Jake Carlson is an attorney at LifePlan Legal, an author, and host of the Modern Leadership podcast. He earned his law degree (JD) from California Western School of Law concurrently with a business degree (MBA) from San Diego State University and holds a bachelor’s degree in Philosophy from BYU. Jake has personally presented to over 200 groups in 27 states on estate planning and protecting family legacy. With his family, he spent time living in 12 countries from Bagan, Myanmar to Paris, France, overcoming robbery, redeye flights, and Haggis while learning to love the rich cultures of the world.
When I met Jon, he was a twelve-year-old Deacon being raised by his single mother. He had never met his father who left before Jon was born. He struggled with grades because he went home to an empty apartment while his mother worked her second job. He knew that he was likely to move apartments in the next three months because he moved every three months, not by choice. His life was filled with unpredictability, except for one area, every Tuesday night he joined 14 other twelve-year-olds for an activity that included gospel learning.
Brian, another member of this Deacon’s quorum, lived in a very stable two-parent home. His father had found financial success professionally which afforded his mom the opportunity to be home when the kids finished school. He was a strong academic student and worked diligently on his homework. His life had much more predictability than Jon’s. And, every Tuesday night, he joined 14 other twelve-year-olds for an activity that included gospel learning.
I was also a member of this quorum and the three of us were close friends.
As a group, we were not much different from other twelve-year-old boys within (or without) the Church. We leaned back in our chairs, interrupted the leader, told semi-inappropriate jokes and teased each other incessantly. To the casual observer, these weekly meetings represented contained chaos in a church room. I am certain many parents sent prayers of gratitude they weren’t tasked with leading this rowdy bunch. But, not Randy, our Advisor. He saw his role, not as a calling, but as a prospector.
Being a Prospector
A prospector is an explorer with a specific goal, to discover hidden value. A prospector does not create value, they find it, they dig, drill, dynamite and excavate to uncover what is already there, just hidden.
In Napoleon Hill’s landmark bestseller Think and Grow Rich, we learn of a man who got gold fever. He became obsessed, studying everything about gold mining, reading every book he could. Confident in his study, he selected his claim, secured investments for the equipment, and started mining.
Luck Was on His Side (in the beginning)
He very quickly discovered a gold vein which further convinced him of his plan’s validity. His eyes twinkled as he considered his bright future. But shortly thereafter, the vein dried up; barely containing enough gold to repay his investors. Doubt set in, dreams dashed, he questioned his decision, and ultimately, in frustration, quit. He pawned his equipment and left to pursue another opportunity in the city.
In an ironic turn, the man who purchased his equipment went to the claim, dug a little deeper, a mere three additional feet, and discovered a seemingly endless supply of gold and plenty of hidden wealth. The original prospector gave up too soon.
Jon, Brian and I were close friends during these developmental years. We had good hearts and plenty of buried value, but we needed the prospector to continue to dig for it. Had he given up in frustration, we would have never gone on to do the things that we have done in our lives as parents, professionals, and prospectors in our own lives. As leaders of youth, we must continue to seek for the gold hidden within our young people. We can never give up.
In General Conference, April 2019, Elder Uchtdorf shared five simple suggestions that will help us become better prospectors to those we serve.
1- Draw Close to God
“The closer you draw to our Heavenly Father, the more His light and joy will shine from within you. Others will notice that there is something unique and special about you.”
The closer that you draw to your Heavenly Father, the more you will recognize the gold that exists within yourself. As you more fully understand the value you hold as a son or daughter of God, the clearer you will see the value in others. Like having a map to the treasure, you will more easily find what you seek when you begin by personally drawing closer to heaven.
2- Fill Your Heart With Love for Others
“Laugh with them. Rejoice with them. Weep with them. Respect them. Heal, lift, and strengthen them.”
Our youth need cheerleaders. As social media and society become more judgmental, the challenge our young people face is competitive comparison; an expectation of daily perfection. We should hold them to high standards but at the same time love and support the effort.
3- Strive to Walk the Path of Discipleship
“Walking the path of discipleship takes practice—each day, little by little, “grace for grace,” “line upon line.” Sometimes two steps forward and one step back.”
Unlike Napoleon Hill’s miner, we cannot stop digging. Even when we get frustrated, the effort toughens, and the outcome appears far from certain, we keep pushing forward. Some weeks we will see headway, others maybe not, keep striving.
4- Share What is In Your Heart
“Some who come and see will, perhaps, never join the Church; some will at a later time. That is their choice. But that doesn’t change our love for them. And it doesn’t change our enthusiastic efforts to continue inviting individuals…to come and see, come and help, and come and stay.”
Elder Uchtdorf spoke specifically of our daily missionary efforts as members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but his message is relevant to prospectors. As we seek to uncover the inner value of each person we interact with, we should focus on what is in our hearts. Believing that the message you need to share, the digging or drilling you need to commence, will be given to you at the time you need it.
5- Trust the Lord to Work His Miracles
“Follow this path, and God will work miracles through you to bless His precious children.”
As Jon, Brian, and I rocked back in our chairs each Tuesday night, there were many times it appeared the gold was buried too deep and the efforts were in vain. I am certain that Randy went home many nights and slept on his knees asking for strength and revelation to continue to love and lead this group of young people. At the time, he couldn’t know the parents, church leaders, professionals these boys would become. As a prospector, trust that the Lord knows where the gold is, He knows the timing of the discovery, and He knows your love. He sees the solid gold in YOU even if covered in plaster.
The Plaster Gold Buddha of Wat Traimit
In the heart of Bangkok Thailand sits a unique statue of Buddha. Officially called Phra Phuttha Maha Suwana Patimakon, it weighs 5.5 tons and is made of solid gold; the largest solid gold Buddha in the world.
The history of the statue is far more interesting. Believed to have been created in India during the 13th century, the statue was moved to what is present-day Thailand as part of the Ayutthaya kingdom. To protect it from being stolen, the statue was completely covered in plaster. It remained covered for hundreds of years and was eventually forgotten.
In 1767 Burmese invaders destroyed the Ayutthaya kingdom and the statue lay among the ruins, not attracting much attention.
In 1801, the Thai king ordered temples to be built in Bangkok and decorated with old Buddha images from the ruins around the country. Finally, in 1954, as the statue was being moved once again, the support ropes broke, and the statue fell. Some of the plaster chipped off revealing the true treasure within.
Today Wat Traimit, where the solid gold Buddha sits, is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Bangkok. The statue’s gold is estimated at over $250 Million dollars and is an important historical artifact.
For us, it is a reminder that sometimes we, and those we love (and lead), have solid gold within us. At times we will experience trials and challenges and feel dropped or chipped, but that reveals the true treasure; the treasure that existed from the beginning. Our job as a leader in our Father’s kingdom is to become His prospector. To love and support those we lead to uncover the golden value that exists in every Child of God. Even twelve-year-olds.