There is a classic book named The Picture of Dorian Gray. I read a condensed children’s version of the book. The book is unnerving to me, but the moral to this story comes to my mind often. Dorian Gray is a handsome twenty year-old. He has just had his portrait painted. An influential man admires this lovely portrait. The man was struck by Dorian’s features. Quote: “he was certainly handsome, with blue eyes and gold-colored hair. He had an aura of purity and youth that enveloped him”. The man comments that isn’t it too bad that Dorian can’t be that handsome forever. His comment causes Dorian to think and get frustrated that he won’t always keep his good looks. He wishes that he could always look like the portrait. Because of the continued influence of this man and his own choices Dorian begins to live a life for “the now”. He wants to thrill in every enjoyment life has to offer—sin and pleasure. Over time his choices cause him to betray and blackmail friends, drive people to suicide, and commit abominable acts. Yet his wish over the portrait has come true…he doesn’t age and he continues to look just like the portrait. But, it didn’t take Dorian long to realize that instead of his body changing, the portrait changes. After his very first indulgence in sin, he noticed the portrait’s smile became more of a sneer. Over time the portrait looked old and the eyes looked dark. He hid the portrait for fear of what people might see. They might see his true self, the one inside, not the pure looking twenty year-old he appeared to be. Every once in a while Dorian would take a look at the portrait. It eventually had blood on its hands. He wanted to destroy that portrait so no one could see what he had become. He wanted to start over with no ties to that past. He grabbed a knife to destroy the portrait. He plunged the knife into the portrait and his butler heard a terrible cry. People came to find Dorian Gray dead. At first they didn’t recognize him. He was an old, terrible looking man, yet they recognized him by the rings on his fingers. He was indeed Dorian Gray. When he plunged the knife into the portrait he and the painting switched places back. He had killed himself.[i]
I like to think of our hearts as a portrait of our true selves. Like in the Dorian Gray story. First Peter 3:3-4 speaks of the “hidden man of the heart” that can be of “great price” in the sight of God. I often ask myself what my “hidden heart” looks like. Is it of “great price” or do I hope it always remains hidden? I honestly love the fact that our “portrait” can be fixed and changed. Mistakes don’t forever mar us; they can be erased.
The heart is a symbol of the mind and will of man. 1 Samuel 16:7 .. “the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance , but the Lord looketh on the heart.”
I think the bulk of people would agree that we care what the Lord thinks of us, but how do we push off the world’s ideas and not let them influence us too much? It is so interesting that the symbol to show you like an Instagram post is a heart. Remember Heavenly Father knows our true inner heart…no amount of “likes” shows the real you.
Pres. Uchtdorf said: “Heavenly Father’s interest in you does not depend on how rich or beautiful or healthy or smart you are. He sees you not as the world sees you; He sees who you really are. He looks on your heart. And He loves you because you are His child.”[ii]
Heavenly Father sees what you are becoming through consistent effort. Dorian Gray’s portrait was a very telling sight of what his thoughts and actions had been. Think about the portrait of you that is being painted. What does it show about you? What does your hidden heart look like?
I like to think about my Grandma Peterson’s portrait. By the time I knew her she had wrinkles, and had shrunk a little, put on a bit more weight than she liked even though she walked every day, and had hands and feet bent from arthritis. I can’t think of a prettier woman. You could look into her brown eyes and see into her beautiful soul. She worked hard, and she showed her religion and beliefs with her acts. One of my favorite memories of her is of the day I walked into her home unannounced and found her sitting in her rocking chair reading the Book of Mormon. (It is important to note that she struggled with her memory in those later years of her life.) She told me that she was reading it because Pres. Hinckley wanted us to read and finish it during the year. She said she couldn’t remember what she had read the day before, but she was reading it. There were no excuses from her, out of obedience she continued to read. She let me see her soul on that day and on many other occasions. Her portrait as it will be shown in her resurrected body will be one of beauty and light. Her consistent labors and acts made her that way. I love the verse: “That which is of God is light; and he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day.”[iii] We are trying to emanate that light.
Our hearts can be full of light and beauty if we read and ponder the Lord’s words, pray to Him daily, help others, and do His will. Little by little, bit by bit our hearts will be built into something of great price.
[i] Wilde, Oscar. The Picture of Dorian Gray-Great Illustrated Classics
[ii] Uchtdorf, Dieter F., “Your Wonderful Journey Home”
[iii] D&C 50:24