A newly released Primary president was cleaning out her e-mail when she came across a message that had been sent more than a year earlier by her bishop.
Opening the message, she wondered what possibly could have motivated her to save it so long.
At first glance, it looked like dozens of others she had received during her service in the Primary.
Filled with ward business, the message was about a young woman turning 12 who had completed her "Faith in God" requirements. Further, the bishop was planning to speak to the Primary children that Sunday and inquired about the monthly theme.
Then the woman remembered why she had saved the message.
"Thanks for being a wonderful Primary president in every way," wrote her bishop before signing his name.
Reading the phrase made her smile. Everyone, she realized, has a need for validation.
Perhaps in the Church, where service is given freely and is most often temporary, without monetary or other compensation, we should remember that sincere gratitude can validate a person's efforts.
Speaking to General Authorities in 1967, President Spencer W. Kimball expressed his own need for validation, noting that he often looked to a senior apostle and counselor in the First Presidency for approval. In days gone by, he said, nearly every sermon given, every decision made, every argument advanced was done so with the thought, "What does Stephen L. Richards think?"
"As for myself, I seem always to measure my own performance by the estimate and appraisal of people whose opinion of my service is paramount," said President Kimball.
"I find myself hungering and thirsting for just a word of appreciation or of honest evaluation from my superiors and my peers. I want no praise; I want no flattery; I am seeking only to know if what I gave was acceptable."
Years later, President Gordon B Hinckley would quote President Kimball, noting that "although I should not have been, I was surprised" that a man of his stature needed the validation of others.
If President Kimball needed a little of that, how much more does the average Church member, he said during a Regional Representatives Seminar, March 31, 1989.
President Hinckley then shared a story, noting that on one occasion he "received a great shock from my mission president. I was his assistant at the time. Some of the Saints in the district had with tremendous effort put on a great program. I suggested to my mission president that we write a letter of thanks to these people for what they had done. His response was, 'We do not thank people in the Church for doing their duty.'
"That was the only thing I ever disagreed with him about. I believe we should thank people. I think that thanks should be genuine and sincere, as it well can be when there is honest effort and dedicated service."
Quoting Robert W. Woodruff, a prominent business leader, President Thomas S. Monson said the two most important words in the English language are "Thank you."
"Gracias, danke, merci — whatever language is spoken, 'thank you' frequently expressed will cheer your spirit, broaden your friendships, and lift your lives to a higher pathway as you journey toward perfection. There is a simplicity — even a sincerity — when 'thank you' is spoken" ("The Profound Power of Gratitude," Ensign, September 2005, pp. 2–8).
Perhaps there is no greater example of validating the efforts of others than our Heavenly Father. On three different occasions, when speaking of His Only Begotten Son, He acclaims Jesus.
"This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased," He said above the waters of Jordan on the day Jesus was baptized (Matthew 3:17).
"This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him," He said to Peter, James and John after Jesus was transfigured (Matthew 17:5).
And, Heavenly Father said, "Behold my Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased, in whom I have glorified my name — hear ye him," before the resurrected Jesus appeared in the new world (3 Nephi 11:7).
Likewise, we can express on different occasions that we are "well pleased" with those that serve with us in the Church.
After studying her e-mail, the former Primary president started to move it to the trash on her computer. Then, with very little thought, she changed her mind. It was nice to know that her bishop had thought her service had been acceptable.
As she resaved the message, she wondered if she would come across it again. Maybe, she thought, it would be on a day when she will need a little validation.