“Spiritual patterns are now and always have been important aids to discernment and sources of direction and protection for faithful Latter-day Saints,” Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught at the 2011 Women’s Conference at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. “A powerful pattern the Lord uses to advance His work and to tutor Heavenly Father’s children upon the earth is . . . ‘by small and simple things are great things brought to pass’ (Alma 37:6).”
A Spiritual Pattern
Both Elder Bednar and his wife, Sister Susan Kae Robinson Bednar, spoke at the closing session of the conference. Elder Bednar explained our need for patterns as guides or models in our lives. “Patterns help to avoid waste and unwanted deviations and facilitate uniformity that is appropriate and beneficial,” he said. “I believe many, if not all, of the most satisfying and memorable accomplishments in our homes, in the Church, in our jobs and professions, and in our communities will be the product of this important spiritual pattern—of simple and small things.” He assured his listeners that those who “faithfully, diligently, and consistently do simple things that are right before God will bring forth extraordinary results.”
He shared three stories to illustrate this concept.
First he told of Elder L. Tom Perry’s ancestors Gustavus and Eunice Perry, the first in the Perry line to accept the gospel. Today their descendants number more than 10,000. Their dedication to the gospel, evident in the small and simple acts of regular prayer, Sabbath observance, gospel conversations, and more, “produced a legacy of faithfulness” in enough families to create three stakes of the Church.
Elder Bednar’s second story centered on his ancestors Luke and Christiana Syphus, who joined the Church in England in the early days of the Restoration. Through their “good habits . . . kindly ways, and . . . example of strength and devotion,” they brought Joseph and Adelaide Ridges into the gospel. Joseph Ridges later built the Tabernacle organ that has become a symbol of the Church throughout the world.
Finally, Elder Bednar shared his family’s experience of living in Arkansas. His sons “did strive to live the gospel and to be examples of the believers” in an area where negative views and falsehoods about the Church were common. By the time Elder Bednar and his family moved to Idaho after several years in Arkansas, their sons’ examples had helped to change the perspectives of many in the community. One of these community members accepted Elder Bednar’s request that he defend the Church in their part of Arkansas once the Bednars were gone and no longer able to do so.
In each of these examples, Elder Bednar said, members had lived the gospel in “small and simple and ordinary ways.” While dramatic results did not occur, “by small and simple things great things were brought to pass.”
He asked the audience to consider two questions: (1) Why do small and simple things bring great things to pass and (2) why is the spiritual pattern of small and simple things bringing great things to pass so central to living the gospel of Jesus Christ with faith and diligence?
Using the example of drip irrigation, he explained that “with drip irrigation, applications of water are more focused and more frequent than with . . . other methods.” Similarly, “if you and I are focused and frequent in receiving consistent drops of spiritual nourishment, then gospel roots can sink deep into our soul, can become firmly established and grounded, and can produce extraordinary and delicious fruit.” If we understand this, the pattern of small and simple things has greater power. This pattern “produces firmness and steadfastness, deepening devotion, and more complete conversion to the Lord Jesus Christ and His gospel.” In this way we become “increasingly steadfast and immovable” and “less prone to zealous and exaggerated spurts of spirituality followed by extended periods of slackness.”
“In a gospel sense . . . you and I need to become intelligent drip irrigators and avoid sporadic and shallow spiritual spurting,” he said. “We can avoid or overcome unsustainable spiritual spurting as we employ the Lord’s pattern of small and simple things and become truly intelligent irrigators.”
Elder Bednar closed his remarks with a blessing that “according to your desire, faithfulness, and diligence, you may have eyes to see and the capacity to press forward and persevere in the powerful spiritual pattern of small and simple things bringing to pass great things—in your individual lives, in your families, and in your righteous pursuits.”
Read a Church News and Events report on Elder Bednar’s address.