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Paste and Pearl

May 1, 2005 by Kathryn Lynard Soper

Introducing Segullah, Part I

And Eve . . . was glad, saying: Were it not for our transgression, we never should have had seed, and never should have known good and evil, and the joy of our redemption, and the eternal life which God giveth unto all the obedient. (Moses 5:11)

I OFTEN PRAY WHILE DRIVING. Usually I’m discreet about it: eyes on road, hands on wheel, I keep my lips closed and my face benign in order to avoid any stares during those little sideways glances at traffic signals. But sometimes I’m too desperate to care about appearances. Driving to the temple on one such occasion, I indulged in a full-blown roadway drama—heaving sobs, streaming nose, the whole bit—as my pent-up distress spilled out in humid pleas and apologies. It’s a wonder my windshield didn’t steam up.

Nothing—and everything—was wrong. I was in the final stretch of my fifth pregnancy; all 6.8 of us at home were healthy and (mostly) stable. We had a nice home with everything we needed and plenty of things we didn’t. I was in the middle of an exciting project for Relief Society. Things were good, although more than a bit crazy. Every time I extended myself in one direction, I came up short in another (my temper had been especially short that week), and my sense of weakness and failure created an aching knot in my gut. I’m making a mess of everything, I confessed aloud. I’ll never get this project done right. The house is a wreck. And I certainly can’t handle another baby. Despairing and visibly damp, I parked the van and headed for the temple entrance.

Relief began as soon as I stepped inside. At first, complaints and cares continued to swirl through my mind, but as the temple atmosphere surrounded me, I felt strangely disconnected from all the trouble. As I prepared for worship, light streamed into my mind and heart, smoothing the rough edges of my thoughts, and filling me with peace. In a flash of clarity I realized that my messy life was full of enduring meaning and purpose. All my inadequacies and fears were mortal trappings that I would one day shed like a dress. And beneath them dwelt a luminous soul, one who was as strong, as noble, as beautiful as Eve.

By the end of the afternoon, I was completely buoyed up and calmed down. I drove home confident that glorious things were happening within and around me. And once I was back in the thick of dinner, dishes, and diapers, my confidence lasted approximately 17 minutes.

We play at Paste –
Till qualified, for Pearl –
Then, drop the Paste –
And deem ourself a fool –

The Shapes – though – were similar –
And our new Hands
Learned Gem-Tactics –
Practicing Sands
(Emily Dickinson, Poem 320) [1]

Why does discouragement so easily overshadow divine light? I like to blame the singular charms of my mortal mind. It seems designed to promptly drain itself of spiritual sensations. And it has a tough time integrating pearly eternal views with pasty earthly realities. I can really feel that my life is full of significance—until I bump into tedium or chaos. I can truly sense that my soul is full of emerging glory—until I fall into a coarse, cantankerous mood. The Spirit is trying to teach me through a variety of sources (from great poems to temple liturgy) that paste and pearl are not mutually exclusive; that in fact, the two are intimately connected. But thanks to my muddled, leaky mind, it takes continual searching to find that truth operating in my life.

One day when Segullah was still in the planning stages, I had a visit with an old friend. As we caught up on the latest in our lives, I mentioned that my writing cronies and I were working on a new journal for LDS women. This friend looked a bit confused. “I’m surprised you’re doing this,” she said. “Your plate is already so full.” I followed her gaze around the room, where there lurked sizeable piles of books, toys, and tousle-headed children. I could see her point.

“You’re right,” I heard myself saying, “and that’s why I’m doing this.”

She probably thought I was referring to my need for a little diversion, and I admit, this journal effort is a welcome change from the literal sand-sweeping my home requires on a daily basis. But I was actually speaking of my need to discover how my full plate relates to my full potential. These days of paste-playing translate into godly progress, but I’m usually too busy fretting about my fumbling hands and sticky fingers to even notice, let alone remember. Reading and writing about life as a Latter-day Saint woman gives me opportunities to explore the link between telestial experience and celestial possibilities.

On the days when I seriously doubt such a link exists, and I feel miles apart from that Eve-like woman I sensed in the temple, it helps to think of Eve herself. As our archetype, she experienced both the paste and the pearl—and learned how the two connect. Consider all the mortal predicaments she faced, including fear, forgetfulness, and frustration. Think of her hiding in the bushes. Think of her heaving altar stones, building an anchor to a fast-fading divine reality. Think of her full plate: scads of children, centuries of mortal mess, and how about those family problems? Widespread apostasy, fratricide . . . we’re talking some lone and dreary times.

Yet in the midst of it all came moments of diamond-pure clarity that showed her what she was gaining. One of these was the brilliant moment recorded in the book of Moses, when the angel explained to Adam and Eve the purpose of the sacrifices they had been offering (Moses 5:6–8). As Eve learned of the Savior’s ultimate sacrifice, and the resulting grace that flows to man through covenant-keeping, she realized that a glorious destiny could be hers—and that it would come not in spite of, but because of, the gritty difficulties she faced.

How long did the loveliness of that moment linger? We don’t know, but in Moses 5 and 6 we find Eve seeking such moments again and again. That altar signified her capacity to forget, but also her determination to remember. She and Adam “ceased not to call upon the Lord,” and continued to draw upon His redeeming, transforming power. They held gospel-centered gatherings and kept an inspired book of remembrance. Through these measures, they built relationships, gained knowledge, and grasped joy. And through the Lord’s grace and their own diligence, they eventually received eternal versions of those earthly treasures.

Their example is ours to follow, and Malachi prophesied of Latter-day Saints doing just that: “Then they that feared [reverenced] the Lord spake often to one another, and the Lord hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the Lord, and that thought upon his name. And they shall be mine, saith the Lord, in that day when I make up my jewels” (Malachi 3:16–17). These verses describe people like us gathering in families and wards and other circles, engaging in faith-based seeking, sharing, comforting, and remembering. Segullah is one such gathering.

It’s a curious title, this Hebrew word that’s translated as peculiar treasure or (in Malachi’s verses) jewels.It can remind us that through the covenants we sincerely strive to keep, we may one day qualify for pearl, for a future of perfection and creative fulness. And even more importantly, it can remind us that by virtue of those same covenants, we already qualifyas pearl—for we belong to the Lord’s cherished cache of souls. Because of the grace which flows to us in that relationship, our own glorious destinies are unfolding this very day.

I’ve found many examples of that truth in the pages of this issue, The Measure of Creation. We hear more about the meaning of segullah, more about the journal’s purpose and more about Eve. We delve into topics such as pregnancy and infertility, parenting and gardening, discovering individual gifts and finding peace despite limitations. Each essay, thought, and poem reveals the rich significance of ordinary living, and the beautiful, noble strength of ordinary women. Truly, when we seek, we find—and when we share, the power of our findings is multiplied.

Of course, we will have to keep seeking, finding and sharing, since our retention spans are usually measured in minutes (17 was pretty good, actually). But as we do, we’ll find our plates getting full of eternal things: faith, hope, discernment, integrity, identity, understanding, love—and diligence. As Eve has taught us, these are the godly traits which emerge amidst mortal paste and sand. And someday, they’ll be the gem tactics we use to form, shape, and polish our own segullah.

[1] Johnson, Thomas H. ed., The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson(Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1960), 151.

KATHRYN LYNARD SOPER grew up in Silver Spring, MD. When she headed for BYU in 1989, she vowed to remain untouched by campus culture, but had to recant when she married her home teacher, Reed. After earning her English degree Kathy began a fruitful mothering career. Her six human births have been the most momentous experiences of her life, but she’s also enjoyed her part in giving birth to this journal. She lives with her crazy family in South Jordan, Utah.


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