Day 4: One by One

Mark 5:

1 And they came over unto the other side of the sea, into the country of the Gadarenes.
2 And when he was come out of the ship, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit,
3 Who had his dwelling among the tombs; and no man could bind him, no, not with chains:
4 Because that he had been often bound with fetters and chains, and the chains had been plucked asunder by him, and the fetters broken in pieces: neither could any man tame him.
5 And always, night and day, he was in the mountains, and in the tombs, crying, and cutting himself with stones.
6 But when he saw Jesus afar off, he ran and worshipped him,
7 And cried with a loud voice, and said, What have I to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of the most high God? I adjure thee by God, that thou torment me not.
8 For he said unto him, Come out of the man, thou unclean spirit.
9 And he asked him, What is thy name? And he answered, saying, My name is Legion: for we are many.
10 And he besought him much that he would not send them away out of the country.
11 Now there was there nigh unto the mountains a great herd of swine feeding.
12 And all the devils besought him, saying, Send us into the swine, that we may enter into them.
13 And forthwith Jesus gave them leave. And the unclean spirits went out, and entered into the swine: and the herd ran violently down a steep place into the sea, (they were about two thousand;) and were choked in the sea.
14 And they that fed the swine fled, and told it in the city, and in the country. And they went out to see what it was that was done.
15 And they come to Jesus, and see him that was possessed with the devil, and had the legion, sitting, and clothed, and in his right mind: and they were afraid.
16 And they that saw it told them how it befell to him that was possessed with the devil, and also concerning the swine.
17 And they began to pray him to depart out of their coasts.
18 And when he was come into the ship, he that had been possessed with the devil prayed him that he might be with him.
19 Howbeit Jesus suffered him not, but saith unto him, Go home to thy friends, and tell them how great things the Lord hath done for thee, and hath had compassion on thee.
20 And he departed, and began to publish in Decapolis how great things Jesus had done for him: and all men did marvel.
21 And when Jesus was passed over again by ship unto the other side, much people gathered unto him: and he was nigh unto the sea.
22 And, behold, there cometh one of the rulers of the synagogue, Jairus by name; and when he saw him, he fell at his feet,
23 And besought him greatly, saying, My little daughter lieth at the point of death: I pray thee, come and lay thy hands on her, that she may be healed; and she shall live.
24 And Jesus went with him; and much people followed him, and thronged him.
25 And a certain woman, which had an issue of blood twelve years,
26 And had suffered many things of many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was nothing bettered, but rather grew worse,
27 When she had heard of Jesus, came in the press behind, and touched his garment.
28 For she said, If I may touch but his clothes, I shall be whole.
29 And straightway the fountain of her blood was dried up; and she felt in her body that she was healed of that plague.
30 And Jesus, immediately knowing in himself that virtue had gone out of him, turned him about in the press, and said, Who touched my clothes?
31 And his disciples said unto him, Thou seest the multitude thronging thee, and sayest thou, Who touched me?
32 And he looked round about to see her that had done this thing.
33 But the woman fearing and trembling, knowing what was done in her, came and fell down before him, and told him all the truth.
34 And he said unto her, Daughter, thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace, and be whole of thy plague.
35 While he yet spake, there came from the ruler of the synagogue’s house certain which said, Thy daughter is dead: why troublest thou the Master any further?
36 As soon as Jesus heard the word that was spoken, he saith unto the ruler of the synagogue, Be not afraid, only believe.
37 And he suffered no man to follow him, save Peter, and James, and John the brother of James.
38 And he cometh to the house of the ruler of the synagogue, and seeth the tumult, and them that wept and wailed greatly.
39 And when he was come in, he saith unto them, Why make ye this ado, and weep? the damsel is not dead, but sleepeth.
40 And they laughed him to scorn. But when he had put them all out, he taketh the father and the mother of the damsel, and them that were with him, and entereth in where the damsel was lying.

41 And he took the damsel by the hand, and said unto her, Talitha cumi; which is, being interpreted, Damsel, I say unto thee, arise.
42 And straightway the damsel arose, and walked; for she was of the age of twelve years. And they were astonished with a great astonishment.
43 And he charged them straitly that no man should know it; and commanded that something should be given her to eat.

There are three amazing stories here, but rather than focus on the details of each of them today I just want to share a recent insight that I had using this chapter as a perfect example. For so long when I thought about serving I felt guilty because I have not been involved in very many big service projects. I’ve never flown to another country to serve the poor and the hungry. I’ve never spent weeks on end helping in a community that’s been wiped out by a natural disaster. This has always weighed on me as a feeling of not doing enough to love and serve others. Then about a year ago, I was reading this chapter (or one like it) and suddenly it dawned on me that as wonderful as being involved in projects like this are, especially if you have felt a prompting to be involved, serving like the Savior does not require me to do these huge acts. At once I saw very clearly that the Savior served (and serves) one by one. He spent His days ministering to individuals He found along His way. He saw their hurting and He helped them. Most often His miracles were preformed on His way to somewhere else. He served as He went. He saw a need and He filled it. Instantly serving well, serving as the Savior does no longer felt daunting or unattainable. I wondered how many opportunities I have had to give meaningful service that I have swept aside because I was too focused on the next place I was going or the projects I was trying to complete. But with new understanding changes for the better can be made.

Truly understanding that the little things we do to make another’s life easier are the essence of Christ-like service has really been a game changer for me. It has created a desire in me to be more aware of those opportunities throughout the day. It has made me want to slow down a little and pay more attention to the whispers that come showing me the needs around me. It has helped me feel validated in the little things I do to show love to those around me. Now I feel great when I take an hour to listen to a friend vent, or go out of my way to write a note and create a special treat for one of my kids who is having a hard week, or take the afternoon and spend some quality time with my husband. I have begun to see the time I invest in facilitating my scripture study or writing for my blog as opportunities to serve as I share God’s word and love with those who read my testimony. I never really saw these as service before, and as good as it is to be part of big organized service projects, better understanding Christ’s way of ministering helps me to recognize that maybe service in the little things along our daily path are just as important, if not more so.

Serving in the Savior’s way means keeping our eyes and our hearts open to see a need and fill it, just like He did.


Dream Small


Ministering as the Savior Does

Soul Searching Question: How can you become more mindful to be a better minister to those around you one by one?

Courage to Be Vulnerable

I have thought a lot about ministering in the Savior’s way over the last year and one of the things that struck me as very relevant is that being vulnerable enough to allow others to serve us is just as important as reaching out to serve those around us.

I think that in a general sense, we are all great at serving, especially when we are specifically asked to. However, I know that many of us struggle with being vulnerable enough to actually accept service from others, even when we need it.

There is a quote by Rick Warren, in his book The Purpose Driven Life, that says, “Vulnerability is an endearing quality. We are drawn to humble people. Pretentiousness repels but authenticity attracts.”

Our brokenness is part of our perfect journey and God will ask us to share our vulnerabilities to bless the lives of others! How will you consecrate your suffering to God’s purposes?

I Was Not Fully Healed, But I Was Made Whole

Up until about 6 years ago I would read the story of the 10 lepers and wonder how the leper who went back to show gratitude was any more blessed than the 9 who didn’t go back. I knew it was a story demonstrating the importance of gratitude, but they were all healed. Yet, somewhere at the back of my mind there was a wriggling feeling that there was something more, something bigger to be learned from this story.

Then in March or 2011 I was in a car accident. It wasn’t a terrible accident, but I did hit my head and shortly thereafter I started seeing stars and shimmering lights around my right eye. I had everything checked out and they couldn’t find anything wrong, but advised me to keep an eye on it. About 3 months later I noticed (as a teacher’s aid after summer break) that the writing on the whiteboard was no longer clear. I went to my eye doctor to have the power of my contact prescription increased. It was then that I found out I was losing the central vision in my right eye. A little in my left eye as well, but drastically in my right. I started searching out specialists. I was told by two different specialists in Ogden it was probably as a result of my car accident and that it was most likely permanent and I’d need to just get used to it. A very good friend of mine was appalled by that answer and demanded that I go to the Moran Institute at the University of Utah and get a second opinion. I am so grateful for her and her response to my disappointment!

Very quickly I was seen by 3 different specialists who took my problem very seriously. I spent days completing tests, having photos taken of my eyes, inside and out, and lots of medical tests too. I had a CT Scan, an MRI, a chest Xray, an ultrasound of my heart through my stomach and about 12 vials of blood drawb abd tested for anything and everything they could think of that might be causing my loss of vision. They didn’t know what it was, but they were determined to find out. They thought it might be autoimmune. They guaranteed me that it was not a result of the accident and that if was just coincidental that the symptoms started at the same time. In the end they could not pin it to any particular thing, but they did find that the blood vessels in my eye were leaking and it was causing major damage to my retinas. They decided to treat my symptoms since they couldn’t find a cause to treat instead. By that time most of the vision in my right eye had been affected (I was seeing 20/300 at that point, with my contacts in) and I was at about half vision in my left eye. Thanks to those doctors and the God inspired technology and medications that they have they were able to stabilize my vision and by some miracle the vision in my left eye has come back almost completely.

That first year and a half was probably my hardest year of life up to that point. I was scared. Really I was terrified! I didn’t know if what I had was life threatening or if I was just going to lose my vision completely. In either case, it was life altering for me. I am an artist, a baker, a reader, and an outdoor adventurist (ghost towning to be specific). Everything I love to do requires my vision. I’m sure no one is happy to lose their vision, but I was feeling especially devastated. Not only was I an emotional wreck with the worry of what might happen to me, but my every day routine was exhausting! I had no idea how much losing some of your vision would affect you. I had to exert so much energy straining to read with the kids I was helping in school, I found myself forgetting things my past peripheral vision would have picked up, therefore much of my day was spent retracing my steps. I lost my depth perception and would find myself tripping over things I didn’t realize were poking up a little or falling off little ledges I didn’t see were there. I was tired. I was sad. I was scared. Not just physically, but emotionally and mentally too. It was so hard!

Phew… that was a long story to prove my point. In my religion we believe in the power of healing blessings through the Priesthood. I had A LOT of blessings during that year. After about a year of working through things including going to a specialist in Oregon to get another opinion on the permanence of my condition I had gotten another blessing. After that blessing I had the strangest calm come over me. And in that calm I distinctly felt a lesson being taught to me. The anguish and uncertainty that had been so prevalent in my life for almost two years was gone. I felt peace. I could look back and see times of comfort, tender mercies of love, and so much I had gained… empathy for others, gratitude for the blessings in my life, an increased closeness to my family, and a better relationship with my God. I had received the miracle of one eye being healed and the other eye was being left with me the way it was, maybe as a reminder of those lessons. Maybe to keep me humble. Maybe so I would remember to testify of God’s mercy in the other things I had learned. But at that point, it didn’t matter. Even though I had not been physically healed in that eye, I had through God’s power, my faith, my positive attitude, my searching for lessons in the trial, and my patience over that year been made whole.

I now know for myself that the leper who came back was blessed far more, beyond what words can express, for having come back. He was made whole. The others were, like him, healed physically. But unlike the others, the anguish and grief of the previous years or pain, sickness, and banishment, the emotional aching and mental stress were wiped away when he was made whole.

He Hasn’t Moved

How can the Lord have an individual relationship with each of us? How do we form this relationship with Him?

I’ve been thinking about these questions all week. I don’t know how it is possible for the Lord to have a personal relationship with each of us. It is too difficult for my mind to comprehend how this can be when there are so many of us in the world, but I do know of assurity that it is possible because I have had so many experiences where His tender mercies have proven to me that He is perfectly aware of my circumstances and wants to make my burdens lighter. He is there. He is our Father. He know us. He loves us. He wants to help us. He yearns to have a relationship with each of us.

The second question is much easier to answer. How do we form a relationship with Him? Simply put, with time and effort. There have been times in my life when I have felt great distance growing between myself and my God. When I recognize this gap I can trace the reason back to MY lack of time and effort in praying, studying His good word, and pondering on His love and mercy.

I once heard a joke that I love to relate to this exact concept. There was an elderly couple riding in their truck one day when they came to a stoplight. They looked over and noticed a younger couple in the cab of the truck next to them. The couple was snuggled up on the seat looking very in love. The elderly woman looked at her husband and commented how sweet they looked and then asked, “Why don’t we ever do that anymore? Her husband looked at the couple and then back at his wife and said, “Well, I haven’t moved.” This is exactly the case with our relationship with God. If there is distance between us it is because we have moved, not because He has. He stands at the door and knocks. He seeks His lost sheep. He waits to be found. And what do we need to do? Seek. Diligently seek. This is not a casual, once a week seeking, but an intentional whole hearted effort. And when we invest the time and effort the reward is far more than we could ever dare to hope for!


Prayer by Spencer W. Kimball

This article is one of my favorite finds on the topic of prayer!

The scriptures have said, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” (Prov. 22:6.) And again, “As the twig is bent, so shall the tree be inclined.” It is obvious that if youth will establish correct habits of thought and action, pitfalls will be avoided, and a great and powerful generation will be developed.
In my extensive travels I am meeting many young men and women who are desirous of filling missions—young people who are preparing to go into the service of teaching the world a better life. I find many dedicated and clean. I find others equally personable, able, and eager, but who are not wholly prepared nor worthy to represent their Lord—some who have had distressing patterns of thought and action.
I remember the scripture which asks the question: “Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord?” And the answer: “He that hath clean hands and a pure heart.” (Ps. 24:3–4.) We are now urging every boy to fill a mission. I always ask these prospective missionaries, whose hands have not been wholly clean and whose hearts have not been wholly pure, “How much, how often, how devoutly do you pray?” The answers have shocked me, for I could not believe that so many young men and women would fail to pray consistently.
As I interview numerous older people for important positions, again I am shocked. “Do you have your prayers regularly night and morning?” I ask. And many answer that they do have family prayers sometimes. Many try to pray once a day and feel that they are meeting requirements. Others shrug it off by saying they cannot get their families together—life is so demanding.
A certain seminary teacher asked his 35 youngsters the searching question, “Did your family have its prayer this morning?” Of the 35, two had had their prayers; 33 families had been too busy, too late, too hurried, or too disinterested.
Why should we pray? Because we are the sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father, on whom we depend for everything we enjoy—our food and clothing, our health, our life itself, our sight and hearing, our voices, our locomotion, even our brains.
Do you not realize your dependence as you stand in perfect health with your opportunities? Do you think that they are of your providing? Do you give to yourself your breath, your life, your being? Can you lengthen your days by .a single hour? Are you so strong without the gifts of heaven? Are your brains made by self, and did you fashion them? Can you give life or give it prolongation? Do you have power to do without your Lord? Yet I find that many fail to pray. We are commanded to do so by our all-wise Heavenly Father: “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.” (James 1:5.)
One young man in his early teens lacked wisdom but was not lacking in faith or sincerity. His prayer opened a closed heaven and a confused world for further exploration. The common woods were made sacred that day; they blazed in glory. The trees were hallowed and the soil made holy ground.
The Lord has given us this solemn commandment: “He that observeth not his prayers before the Lord in the season thereof, let him be had in remembrance before the judge of my people.” (D&C 68:33.) “And they shall also teach their children to pray, and to walk uprightly before the Lord.” (D&C 68:28.) “I command thee that thou shalt pray vocally as well as in thy heart; yea, before the world as in secret, in public as well as in private.” (D&C 19:28.)
When should we pray? The answer: pray always. But to be more specific, the Church urges that there be family prayer every night and every morning. It is a kneeling prayer with all or as many members of the family present as possible. Many have found the most effective time is at the breakfast and at the dinner table. Then it is least difficult to get the family members together. These prayers need not be long, especially if little children are on their knees. All of the members of the family, including the little ones, should have opportunity to be mouth in the prayer, in turn.
Many young men have stirred their non-praying families by saying, “In the mission field I will need all the blessings of the Lord, and it would be most helpful to me if I could be assured that every night and morning as I prepare for my day’s proselyting, I could know with certainty that all the members of my family were on their knees, including my needs in their prayers.”
We should express gratitude for past blessings. Paul says:
“I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men;
“For kings, and for all that are in authority.” (1 Tim. 2:1–2.)
This will help develop loyalty to country and to leaders. One can hardly be critical of Church leadership if honest prayers are offered for them. Children will come to honor leaders for whom they pray.
The all-encompassing missionary work should be the object of our prayers. When each child prays all his life for the missionaries, he will be a great missionary. We pray for understanding, wisdom, judgment. We pray for loved ones, the sick, and those in need. We pray for the frustrated, the disturbed, the sinful. These prayers are largely general, and then our personal prayers are more specific. They fall into at least two categories. There are the formal prayers where we kneel regularly. Here we talk to the Lord more intimately. We pray for some of the same things as in our family prayers, but more for our immediate and pressing needs. We express our innermost thoughts. We confess our weaknesses. We plead for help to overcome and for forgiveness of our transgressions, our evil thoughts. We bare our souls.
Can anyone long have an enemy or continue to hate one for whom he prays? Here one sheds all pretense, sham, deceit. He stands before his Maker as he really is, without affectation or subterfuge. There are the personal prayers which are less formal. We always have a prayer in our hearts that we may do our best on the football field, that we may appear well in the classroom, that we may remember the things we have learned when the test is on, that we may be impressive to our friends. We pray as we stand to speak, as we walk, as we drive. We remember our friends, our enemies. We pray for wisdom and judgment. We pray for protection in dangerous places and for strength in moments of temptation. We utter momentary prayers in word or thought, aloud or in the deepest silence. Can one do evil when honest prayers are in his heart and on his lips?
The Lord told Joseph Knight, Sr., “You must take up your cross, in the which you must pray vocally before the world as well as in secret, and in your family, and among your friends, and in all places.” (D&C 23:6.)
This is what has disturbed me when I have interviewed numerous prospective missionaries: Too often I find them not praying, even though they have unforgiven follies. “Why don’t you pray,” I have asked, “when you have such great obligations to repay? Your hands are clean from earth stains but not from the deeper blots that ordinary water will not cleanse. Why don’t you pray when you have such a debt to pay? Do you think you can merely write it off and shrug your shoulders and rationalize that it is just a common practice? Why don’t you pray? Are you ashamed to kneel, ashamed of Christ?
“Is there some disbelief in God? Do you not know he lives and loves, forgives when repentance is forthcoming? Do you know that sins cannot be erased, transgressions cannot be forgiven through evasion and mere forgetfulness?”
Peter says, “For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers: but the face of the Lord is against them that do evil.” (1 Pet. 3:12.)
The Lord has promised he will answer, not always as we would ask, but as is for our good. We ask for what we want, rather than for what we should have. The Lord has said through Moroni:
“Strip yourselves of all uncleanness; ask not, that you may consume it on your lusts, but ask with a firmness unshaken, that ye will yield to no temptation, but that ye will serve the true and living God.
“… see that ye do all things in worthiness, and do it in the name of Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God.” (Morm. 9:28–29.)
Great decisions must be made by most of us. The Lord has provided a way for these answers. If the question is which school, what occupation, where to live, whom to marry, or such other vital questions, you should do all that is possible to solve it. Too often, like Oliver Cowdery, we want our answers without effort. The Lord said to him:
“Behold, you have not understood; you have supposed that I would give it unto you, when you took no thought save it was to ask me.
“But, behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore, you shall feel that it is right.
“But if it be not right you shall have no such feelings, but you shall have a stupor of thought.” (D&C 9:7–9.)
The Lord does answer our prayers, but sometimes we are not responsive enough to know when and how they are answered. We want the “writing on the wall” or an angel to speak or a heavenly voice. Often our requests are so absurd that the Lord has said, “Trifle not with these things; do not ask for that which you ought not.” (D&C 8:10.)
There must be works with faith. How futile it would be to ask the Lord to give us knowledge, but the Lord will help us to acquire knowledge, to study constructively, to think clearly, and to retain things we have learned. How stupid to ask the Lord to protect us if we unnecessarily drive at excessive speeds, if we eat or drink destructive elements. Can we ask him to provide us material things if we give no effort? “Faith without works is dead.” (James 2:20.)
You who pray sometimes, why not pray more regularly, more often, more devoutly? Is time so precious, life so short, or faith so scant? How do you pray? Like publicans or arrogant officials? The Pharisee recounted to the Lord his many virtues. He was not an extortioner, unjust, an adulterer like the publican or other men. He fasted twice a week and tithed possessions. But the publican standing humbly in the background “would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God, be merciful to me a sinner.” (Luke 18:13.)
In your secret prayers do you present yourself with your soul bared, or do you dress yourself in fancy coverings and pressure God to see your virtues? Do you emphasize your goodness and cover your sins with a blanket of pretense? Or do you plead for mercy at the hands of Kind Providence?
Do you get answers to your prayers? If not, perhaps you did not pay the price. Do you offer a few trite words and worn-out phrases, or do you talk intimately to the Lord? Do you pray occasionally when you should be praying regularly, often, constantly? Do you offer pennies to pay heavy debts when you should give dollars to erase that obligation?
When you pray, do you just speak, or do you also listen? Your Savior said, “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.” (Rev. 3:20.)
The promise is made to everyone. There is no discrimination, no favored few. But the Lord has not promised to crash the door. He stands and knocks. If we do not listen, he will not sup with us nor give answer to our prayers. Do you know how to listen, grasp, interpret, understand? The Lord stands knocking. He never retreats. But he will never force himself upon us. If we ever move apart, it is we who move and not the Lord. And should we ever fail to get an answer to our prayers, we must look into our lives for a reason. We have failed to do what we should, or we have done something we should not have done. We have dulled our hearing or impaired our eyesight.
A young man asked me, “Sometimes I feel so close to my Heavenly Father and such a sweet, spiritual influence; why cannot I have it all the time?” I said, “The answer is with you, not with the Lord, for he stands knocking, eager to come in.”
If you have lost that spirit of peace and acceptance, then every effort should be made to recapture it and retain it. Are you listening? Can you hear, and see, and feel? Or have you sometimes approached the situation of the brothers of Nephi, to whom he said, “Ye have heard his voice from time to time … but ye were past feeling, that ye could not feel his words.” (1 Ne. 17:45.)
There seems to grow upon us a film of worldliness when we move away from the Lord. It might be like the film of grease spread over the body of the swimmer who would cross the English Channel. It fills the pores and covers the skin so there can be less penetration of the cold. It might be like the skin-diver’s rubber suit. But when we pierce the shell and penetrate the covering and humble ourselves with naked soul and sincere supplication and cleansed life, our prayers are answered. We can reach the point where Peter stood, and like him we may “be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.
“But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins.” (2 Pet. 1:4, 9.)
When you received your confirmation, you were commanded to receive the Holy Ghost. He was not obligated to seek you out. The Lord says, “I will visit thy brethren according to their diligence in keeping my commandments.” (Enos 1:10.) If our lives are responsive and clean, if we are reaching and cultivating, the Holy Ghost will come, and we may retain him and have the peace his presence thus affords.
Do you give thanks or merely ask for favors? Or are you like the lepers by the road? They begged for mercy and were healed but did not stay to thank the generous Savior.
“And as he entered into a certain village, there met him ten men that were lepers, which stood afar off:
“And they lifted up their voices, and said, Jesus, Master, have mercy on us.
“And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God,
“And fell down on his face at his feet, giving him thanks. …
“And Jesus answering [sorrowful and saddened] said, Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine?
“There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger.
“And he said unto him, Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole.” (Luke 17:12–13, 15–19.)
In our public prayers we must not be like the Pharisees or hypocrites who loved to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets that they might be seen of men.
“But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.” (Matt. 6:7.)
We all are under heavy obligation to our Lord. None of us has reached perfection. None of us is free from error. To pray is required of all men like chastity is required, and Sabbath observance, and tithing, and living the Word of Wisdom, attending meetings, and entering into celestial marriage. As truly as any other, this is a commandment of the Lord.
“I stand at the door and knock.” I was reminded of this scripture when I was on a plane with a young man who was going to a military encampment. He told me where he lived. I knew he must be a member of the Church. He reluctantly admitted it.
As the stewardess brought the snack, he drank his coffee, I my milk; he smoked his cigarette, and I read the scriptures. The door was closed, and I could not penetrate. He was not listening to me, a humble servant, nor to the Lord, who was constantly knocking.
To those of us who would pay pennies toward our unfathomable debt, may we remember Enos, who, like many of us, had great need. Like many sons of good families he strayed. How heinous were his sins I do not know, but they must have been grievous. He wrote, “And I will tell you of the wrestle which I had before God, before I received a remission of my sins.” The account is graphic, his words impressive.
“Behold, I went to hunt beasts in the forests.”
But no animals did he shoot or capture. He was traveling a path he had never walked before. He was reaching, knocking, asking, pleading; he was being born again. He was seeing the pleasant valleys across the barren wastes. He was searching his soul. He would have lived all his life in a weed patch, but now he sought a watered garden. He continues:
“And the words which I had often heard my father speak concerning eternal life, and the joy of the saints, sunk deep into my heart.”
Memory was both cruel and kind. The pictures his father had painted now stirred his soul. He was warmed and inspired. Then memory opened the doors to his ugly past. His soul revolted at the reliving of the baser things but yearned now for the better. A rebirth was in process. It was painful but rewarding.
“And my soul hungered.” The spirit of repentance was taking hold. He was remorseful for his transgression, eager to bury the old man of sin, to resurrect the new man of faith, of godliness.
“And I kneeled down before my Maker, and I cried unto him in mighty prayer and supplication for mine own soul.”
He had now come to realize that no one can be saved in his sins, that no unclean thing can enter into the kingdom of God, that there must be a cleansing, that stains must be eliminated, new flesh over scars. He came to realize that there must be a purging, a new heart in a new man. He knew it was not a small thing to change hearts, and minds, and tissues. He writes:
“And all the day long did I cry unto him.”
Here is no casual prayer; here no trite, worn phrases; here no momentary appeal. All the day long, with seconds turning into minutes, and minutes into hours, and hours into an “all day long.” But when the sun had set, relief had still not come, for repentance is not a single act, nor forgiveness an unearned gift. So precious to him was communication with, and approval of, his Redeemer that his determined soul pressed on without ceasing.
“Yea, and when the night came, I did still raise my voice high that it reached the heavens.” (Enos 1:2–4.)
Could the Redeemer resist such determined imploring? How many of you have thus persisted? How many of you, with or without serious transgressions, have ever prayed all day and into the night? Have you ever wept and prayed for many hours? How many of you have prayed for five hours? for one? for 30 minutes? for ten?
My missionary prospect with his errors had prayed occasionally for seconds. Yet with a heavy debt to pay he had expected forgiveness of his sins. He offered pennies to pay the debt of thousands of dollars. He wanted much for little. He desired to cancel his debt without payment of principal or interest.
How much do you pray, my young friends? How often? How earnestly? If you should have errors in your life, have you wrestled before the Lord? Have you found your deep forest full of solitude? How much has your soul hungered? How deeply have your needs impressed your heart? When did you kneel before your Maker in total quiet? For what did you pray—your own soul? How long did you thus plead for recognition—all day long? And when the shadows fell, did you still raise your voice in mighty prayer, or did you liquidate it with some trite word and phrase?
As you struggle in the spirit and cry mightily and covenant sincerely, the voice of the Lord God will come into your mind, as it did to that of Enos:
“Thy sins are forgiven thee, and thou shalt be blessed.” (Enos 1:5.)
Do you think prayer is not answered because you do not understand? Did Christ not come because men would not receive him? Is there no sound vibration because ears do not perceive it? Are there no vibrations in the air because no receiver sets are in tune? Does God not speak because our ears are closed? And does he not appear when eyes are leaden? Some people hear a noise; others think it thunders; while others hear and understand the voice of God and see him personally.
Solitude is rich and profitable. When we pray alone with God, we shed all sham and pretense, all hypocrisy and arrogance. The Savior found his mountains and slipped away to pray. Paul, the great apostle, could not seem to get into the spirit of his new calling until he had found cleansing solitude down in Arabia—for purification; for repentance; for forgiveness, to break the seal of worldly covering, to shed his film, his skintight suit of worldliness.
He went into solitude a worldly man and came out cleansed, prepared, regenerated.
He was born of water in a Damascus river and of the Spirit in an Arabian solitude. Enos found himself in solitary places to commune in forest fastnesses, with only ears of beasts to hear. The brother of Jared went to the mountaintop to get the Lord to touch the stones to light their way.
And Nephi learned to build a ship through communication with his Lord on a mountain far from human ears. Joseph found his solitude in the grove with only birds and trees and God to listen to his prayer.
We all need prayers to bring us close to God, to give us new birth. Like Alma said:
“I have repented of my sins, and have been redeemed of the Lord; behold I am born of the Spirit.
“… all mankind … must be born again; yea, born of God, changed from their carnal and fallen state, to a state of righteousness, being redeemed of God, becoming his sons and daughters;
“And thus they become new creatures; and unless they do this, they can in nowise inherit the kingdom of God.” (Mosiah 27:24–26.)
And in all our prayers we remember our insufficiency, our limitations, our dependence, our lack of wisdom. Like children we do not always know what is best for us, what is expedient. And so in all our prayers we say, “Thy will be done”—and mean it. We would not ask a Church leader for advice, then disregard it. We must never ask the Lord for blessings, then ignore the answer.
And so we pray, “Thy will be done, O Lord. Thou knowest best, kind Father. I will conform. I will accept it gratefully.”