By Small and Simple Things

In the April 2011 General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Elder M. Russell Ballard shared the story of a young gold prospector. Searching for nuggets of gold, the young man was disappointed by his inability to find anything more than unremarkable rocks speckled with inconsequential amounts of gold. He complained to an older prospector, saying, “I’m looking for nuggets like the ones in your pouch, not just tiny flecks.” To him the prospector replied, “Son, it seems to me you are so busy looking for large nuggets that you’re missing filling your pouch with these precious flecks of gold. The patient accumulation of these little flecks has brought me great wealth,” illustrating the notion taught by the Book of Mormon that “by small and simple things are great things brought to pass” (Alma 37:6). I know that God works in our lives in small, sometimes apparently inconsequential ways and that He expects us to commit to obeying Him consistently even in small ways. More than that, though, I know that the blessings that come by accepting His small and simple blessings and through following Him in small and simple ways will be great and marvelous.

The Book of Mormon tells of a small army of young men who were tasked with recapturing a fortified city that had been lost earlier in the war. Unfortunately, they were seriously outmatched by their enemies in the city. Their commander, Helaman, wrote:

[W]e did wait in…difficult circumstances for the space of many months, even until we were about to perish for the want of food. But it came to pass that we did receive food, which was guarded to us by an army of two thousand men to our assistance; and this is all the assistance which we did receive, to defend ourselves and our country from falling into the hands of our enemies, yea, to contend with an enemy which was innumerable. And now the cause of these our embarrassments, or the cause why they did not send more strength unto us, we knew not; therefore we were grieved and also filled with fear, lest by any means the judgments of God should come upon our land, to our overthrow and utter destruction. (Alma 58:7-9)

Faced with the reality of their small numbers, dwindling rations, flagging morale, and the mighty enemy inside the city walls, these soldiers surely felt overwhelmed. They knew that they needed help beyond their own strength. They may have felt that they had been set up to fail. Thus, they did the only thing, perhaps, that was left to them to do—they prayed: “Therefore we did pour out our souls in prayer to God, that he would strengthen us and deliver us out of the hands of our enemies, yea, and also give us strength that we might retain our cities, and our lands, and our possessions, for the support of our people” (Alma 58:10).

I imagine that that little army must have known of how the Lord had strengthened Israel and toppled the walls of Jericho millennia before, and it’s possible that some of those soldiers who prayed hoped for a similar dramatic answer to their prayers. But the Lord did not topple the walls of the city. Rather, as Helaman wrote, “[I]t came to pass that the Lord our God did visit us with assurances that he would deliver us; yea, insomuch that he did speak peace to our souls, and did grant unto us great faith, and did cause us that we should hope for our deliverance in him” (Alma 58:11). If I had been there, hoping and praying for spectacular divine intervention, a feeling of reassurance might have come as a disappointment to me. It might have been easy to feel that the Lord didn’t really understand my situation or my needs. Then, it could have been easy to lose any hope of success and to surrender to my circumstances. That’s not what those soldier did, however. Helaman continues, “And we did take courage with our small force…and were fixed with a determination to conquer our enemies, and to maintain our lands, and our possessions, and our wives, and our children, and the cause of our liberty. And thus we did go forth with all our might…” (Alma 58:12-13). Then, in the strength of the Lord, they overcame their circumstances and recaptured the city.

To those soldiers’ earnest prayers the Lord responded in a very small and simple way—He encouraged them. There was no more weaponry, no more food, no more men; there was only more hope. For that faithful army, however, that feeling of reassurance was enough, enough for them to know that God was with them and that He would help them. With that confidence, they didn’t need anything more: they were persuaded by the quiet witness that the Lord was their strength, and, as a result, they were motivated to go forth in their might and in His might to accomplish a mission that had seemed, only days before, impossible. I know that the Lord most often works through such small and seemingly insignificant ways in our lives because of experiences I’ve had in my own. Rather than topple the walls of Jericho or part the Red Sea, He’ll give us assurances or invite us to do something small and simple. That’s not because He doesn’t understand the severity of our situation; it’s because He knows just what we need. It’s up to us, then, to acknowledge that what He gives us is enough, enough for us to know that He is with us and that He will help us. I know that there is great peace and strength in accepting the small and simple blessings the Lord gives us, for I have seen that success comes when I begin to act on what He gives me rather than wait for Him to empower me or to guide me in some more dramatic way. Over time, treasuring up the little kindnesses He scatters along my way has helped me to accumulate a greater faith and a firmer understanding of His love, power, and commitment to my success—and to the success of all of His children.

(lds.org)

(lds.org)

Indeed, while the Lord works in small ways in our lives, He does not expect us to part our Red Seas on a daily basis. The soldiers did nothing dramatic—they prayed. That prayer was enough for the Lord, enough for Him to reach out and bless them with the courage they needed. Similarly, our small, simple, and consistent efforts to do the Lord’s will, to improve our faith, and to bless those around us will be enough for Him, enough to reach out and to bless us with the support that we need. The Book of Mormon contains the sermon of a king named Benjamin, who taught his people that “it is not requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength” but that “it is expedient that he should be diligent, that thereby he might win the prize” (Mosiah 4:27). The Lord doesn’t expect us find or to produce huge nuggets of gold because such is usually beyond us. Instead, He expects us to be diligent—consistent—in collecting the flecks of gold along our away with the promise that, if we are diligent to the end, we will be prepared and qualified for His richest blessings.

I’m certainly not guilty of being a lucrative gold nugget producer, but I have tried to be diligent in collecting small flecks of gold—of doing small and simple things to bring myself closer to the Lord. One of the decidedly small and simple things that I’ve decided to do consistently is to read and study the word of God on a daily basis, including in the Bible and the Book of Mormon. While the time I spend studying accounts for a small portion of my day and though the amount I read per day accounts for a small portion of the collected word of God, my effort to study consistently has brought me great blessings. Sometimes, I feel, as I study, that the Lord blesses me with little more than encouragement or hope—feelings and thoughts that are, by themselves, almost inconsequential. However, as the blessings and knowledge that I’ve gained through consistently dedicating even a small part of my day to learning the Lord’s will and doing it have accumulated and have brought me a greater wealth of faith. I have a conviction now that I didn’t have before that God knows me, loves me, and wants to help me to achieve a successful and happy life. I’ve come to see, through that steady accumulation of tiny acts of devotion and of the blessings that follow, that, truly, “by small and simple things are great things brought to pass,” and I know that, as we all act in small ways to strengthen our faith, the Lord will accept our efforts and bless us in simple yet profound ways. When we accept and remember the small blessings that the Lord gives us, we will, I know, come to feel His love more fully and come to love Him more deeply. Surely, we will recognize that, thanks to the kindness and grace of our Savior Jesus Christ, we do not need exhaust ourselves, worrying about doing great things; rather, we can rest in hope and concentrate on consistently doing small things with great faith, trusting that, over time, great blessings will follow.

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