Small Things

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Cheryl Brown

"My final story of great things which proceed out of small things is a personal story out of Chili. I served a mission in Chili twenty-five years ago. This past July (1992) I had the opportunity to return to Chile for about six months on a Fulbright grant. It was fun for me to see the economic growth and strength that the country had gained. But it was phenomenal to be able to observe firsthand the growth of the Church. When I left Chile the first time, there were zero stakes. When I left this time, there were more than fifty-five. When I arrived in Chile the first time, there were about 16,000 members. When I arrived this time, there were well over 100,000 members.

But the thing that struck me most personally was not the quantitative growth, but the qualitative growth that I observed. I had a chance to look up some of the people I had known in Chile twenty-five years before. I visited people we had taught who had never been baptized. I visited people who were baptized and had fallen away. I visited people who were baptized and had come and gone in their activity. And I visited people who were baptized and had stayed active, filling missions themselves or if older, sending their children on missions, marrying in the temple, serving where they were called. And I saw the difference. It was as if I had been given the opportunity to observe the results of a longitudinal experiment with four treatment groups where I could see what a difference a certain treatment makes, what a difference small things, small variables make. I saw the personal peace and depth of character and happiness of the always active members. I saw the strength of their families and the advantages that had come to their children because of it. I saw their magnified capacities and how these capacities had blessed them in their church work and also in their employment. I saw how they had risen temporally, intellectually, and spiritually. I literally saw the fruits of the gospel in their lives, the great things that had proceeded out of small things—all out of the decision to be baptized, out of the decision or decisions to stay active, out of following the counsel of leaders, out of serving. I saw the great things that resulted: greatness in character, peace, and happiness here. And I believe that even greater things are to come in the hereafter. I know from them that small things make a difference.

My last visit to Chili allowed me to see something else besides just the individual results that had come into the lives of people. It allowed me to see how society changes when individuals change. For example, I could see the kind of growth and society that existed in areas where the Church had now been for several decades. It was a different society than it was even when I was there twenty-five years ago. Things were better; expectations were higher. In the areas where the Church had not been, I saw how society still operated—the unkindnesses, the pettinesses, the blatant dishonesty.

"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" (D&C 64:33).

May we each commit ourselves to understand the Lord's purposes for us and to do those small things that will make it possible for him to bring forth that which is great among us. I know that he will do it if we will do it. I pray that we will. I say this in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Excerpts from a BYU Devotional given by Cheryl Brown, 11 May 1993