The faith of children has always helped me to realize how close our Heavenly Father really is to us. Children’s prayers have also taught me that our Heavenly Father doesn’t expect each prayer to be long or for us to use big words. My granddaughter Lisa doesn’t pray very long, and she doesn’t use big words. But I know that her prayers are heard and answered because she loves her Heavenly Father and He loves her.
When I was six years old, my mother took me to the groundbreaking service for our new chapel in Santa Monica, California. As we arrived, Mother noticed that I had brought the small sand shovel that I usually took on our family outings to the beach. I had hoped that I could help by digging some ground at the chapel site. They let me use my shovel that first day, and my faith was increased because I helped to build a church for our Heavenly Father. My, how good I felt! The seeds of service and faith were planted in my heart. It is my wish to keep that same feeling of faith and desire to serve that I had as a six-year-old child.
Years later when my childhood dreams of a mission were realized, I was called far away to New Zealand. There I first met the Maori people who have brought so much into my life by their simplicity, sincerity, and great faith.
One of my first assignments was to a Maori village called Judea, where the missionaries were helping in the construction of a small chapel. At that time I was trying to learn the Maori language. Each day I prayed to our Heavenly Father for help. And then one day I was surprised to be surrounded by Primary children. My prayer for help with the new language had been heard, and our Heavenly Father had inspired the branch president to send these children to help me. They followed me everywhere I went for weeks, talking to me in Maori. Their first lesson I shall remember forever:
The words sounded beautiful, but they were meaningless to a new missionary. I thought I was learning an old Maori war chant. What a surprise to me when I found out the children were teaching me “Hey, diddle diddle, the cat and the fiddle, the cow jumped over the moon. …”
How grateful I shall always be to those children of New Zealand for the wonderful blessing they brought to their new missionary.
In another part of New Zealand the missionaries always stopped for the night at a certain Maori home where they could be sure of a place to sleep, and they knew the Spirit of the Lord was always there. There were eleven children in this family, and each took his turn to say family prayer. They always sincerely prayed that they might one day be able to go to the temple to be sealed together by the power of the priesthood for time and all eternity. This family was so poor that it seemed impossible for them to save enough to buy tickets for Mother, Dad, and eleven children to travel all the way to the Hawaii Temple five thousand miles away. But their faith was great and the prayers of the entire family persisted. How could such a blessing ever come to pass?
Every New Zealand missionary was humbled beyond words when the announcement was made just a few years later by President David O. McKay that a new temple would be built in New Zealand—within fifty miles of the little Maori family who possibly could never have saved enough money to travel to Hawaii. God moves in mysterious ways his wonders to perform. People with sufficient faith will never be denied the blessings of heaven.
Our family will not forget our little friend Becky, who invited us to hold our family home evening in her home. Even though her daddy was not a member of the Church, she wanted him to participate in a family home evening. Most of all, she wanted him to become a member of the Church.
Becky’s daddy said he would be glad to have us go to their home for family home evening. We had a beautiful time together. The spiritual lesson was followed by refreshments, some games, and family prayer. As we were saying goodnight, Becky looked up at me and asked, “Bishop Simpson, will you do me a favor?”
“Of course,” I answered, “anything you say.”
“Will you please baptize my daddy for me?”
That request, filled with the hope and faith of a child, sank deeply into the heart of her daddy, and it was just a few weeks later that his baptism was performed.
No wonder Jesus said, “Except ye … become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 18:3).