Recently I gave an author interview and was asked the question, “Who would you say was the person who has had the most influence on your life?” Instantly, a name flew into my brain – Jerrie Diddy, a person whom I only recall meeting twice, and yet who changed the entire course of my life. When I was a very young girl growing up in a part-member home, this cousin of my mother’s did a very small thing that she doesn’t even remember. She sent me The Children’s Friend.
I loved that magazine. There was something so soothing and pure about it. I was a little confused about religion at that time. Every Sunday my mother would take my brother and me to a different church. But when this magazine started coming, it pricked my mother’s conscience and she decided that she would brave my father’s prejudices and take my brother and me to the LDS church for Sunday school. She dropped us off and picked us up when it was over.
I loved it. There was something different about this church. I went home and prepared the sacrament for my dolls. Somehow I knew that the sacrament was vital, even in my nine-year-old mind.
From that point on I had direction. I wanted to be the best Latter-day Saint I could be. My home teacher saw to it that I was baptized. My bishop and his wife served as a model for what I wanted my home to be like when I grew up. Eventually my mother was activated, my father joined the Church, we were sealed in the temple, and my brother, sister, and I were all sealed to our spouses in the temple, have raised children who have gone on missions and been married in the temple. Then there are the thousands of ancestors for whom we have done temple work – all because of Jerrie Diddy’s small act.
Wherefore, be not weary in well-doing, for ye are laying the foundation of a great work. And out of small things proceedeth that which is great (Doctrine and Covenants 64:32).
My life has been blessed continually by people who understand the horizontal aspect of the atonement – being the hands of Jesus Christ in my life. I am sure that the things they have done seemed very small to them, but they were evidence to me of the Lord’s working in my life. I am certain that an understanding of this role we have to play in the lives of others on this earth is Heavenly Father’s answer to tragedies, small and great.
Sadly, there are many heartbreaks in this world that an antidepressant just won’t solve. As Satan rages, it seems like the list grows longer and longer – infidelity, divorce, abuse, same gender attraction, murder, kidnapping, rape, SIDS, children going far astray, loss of employment, death or suicide of loved ones, ravaging disease, war and terrorism. It seems that every family has a deep trial of some sort – something deep enough to try them as Abraham was tried.
Sometimes it seems that the trials that occur to our loved ones are harder to bear than the ones we endure ourselves, because we are so helpless to make them better. Watching unmasked grief and pain is a soul-wrenching experience. Sometimes we forget that the atonement is for these occasions as well.
I am reminded of my friend, Shannon Wilson, a BYU student who went to work in an orphanage in Romania. It was an absolute sham. Although the orphanage supposedly offered succor, it was more like a dumping ground. Children were dying of starvation and disease right and left. No one seemed to care. But Shannon did. She cared so much that grief for these children carved deeply into her soul. She wondered, Why? Why do these poor, helpless children have to suffer so much? Then she received an answer I will never forget, “Suddenly I knew that because I was there, God was there.” Peace came into her soul, and love for the children poured out of it. She comforted and loved them fully in their last hours on earth. A small thing?
When Joseph was in Carthage Jail, preparing for almost certain death, his soul was weary with a weight of persecution he had carried since he was fourteen years old. What did he crave? He wanted the comfort of a song from a friend. A song he had long loved, “The Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief.” A small thing? Possibly he needed its tender reminder that he was giving his life for the Savior.
A mother of a son who was the brightest star in her firmament was told that he was valiantly fighting same sex attraction and had been for years. She was crushed and heartbroken. She couldn’t imagine her son’s pain, the unfairness of his affliction when he was such a valiant son of God. What did she want? To cry and be held by a woman of strong faith and testimony who could be relied upon to tell her that the world had not gone upside down, that the gospel was still true. A small thing?
No Small Acts
What do all these examples tell us? That mortality is cruel, but that out of terrible trials sweetness can be wrung if we hold fast and remember that the Savior has experienced every one of them. And we learn that that sweetness comes from our fellow man. We are God’s hands, voice, and ears. We are His embrace.
In short, there are no small acts of kindness. Every one of them is a tender mercy to someone, reminding them that the Lord is there, that they are not forgotten. As we grow in awareness of our Heavenly Father’s grace and mercy towards us, we grow in love for mankind. As we are healed, we become a bulwark for someone else who needs our testimony, our healing touch.
During my depression, a dear friend brought me a picture of a weary woman struggling up a rocky incline. Grasping both her arms were women – outlined in white but transparent. They were her angels. My friend was my angel, and that picture has bonded me to her forever.
Zion will be built by angels, and those angels will be Latter-day Saints who are pure in heart, who are able to make the bitter sweet, to call down the powers of heaven on behalf of their loved ones.
Can you imagine what it must have been like to live in the Nephite civilization during the two hundred-year period after Christ’s visit? There must have been pain. There must have been sorrow. But everyone had learned to fill his “divine void” with the love of God. And from this wellspring they sustained one another in every trial.