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The call came with short notice. The national president of the NAACP and two Latter-day Saints apostles would be at a sacrament meeting in downtown Salt Lake City. Was Tracy Browning willing to be the opening speaker?
Browning, who serves on the Relief Society General Advisory Council, accepted. It turned out she was well prepared.
NAACP President Derrick Johnson walked to the pulpit after she was done, turned to look at her and declared, “What you just said is a beautiful thing.”
Johnson followed Browning’s story of her lifelong journey of pondering a teenage Sunday School experience with one of his own, which I reported on previously. The journey Browning spoke about is worth sharing, too.
Born in New York and raised in Jamaica, Browning joined The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at 16.
Today, she works for the church as a director in the Publishing Services Department and serves on what once was known as the Relief Society general board, which Elder Ronald A. Rasband of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles noted when he introduced Browning during the sacrament meeting.
She recalled her Presbyterian Sunday School teacher sharing a Bible story that has guided her thinking ever since. As she’s studied the scriptures since, she discovered what she believes is a remedy for the discord in the world. Here’s what she said:
“He talked about when the prophet Samuel goes to Jesse’s house to select the new king of Israel, he first looks on one of Jesse’s sons, and thinks, ‘This must be the king, surely,’ because he was impressive to look upon. And in 1 Samuel 16:7, the Lord said unto Samuel, ‘Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.’
“And I remember at the time being a young child very anxious about what that meant, the Lord looking on the heart. I immediately went to this place where I wondered what the Lord was seeing when he looked on my heart, and I took it to be a warning to make sure that my heart was aligned in some way, some unknown way with the Savior’s desires.
“When I was 16 and I was introduced to the restored gospel of Jesus Christ, I was given this wonderful and miraculous gift. It was a new framework, and that framework was built upon this principle that the Lord was very interested in who I was becoming, and that becoming was vitally important to him. And when I understood that, I could examine that scripture again and I felt really impressed to ask a different question, a more vital question for me, particularly, which was, ‘What qualities and attributes of my heart does the Savior look for and expect for me to acquire?’ And when I started to seek out that question, I went searching the scriptures and I found that there are 130-plus references where the scriptures ... mention the conditions and the expectations that the Savior has for our heart.
“We’re expected to have a pure heart, a heart that’s prepared unto the Lord, a heart that shall seek the Lord, seeks and loves his laws and are willing to (live them), a heart that will be a storehouse for his word, a sincere heart, an understanding heart, a hopeful heart, a softened heart and — one that was particularly meaningful to me — a heart that was steadfast in keeping the promises and covenants that I’ve made with the Lord.
“I’ve been reflecting on that learning. There’s many many more qualities and attributes, these obviously are just a few, but I’ve been reflecting on that, because if I look around and see some the things in the world, I’ve seen the hearts of men fail and become more discordant, less harmonious, less unified and I think people need a remedy for that.
“What is the remedy? The remedy continues to be about our refinement of our hearts and continuing to do the individual work that we need to do to acquire these attributes. There’s a beautiful promise in 4 Nephi 1:15 that says, ‘And it came to pass that there was no contention in the land, because of the love of God which did dwell in the hearts of the people.’ I can lay hold on that promise, that as we continue to refine our heart, as we make it more pure, as we make it more charitable, as we make it more understanding, as we seek for our hearts to connect with others, that the beat of our hearts, and the beat of the hearts of God’s children will start to be more harmonious again, that we will find that promise that we’re looking for — no contention in the land, unity and love — because we’re singing the same song, and the song is the song of love of God. And I testify to you that there is a light in this world, and that Jesus Christ is that light, and he is still the light of this world. As we seek him, and as we seek to listen to his invitations to do the work to examine our hearts, that we will lay claim to that blessing. I testify of these things in the name of our Savior, Jesus Christ, amen.”
My recent stories
What I’m reading
The Dallas Morning News published a story about how Juneteenth, mentioned by President Russell M. Nelson last week, brought together a Latter-day Saint congregation and a Dallas evangelical church.
The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square has rescheduled for 2022 the European tour it planned to take in 2020 before COVID-19.
Here’s a tender video of Elder Quentin L. Cook of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles visiting Carthage Jail, with singing in the background throughout by some sister missionaries serving in the area.
The latest update on the Salt Lake Temple renovation.
What a season we’re in. Another BYU runner won a national championship — it’s a great story of a small-town girl making good — and the U.S. Olympic Trials are under way. So far, my favorite stories from the trials are 35-year-old mom Alyson Felix making the U.S. team as a sprinter — watch the video here — and Ryan Crouser setting the world record in the shot put. Can’t wait for the Olympics!
Not too long ago, I had a young woman tell me about how “everyone was watching” a certain show that was well-known for violence and immorality. I told her, no, only a very small percentage of Americans are watching that show, even if it has some of the highest ratings. American TV just doesn’t produce broadly watched hits any more. It’s one reason why those who think televised sports are losing ratings for various reasons are wrong. Sports are maintaining strong ratings in comparison to other televised shows, as American pop culture interests splinter.
There’s a minor league baseball team in Savannah, Georgia, called the Savannah Bananas that is drawing huge crowds by adding more fun to games and the ballpark experience. They actually have alternate rules that shorten the games and add more excitement. It’s pretty wild. For example, if a fan catches a foul ball, it’s an out! And if the hitter steps out of the batter’s box, it’s a strike.