One of my favorite scenes from the first “Crocodile Dundee” movie takes place in New York City when a young hoodlum confronts the Australian crocodile hunter with a switchblade knife and demands his money. Dundee looks at the little knife with disdain and with a grin on his face says, “That’s not a knife. This is a knife!” Whereupon he pulls a gigantic foot-long Bowie knife from the collar of his leather jacket and flashes it in front of his would-be attacker. Needless to say, the young hood flees in terror.
One year I returned to my office after a long Christmas break and found a colleague wearing loose-fitting “hospital greens” going about his work with seemingly great care. Curious, I asked him what he had done during his Christmas vacation.
Now, my colleague, Mikeli Iremia, was a broad-shouldered, dark-skinned, muscular Samoan. The ladies generally regarded him as a good-looking specimen of a man. After playing college football at BYU, he went on to play four years in the National Football League prior to taking a position with the school district where we then worked.
“Come into my office,” he said, holding the door open for me. He looked up and down the hallway as if checking to make sure nobody was looking before he closed the door. Once inside, he lifted the green top he was wearing exposing part of his belly and chest. He then pulled his pants leg up above the knee where I could see part of his lower thigh. I’m sure my jaw dropped as I surveyed the most intricate and all-encompassing tattoos that I had ever before beheld.
“In Samoa,” he said, “I am regarded as a chief among my people. These tattoos are symbolic of my position.” They consisted of intricate all-black patterns that covered his torso from the armpits to his knees. I had seen pictures of such body painting on Maori warriors but I had never before seen it like this—close up and personal.
“That is how I spent my Christmas vacation,” he said. “I lay there in great pain day after day having this done. I am very sore and that is why I am wearing these hospital greens.” He even produced a soft inflatable “donut” which he placed on his office chair prior to sitting.
While dressed in normal street clothes, Mikeli’s tattoos were invisible to the casual observer. A few months went by and Mikeli had an experience reminiscent of that of Crocodile Dundee’s. A young woman showed him a newly acquired colorful, small tattoo on her ankle. Mikeli simply smiled and complimented her on her taste. She had no idea! I pictured in my mind Mikeli raising his shirt and saying to her, “That’s not a tattoo. This is a tattoo!”
Elaine S. Dalton, in a recent talk to a group of young women, recounted the story of the son of King Louis XVI of France who had an unshakeable knowledge of his identity. “As a young man, he was kidnapped by evil men who had dethroned his father, the king. These men knew that if they could destroy him morally, he would not be heir to the throne. For six months they subjected him to every vile thing life had to offer, and yet he never yielded under pressure. This puzzled his captors, and after doing everything they could think of, they asked him why he had such great moral strength. His reply was simple. He said, ‘I cannot do what you ask, for I was born to be a king.’”
Ms. Dalton went on to say, “Recently a group of young women visited my office. At the end of the visit, one young woman confided with tears in her eyes, ‘I have never thought of myself as beautiful. I have always felt ordinary. But today, as I walked past the mirror in your office and glanced into it, I was beautiful!’
“She WAS beautiful because her face shown with the Spirit. She saw herself as our Heavenly Father sees her. She had received His image in her countenance. That is deep beauty.” (Ensign Magazine, May 2010)
Mikeli acquired his tattoos in order to show that he was a chief. I think that if we live life the way it was meant to be lived, we have no need of body painting to show who we are. We are children of a Heavenly King with great and noble birthrights. Who we are shows in our faces. Each day we live we are adding to or detracting from that inner beauty and confidence that is reflected in our countenances and in the way we carry ourselves. We were born to be kings and queens. Now, that is a tattoo!