I have two younger brothers who are currently serving as bishops. Our family spent the Thanksgiving holiday with the younger of the two and we had quite a discussion about his stake president. “President P” is one of those people who seems to be able to accomplish
anything everything. He is almost larger-than-life. I’ve met a number of people like that, and I have a small clue regarding how they, and anyone, can accomplish such great tasks. Here are some of the people I’ve witnessed and the tasks they’ve tackled (we’ll talk about how in a minute or so):
- A handful of women in my stake were called to lead out in producing a top-quality musical/play/production, starting almost from scratch and using only non-professional actors, singers and set designers. The production was a moving community event and an honor to the Savior and His birth. It was, by all measurements, a monumental task.
- When I was a bishop, my clerk and friend passed away at a young age. He left his young wife and two small children. I wondered how his widow would ever be able to carry on. But, she has thrived. There have been more than a few moments of heartache and discouragement, but she has carried on and is living a spirit-driven life. It has been, by all measurements, a monumental task.
- A well-known and wonderful local family’s son died in a car accident a few years ago. He was universally loved and the majority of the community shared in their mourning. I remember wondering how they would ever find a way to be happy in their new circumstances. By all accounts, this family has shown the community what faith in the Lord Jesus Christ can do. They are a happy, active, cheerful family, who have allowed the passing of their son/brother to spur them on to greater discipleship. They are truly a happy family. It has been, by all measurements, a monumental task.
- I worked with a man who had spent a good part of 20 years participating in a sin that he hated. The time came for him to work through the repentance process. He came to himself. He struggled and wept and prayed for help. There were many, many habits and sins to overcome. He put forth a herculean effort. Over time, he invited the Atonement of Christ to heal him. It has been, by all measurements, a monumental task.
- I’ve watched men and women respond to callings in the church that were far and away more than can be normally asked of any individual. They, over time, magnified the callings. Each case, by all measurements, was a monumental task.
- I taught a student about a decade ago who lived in a miserable home. The parents, probably through circumstances that they had little control over, seemed to fail in almost every responsibility parents normally are at least mediocre at fulfilling. I always thought to myself, this kid doesn’t stand much of a chance. He has risen above his family culture, graduated from high school, served an honorable, full-time mission, married very well, and is a wonderful husband and father and a very kind person. It has been, by all measurements, a monumental task.
There’s more. In fact, I could go on like this all day, I’m sure. Jobs, death, disease, financial stress, bigotry, bullying, callings, opportunities, challenges. People find themselves in situations that are much bigger than themselves. They are sometimes thrust into circumstances that would, understandably, overwhelm the average human. Sometimes they’re called by God into these situations. Sometimes they choose the situations themselves. How do people accomplish these huge, overwhelming tasks? There are at least two scriptural examples that serve as patterns.
Somehow, Moses led the children of Israel out of Egypt, through the Red Sea, through the desert, and to the Promised Land. Can you imagine the staggering feeling of inadequacy that must have gripped Moses’ heart and mind at the thought? He had a rod, he had Aaron, he had miraculous things happen both in and outside of Egypt. But the Doctrine and Covenants holds a, if not the, key:
“Yea, behold, I will tell you in your mind and in your heart, by the Holy Ghost, which shall come upon you and which shall dwell in your heart.
Now, behold, this is the spirit of revelation; behold, this is the spirit by which Moses brought the children of Israel through the Red Sea on dry ground.” (D&C 8:2-3)
Moses accomplished this monumental task with the help of the Holy Ghost. I don’t know the details of exactly what the Holy Ghost whispered to Moses and when and how often and with what intensity. But I do know that Moses did something bigger than himself because of the spirit of revelation.
Nephi, along with his brothers, was invited (or asked, or commanded) by his father, the prophet Lehi, to travel many miles back into Jerusalem to retrieve the Plates of Brass (1 Nephi 3-4). Nephi was asked to accomplish a task that would be nearly impossible. The keeper of the plates at the time, Laban, would never have ever, ever given these plates up. It was his job and his family’s job to keep these plates, and it would have given Laban power, prestige, and respect within the community. Nephi did have physical strength and the physical strength (though not the moral support) of his older brothers. But what was the key to Nephi’s ability to accomplish so great a task?
“And I was led by the Spirit, not knowing beforehand the things which I should do.” (1 Nephi 4:6)
If you know the story, you know the role the Spirit played in helping Nephi know exactly what hard choice to make in order to obtain the plates. Nephi accomplished this monumental task through the assistance and guidance of the Holy Ghost.
I’ll be honest, I don’t know who reads this blog. The stats tell me that hundreds of you do, on a good day. Surely one of you, somewhere out there, is currently passing through a trial or challenge that seems beyond your ability. There is a way for you to find peace and personal accomplishment no matter the challenge. The key, it seems, is that we allow ourselves to be guided by God, through the medium of the Holy Ghost. I know that the answers to the challenges won’t present themselves at the start. That is where the nervousness will come in. But we move forward in faith, “line upon line”, and the steps we are supposed to take will be quietly shown to us, one at a time (and at the appropriate time). As we take those steps, more steps will appear. And slowly, over time, we will accomplish things that, by all measurements, will be monumental tasks.