miss.

In this life you can have a good stance on multiple solid foundations, like good parents and high moral standards.  The best foundation to stand on is the rock of our Redeemer.  Helaman 5:12 illustrates this:

And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea, his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall.

Lesson #3: Focus.  Close your non-dominant eye to help.

If you don’t focus on your target and you get distracted you won’t make your shot and you will most likely end up shooting at whatever you were looking at.

In this life if you get distracted by the things of the world you will miss your goal.

Lesson #4: Grip your bow properly.

If you don’t grip your bow properly you might end up getting hurt.  If your arm is too close to the string, the string will hit your arm and it hurts.  It really hurts.

In this life you aim at Celestial glory, but your spiritual bow (all your choices) are what get you there.  If you mishandle your spiritual bow, you will miss your goal.

Lesson #5: If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.

In archery if you don’t get a bull’s eye, you adjust your shot.  You can adjust your shot by adjusting your footing, your hold on your bow or your aim.  One minor adjustment can earn you a bull’s eye.

In this life, if you can’t seem to get it right, you can always change how you’re doing it.  Plus, if you make a mistake you can always use the Atonement.  Jesus Christ will help you.  He wants to help you.  

Blacksmithing

I recently returned from “Man Camp” – two days of amazing experiences with a group of about 25 youth and some adult leaders.  We went up into New Hampshire, far away from quality cell phone reception, and discussed what it truly means to be a man.  The idea was based off a talk by Elder D. Todd Christofferson called “Let Us Be Men.”

As leaders we put together workshops about dating, getting a job, and cooking for yourself as well as how to prepare to be a missionary, a husband, and a father.  We all had some pretty amazing experiences.

The highlight of the camp (for me, at least) was the blacksmithing workshop.  We were able to heat pieces of iron in a furnace until they were red hot.  Then we were able to hammer them into knives (blunt knives, but knives nonetheless).

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As we were doing this I had the chance to help 6-8 young men with the process before trying it myself.  It’s hot and noisy work.  The hammer that seems so easy to hold starts to feel like a million pounds after you’ve been swinging it for a few minutes.  Sparks are flying everywhere and if the person holding the iron loses their grip and drops it, the grass below bursts into flames.

Of course this was only a simple demonstration of blacksmithing, but it gave all of us an idea of how important it is to start with quality metal if you want to create something that will stand the test of time.  We learned that it takes time and a lot of effort to craft something that you can be proud of.  We learned the care that has to be taken to protect yourself and others.

As we worked I kept thinking about the times that I have been that piece of iron – thrust into the furnace and then struck time and time again.  Most of the time I have no idea what the Lord is trying to craft me into, but I appreciate the time and effort He must be expending to do so.