Sunday, November 30, 2008

Parable of the Divers / Lloyd

NOTE:  In the late 1990’s a speaker in Church  read this story without attribution. He gave me a copy, and years later I posted it in this Blog written for our family. More recently readers from all over the world have been able to Google and read it here. Please note that this story and many more written by Stephen E. Robinson can be found in his book, Following Christ: The Parable of the Divers and More Good News (1995). --Lloyd Abbott (8 April 2013)

parable of the divers

Many years ago, when I was somewhere between nine and eleven, I participated in a community summer recreation program in the town where I grew up. I remember in particular a diving competition for the different age groups held at the community swimming pool. Some of the wealthier kids in our area had their own pools with diving boards, and they were pretty good amateur divers. But there was one kid my age from the less affluent part of town who didn’t have his own pool. What he had was raw courage. While the rest of us did our crisp little swan dives, back dives, and jackknives, being every so careful to arch our backs and point our toes, this young man attempted back flips, one-and-a-halfs, doubles, and so on. But, oh, he was sloppy. He seldom kept his feet together, he never pointed his toes, and he usually missed his vertical entry. The rest of us observed with smug satisfaction as the judges held up their scorecards that he consistently got lower marks than we did with our safe and simple dives, and we congratulated ourselves that we were actually the better divers. “He is all heart and no finesse,” we told ourselves. “After all, we keep our feet together and point our toes.

The announcement of the winners was a great shock to us, for the brave young lad with the flips had apparently beaten us all.  However, I had kept rough track of the scores in my head, and I knew with the arrogance of limited information that the math didn’t add up. I had consistently outscored the boy with the flips. And so, certain that an injustice was being perpetrated, I stormed the scorer’s table and demanded an explanation. “Degree of difficulty,” the scorer replied matter-of-factly as he looked me in the eye. “Sure, you had better form, but he did harder dives. When you factor in the degree of difficulty, he beat you hands down, kid.” Until that moment I hadn’t know that some dives were awarded “extra credit” because of their greater difficulty. . . . .

Whenever I am tempted to feel superior to other Saints, the parable of the divers comes to my mind, and I repent. At least at a swim meet, we can usually tell which dives are the most difficult. But here in mortality, we cannot always tell who is carrying what burdens: limited intelligence, chemical depression, compulsive behaviors, learning disabilities, dysfunctional or abusive family background, poor health, physical or psychological handicaps—no one chooses these things. So I must not judge my brothers and sisters. I am thankful for my blessings but not smug about them, for I never want to hear the Scorer say to me, “Sure, you had better form, but she had a harder life. When you factor in degree of difficulty, she beat you hands down.”

So, enduring to the end doesn’t have much to do with suffering in silence, overcoming all life’s obstacles, or even achieving the LDS ideal (“pointing our toes” and “keeping our feet together”). It just means not giving up. It means keeping—to the best of our abilities—the commitments we made to Christ when we entered into the marriage of the gospel. It means not divorcing the Savior or cheating on him by letting some other love become more important in our lives. It means not rejecting the blessings of the atonement that he showered upon us when we entered his church and kingdom. (Stephen E. Robinson, Following Christ: The Parable of the Divers and More Good News [Salt Lake city: Deseret Book, 1995], 34-38.)


  1. I love this story. I absolutely love it! It puts so many things into perspective to help me be patient with myself and to not judge others. Thank you for posting this. I was looking for it to share in a Relief Society lesson tomorrow, and I find it on your blog in my search.

  2. I love it too! Thank you. :D

    Can we use this for lessons and meetings without worrying about copyright infringements or plagiarism?

    Also, what are some scripture (living or dead) references to support the doctrine of "degree of difficulty"? Is there a word for degree of difficulty or something that I can search for on to find supporting sources?

    Thanks. :)

  3. The Parable of the Talents...

  4. "QUOTING"--be sure to cite author. "DEGREE OF DIFFICLTY"--I work in a maximum security, forensic psychiatric hospital (criminally insane) and learned long ago to marvel at the burdens these men bear and always assess safety. But how could we ever hope to understand now why their experience in mortality is thus---and their level of culpability!? At some point in eternity there will be clarity.


Featured Post

Have a Baby / Lloyd

It was customary in our mission for missionaries to review their patriarchal blessing with the president. During my interview the mission...