The Frog and the Turtle

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(This is an excerpt from the book 10 Great Souls I Want to Meet in Heaven by S. Michael Wilcox.)

There is a parable told by a Chinese Taoist sage named Chuang Tzu about a frog and a turtle. The frog lives in a well and is perfectly content with his life. The turtle has come from the great Eastern Ocean and is invited by the frog to share the well. “I have a great time!” the frog says, “I leap on the well wall, or I go down in the well, stepping along the broken bricks. When I enter the water, I float with it supporting my chin, feet up; on the mud, I dig my foot deep in. I look about me at the larvae, crabs and tadpoles and there is none that is as good as I. To have complete control . . . and not to wish to move but to enjoy the old well, this is great! Dear Sir, why don’t you come down and see me sometime?” Being gracious, kindly, and patient, the turtle made an attempt to accommodate the frog’s enthusiasm. He was not disdainful, aloof, nor judgmental, but he had a wider knowledge. “The turtle of the Eastern Ocean tried, but before he had put his left foot into the well, his right knee was stuck. At this he paused, shuffled backwards and then began to speak about the ocean. ‘A distance such as a thousand miles doesn’t come close to describing its length, nor a depth of a thousand leagues describe its deepness. In the time of Yu, nine years in every ten there were floods, but this did not raise the ocean an inch. In the time of Tang, seven years in every eight there were droughts, but this did not lower the ocean shore an inch. Nothing changes these waters, neither in the short term nor in the long term; they neither recede nor advance, grow larger nor smaller. This is the great happiness of the Eastern Ocean.’” Upon hearing this, the frog was amazed and filled with wonder.

We are not told what the frog did as a result of his conversation with the turtle, but hopefully his curiosity was stirred with the desire to experience some of what his friend shared. Truth, beauty, and goodness are like the ocean—vast and deep. And, of course, there is also an ocean of lives waiting to be discovered. We can be content as was the frog with his well, but I think the Lord would have us test the larger waters. There is so much to wonder about, so much to learn in the lives of our Father in Heaven’s children. The opportunity to be edified is limitless. As Chuang Tzu concludes, we don’t want to “examine Heaven through a narrow tube or use an awl to explore the whole earth. Such tools are too small, aren’t they?” We don’t want to spend so much energy on the fixed foot to the exclusion of the searching one, splashing in the well when the ocean awaits us. We must find balance. We must reach outward and draw a larger circle. …

The Lord shared with Joseph Smith one of the great eternal laws of existence. I call it the “law of attraction,” and it has many ramifications in many different areas of life. “For intelligence cleaveth unto intelligence; wisdom receiveth wisdom; truth embraceth truth; virtue loveth virtue; light cleaveth unto light; mercy hath compassion on mercy and claimeth her own” (D&C 88:40). The verbs in this verse are simply wonderful! Let us cleave, and receive, and embrace, and love, and claim all the intelligence, wisdom, truth, virtue, light, and mercy we can discover. We will do so because there is a wholeness within the circle our searching foot can reach. We claim all truth, all goodness, all beauty because it is our own, as it is the inheritance of all God’s children—and it is our commission to find it and share it. If Doctrine and Covenants 88:40 is true—and it is—our unique and central Latter-day Saint light will naturally draw these things from every other source on earth. There are so many lives we can explore whose experience, worldview, religious devotion, or innate curiosity make them stand out even though they may come from a tradition much different from our own. We can ignore them, dismiss them, focus on their failings, or debunk them, as is so often the attitude of the modern, anti-hero world, but their achievements will stand as long as men seek inspiration and understanding of the highest that is within us. If we seek with an open heart and charity for all, we will ultimately conclude: “Is not humanity magnificent!”

He doeth that which is good among the children of men; . . .
And he inviteth them all to come unto him
And partake of his goodness;
And he denieth none that come unto him . . . ;
And he remembereth the heathen;
And all are alike unto God.

—2 Nephi 26:33

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