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The Parable of the Perfect Pearl

I was at a leadership conference this past weekend where they told the following parable:

“There’s an ancient oriental legend that tells the story of a jeweler who found the perfect pearl. The pearl was so beautiful that the merchant wanted to place the pearl in the proper setting. So he conceived the idea of building a special box of the finest woods to contain the pearl. He sought these woods and had them brought to him, and they were polished to a high brilliance. He then reinforced the corners of this box with elegant brass hinges and added a blue velvet interior. Then jewels were embedded in the outside. As a final step, he scented that blue velvet with perfume, then placed in that setting this precious pearl.

The pearl was placed on display and people came from miles around to see this perfect pearl. But as people walked past, they all seemed to comment about the beauty and workmanship of the box. The pearl was barely even noticed.”

There are about a thousand ways to apply this parable but today I want to use it to talk about our value as individuals. Because we are each unique, there will never be another person exactly like us. That means there are things that we, and only we, can offer to the world. That being the case, we each hold infinite worth to this world. We are the precious pearl.

However, we often times forget to be ourselves. We spend a lot of time “beautifying the box”. What is the box? It can be a number of things. I like to think of it as anything we do to improve our social standing or how others perceive us. It could be the house, the car, the hobbies, the clothes, etc. Basically it is all the superficial stuff we bring into our lives. We surround ourselves with these things because we think they are helping to display or add value to the pearl. We are building the best possible box to show off the pearl.

But what happens when we spend so much time and focus on the box? Before long, the box is all that anybody sees. It may be all that we see. We start to define the value of the pearl by the size, beauty, or value of the box. And when we start determining our own value by the beauty of the box around us, we start to forget who we are. What’s worse, everybody around us does not see us for the pearl anymore; they only see us as the box. Our value becomes linked to the box, and boxes have a tendency to rot and decay over time.

So do you spend your time polishing the pearl or building the box? Are you adding value to yourself as a person or are you accumulating things to make yourself seem more valuable to others? I can promise you that any excessive effort or expense put into beautifying the box will lead to the neglect and tarnishing of the pearl. A precious pearl does not need a beautiful box to define it’s worth. The pearl is valuable on its own. You are the pearl.


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  1. I really like this story.

  2. The box pictured in this story was from an original painting by Walter Spat, an artist from Sao Paulo, Brazil. The painting was given to my father in 1988 and the box has since been modified by those church leaders with whom the painting was shared for teaching purposes to have a blue interior. In the original painting the interior of the box was red. The story was told in a conference address by Elder J. Thomas Fyans in October 1982 (“The Pearl of Great Price,” Ensign, Nov. 1982). It was this talk that inspired the painting. The story was later retold by President Boyd K. Packer in the April 2000 conference in the talk “The Cloven Tongues of Fire.” Since this box has been reproduced in many publications I thought it would be nice to give credit to the artist. Susan Stapley

    • That is interesting. I wonder what purpose there would be for changing the color of the lining since it has nothing to do with the story. Thanks for sharing!

  3. I love pearls, and this story helps us realize you are all pearls of great price.

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