Appraising Souls

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by Nick Galieti

One of my favorite talks from the October 2012 General Conference came from Elder Robert C. Gay entitled, “What Shall a Man Give in Exchange for His Soul?” In his talk, Elder Gay relates experiences in his life, both when he was younger, and those closer to his present situation, where he made choices that added value to his character.

Elder Gay started his talk relating an experience from his youth where he lied about his age to save some money with the youth-priced ticket at the theater. After young Elder Gay committed the act, he went and bragged to his father about his ability to save money:

When I finished, [my father] simply looked at me and said, “Son, would you sell your soul for a nickel?” His words pierced my 12-year-old heart. It is a lesson I have never forgotten.

(CC) Jenn Durfey

This experience relates to the title of Elder Gay’s talk, What Shall a Man Give in Exchange for His Soul? With that question, some immediately perform a self-appraisal, digging into the depths of life, compiling moments of value and instances diminishing worth. Some may even respond in the defensive claiming that there is no price by which a man can be bought.

In a spiritual sense, this question (the process to appraise the value of a soul) can take on two meanings or approaches. According to Elder Gay, the question is raised with respect to our moral choices. What choices have we made or do we make resulting in a forfeit of our immortal position? In another sense, at what point are we willing to abandon our standards to acquire some form of temporal gain? What do we value more than God’s values and standards? Elder Gay offers this valuation standard:

This is the exchange the Savior is asking of us: we are to give up all our sins, big or small, for the Father’s reward of eternal life.

Moments of sin, or regret, display some of what we have given up in hopes of gaining some temporal reward. However, Elder Gay also offers another approach:

Brothers and sisters, remember that this charge is more than just not doing bad things. Taking upon the countenance of God means serving each other. There are sins of commission and sins of omission, and we are to rise above both.

In other words, our value is not just determined on a subtractive scale based on sin, but also on an additive basis, where we can be found of highest value in the good we do as well. Taking this approach helps us to look inside ourselves to find ways that we might improve–to improve our value.

Another temporal approach to value is not to consider what we are willing to pay or sacrifice, but rather what price has been paid in the past. Working in the mortgage lending industry years ago, I became familiar with the practices of appraisal where value is based on the sale of comparable homes or properties. When it comes to commercial appraisal, the income potential of the property and structure become a factor in determining value. Most, however,  follow the old adage, “Something is only worth what someone is willing to pay for it.” If we are to place a value on what is important based on the price that has been paid, what is that price of a soul and who has paid it?

(CC) James Emery
The Empty Tomb

1 Corinthians 6:20 reads, “For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.” We are bought with a price, but what price has been paid for our souls, thus determining our worth? The price that has been paid for us is found in the life and atonement of our Savior Jesus Christ. The greatest soul to live in mortality gave his life for us. His sacrifice shows what he was willing to pay for us. So when we read the scripture in D&C 18:10, “Remember, the worth of souls is great in the sight of God,” we can justifiably answer that our worth is of infinite worth, as an infinite atonement was willingly paid for us.

The price, and therefore the value of a soul, is determined in the sacrifice of one’s will to the will of the Father; as is demonstrated in the example of Jesus Christ.

  • How do we recognize the value Christ has already placed on us?
  • On our family members and neighbors?

One Response to Appraising Souls

  1. Bonnie says:

    I’ve thought a lot about this over the years. What does it mean to get a good deal? I was raised to be very frugal, and a good deal meant getting more for myself than I gave. As I’ve grown older, I’m appalled at what that means spiritually.

    I’ve been thinking about this: “Moments of sin, or regret, display some of what we have given up in hopes of gaining some temporal reward.” I wonder if letting regret work at us is similar to what Lot’s wife did – do we let what we perceive we’ve sacrificed alter our appreciation for what we gained in that sacrifice? Sort of like mourning the loss of our money even while we hold the item it bought?

    We are strange creatures, we humans.

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