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Small Things

Audio: "Small Things"
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I have always loved understanding how living things function. I remember being so excited to dissect earthworms in my 7th grade biology class. I remember being amazed as I looked at all the tiny organs inside the worm and thinking, “How do those little hearts, blood vessels, and digestive organs work, especially because they are so small?” (In case you didn’t know, a typical earthworm has 5 hearts) Through the rest of my youth, I continued to be amazed by living things, so when I graduated from high school, I was excited to sign up for biology classes at Ricks College. I enjoyed all my biology classes, but when I took BIO 221–General Microbiology, my fascination with living things grew to a new level. I loved learning about bacteria and viruses that are so small you can’t even see them without a microscope! I was amazed that there is a whole world of microorganisms all around us that most of us know very little about and have never even seen. I loved looking through the microscope and seeing amazing bacteria like Staphylococcus aureus, E. coli, and Streptococcus pyogenes. I loved learning about how bacteria and viruses that are so extremely small can cause diseases like strep throat, the flu, and COVID-19, and, in severe cases, they can even cause death. Since that class, I have been captivated by small things.

Even though I love microbiology and would enjoy talking more about small living things, today I would like to talk about some small things that are much more important than bacteria or viruses.

In Alma 37:6 it states, “By small and simple things are great things brought to pass.” [1]

I have found several “small and simple things” that have made a great difference in my life:

  • Daily Prayer 
  • Daily Scripture Study
  • Keeping the Sabbath Day Holy
  • Paying an Honest Tithe
  • Worshipping in the Temple

As we discuss each of these small things in more detail, I invite you to open your minds and hearts so you can receive inspiration about the small things you can do to become a better disciple of Jesus Christ.

Small Thing #1: Daily Prayer

The Bible Dictionary section on prayer states, “As soon as we learn the true relationship in which we stand toward God (namely, God is our Father, and we are His children), then at once prayer becomes natural and instinctive on our part.” [2]

If you want a good relationship with your roommates, parents, or friends, you need to communicate with them on a regular basis. This principle applies to our relationship with Heavenly Father as well. As we take the time to communicate with Him through prayer, we can strengthen our faith and trust in Him and His plan for us.

The Bible Dictionary goes on to say, “The object of prayer is not to change the will of God but to secure for ourselves and for others blessings that God is already willing to grant but that are made conditional on our asking for them.” [3]

One of the blessings we can ask for is to receive guidance for our lives. As Alma 37:37 states, “Counsel with the Lord in all thy doings, and he will direct thee for good.” [4]

Elder Robert D. Hales said, “When we want to speak to God, we pray. And when we want Him to speak to us, we search the scriptures.” [5] That leads us to the next small thing.

Small Thing #2: Daily Scripture Study

We all know it is essential to nourish our physical bodies to keep them healthy and strong. That same principle applies to our spirits. One way to maintain our spiritual strength is to study the scriptures and words of the living prophets each day.

In this week’s Come, Follow Me lesson, we learn about Lehi’s vision of the tree of life. In the vision he sees an iron rod that leads to the tree. In 1 Nephi 8:24, Lehi sees people who “came forth and caught hold of the end of the rod of iron; and they did press forward through the mist of darkness, clinging to the rod of iron, even until they did come forth and partake of the fruit of the tree.” [6]

Later, Nephi learns that the mists of darkness represent the temptations of the devil that deceive and distract the children of God from staying on the covenant path. In 1 Nephi 15:24, Nephi explains,

[The rod of iron is] the word of God; and whoso would hearken unto the word of God, and would hold fast unto it, they would never perish; neither could the temptations and the fiery darts of the adversary overpower them unto blindness, to lead them away to destruction. [7]

In the October 2017 general conference, President Russell M. Nelson spoke about the importance of the Book of Mormon:

My dear brothers and sisters, I promise that as you prayerfully study the Book of Mormon every day, you will make better decisions—every day. I promise that as you ponder what you study, the windows of heaven will open, and you will receive answers to your own questions and direction for your own life. I promise that as you daily immerse yourself in the Book of Mormon, you can be immunized against the evils of the day, even the gripping plague of pornography and other mind-numbing addictions. [8]

After conference, I thought about this quote often and said to myself, “I want to make better decisions every day, I want to receive answers to my questions and direction for my life, and I want to be immunized against the evils of our day!” So, I decided to test out these promises made by a prophet of God. I was already in the habit of daily gospel study, but I wasn’t always incorporating the Book of Mormon in that study. I decided that I would start my day by saying a personal prayer and then reading at least one chapter in the Book of Mormon before completing my other gospel study.

In January 2018, I made a New Year’s resolution to read at least one chapter in the Book of Mormon every day that year, and it didn’t take long to recognize the difference it was making in my life. Within a couple weeks, I could literally feel the effect of daily Book of Mormon study. I was happier, and, while all the circumstances in my life weren’t perfect, I felt more peace and contentment. Those good feelings encouraged me to stick with my goal so that by the end of the year I had read at least one chapter in the Book of Mormon every single day. It felt so good that I set that as a lifelong goal and have been reading at least one chapter in the Book of Mormon every day since! This practice has truly blessed my life!

Small Thing #3: Keeping the Sabbath Day Holy

President Nelson taught, “I am intrigued by the words of Isaiah, who called the Sabbath ‘a delight.’ Yet I wonder, is the Sabbath really a delight for you and for me?” [9]

When Isaiah described the Sabbath as ‘a delight,’ he also taught us how to make it delightful. He said, “If thou turn away . . . from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, . . . and shalt honour [the Lord], not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words: ‘Then shalt thou delight thyself in the Lord.’” [10]

President Nelson went on to say,

Not pursuing your ‘own pleasure’ on the Sabbath requires self-discipline. You may have to deny yourself of something you might like. If you choose to delight yourself in the Lord, you will not permit yourself to treat [the Sabbath] as any other day. Routine and recreational activities can be done some other time. [11]

An essential part of keeping the Sabbath day holy is attending our church meetings, especially sacrament meeting. Elder Dale G. Renlund emphasized the importance of attending sacrament meeting:

The treasured blessings of the sacrament are available to us each time we attend sacrament meeting. Our spiritual foundation is strengthened through repentance and by conscientiously preparing for and worthily partaking of the sacrament. Only with a robust spiritual foundation can we handle the metaphorical rain, wind, and floods that confront us in our lives. Conversely, our spiritual foundation is weakened when we voluntarily skip sacrament meeting or when we do not focus on the Savior during the sacrament. [12]

Small Thing #4: Paying An Honest Tithe

In the October general conference last year, there were a few different talks that discussed the importance of paying a full tithe. Our prophet said the following in his “Think Celestial!” talk:

As you think celestial, your faith will increase. When I was a young intern, my income was $15 a month. One night, my wife Dantzel asked if I was paying tithing on that meager stipend. I was not. I quickly repented and began paying the additional $1.50 in monthly tithing. [13]

Was the Church any different because we increased our tithing? Of course not. However, becoming a full-tithe payer changed me. That is when I learned that paying tithing is all about faith, not money.

Elder Neil L. Andersen also made the following comments about tithing in this past general conference:

All that we have and all that we are comes from God. With all the Lord gives to us, He has asked us to return to Him and His kingdom on earth 10 percent of our increase. He has promised us that as we are honest in our tithes, He will “open . . . the windows of heaven, and pour . . . out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.” . . . The windows of heaven open in many ways. Some are temporal, but many are spiritual . . . Trust in the Lord’s timing; the blessings always come. [14]

Small Thing #5: Worshipping in the Temple

President Nelson made the following promise about spending time in the temple:

Our need to be in the temple on a regular basis has never been greater. I plead with you to take a prayerful look at how you spend your time . . . If you have reasonable access to a temple, I urge you to find a way to make an appointment regularly with the Lord—to be in His holy house—then keep that appointment with exactness and joy. I promise you that the Lord will bring the miracles He knows you need as you make sacrifices to serve and worship in His temples. [15]

In his “Think Celestial!” message, President Nelson commented on the importance of temple worship:

Spending more time in the temple builds faith. And your service and worship in the temple will help you to think celestial. The temple is a place of revelation. There you are shown how to progress toward a celestial life. There you are drawn closer to the Savior and given greater access to His power. There you are guided in solving the problems in your life, even your most perplexing problems. [16]

I assume that many of us are living closer to a temple right now than we ever will be again, so I hope we will take full advantage of that blessing by scheduling time to worship and serve in the temple as often as we can.

As was mentioned in the introduction, I served as a missionary in the Munich Germany mission. While I was a missionary, I wanted to learn what it takes to raise a happy and successful family. As I spent time with church members, I would notice what they were doing and how that affected their lives. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but it didn’t take me long to realize that the individuals and families that seemed to be really happy weren’t doing anything amazing. They were just doing the small and simple things of the gospel consistently. I remember being so excited when I came to this realization because I knew that I could do those same small and simple things. I now know from personal experience that being consistent in the small things of the gospel is what really makes a difference in my life.

Today I have shared with you some of the “small and simple things” that have had a profound impact on my life: daily prayer, daily scripture study (especially in the Book of Mormon), keeping the Sabbath day holy, paying an honest tithe, and worshipping in the temple.

I absolutely love teaching at BYU-Idaho. I love teaching my students about the smallest of living things and how they affect humans. But I especially love teaching in a place where the gospel is a critical part of our learning. I love starting each class with prayer and a spiritual thought. I love the BYU-Idaho mission statement, which says, the mission of BYU-Idaho is “to develop disciples of Jesus Christ who are leaders in their homes, the church, and their communities.”

One of the ways I like to encourage my students to become better disciples of Jesus Christ is to invite them to complete a discipleship assignment each semester. At the beginning of the semester, I allow students to set their own goals to help them deepen their discipleship and then they work on those goals throughout the semester. At the end of the semester, they write up a report to explain what they did and how it impacted their lives. Grading those reports is one of my favorite activities of the semester.

I would like to invite you to deepen your discipleship of Jesus Christ by participating in your own discipleship assignment this semester. I will give you some time right now to think about and write down two specific things you can do to strengthen your discipleship of the Savior. You can write them in a notebook, your journal, or make a note in your phone.

Now I would like to invite you to take more time later today to make a plan for how you can accomplish your goals.

In our busy lives, we might wonder if we can take the time to work on these types of goals, but our prophet has given us wonderful counsel and an amazing promise about giving the Lord our time. He said:

Spend more time—much more time—in places where the Spirit is present. That means more time with friends who are seeking to have the Spirit with them. Spend more time on your knees in prayer, more time in the scriptures, more time in family history work, more time in the temple. I promise you that as you consistently give the Lord a generous portion of your time, He will multiply the remainder. [17]

As I have consistently incorporated the small and simple things of the gospel into my life, I have been happier and have had more peace and joy. I know that Jesus Christ is my Savior and that He has the power to forgive sins because He has forgiven mine. I pray that each of us will make the effort to become better disciples of Jesus Christ by doing the “small and simple things” that will bring great spiritual power into our lives. In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.


Notes

[1] Alma 36:7.

[2] Bible Dictionary “Prayer.”

[3] Ibid.

[4] Alma 37:37.

[5] Robert D. Hales, “Holy Scriptures: The Power of God unto Our Salvation,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2006.

[6] 1 Nephi 8:24.

[7] 1 Nephi 15:24.

[8] Russell M. Nelson, “The Book of Mormon: What Would Your Life Be Like without It?” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2017.

[9] Russell M. Nelson, “The Sabbath is a Delight,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2015.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Russell M. Nelson, “The Sabbath is a Delight,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2015.

[12] Dale G. Renlund, “Jesus Christ Is the Treasure,” Liahona, Nov. 2023.

[13] Russell M. Nelson, “Think Celestial!” Liahona, Nov. 2023.

[14] Neil L. Andersen, “Tithing: Opening the Windows of Heaven,” Liahona, Nov. 2023.

[15] Russell M. Nelson, “Becoming Exemplary Latter-day Saints,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2018.

[16] Russell M. Nelson, “Think Celestial!” Liahona, Nov. 2023.

[17] Russell M. Nelson, “Becoming True Millenials,” Worldwide Devotional for Young Adults, Jan. 10, 2016.