Spiritual Roots of True Beauty: Knowing Who We Are
I’ve had beauty on the brain this week. I’m grateful for the women who have given us much to think about with regard to this topic (see Beauty Redefined and Recapturing Beauty/Day of Beauty). For all that our culture wants to make beauty about looks or selfishly getting attention, I believe true beauty is a spiritual thing. But what is it? I’m sure we’d all find a little different way to express it (and you may even choose a different word than ‘beauty’ to explore this concept). Here, I want to share some of my thoughts and some scriptures and talks that have impressed me.
I’ve think we’ve seen many elements of true beauty in what has been shared this week at Mormon Women: Who We Are. For example, the Kites help us see that finding true beauty includes seeking knowledge and wisdom, making deliberate choices based in (and taking a stand for!) truth and dignity. When I think of Stephanie Nielson, the word grace comes to mind. I’ve met her and looked into her clear, light-filled eyes and felt the peace she has that comes of faith and perseverance. (And the love she has for her husband and children is powerful.) She radiates beauty. I think Erika’s love, compassion, and service (both to those women and to her family) show other facets of what true beauty feels like. The women in Erika’s “Day of Beauty” video illustrate to me that true beauty can be found in overcoming trials, one brave step at a time.
I am also moved by how all of these women have shown strength in following inspiration they have felt in their lives. I think beauty is found in such willingness to face fear, build others up, and do hard things.
These facets of true beauty inspire me. They make me want to be a better, kinder, more faith-filled person.
Before I go any further, I want to ask you what true beauty means to you?
I wanted to explore another way I think we can understand true beauty. I think true beauty can be found and felt and lived when we know who we really are – when we see ourselves and others as children of a loving Heavenly Father.
I did some scripture searching on the topic of beauty this week, and found it interesting that beauty is sometimes tied with holiness in the scriptures. Beauty obviously can mean more than outward appearance, and I think in the realm of God’s truth, it definitely does. True beauty in my mind reflects God’s holiness, and respects God’s handiwork.
As I thought about the concept of true beauty, I remembered a talk by Sister Elaine Dalton, General President of the Young Women of the Church. Sister Dalton talked about the concept of “deep beauty” which she defined as
the kind of beauty that shines from the inside out. It is the kind of beauty that cannot be painted on, surgically created, or purchased. It is the kind of beauty that doesn’t wash off. It is spiritual attractiveness. Deep beauty springs from virtue. It is the beauty of being chaste and morally clean. It is the kind of beauty that you see in the eyes of virtuous women….It is a beauty that is earned through faith, repentance, and honoring covenants.
Sister Dalton also directly addresses the problems the Kites and others have noted, saying that, “The world places so much emphasis on physical attractiveness and would have you believe that you are to look like the elusive model on the cover of a magazine.”
But then she testifies of divine truth, which is that, “The Lord would tell you that you are each uniquely beautiful.” Our beauty just is because of who we are — God’s children. He created us. He loves us. We are here on this earth to learn to find, trust, and follow His voice, His light, and His commandments in our lives. As we find and feel His love, I believe our true beauty can be unlocked.
I mentioned in the Kites’ interview that one of the things I appreciated about their Beauty Redefined project is that they are inviting us to take action (in Book of Mormon language, to “act and not be acted upon“) in our lives, to pay attention to both the voices in our culture and also the voices in our own heads. We can choose to reject lies about our worth — whether those lies originate from outside of us or inside of us — and trust more in our infinite worth in God’s eyes. Even small efforts toward living in His light can make a difference! This notion of acting and not being acted upon can also apply to any behavior or thought that is not consistent with eternal truth. God’s word is power, and God’s truth can make us free.
Another talk that has come to mind is by President Dieter F. Uchtdorf entitled “The Reflection in the Water.” He uses Hans Christian Andersen’s story “The Ugly Duckling” to remind us that:
Much of the confusion we experience in this life comes from not simply understanding who we are. Too many go about their lives thinking they are of little worth. When in reality- they are elegant [could we say beautiful?] and eternal creatures of infinite value with potential beyond imagination. Discovering who we really are is part of this great adventure called life.
Part of the reason this site is called “Who We Are” is because it is our firm belief that once we can truly understand our divine worth, truly believe in God’s love for us, truly understand His plan and purpose for us, it can change everything. But this is a journey, a process. It takes time and faith, but again, as we reject lies and seek to act and think according to truth (about who we are, about who God is, and about what His plan for us entails), we can feel His power and love, and feel that “deep beauty” that Sister Dalton talked about.
President Uchtdorf continues:
Mankind’s greatest minds have wrestled endlessly with these questions: Where did we come from? Why are we here? What happens after we die? And how does all this fit together—how does it make sense?….
As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, however, we have been blessed with the answers to these questions, and we freely share them with all who will listen. We know them not because of someone’s educated guess or because we found a scientific explanation. We have the answers because heavenly messengers revealed these mysteries to man. That same knowledge is available to anyone on this planet Earth who is honest in heart, through the power of the Holy Spirit.
[T]his knowledge allows you to see your own reflection in the water. It assures you that you are not ordinary, rejected, or ugly. You are something divine—more beautiful and glorious than you can possibly imagine. This knowledge changes everything. It changes your present. It can change your future. And it can change the world.
I testify that this is true. Women who really know who they are can be changed, and this can change the world.
President Uchtdorf said that we want to share the gospel message with anyone who will listen, which is yet another purpose of Mormon Women: Who We Are. We as LDS women (and men!) want to share how the knowledge of the plan of our Heavenly Father and the gospel of Jesus Christ helps us in our lives. We share our beliefs because they mean everything to us. We aren’t perfect by any means, but we do feel the power of God’s truth when we learn about and seek to follow it. It influences how we think and live. It gives us hope and direction and perspective.
We hope for others to feel the peace and power that the gospel brings as we face the challenges of life and try to come closer to God — and to who God sees we can become as we lean on Him and respond to His Son’s invitation to come unto Him.
Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God;
For, behold, the Lord your Redeemer suffered death in the flesh; wherefore he suffered the pain of all men, that all men might repent and come unto him.
Following are clips from President Uchtdorf’s talk, compiled in a video entitled “Our True Identity.”