Greatest Talks, Etc.: “My Son and Yours—Each a Remarkable One”

The talk My Son and Yours—Each a Remarkable One was given at the October 1986 General Conference by Ted E. Brewerton, then a member of the First Quorum of the Seventy.  It is offered in the form of the speaker talking to one of his sons, with the invitation for the fathers in the audience to imagine they were speaking the same words to their own children.  I find it interesting that despite this talk being delivered at a regular session of the conference, and not the priesthood session, it was specifically the fathers who were asked to advise their children, without mention of the mothers.  I’m sure I missed that detail at the time, but it stands out to me now as a married man, armed with the knowledge that my wife has just as much, if not more, to teach our children as I do about who they are.

The first part of the talk is largely devoted to describing how big the universe is.  The end goal is to assure Brewerton’s son, and by extension us, that despite its enormity and our relative smallness and insignificance, we are in fact children of God and therefore the reason that the universe was created, so we are all remarkable in our own way.  In describing some of the numbers of stars and distances of light years, there is an amusing definition of one million:

[A] million is like your mother telling you to clean up your room 274 times every day for ten years.

Having three children myself, that seems like a good way to get a kid to grasp the concept of a large number.

We are then assured that God knows us individually, “where [we] are,” and “who [we] are and what [we] may become.”  Just like out of the many stars in the universe, our sun is the remarkable one for us that provides our planet with light and energy, we too can be a remarkable one among many other people.  To illustrate this, Brewerton shares a couple of allegedly true stories about figures from Church history being a “remarkable one.”  (I say allegedly because while I do not necessarily distrust the account of the stories, I have no desire to independently verify them, and Church leaders have sometimes shown a track record to conveniently ignore any facts that may be unfavorable.)  He then closes with a quote from former apostle James E. Talmage, about which I’m not completely sure of my feelings:

What is man in this boundless setting of sublime splendor? I answer you: Potentially now, actually to be, he is greater and grander, more precious according to the arithmetic of God, than all the planets and suns of space. For him were they created; they are the handiwork of God; man is his son. In this world man is given dominion over a few things; it is his privilege to achieve supremacy over many things.

On the one hand, I agree that mankind has vast potential (and I believe there is some sort of higher power in the universe).  On the other hand, I’m not sure what to think about it being “his privilege to achieve supremacy over many things.”  I’ve been watching Star Trek: The Next Generation with my children for the past few months, and I cannot help but think of the Federation’s philosophy of respect and equality for all life, with no intent at “supremacy” over another.  But I think the intent of the statement is probably simply to emphasize the LDS doctrine that man may eventually become like God and enjoy his own multitude of creation.

A couple of other things I noticed about this talk:

As part of the description of the vastness of the universe, there are quotes from a 1975 publication by the National Geographic Society titled The Amazing Universe in an attempt to explain the scientific world is on the side of the Church in “[seeing] the evidence of a supreme being.”  I may be reading too much into it, but that seems like an odd thing to slip into a talk unless you are trying to reassure people that science and faith are not mutually exclusive.  (I don’t think they are, but there seems to be a large number of people who do.)

Also, after saying that we are God’s “most important creation,” there is an interesting statement:

So we must be master of our beings and control ourselves, and not be controlled by some habit or by someone else.

This, to me, is somewhat ironic given that the Church today generally expects members’ total obedience to the words of its leaders, and actively disapproves of dissenting or differing voices (see e.g. Kate Kelly, John Dehlin, Rock Waterman, Denver Snuffer).

All in all, I like the core message of this talk, that each person is remarkable and has something great to offer.

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