Wednesday, December 14, 2011

"The Mansion"

Last December my mom read the book The Mansion by Henry Van Dyke to me and we decided to read it again this year since it kind of has a Christmas-like feel to it. It's actually not at all about Christmas, but the reason I think it has a Christmas feel to it is because it's very similar to Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol in some important ways. The premise of the book is that the main character, John Weightman, dreams one night that he dies and meets a group of people traveling to the heavenly city to receive the mansions that they've earned in their life. The mansions are large and beautiful and John expectantly waits for his. Everyone else in the group has been shown to their mansions and John asks the guide, "When are we going to get to my mansion?" He figured that surely his mansion must be just as nice, if not nicer than all of the mansions he'd seen thus far.

Long story short,  John's "mansion" turned out to be nothing more than a lowly shack. He was sure there must be some sort of mistake, after all, in his earthly life he'd had the best of the best of everything. After questioning his guide he finds out that he certainly had had his mansion in life, but since he'd been so stingy and unwilling to share his wealth with others in life, the mansion he'd "earned" was nothing more than shack. (This is a sweet book with an important message, so I hope I'm explaining it well.)

This is a short passage from the book. (To put things into context, it's when John finds out that he only qualifies for a shack because of the way he lived his life on earth.

“But how have I failed so wretchedly,” he asked, “in all the purpose of my life? What could I have done better? What is it that counts here?”

“Only that which is truly given,” answered the bell-like voice. “Only that good which is done for the love of doing it. Only those plans in which the welfare of others is the master thought. Only those labors in which the sacrifice is greater than the reward. Only those gifts in which the giver forgets himself.”The sentiment expressed in The Mansion reminds me of the Sermon on the Mount, found in Matthew 6:2-4, where it says, "Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sonud a trumpet before thee, as they that the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But when thou doest alms, let not thy right hand know what thy left hand doeth: That thine alms may be in secret: and thy father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly."

(As a side note, sometimes I wonder what type of mansion some people in the world like Oprah, for example, will receive since they tend to be so open/vocal about all of the good they do. Not that I'm trying to judge, but it's interesting to speculate about.)

The part of the book that I especially relate to is the paralyzed woman who receive a mansion. This is a direct quote from the book, "—a paralyzed woman who had lain for thirty years upon her bed, helpless but not hopeless, succeeding by a miracle of courage in her single aim, never to complain, but always to impart a bit of joy and peace to everyone who came near her." (I haven't been paralyzed 30 years yet, but I DO try to spread joy to all those I come into contact with.)

This post is just a little food for thought to remember this holiday season (and always).


Tina said...


You definitely spread a little joy my way!


Your Utah Friend,


Laura said...

Heather, that last quote made me cry. If anyone deserves a mansion, you do.

Carol Ann Valentine said...

Heather, I just read that book last night and when I read about the paralyzed woman imparting a bit of joy I immediately thought of you. What a beautiful mansion must surely await you.
Wishing you a merry christmas with your family and friends.
Carol V.

Diane said...

And I hope that I can live with you in your mansion...or at least that our mansions can be side by side. I think I would just like a comfortable little bungalow, though.

Anonymous said...

I thought of you and your mansion when President Monson quoted from this book at the Christmas Devotional....

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