By Small and Simple Things.
As the bishop of a married student ward I often work with couples that are having a difficult time dealing with the stress of busy lives. They have their classes, work, church, and their relationship with their spouse and many other things. When this type of stress goes unchecked it has a negative effect on everything. They get behind in their classes, and frustrations can lead to difficulties in their marriages and even their health declines. One of the things I try to help them understand is the need to simplify their lives and get back to the basics. We talk about how they are doing with their relationship with Heavenly Father, are they reading the scriptures daily (individually and as a couple), praying daily (individually and as a couple), are they keeping the Sabbath day holy? Many times these things have slipped because they are too busy to do them regularly.
Usually when we start this process they ask how can I possibly do these things when I don’t have any time? My response is faith. It takes faith to start with the things that are most important and if we focus on them the other things have a way of working out. It really is that simple. The lord has said “that by small and simple things are great things brought to pass (Alma 37:6). The Lord has promised us that if we will remember our covenants, pray, and be believing, “all things will work out for (our) good” (D&C 90:24). Remember what happened to the children of Israel while they were wandering in the wilderness and were stricken with the serpents and were bitten? All they had to do was look on the staff of Moses to be healed, but many thought that was silly and they perished. The prophet Nephi taught:
And he did straiten them in the wilderness with his rod; for they hardened their hearts, even as ye have; and the Lord straitened them because of their iniquity. He sent fiery flying serpents among them; and after they were bitten he prepared a way that they might be healed; and the labor which they had to perform was to look; and because of the simpleness of the way, or the easiness of it, there were many who perished. (1 Nephi 17:41)
President Uchtdorf in the last general conference asked us to think about the experience we are having as members of the church:
“I wonder if we as Church members might also benefit from asking ourselves from time to time: “Is my experience in the Church working for me? Is it bringing me closer to Christ? Is it blessing me and my family with peace and joy as promised in the gospel?”
“…why does it seem to work better for some than for others? What is the difference between those whose experience in the Church fills their souls with songs of redeeming love2 and those who feel that something is lacking?” (“It Works Wonderfully”, Dieter F. Uchtdorf, General Conference, October 2015)
President Uchtdorf gave us two suggestions to help us. The first is to simplify and the second was to start were we are. He said: “The gospel is so simple a child can grasp it, yet so profound and complex that it will take a lifetime – even an eternity – of study and discovery to fully understand it.” For the second suggestion he said:
Sometimes we feel discouraged because we are not “more” of something—more spiritual, respected, intelligent, healthy, rich, friendly, or capable. Naturally, there is nothing wrong with wanting to improve. God created us to grow and progress. But remember, our weaknesses can help us to be humble and turn us to Christ, who will “make weak things become strong.”4Satan, on the other hand, uses our weaknesses to the point that we are discouraged from even trying.
I learned in my life that we don’t need to be “more” of anything to start to become the person God intended us to become.
God will take you as you are at this very moment and begin to work with you. All you need is a willing heart, a desire to believe, and trust in the Lord. (“It Works Wonderfully”, Dieter F. Uchtdorf, General Conference, October 2015)
Glen L. Rudd spoke to the students of Brigham Young University about keeping the gospel simple. When he was a young full-time missionary he served with President Matthew Cowley (later a member of the Quorum of the Twelve) in New Zealand. For the last part of Elder Rudd’s mission, he lived in the mission home and had the opportunity to travel with President Cowley. He said that President Cowley told him to keep his briefcase packed with clean shirts, clean socks, and clean underwear. President Cowley told him “When I say, ‘We’re going,” you grab your bag and beat me to the car, and don’t ask questions.” Elder Rudd said:
“Once, after we had driven a few miles, he asked, “Would you like to know where we’re going?” I said, “Yes.” Then he said, “So would I! I’m not sure just where we’re going, but we’ll keep going. And when the Lord tells us to turn, we’ll turn, and we’ll end up where he wants us to be.”
“The Maori people used to pray for President Cowley to come to them. One day he drove up to the front of a post office in a rather distant city in New Zealand. There were two sisters standing by the post office waiting. When he got out of the car, one said to the other, “See, I told you he would be here soon.” President Cowley said, “Hey, what’s going on here?” One of the sisters said, “We needed you and we’ve been praying. We knew you would be coming, and you always go directly to the post office, so we decided to wait here until you arrived.” It was just that simple. People would tell the Lord what they wanted, and somehow or other President Cowley was led by the Spirit to go where they were. Now, he wasn’t totally disorganized, but I have never known anyone who planned less and accomplished more, simply by doing the things he felt impressed to do.” (“Keeping the Gospel Simple”, Glen L. Rudd, BYY Devotional, February 16, 1988)
Elder Rudd talked about how simple repentance can be. He said many people feel that repentance is a “long drawn out process. That is absolutely not necessary. We just quit doing what is wrong, make up for it in the best possible way, and let the Lord do his part”. He told another story from his experience with President Cowley”. There was a Maori man, Syd, that went to America for high school and college and became a professional basketball player. He was a member of the church but when he went back to New Zealand he became inactive. He was a friend of President Cowley and one day they went to see Syd. They found him sitting on his porch chewing on a cigar. Elder Rudd said:
He didn’t stop chewing on his cigar as President Cowley sat beside him to visit. After they had talked and laughed for a while, President Cowley became serious and said, “Syd, I want you to come to church tomorrow.”
They both looked toward the old chapel that was nearby, and Syd said, “I think it would fall in! I haven’t been there for a long time. I don’t think I’d better risk it.”
President Cowley said, “Syd, I want you to be there. I’m going to do something important tomorrow.”
Syd inquired, “What are you going to do?”
President Cowley answered, “I’m going to release the branch president and put in a new one.”
Syd said, “Why don’t you just tell me who the new branch president will be, and then I won’t have to get myself cleaned up for church in the morning.”
President Cowley said, “Well, I’ll tell you who it is. It’s going to be you.”
Syd had that old cigar in his mouth. He pulled it out and looked at it and said, “Tumuaki, you mean me and my cigar?”
President Cowley said, “No, Syd—just you. We don’t need your cigar.” (“Keeping the Gospel Simple”, Glen L. Rudd, BYY Devotional, February 16, 1988)
Elder Rudd said Syd threw the cigar out on the ground and said to President Cowley “I don’t break the word of wisdom anymore. I pay a full-tithe. I will be the branch president, and I’ll be worthy.” He was one of the best leaders in New Zealand. His son was the first bishop and his grandson also served as the bishop of the ward. Elder Rudd continues:
“Now, that’s all there is to repentance. You see how simple that really was? President Cowley never did ask Syd to repent. He gave him an opportunity to be of service to the Church. He gave him a priesthood calling. Syd knew he could no longer sin, so he immediately quit. It was over—just like that! The Lord accepted his repentance, and Syd became a great leader.
“My whole purpose in telling you these stories today is to bear testimony to you that simplicity is possible. Almost every principle and every doctrine of the Church can be made simple if we make the effort. It is absolutely possible to live righteously and properly in a simple way.”
The Lord knows how to hear our prayers—so pray!
The Lord knows how to give us faith—so ask him for faith!
The Lord knows how to help us repent—so repent as needed!
(“Keeping the Gospel Simple”, Glen L. Rudd, BYY Devotional, February 16, 1988)
My message is that if we will live the gospel of Jesus Christ in it’s simplicity and not complicate it, everything the Lord has in store for us will come to pass. You will complete your classes, graduate, get the job you need, and provide for your family. Your relationship with your spouse and children will be sweet and joyful. The Lord has promised us that by small and simple things great things will be accomplished if we only believe.
Your comments and questions are welcome.