Tuesday, July 12, 2011
The Best Relief Society Lesson I Never Sat Through
Later, I'll follow-up with a few other posts about why this lesson struck me so.
* denotes name has been changed.
Here it is ... enjoy
The theme for the women’s conference at BYU this year was “By small and simple things are great things brought to pass.” Alma 37:6
Let’s dissect that phrase for a minute.
What great things do we want to come to pass? Ultimately, the truly great thing we all want is exaltation for us and our family.
So what are the small and simple things that can greatly affect us and our families in that journey to exaltation?
To name a few: Scripture Study, Prayer, Sabbath observance, faith, repentance, partaking of the sacrament, word of wisdom, what you view, what you read, what you listen to, your internet practices, magnifying your calling, modesty, tithing, temple attendance. The Strength of Youth is a great guide – for youth of ALL ages. As are the most recent Conference issues of the Ensign.
Why are these small things so important? Is there one we can ignore without it affecting us spiritually?
Satan knows this principle and uses it conversely. Therefore, he will do all in his power to diminish your resolve to do the small and simple things? Does he tell you these small things really won’t matter on the day of judgment? Does he tell you it is so small and simple it won’t make that big of a difference? You don’t have to be so strict, so exact, so undeviating. Or does he tell you that you don’t have time to worry about those little things, because you are doing other good things? Those things can wait.
Lehi’s dream offers insight. If you have seen an artist rendition of it you will note the rod of iron is barely visible but the large and spacious building can’t be missed. That is true of the world we live in. If we are not careful the world’s message can easily overwhelm the Lord’s. Satan is working hard to make sure there are ample things to distract and dissuade us from those small and simple things.
I know as Latter-day Saint women we constantly have to make stands – with neighbors, with fellow employees, with schools, and sometimes even with our families. It gets exhausting. You roll your eyes and sometimes wonder – is this small and simple thing THAT important? Is it worth yet one more stand? Sometimes we may feel we can’t fight them all so let’s just choose a few. But be careful of such a diminished resolve. Be careful which battles you choose NOT to fight. What small and simple things will you stop teaching and doing?
I don’t know how else to explain what I am seeing and feeling concerning the urgency for each of us to entrench ourselves and stand firm in even, or maybe especially, the small and simple things. So I’m going to give you same examples to hopefully better illustrate my point.
You have often heard me speak of John*, my wild and crazy son. John was unique. He wasn’t bad or rebellious. He never was in the Bishop’s office with a word of wisdom problem or morality issue. But John did give me some worries in that he questioned things. He has always needed to know the why of things. Until he had resolved things completely in his mind, he remained very anxious about them, almost agitated.
It took me a long time before I realized the reason he argued every point was because he was just thinking out loud. The need to find out “why” was so innate in him. If he didn’t see the logic behind the rule, he saw no reason to amend his behavior or accept it as a principle of the Gospel. It was almost as if there was a distrust on his part until we could prove it. Where in the scriptures does it say that! Why?! It couldn’t be just because you said so. The answer had to be logical and concise. He didn’t want to hear parables or analogies – just a straight logical answer.
I felt as if I was battling him every day of my life. There was always a thread of contention in our home. I was being drained by it. My husband came home for some of it, but let’s face it moms, we are on the front line more hours in a day than our spouses.
My husband and I discussed it once and wondered if I should just give it a rest and only fight the battles that were BIG. But after prayer we decided against it. We wondered if by doing it like that we might undermine the logic in the battles we did fight. After all, everything in the gospel is interconnected. Why would we spend so much time teaching him why to obey one thing and then not another – when both were said by a prophet or recorded in scripture. He’d be on to that hypocrisy in a heartbeat and perhaps be convinced none of it was true. We decided we would have to continue to make every stand, no matter how small. We resolved that even if John left unconvinced of why, he would have at least heard the truth, the Lord’s stand, from our mouths.
A fateful day came. A new young man moved into the ward with a bit of an attitude and John was influenced by him. It seemed that all of the sudden John's questions of why were coming more often and decidedly more antagonistically. On that fateful Saturday, John walked into our home, and the issue of face cards came up. He spoke of a new game he had just learned to play – poker.
But was it really that big of a deal? Yeah, well … it’s just a game. It’s just cards.
True to our decision, my husband didn’t hesitate. He told John the church didn’t approve of such things. At first, John was angry and shocked. He accused us of lying to him. The church had nothing to say about simple little games.
My husband then went to the book shelve and opened MORMON DOCTRINE by Elder Bruce R. McConkie. He read to John what the church’s stand is on face cards and why. John conceded.
Two days later, the Mormon Doctrine was missing from the bookshelf. About three weeks later my twelve year old son stepped into the kitchen with that book in his hand. Trying to act nonchalant about it, John simply asked, “Hey, has this guy written anything else?”
Keeping a straight face was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I led John to the bookshelf and showed him the many other books Elder McConkie had written.
Oh, I would love to say that John changed immediately that day, but he didn’t. John still struggled to get his “whys” fast enough. He still struggled to incorporate what he was learning into his behavior. There were still some intense moments in our home.
However, just over six years later, on John's nineteenth birthday, he entered the MTC – having read every published book written by Elder Bruce R. McConkie. Elder McConkie spoke John's language. He had a way of stating the whys boldly and concisely.
Today John teaches seminary for the Church. He was married in the temple and has three children. His first child is a son. His name is Bruce for a reason.
Standing firm for small and simple things can change lives.
Now the next story.
As a RS president I have been dealing with something I never dreamt I would in the First Ward – a homeless sister.
At first it was so frustrating. The church is really not equipped to deal with homelessness. We encourage people to return to their families for help or to the government or faith based organization that can give them housing. For many reasons this woman felt she was unable to do any of those things.
One day I just sat and talked with her. I was trying to figure out how she got to where she was and was trying to analyze her reasoning. She was the product of a dysfunctional family, consequently with some emotional problems, which probably led to her failed marriage. Then she was involved in a horrible car accident that left her slightly disabled. She had managed to find a place to live on her own but lost it in a blink when Hurricane Ike hit. She had been living in her car ever sense. During this conversation, it dawned on me how frighteningly close all of us are to homelessness. There is some statistic at HAAM that suggests it might be only 5 events that separates most of us from being without a home.
As I thought on that more, I realized how frighteningly close all of us are to inactivity in the church and the loss of our eternal home. How many of those small and simple things can we give up and not find ourselves in that position? Five? I think it is less. If we stop doing even one for an extended period of time we inevitably will stop another and then another. Soon we will have too little oil to keep our lamps lit and none in reserve. Doing the small and simply things makes more of a difference than we sometimes realize.
I feel to talk of one more story.
I think of Mary Fielding Smith as she trudged across the plains – widowed and with little means to support herself and the young family left to her care. The decision to go west seemed small. Follow the prophet. What was left for her in Nauvoo? Getting up every morning along the trail, preparing food, having a morning prayer, following her priesthood leaders, and organizing her family to leave each day at some point must have become as routine for her as it is for us. She just kept going. She just kept doing what she knew was right – no matter what. She stood up to those who lacked the faith she had. She vigilantly taught her children her faith by word and example. She didn’t budge. I don’t think she thought she was doing anything great. It was the small and simple things that kept her faith lit and her family together. And what great thing came of it? Her son, Joseph, was ordained an apostle at the age of 27. He became a Prophet as did her grandson. Several other descendents of the children she raised were either members of the Quorum of the Twelve or were married to a member of the Quorum of the Twelve. Today Elder Ballard serves in that Quorum.
Again what was that great thing we want? What are those small and simple things? Why are they so important? Is there one we can ignore without it affecting us spiritually?
By small and simple things great things truly can come to pass. I feel we ignore them at our own peril and at the peril of our families.
Now I know many of you are facing very difficult challenges – things you never dreamt you would be facing – things your parents and friends have never faced. We live in turbulent times. You need answers. I promise you as you do these small and simple things the Lord will direct you to know how to face these challenges. It might be to know what doctor to go to, what course of treatment is best, how to overcome an addiction, where to apply for a job, when to seek more education or how to handle a strong-willed child. The Lord has the answer to every challenge you face in life. Doing the small and simple things will open up an avenue of revelation to guide you through every challenge. I bear my witness that is true.
I pray we will take Elder Uchtdorf’s advice from the October general conference. “There is a beauty and clarity that comes from simplicity that we sometimes do not appreciate in our thirst for intricate solutions.”
He continued, “My dear brothers and sisters, we would do well to slow down a little, proceed at the optimum speed for our circumstances, focus on the significant, lift up our eyes, and truly see the things that matter most. Let us be mindful of the foundational precepts our Heavenly Father has given to His children that will establish the basis of a rich and fruitful mortal life with promises of eternal happiness. They will teach us to do “all these things … in wisdom and order; for it is not requisite that [we] should run faster than [we have] strength. [But] it is expedient that [we] should be diligent, [and] thereby … win the prize. Brothers and sisters, diligently doing the things that matter most will lead us to the Savior of the world.”
Slow down, Sisters, and make sure that above all else you are tending to the small and simple things.