We just concluded the Sandy Arts Guild’s production of “The Addams Family,” a musical comedy based on the characters from the popular 60s TV show and 90s films. I played Gomez Addams, the eccentric father who loves his family and enjoys collecting “instruments of persuasion.” I feel so fortunate to have met so many awesome people over the last two months. I’m both happy and sad to have the show come to an end. “The Addams Family” is a light-hearted, silly musical with lots of witty dialogue, energetic dance numbers and fun songs. And while it is mostly just for pure entertainment, the central message of the show is about the importance of family. As one of the songs proclaims, “It’s family first and family last and family by and by…”
Let me reaffirm my belief in our wonderful human family. As children of a loving God, I believe we are all brothers and sisters. Unfortunately, sometimes we don’t get along, we fight, we argue and we hurt one another. And still we’re all part of the human family on life’s journey together, and I’m grateful that there are so many good people who want to serve and lift others. My life has certainly been blessed by many kind acts from loving friends and family.
Theater folks are like family. They all come together over several weeks to create something of value. Most people have no idea the amount of work that goes into a show. There are people who design, build, paint and decorate the sets and gather props. There are people who design and sew costumes and help with make-up and wigs. There are the sound guys, the lighting designers, the stage crew, the choreographers, the music directors, the marketing team, the logistics coordinators and ticketing folks. All of them work together to create something special to share with audiences.
Of course, the actors get the limelight, the applause and the bows, but everyone is needed and necessary. Similarly, in an LDS ward, the bishopric and members of the ward council may have the higher profile callings, but each person is needed and necessary. Each person has much to contribute, and I’m very grateful to those who serve and bless others with no thought of recognition or reward.
Last night, as we concluded our eight-show run, my thoughts turned to a talk I’m giving in sacrament meeting today regarding our quest to become more like Jesus Christ. I thought about how families can help us become our best selves despite (or perhaps even because of) their imperfections. Now I’m fully aware that MANY people do not have ideal family situations, but family is still family, and I believe that God have given us families to help us become more loving, patient, kind and loyal.
I’ve been doing theater for 30+ years now and have been involved in over 30 productions. Each cast I’ve worked with has pulled together to make something special. And yet, despite all our best efforts, I have never done a perfect show. That’s the nature of live theater — sometimes lines are forgotten, dance steps are missed, musical notes are sharp or flat, and lighting or sound cues are off or some set piece, prop or costume malfunctions. Despite our very best efforts, we’ll never have a “perfect” show — but we can still STRIVE for perfection.
An oft quoted scripture in the LDS world states: “For we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do” (2 Nephi 25:23). I’ve heard this scripture many, many times during my life, and most people interpret it to mean that once I’ve done EVERTHING I can possibly do to earn my salvation, Christ’s grace will make up the difference. However, I believe that a more correct interpretation of the word “after” in the phrase “after all we can do” is “apart from” all we can do. In the end, it is the grace of Jesus Christ that saves us. Christ is not a cheerleader sitting on the sidelines encouraging us to become our best selves. No, he is (or should be) an active participant in our progression and relying on his merits, mercy and grace is crucial.
Let me return to the theater analogy. On my own, I am an actor standing by himself on an empty stage with no sets, lighting, music, makeup, costume, props, microphone or dialogue. However, with the support of a wonderful cast, crew and production team, I can really shine. Likewise, our families and friends can lend us the help and support we need become what God wants us to become — and we can offer them our love and support as well. Yet even when we give our best efforts, we WILL fall short without the grace (divine help) of the savior Jesus Christ.
The prophet Moroni summed it up well in the closing chapter of the Book of Mormon when he wrote: “Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ… then are ye sanctified in Christ by the grace of God, through the shedding of the blood of Christ, which is in the covenant of the Father unto the remission of your sins, that ye become holy, without spot” (Moroni 10:32-33).
I LOVE this idea of being “perfect in Christ.” It shows our humility as we recognize that, try as we might, we’ll never achieve perfection. As we accept Jesus Christ into our lives and draw upon his atoning power that cleanses, enables and ultimately saves, we can be made whole, complete and perfect.