A hobbit’s grand adventure: Why Latter-day Saints have been called to be more like Bilbo Baggins

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For fans of J.R.R. Tolkien’s books set in Middle-earth, September 22 is a special date. It’s Hobbit Day—a chance to celebrate some of the most beloved and heroic creatures in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings books.

September 22 is the birthday shared by Bilbo and Frodo Baggins, the most famous members of the fictional hobbit race—a diminutive people who live close to nature, dwell in holes in the ground, and wander the earth barefoot, living carefree and simple lives.

Perhaps Hobbits are so adored because they represent something that all humans can relate to: hobbits are often assumed to be weak, unimportant, or insignificant; for several reasons—including their small size and peace-loving temperaments—elves, humans, and dwarves sometimes tend to regard hobbits with indifference at best.

Most of us can relate to feeling small and completely inadequate—feelings that can come from outside opinions or from within ourselves. But as fans of Tolkien’s books know, Hobbits are full of surprises, and a few of them even play a crucial role in saving Middle-earth from the threat of destruction, proving the elf Galadriel’s words that “even the smallest person can change the course of the future.”

Yes, there’s a lot more than meets the eye with these little folks. As the wizard Gandalf put it, “Hobbits are amazing creatures. You can learn all there is to know about their ways in a month, and yet after a hundred years, they can still surprise you.”

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf drew parallels between Bilbo’s adventures in The Hobbit and our own mortal experience in an October 2019 conference address. Speaking of Bilbo’s being drawn into an unexpected adventure, President Uchtdorf said:

“The problem is that most self-respecting hobbits want nothing to do with adventures. Their lives are all about comfort. They enjoy eating six meals a day when they can get them and spend their days in their gardens, swapping tales with visitors, singing, playing musical instruments, and basking in the simple joys of life.

“However, when Bilbo is presented with the prospect of a grand adventure, something surges deep within his heart. He understands from the outset that the journey will be challenging. Even dangerous. There is even a possibility he might not return.

“And yet, the call to adventure has reached deep into his heart. And so, this unremarkable hobbit leaves comfort behind and enters the path to a great adventure that will take him all the way to ‘there and back again.’”

President Uchtdorf continues, “Perhaps one of the reasons this story resonates with so many is because it is our story too.”

Each of God’s children is on a mortal journey—an adventure—with the goal of making it “there and back again” to God’s presence. This, of course, is the plan of salvation. (Which has been mapped out in impeccable Tolkien style by Latter-day Saint artist Tomi Ann Hill, by the way.)

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Tomi Ann Hill, Instagram

“We knew it would not be easy,” President Uchtdorf said. “But we also knew that we would gain precious treasures, including a physical body and experiencing the intense joys and sorrows of mortality. We would learn to strive, to seek, and to struggle. We would discover truths about God and ourselves.”

He goes on to say that life is full of distractions that can cause us to lose sight of our quest, and then gives three ways we can stay focused on our goal.

Incline Your Heart to God

“Strive each day to find Him. Learn to love Him. And then let that love inspire you to learn, understand, and follow His teachings and learn to keep God’s commandments. …

“If you hesitate in this adventure because you doubt your ability, remember that discipleship is not about doing things perfectly; it’s about doing things intentionally. It is your choices that show what you truly are, far more than your abilities.

“Even when you fail, you can choose not to give up, but rather discover your courage, press forward, and rise up. That is the great test of the journey.”

Reach Out in Love to Others

“There is something interesting, almost paradoxical, about this path you’ve chosen: the only way for you to progress in your gospel adventure is to help others progress as well.

“To help others is the path of discipleship. Faith, hope, love, compassion, and service refine us as disciples.

“But this love cannot come with expectations of repayment. It cannot be the kind of service that expects recognition, adulation, or favor.”

Share Your Story

“The third thing we strive to master in this journey is to take upon ourselves the name of Jesus Christ and not be ashamed of being a member of the Church of Jesus Christ. …

“That’s what you do. You tell your stories and experiences as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

“Sometimes your stories make people laugh. Sometimes they bring them to tears. Sometimes they will help people to continue in patience, resilience, and courage to face another hour, another day, and come a little closer to God.”

As each of us ponders the lessons we can learn from Bilbo, Frodo, and the entire hobbit race, here’s a song Bilbo sings that might inspire us each to press forward on our journey and toward our heavenly home:

The Road goes ever on and on
Out from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
Let others follow it who can!
Let them a journey new begin,
But I at last with weary feet
Will turn towards the lighted inn,
My evening-rest and sleep to meet.

► You may also like: Lord of the Rings star shares what he thinks about Latter-day Saints

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