Brethren and sisters, I am grateful to be with you today and as this is my first visit to your ward, I wish to introduce myself. My name is Jaren. You’ve probably never heard of me before. But, maybe you’ve heard of my employer. I work for Google. I’d like to tell you a little about it.
Google offers everyone some incredible services, like Search, YouTube, Gmail, Docs, and Android. It is also a very successful business. Google is a company as large as they come. Last I checked, it is valued at about $750B, bringing in about $120B in annual revenue. You might ask, where does all that money come from? What are the massive transactions that Google is engaged in? Would you be surprised to know that the majority of transactions are not even measured in dollars but in cents?
Google makes most of its money through advertising, auctioning off a single ad slot at a time and collecting a few cents per ad shown. This small and simple thing, when repeated, amounts to over a hundred billion dollars a year. Likewise, all of the Google services that the world enjoys are not the product of some single person’s effort, but of tens of thousands of engineers, like me, contributing a couple hundred lines of code a week to computing systems that are truly astounding in scale. Google knows a lot, but one of the principles it knows best is “that by small and simple things are great things brought to pass” (Alma 37:6).
We hear this counsel often, most recently, perhaps, at this past general conference from President Oaks. Perhaps you remember his example of tree roots breaking up concrete slabs. If not, I recommend you revisit his message. Today, I’d like to share with you some of my own experiences on the subject.
I’ll tell you of an experience with a four year old girl, who may be small, but is anything but simple. When my daughter, Cameron, was three years old, I started to teach her to read. We have a book at home titled, “Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons.” I had just finished teaching her older brother using the same book, and while it was not as “easy” as the book seemed to advertise, we patiently made it through. Cameron, however, was about to demonstrate that I knew nothing of patience.
Reading seemed to come easier to Cameron that it did for her brother, but she is much more free spirited and exceptionally strong willed. We often found ourselves at loggerheads as I pined for focus while her attention was anywhere but the lesson. We progressed slowly, scheduling two lessons a week. Each one should have lasted twenty minutes but would inevitably extend to an hour. Often, they included a trip to time out or a round of tears. My wife and I would tag in as teacher whenever we noticed the other’s patience passing the point of exhaustion.
This continued for a grueling six months. Then, one day, Cameron was a bit early finishing her breakfast and came to tell me she was ready for her lesson. I was still finishing a small and simple thing that I do each morning, my personal scripture study, which was conveniently scheduled right before lesson time in hopes that I might complete teaching with some generous definition of charity. I invited her to sit with me while I read my scriptures to her.
I was reading in 2 Nephi 10 and read versus 10-13 to her, which state that “this land shall be a land of liberty...and there shall be no kings upon the land” (2 Nephi 10:11). I explained to that little free spirit the freedom we enjoy without a king to compel us to do anything. She liked that idea, but then thought for a moment and replied, “but we do have a king, in heaven, and we should listen to him.” I told her that she was right, and then read the very next verse to her, “for I, the Lord, the king of heaven, will be their king, and I will be a light unto them forever, that hear my words” (2 Nephi 10:14).
After completing that verse, she looked at me and said plainly, “you should not yell.” Brethren and sisters, if you are having difficulty recognizing the Lord’s direction for you, I recommend reading the scriptures with a four year old. I looked at her and said, “you are right. I should not yell. Our heavenly king teaches us that. And what does he teach you?” She replied, a little sheepishly, “that I should listen to my parents.”
Seizing what seemed like the parenting opportunity of a lifetime, I offered that I would try very hard not to yell or get frustrated as we worked through her lesson and asked if she would try very hard to listen well to instruction and focus. She said that she would. We closed our scriptures and opened the reading lesson book. Twenty minutes later, we closed the lesson book. No voices were raised. No tears were shed. There were no trips to time out, nor interventions by a relief teacher. It was a Lamprecht family miracle. We congratulated each other for listening to our heavenly king, and reading lessons from there on out were “easy” as the book advertised. After 100 small and simple lessons, a great thing had come to pass. Four year old Cameron now loves to read from her own simple scriptures as I read from mine.
I’ll tell you of my experience as a twelve year old boy. I was a deacon in the Aaronic priesthood and it was my duty to pass the sacrament. I had a grandmother whose advanced age made it difficult for her to attend church. Each week, after church, my father and I would take the sacrament to her. We had a plate with a small and simple piece of bread on it. We had a small and simple cup with water in it. My father would bless the emblems of the sacrament, and then pass them to me. I would then pass them to her. It was a small and simple task for me to perform. I didn’t even have to take a step. I remember thinking my father could have just handed her the emblems himself. But, despite the simplicity, I noticed that my grandmother always reacted as if we had done some great thing, and I’ve since come to learn why.
I’ll tell you the experience of a God. No, this one is not about me. But, I was involved. And so were you. “And he went a little further, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt” (Matthew 26:39). What was in that cup that our Father willed the Savior to drink? Have you ever pondered how Jesus experienced the Atonement? How does one process all the sins and suffering of all of God’s children?
Do you think that it was aggregated in some way, like some arbitrarily formless and infinite mass of anguish? Or maybe slightly more organized, like the full depth of each feeling in sequence? I admit that I do not know, but given how intimately the Savior knows each of us, I suspect that somehow he experienced each of our individual experiences, one by one, perhaps serially compressed into the finite hours in Gethsemane and on the cross.
With such experience, Christ is not only able to say that he has felt discouragement, but he has felt Jaren’s discouragement to be successful on Jaren’s 147th attempt at something and how that’s the same but slightly different than the 146th.
In such an imagined organization of the atonement, the simple way to process it is one person at a time, one experience at a time, one sin, one feeling, one small thing at a time and continue until there is nothing left to feel.
Imagine yet, if, when it was your turn in that agonizing series of events, that it was your spirit, an angel, who “appeared unto him from heaven, strengthening him” (Luke 22:43). Who better to supply encouragement in that instant? To whisper, “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” (D&C 64:33)?
Therefore, when he reminds us the same, let us continue, one thought, one word, one action, one small thing at a time. I pray that we may not be discouraged by the greatness of the tasks, the burdens, or the sins that Satan would have dominate our views, but that we may follow our Savior, prayer by prayer, scripture by scripture, prompting by prompting, even confession by confession and healing by healing, here a little and there a little, and allow all those small acts to accumulate over time. Whatever the weight of the task before you, I promise you that on the scales of eternity, the steady accumulation of spiritual effort with our Savior will eventually be enough to lift it.
I know not how Jesus Christ completed the atonement, but I know that he did. He is nearby, intimately aware of each of our experiences, willing and capable of succoring us. Let us proceed, one small and simple thing at a time. Great things shall come to pass.
I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.