“Better Drawings Than Before” - Sunday, September 20, 2015
John James Audubon, a world-famous birdwatcher, naturalist, and painter, is credited with discovering 25 species of birds. He is perhaps best known for his masterful book titled The Birds of America, filled with colorful life-size illustrations of nearly 500 different birds. Almost 200 years later, it is still considered one of the finest picture books ever created.
But what many people don’t know is that a disheartening early setback almost brought John James Audubon’s career to a premature end. Before leaving for a business trip one day, he placed his collection of more than 200 colored illustrations in a wooden box and left them in the care of a relative. When he returned from his trip, he was horrified to discover that a pair of rats had entered the box and chewed through the paper, destroying years of painstaking work.
Devastated, Audubon spent several days paralyzed by grief. He couldn’t sleep, agonizing over his loss, until one day he realized that his attitude would have to change. He picked up his notebook and pencils and went out into the woods. “I felt pleased,” he said, “that I might now make better drawings than before.”1
He did just that, and now his brilliant illustrations are the standard by which all bird artists have been measured. But John James Audubon’s attitude in the face of disaster can be an equally valuable standard for all of us. How do we react to life’s misfortunes and setbacks? We all have them—all is not rosy and easy at every turn—but as Audubon learned, the difference between happiness and misery, between success and failure, depends less on what happens to us and more on how we choose to react to it. Attitude shapes how we see and experience the world. With faith and hope we can begin to see life more positively—to see more advantages than disadvantages—and strengthen our resolve to do our best to go forward. Our attitude will determine our present as well as our future.
John James Audubon decided to believe that even though his previous efforts were lost, his best work was still before him. And he was right. Our success—like his—begins the day we resolve that we will “make better drawings than before.”
-Lloyd D. Newell
1. In Duff Hart-Davis, Audubon’s Elephant: America’s Greatest Naturalist and the Making of The Birds of America (2004), 35; see also Thomas S. Monson, “Three Bridges to Cross,” address at the Dixie State College commencement, May 6, 2011, mormonnewsroom.org/article/president-monson-remarks-at-dixie-college-commencement.
Sept. 20, 2015
Broadcast Number 4,488
Mormon Tabernacle Choir
Orchestra at Temple Square
Praise Ye the Lord
I'll Walk with God, from The Student Prince
Nicholas Brodzsky; ar. Ryan Murphy
Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring
Johann Sebastian Bach; arr. Clay Christiansen
The Heavens Are Telling, from The Creation
Franz Joseph Haydn
If the Way Be Full of Trial, Weary Not
John R. Sweney; arr. Mack Wilberg
He's Got the Whole World in His Hands
Spiritual; arr. Mack Wilberg