“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 and the Lord God doth work by means to bring about his great and eternal purposes; and by very small means the Lord bringeth about the salvation of many souls” (Alma 37:6-7).
In recent months, members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have repeatedly heard “Hasten the Work.”
President Thomas S. Monson, whom we sustain as the Lord’s Prophet on the Earth today, continues to emphasize, “Now is the time for members and missionaries to come together, to work together, to labor in the Lord’s vineyard to bring souls unto Him ” (“Welcome to Conference,” October 2013 general conference).
In addition to this counsel from our prophet, we’ve been invited by Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles “to obtain a copy of Preach My Gospel, a guidebook for missionary work, which means it is a guidebook for all of us.” He encouraged us, “Read it, study it, and then apply what you learn to help you understand how to bring souls to Christ” (“Following Up,” April 2014 general conference). And in Preach My Gospel, we learn “there is neither man or woman in this Church who is not on a mission. That mission will last as long as they live ” (Discourses of Brigham Young, sel. John A. Widtsoe , 322).
Covenant sons and daughters of God of all ages, working in unity with full-time missionaries, have an incredible opportunity to participate in the work of salvation. Helping the Lord hasten His work requires daily spiritual preparation in small and simple ways. Prayer, scripture study, obedience and service prepare us to “be ready to share.” Elder Russell M. Nelson taught the importance of this kind of preparation when he said, “Your exemplary lives will attract the interest of your friends and neighbors. Be ready to give an answer to those who ask why you live as you do. Be ready to give a reason for the hope and joy that they see in you” (“Catch the Wave,” April 2014 general conference, April 2013).
It was righteous examples, sincere love and acceptance, combined with small and simple acts of service by “ready” friends and neighbors that attracted the interest of my friend Caryn Allen. Transferring to Utah for a good career opportunity, this single mother of a 6-year-old son set some hard-fast rules when it came to Mormons.
1. Never read the Book of Mormon.
2. Don’t let missionaries in the house or converse with them.
3. Don’t engage in religious debate.
The day she, her son and the moving van arrived in Utah, so did six young men who helped her unpack. A neighbor offered to keep her son before and after school so he could play with the neighbor children instead of going to daycare. “Someone” mowed her lawn each week in the summer, and in the winter the snow was cleared off the driveway before she was up in the morning. When her family and friends back home heard about this service, they warned her, “Watch out, they’re trying to convert you!” But Caryn felt loved; she never felt that she was a “project.”
Eventually, Caryn married Scot Allen who was a less-active member of the Church. He loved Caryn and respected her wishes when it came to religion, but when Scot became increasingly active in the Church it worried Caryn. She didn’t want religion to become an issue in their marriage, and she “wasn’t converting EVER!”
But Scot was ill, so Caryn, not wanting him to attend Church services alone, started to attend sacrament meeting with him. Everyone knew about her “rules.” They also knew the subject of religion was off limits. They loved and respected Caryn for who she was and continued to watch over her. For five years, Caryn attended sacrament meeting, Sunday School — if it was Old or New Testament — and Relief Society “because I loved the women.” She said, “In these ladies, I saw something I wanted for myself.”
When my husband and I moved into the ward, we didn’t know that Caryn wasn’t a member of the Church. We got to know Caryn and Scot better when they accepted a calling to serve on the trek committee after my husband was called to be the committee chairman. Our love for Scot and Caryn grew. Following the promptings of the Spirit, my husband broke all of Caryn’s rules when he asked her, “Why are you not a member of the Church?”
Caryn told us that she had many questions to which my husband replied, “We love questions. Come to our home Monday night, and let’s see if we can answer some of your questions.” She and Scot came to our home that Monday night and for many weeks after. We did our best to answer her questions and soon the full-time missionaries were invited to meet with us.
It was a joyful day when Caryn sent us a text that read, “I’m getting very attached to MY Book of Mormon.” Scot baptized Caryn in the Sweetwater River while on our trek.
After Caryn’s baptism, we took Caryn and Scot to the temple to help us with baptisms for the dead for our ancestors. After Caryn was endowed, she and Scot were sealed in the Nauvoo Illinois Temple. They began working on their family history. Caryn, who now serves in Young Women, took her Beehives to the temple to do baptisms. Many of the names they did were Caryn’s family names.
Caryn recently shared with me, “It took 18 years in Utah to knock down the wall I had built up around me, but the people did it. I learned to love the Church through the people, and most of them have no idea the influence they had on me. Without their love and examples of Christlike service, I never would have opened the Book of Mormon.”
President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, second counselor in the First Presidency said, “These may be small gifts of charity that have a grand impact for good: a smile, a handshake, a hug, time spent in listening, a soft word of encouragement, or a gesture of caring. All these acts of kindness can change hearts and lives” (“Are You Sleeping Through the Restoration?” April 2014 general conference).
Now is the time. The Savior showed us by example how to watch over, strengthen and teach one another. His was a ministry to “the one.” Where did He minister? How did He minister? President Henry B. Eyring, first counselor in the First Presidency, taught, “The Lord has provided the means for us to share the gospel in a multitude of ways. He set a pattern in place. Relief Society sisters accept their assignment to [watch over] another as a call from the Lord.
The privilege of ministering through visiting teaching is an opportunity to become like Him, to labor in His vineyard, and to bring souls to Him. It provides a way for us to participate in the work of salvation. And by very small means, the Lord bringeth about the salvation of many souls (www.lds.org/callings/relief-society/visiting-teaching-messages/2014-annual-training?lang=eng).