Viewpoint: Lesson of the Bees

  • 10 August 2014

The lesson of the bees is profound: When many people each do something small, together they accomplish something large.

“These simple, daily acts of service may not seem like much in and of themselves, but when considered collectively they become just like the one-twelfth teaspoon of honey contributed by a single bee to the hive. There is power in our love for God and for His children, and when that love is tangibly manifest in millions of acts of Christian kindness, it will sweeten and nourish the world with the life-sustaining nectar of faith, hope, and charity.” —Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles 

Honeybees, by instinct, spend their life pollinating, gathering nectar, and condensing that nectar into honey. “It is estimated that to produce just one pound of honey, the average hive of 20,000 to 60,000 bees must collectively visit millions of flowers and travel the equivalent of two times around the world. Over its short lifetime of just a few weeks to four months, a single honeybee’s contribution of honey to its hive is a mere one-twelfth of one teaspoon,” said Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles during his October 2012 general conference address.

Yet that small contribution is vital to the hive of the honeybees. The bees in the hive rely on each other. “Work that would be overwhelming for a few bees to do becomes lighter because all the bees faithfully do their part.”

The lesson of the bees is profound: When many people each do something small, together they accomplish something large.

Thinking small in a world so large—with so many needs—might feel overwhelming. But the lesson of the honeybee teaches each of us that even one-twelfth of one teaspoon can produce something sweet.

“You are, of course, surrounded by opportunities for service,” said President Thomas S. Monson during the 2007 general Relief Society meeting. “No doubt at times you recognize so many such opportunities that you may feel somewhat overwhelmed. Where do you begin? How can you do it all? How do you choose, from all the needs you observe, where and how to serve?

“Often small acts of service are all that is required to lift and bless another: a question concerning a person’s family, quick words of encouragement, a sincere compliment, a small note of thanks, a brief telephone call. If we are observant and aware, and if we act on the promptings which come to us, we can accomplish much good.”

The lyrics to a popular hymn teach the same lesson:

Have I done any good in the world today? Have I helped anyone in need? Have I cheered up the sad and made someone feel glad? If not, I have failed indeed. Has anyone’s burden been lighter today Because I was willing to share? Have the sick and the weary been helped on their way? When they needed my help was I there? …

There are chances for work all around just now,
Opportunities right in our way.
Do not let them pass by, saying, “Sometime I’ll try,”
But go and do something today.
’Tis noble of man to work and to give;
Love’s labor has merit alone.
Only he who does something helps others to live.
To God each good work will be known.
(“Have I Done Any Good?” Hymns, no. 223.)

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Second Counselor in the First Presidency, said each of us should be sensitive to the needs of others—serving them and giving of our time and talents. Love can be shown in many small ways.

“I was deeply impressed by one sister who was burdened with the challenges of age and illness but decided that although she couldn’t do much, she could listen,” said President Uchtdorf during his October 2010 general conference address. “And so each week she watched for people who looked troubled or discouraged, and she spent time with them, listening. What a blessing she was in the lives of so many people.”

Thinking small in a world so large—with so many needs—might feel overwhelming. But the lesson of the honeybee teaches each of us that even one-twelfth of one teaspoon can produce something sweet.

The beehive was a symbol of harmony, cooperation, and work for the early pioneers of the Church. Brigham Young used the symbol to inspire early Church members to work together to transform the barren Salt Lake Valley into a beautiful and thriving community. The beehive symbol was imprinted on the doors of the Salt Lake Temple. And the Beehive House, Brigham Young’s official residence, was adorned with—and eventually named after—a beehive sculpture atop the house.

Almost 170 years after the pioneers settled in the west, the symbol of the beehive still has great meaning for the Church—a worldwide organization where millions of members do their small part each day to move the work forward.

“We read of the service Church members provide around the world and especially the humanitarian service given in times of crisis—fires and floods and hurricanes and tornadoes,” said Elder Ballard during his 2012 general conference address. “These much-needed and much-appreciated emergency responses should certainly continue as a way of bearing one another’s burdens.

“But what about our everyday lives?” Elder Ballard asked. “What would be the cumulative effect of millions of small, compassionate acts performed daily by us because of our heartfelt Christian love for others? Over time, this would have a transformative effect upon all of our Heavenly Father’s children through the extension of His love to them through us. Our troubled world needs this love of Christ today more than ever, and it will need it even more in the years ahead.

“These simple, daily acts of service may not seem like much in and of themselves, but when considered collectively they become just like the one-twelfth teaspoon of honey contributed by a single bee to the hive. There is power in our love for God and for His children, and when that love is tangibly manifest in millions of acts of Christian kindness, it will sweeten and nourish the world with the life-sustaining nectar of faith, hope, and charity.”