I love General Conference. Twice a year, in October and April, leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints speak to the Church and the world at large. It’s six sessions of inspired music and messages that give counsel for our day. This conference has been amazing so far, and my brother is in town from Colorado, so it has been fun to spend time with (i.e. tease, poke, and otherwise annoy) him. We have good times. I also watched the Saturday afternoon session with an old mission companion, and she is fantastic. Love her so much.
Time with family and friends is great, but conference is also a time of revelation—a time when, if I’m prepared to receive it, I can get specific revelation from God for my life. Lately, at times it has been difficult to see his hand at work, but as I’ve thought back, I have been humbled to remember the miracles God has shown in my life. Let me tell you a story.
In October of 2012, I was preparing to serve as a full-time missionary for 18 months in the New York Rochester Mission starting that December. At the time, I was alternating between super excited and absolutely TERRIFIED. You see, I had never planned to serve a mission, but when God let me know in June of 2012 that that’s what he wanted me to do, I decided to go (that whole decision-making process is a story for another day).
Anyway, I hadn’t wanted to serve a mission because that was WAY too hard. Talking to strangers all day and getting doors slammed in your face? As an introvert who has a hard time with people taking important things lightly, no thank you. I just knew that going on a mission would make me look squarely at every one of my weaknesses and work on them. So uncomfortable. I had also had some experiences with people attacking my beliefs, and it wasn’t pleasant. Not something I wanted to repeat on a daily basis.
But honestly, at the root of it I was just plain scared. Scared that I couldn’t do it, scared that I wouldn’t be good enough, scared that I would fail at something so important. So as I went into conference, I prayed that God would help me know how I could be better at sharing my faith now, because I felt like I was so far behind that I was going to need all the help I could get.
That conference weekend was wonderful. I went through the temple for the first time on Friday, and the conference sessions on Saturday and Sunday were wonderful and uplifting. I distinctly remember lying in bed that Sunday, still basking in the spirit of the weekend, when a thought came so clearly to my mind and heart: “Ariel, pray for the miracle of seeing someone you work with come into the Church through you.”
Sometimes I know a thought comes from the Spirit when I find myself arguing with it.
“Um, Heavenly Father? This is ME we’re talking about, remember?? The one who has always been afraid to open her mouth and has never been that good of a missionary. Are you sure about this?” I had never seen something like that happen before, and I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to do what was required.
So it took a lot of faith to say that first prayer. But I did. And I went to sleep wondering what would come of it.
The next day at work I happened to be instant messaging to one of my coworkers—we’ll call him Ronnie—who had recently been hired on, and when he asked me how my weekend was, I told him a little bit about the temple. And since the Boise Temple open house was going on at the time, I threw it out there that if he wanted to know more about the temple and see what it was like inside, he could come to the open house with me. He agreed.
I wasn’t expecting that.
And since the conversation was going so well, I thought, “Hey, why not go the whole hog and invite him to church?” So I did.
AND HE SAID HE WOULD COME.
You guys. You have to understand that this was NOT easy for me. I was so scared to ask those questions, and in the past when I had tried to share my faith, no one had ever reacted like that! So this was a big deal. Things like this NEVER happened to me.
So we went to the open house, and he enjoyed it. It took a little longer for him to come to church, but he did, and then I went to his. After that, I gathered my courage to invite him to take lessons from the full-time missionaries.
He said no.
But we continued to be friends and would talk at work and stuff. He met my family and became friends with them and was able to see how the gospel of Jesus Christ blesses families in their everyday lives. He even came with me to institute (a religion class for young adults) sometimes.
It was in institute, actually, when I knew it was time for Ronnie to be taught by the full-time missionaries. Ronnie wasn’t with me at the time, but in one of my classes the full-time missionaries came to speak to us as part of the lesson. As one of the missionaries shared what he knew to be true, I knew he was the missionary that needed to teach Ronnie.
Here comes the arguing again.
“Heavenly Father! He said no, remember? And besides, I don’t even have his information that I could give to these missionaries.”
And then it hit me—Ronnie had given me a card with his information on it the day before. I had no excuse. So timidly, I gave the missionaries Ronnie’s contact information, explained the situation, and told them to very prayerfully consider when to call him, because I wasn’t sure how he would react.
The next day at work I was on pins and needles. What if Ronnie hated me? What if he was angry that I gave the missionaries his information? What if I had just messed up everything? Basically, I was freaking out. So in desperation, I prayed, “Heavenly Father, I need a miracle. Something—anything—to let me know that it’s going to be okay.”
An email popped up in my inbox. It was from Ronnie. It said that he wanted to take the lessons from the missionaries. Without me saying ANYTHING or the missionaries calling him at all! I was so excited and relieved—it really was a miracle.
Ronnie took the lessons, but it wasn’t smooth sailing for him—he faced a lot of opposition from his family, and at one point after we had gotten into an argument, he said he didn’t want to take the lessons anymore, because if members of the Church acted like that, he didn’t want to be a part of it. Can you imagine how horrible I felt? It was awful to think that someone would turn away from the gospel because of my mistakes and weaknesses. Ronnie forgave me, but he didn’t want to talk about the Church for some time after that.
We were still not talking about it a day or two after Thanksgiving when I got a text from him saying he wanted to be baptized. He had been reading the Book of Mormon and felt that this was the path God wanted him to take. A couple weeks later, the Saturday before I left on my mission, he made that covenant to follow Jesus Christ and become a member of his Church. It was a beautiful day.
As I look back on that experience, I marvel at how true it really is that by small and simple things, great things are brought to pass (Alma 37:6). By small and simple things the Lord brings about his great and eternal purposes. Ronnie’s choice to join the Church was really nothing I did—it was the Spirit that changed his heart. God does the real heavy lifting for the miracles in our lives. When it was all I could do to show my faith in tiny ways, he made great things come to pass from them. This experience gives me hope that I can do the small and seemingly insignificant things God directs me to do through his Spirit—a kind word there, a phone call here, a change in habit, a better choice—and great things will come. I CAN do what God asks me to do, and as I am obedient and trust in him, sooner or later he will bless me with the desires of my heart. All that the Father has is in reach for all of us—we just have to go step by step.
So take that step. Whatever it is for you. Doing the small things is a great measure of our faith in Christ. Because of the Atonement, “out of small things proceedeth that which is great” (D&C 64:33). I can do small things. And so can you.