Tuesday, August 8, 2006 Observation:
"Now ye may suppose that this is foolishness in me; but behold I say unto you, that by small and simple things are great things brought to pass..." [Alma 37:6] [emphasis added]
One evening my life support system failed and I had a very close brush with death. At the time, believe it or not, I was very unemotional about what had happened, and just enjoyed being alive to be able to eat an ice cream sandwich with Jo Anne after the harrowing experience was finally over. The next morning however, as I was lying in bed and pondering what had happened the night before, there flashed into my mind something I had experienced just two days before I almost entered the Spirit World.
It was a simple little thing really, but as I thought of it the tears began to flow. Our grandson, Trevor, is on a summer league basketball team for 9 and 10-year-olds, coached by his dad, Rich. It was during the heat wave, and the temperature was in triple digits even in Orange County. Jo Anne and I had gone to his game the week before, but because of the triple digit heat that Saturday as well, we were forced to leave the gym just after the game began because there was no air-conditioning, and it was just stifling inside. In my condition I don't do really well in hot weather. Again this Saturday, the gym was without air-conditioning, but by sitting in the open doorway there was enough of a breeze that I was able to endure the heat. Trevor played a great game. I tell him he plays like a Steve Nash with a good haircut. For a 10-year-old he is a remarkable ball handler and passer and also plays good defense. His team won the game and it was a happy moment for him, his teammates, his family, and his grandma and grandpa. I was so happy I was able to endure the heat and see the game.
Anyway, as I was lying in bed, this was the experience that came into my mind and caused the emotional meltdown. Had we not gone to the game, and had I not been able to endure the heat, and had I indeed gone into the Spirit World the following Monday evening, that simple, sweet, little experience with Trevor and Rich would never have been a part of my mortal memory. For some reason that experience triggered many other "small and simple" memories of "small and simple things" that, when added together over a lifetime, determine who we are, as well as the relationships we have with God and with others.
The first six months of my mission to Central America I had a recurring nightmare almost every night; I would awake frightened, and in a cold sweat. The nightmare was that I had rejected the call to serve a mission issued to me by my bishop. However, the real nightmare was because I had rejected the call, I never would have known my fellow missionaries, the wonderful, humble Mayan Indians I was working with, nor my mission president and his wonderful wife. The nightmare was that I would have lived my entire life without even knowing what I had missed; there would have been no mortal memory created. Accepting a mission call may seem like a "small and simple thing", and yet for me anyway, those 2 1/2 years have influenced, more than I could ever say, the subsequent 40 plus years I have been permitted to live.
There are some things in life that we only have the opportunity of doing once, and then they are gone -- never to be repeated. Thirty-six years ago at the funeral of my dad in Ely, Nevada, I saw coming in the door of the chapel two men from my Elder's quorum. They had started driving early in the morning from Ogden, Utah to get to Ely in time for the funeral. Ely is about 300 miles from Ogden. Things were so hectic I didn't even get to talk to them because they had to leave immediately to drive the 300 miles back to Ogden, but 36 years later that memory is as vivid as though it had happened yesterday. My dad, as most people, only had one funeral, and those two guys were there. What did that communicate to me? You can only imagine.
A funeral, a sealing in the temple, and a wedding reception, for example, are once in a lifetime events. We may be tempted to not go -- to not show up -- because life is busy and hectic. However, by just being there we communicate love, caring, and a valuable relationship is strengthened. What happens if we don't go? Nothing! And if we miss too many of these special events to which we have been invited, our memories and relationships with others will also be nothing. A thank you note, an expression of appreciation, a visit to a longtime friend one has not seen for ages, an act of selfless service, attending a child's important activity, create memories, strengthen relationships, and enlarge our souls.
Last Sunday I taught in our gospel doctrine class the story of the prophet Elisha and Naaman, the captain of the Syrian armies who had leprosy. Naaman came to Elisha seeking to be healed from this dreaded disease. You know the story well, how Elisha told Naaman, through a servant, to go bathe seven times in the River Jordan and he would be healed. Naaman, was offended because the prophet asked him to do such a simple and small thing. He couldn't believe that bathing in the River Jordan would heal him of his leprosy. Surely some other great thing must be done in his behalf to overcome this disease. Finally, persuaded by his servants, he bathed in the River seven times and was totally healed from an incurable disease. I asked my class what would have happened if Naaman had not bathed in the River Jordan? Their answer was, "Nothing!" And that is absolutely the truth. By refusing to do a small and simple thing Naaman would have lived out his life in pain, sorrow, suffering, and misery, knowing nothing of Jehovah and his power. He would never have known the joy of being healed, nor would he have come to know that "Jehovah was the God". By following the simple counsel of the prophet, great blessings came to him as they do to us, as we do the "small and simple things" asked of us in our generation.
"Small and simple things", done or not done, added together, ultimately become the sum total of who we are. Having personal private prayer twice each day for example, for over 60 years will add up to spiritual power that can come to us in no other way. A dedicated and consistent reading of the scriptures each day will bring power into our lives that will enable us to deal better with life's challenges. The prophets have always asked us to do "small and simple things" which if done can "bring great things to pass".
How grateful I am for the mortal memories of "small and simple things" that have occurred in my lifetime. Even the basketball game of a 10-year-old grandson -- small and simple as it may appear -- is not to be lightly overlooked.