2 January 2015
Dear Elder Krstyen,
“Be thou humble; and the Lord thy God shall lead thee by the hand, and give thee answer to thy prayers.” (D&C 112:10)
As we commence a New Year, our prayers are that the blessings for you will be abundant and bring you miracles of limitless joy. As you finish serving in New Mexico and do so with love and humility, you probably noticed a definite change in people and mostly within yourself. Your love will grow more benevolent and your heart fonder and you will be filled with more compassion and increased faith. Aren’t you due home soon?
As described in True to the Faith, humility is to recognize gratefully your dependence on the Lord—to understand that you have constant need for His support. It is an acknowledgment that your talents and abilities are gifts from God. It is not a sign of weakness, timidity, or fear; it is an indication that you know where your true strength lies. You can be both humble and fearless. You can be both humble and courageous. (See True to the Faith, Humility)
In the early history of our Church, one individual became iconic to the term humility and portrayed in his demeanor, on a few occasions, the meaning of one being truly humble. We can learn a lot from his personal example. Elder Dallin H. Oaks described this man in one of his General Conference’s address.
“When the Book of Mormon was published, Martin Harris was nearly 47 years of age, more than 20 years older than Joseph Smith and the other two witnesses. He was a prosperous and respected citizen of Palmyra, New York. He owned a farm of over 240 acres, large for the time and place. He was an honored veteran of two battles in the War of 1812. His fellow citizens entrusted him with many elective offices and responsibilities in the community. He was universally respected for his industry and integrity. Assessments by contemporaries described him as ‘an industrious, hard-working farmer, shrewd in his business calculations, frugal in his habits,’ and ‘strictly upright in his business dealings’ (quoted in Richard Lloyd Anderson, Investigating the Book of Mormon Witnesses , 96–97, 98).
“This prosperous and upright older man befriended the young and penniless Joseph Smith, giving him the $50 that permitted him to pay his debts in Palmyra and locate in northeastern Pennsylvania about 150 miles away. There, in April 1828, Joseph Smith began his first persistent translation of the Book of Mormon. He dictated, and Martin Harris wrote until there were 116 pages of manuscript.
“Martin’s persistent requests to show this manuscript to his family wearied Joseph into letting him take it to Palmyra, where its pages were stolen from him, lost, and probably burned. For this the Lord rebuked Martin and Joseph. Joseph had his gift of translation suspended for a season, and Martin was rebuked as ‘a wicked man’ who had ‘set at naught the counsels of God, and … broken the most sacred promises which were made before God’ (D&C –13; see also D&C 10). Fortunately, both Joseph and Martin were later forgiven by the Lord, and the work of translation resumed with other scribes.”1
Having lost the 116 pages, Brother Harris had to make that painful and remorseful return to Joseph Smith with this ill-fated news. I cannot envision a time where humility was more prevalent than with the troubled Martin on that occasion as he had to approached the Prophet with his error in judgment. Can you imagine the agony, the fear, the humility he must have felt. Knowing the disappointment and frustration the Prophet would most likely convey could not have made his approach any easier. Yet being courageous he boldly humbled himself before Joseph and the Lord and through soul-wrenching repentance made a mends. Nonetheless, In spite of this humbling experience, the penitent Martin did not lose his faith. Then there was another case where he would face humility as portrayed in the following occurrence articled in the July 2012, Ensign Magazine:
In the spring of 1829, [Martin] returned to Harmony, sincerely desiring an additional witness concerning the plates. A revelation sought at Martin’s request promised that “three of my servants … shall know of a surety that [Joseph’s claims about the plates] are true, for from heaven will I declare it unto them. I will give them power that they may behold and view these things as they are” (D&C . –13)
Promised that he could be one of the three if he humbled himself before the Lord (see D&C , Martin left Harmony rejoicing. While traveling, Martin enthusiastically told his fellow stagecoach passengers of his experiences with Joseph. … –28)
About this same time, Martin’s wife, Lucy, who had grown quite hostile to Joseph Smith and his work, “entered a complaint against Joseph, before a certain magistrate of Lyons [New York],” (Lucy Smith, Biographical Sketches of Joseph Smith, the Prophet, and His Progenitors for Many Generations (1853), 132) accusing the Prophet of defrauding her husband. … Once again demonstrating his humility and his loyalty to Joseph, Martin swore that Joseph had not defrauded him, adding that “as to the plates which he professes to have, gentlemen, if you do not believe it, but continue to resist the truth, it will one day be the means of damning your souls.” The magistrate promptly ended the proceeding and tore up the record of the testimony of the three hostile witnesses (Smith, Biographical Sketches 133–135).
In April of 1829, a schoolteacher by the name of Oliver Cowdery volunteered to be Joseph Smith’s scribe. The two of them worked at a blinding pace, completing the translation of the Book of Mormon in approximately 10 weeks. Shortly after that, Joseph announced to Martin, “You have got to humble yourself before your God this day, that you may obtain a forgiveness of your sins. If you do, it is the will of God that you should look upon the plates, in company with Oliver Cowdery and David Whitmer (Smith, Biographical Sketches, 138).”
Joseph and Martin then walked to a nearby grove with Oliver and David, where they called upon the Lord. When the promised divine manifestation did not develop, Martin suggested that he was the cause and withdrew. Subsequently, the angel Moroni appeared and showed the plates to Joseph, Oliver, and David. Joseph then sought out Martin and discovered him engaged in humble prayer. Then the two of them were blessed with a vision similar to the one that had just taken place with the other witnesses (See History of the Church –55). When the four men returned to the Whitmer cabin, Martin “seemed almost overcome with joy, and testified boldly to what he had both seen and heard (Smith, Biographical Sketches, 139).”2
On the website Reallifeanswers.org, a shy and humble missionary wrote a segment about overcoming her fears and weaknesses that she faced and turning them into her strengths. Being humble means being submissive to and dependent upon the Lord’s will and in need of His support. Sister Haley Giblette, who served in the Boston Massachusetts Mission, learned this and submitted the following article that has taught a great lesson to me, as I have perceived myself through her inspiring words:
I have spent most of my life as “the quiet one.” I probably said about 100 total words in school before the sixth grade. Talking to people terrified me. People would ask me questions and I would inaudibly mumble a response, hoping they might not hear me and also maybe forget I existed. I had things to say; I just couldn’t seem to make myself express them. I thought that almost every person disliked me, all awkwardness was my fault, and people generally avoided me because of how boring I was. This may seem dramatic, but I struggled with this for years. It affected every area of my life.
A key turning point came when I was about 12 years old. I received a call from one of the church leaders asking if I would speak in front of the congregation. My turn had come. I immediately burst into tears the moment the kind, old man on the other end asked the question. The thought of speaking in front of people was too much for me. My parents looked at me as I stood there sobbing and shaking my head while I clutched the phone. I managed to choke out why I suddenly went into hysterics. My mom came over and said we would call him back soon. She hung up the phone and asked me a simple but important question, “Are you going to allow your fear to keep you from doing good things?”
I felt desperate and completely helpless. Not knowing what else to do, I used my instinct to pray for help. I began to offer earnest prayers to God every day. As I cultivated what I still value as a personal relationship with my Creator, I came to realize that I could feel supported in all of my struggles. Our Savior, Jesus Christ, suffered not only for the sins of all mankind, but also for all our fears, burdens, and pains. Somehow, He suffered for ME. He knows the emotional weight of feeling shy. He knows the frustration that comes from constantly feeling inadequate and misunderstood. These experiences provided me with a new hope that enabled me to push away the negativity and just let that love fill me up.
My fears did not immediately melt away once I gave that talk in church as a timid 12-year-old, but it was the first step in years of hard work. I put myself in new situations; I felt insecure; I tried harder; I fell short; I remembered my Savior; and I grew. The opportunities that came, such as having the chance to speak and teach, were important. Also, knowing that I had a divinely-guided purpose eventually led me to college, where I flourished in my passion for anthropology. I worked at jobs that pushed me to speak up, and made friends of all different backgrounds.
Things have changed for me. Coming to know others’ perspectives, dreams, and opinions has become what I live for. I love getting lost in good conversations. It is still difficult for me to get up the gumption to start new conversations, and yes, I would still count myself an introvert. But the question my mom asked me all that time ago is still incredibly relevant. I never want to sacrifice an opportunity to help another person because of fear. I feel like the sun is rising on my life as I work at overcoming this struggle. Jesus Christ can heal all that is broken and make strong all that is weak. I am living proof.3
Ardeth Kapp tells the simple story of a sculptor who spent days chiseling and cutting away at a piece of marble. A young child who had been watching him through this process one day exclaimed, “I know who that is. It’s Abraham Lincoln. How did you know he was in there?” (from “Oh Remember, Remember, Lest Ye Forget,” 1997 CES Book of Mormon Symposium). Sometimes it takes a few hard knocks for us to break through our fears and remember who is inside and what it really means to be on earth at this time.
Another aspect of being humble is that at times you will feel that what you do doesn’t matter. There are times, as a missionary, you will feel “what’s the use” when the things you’re doing go unnoticed or unseen by those with whom you serve. Please take note that God sees. Elder Uchtdorf once said, “Be thankful for all the small successes…. Like the forget-me-nots, these successes may seem tiny to you and they may go unnoticed by others, but God notices them and they are not small to Him. If you consider success to be only the most perfect rose or dazzling orchid, you may miss some of life’s sweetest experiences.” (President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “Forget Me Not”, Ensign, November 2011)
I noticed the following article on the Internet that became inspiring to me and revealed some important truths that I want to share:
The Invisible Mother
It all began to make sense, the blank stares, the lack of response, the way one of the kids will walk into the room while I’m on the phone and ask to be taken to the store. Inside I’m thinking, “Can’t you see I’m on the phone?”
Obviously not; no one can see if I’m on the phone, or cooking, or sweeping the floor, or even standing on my head in the corner, because no one can see me at all. I’m invisible. The invisible mom. Some days I am only a pair of hands, nothing more! Can you fix this? Can you tie this? Can you open this?
Some days I’m not a pair of hands; I’m not even a human being. I’m a clock to ask, “What time is it?” I’m a satellite guide to answer, “What number is the Disney Channel?” I’m a car to order, “Right around, please.”
Some days I’m a crystal ball; “Where’s my other sock? Where’s my phone?, What’s for dinner?”
I was certain that these were the hands that once held books and the eyes that studied history, music and literature—but now, they had disappeared into the peanut butter, never to be seen again. She’s going, she’s going, and she’s gone!
One night, a group of us were having dinner, celebrating the return of a friend from England. She had just gotten back from a fabulous trip, and she was going on and on about the hotel she stayed in. I was sitting there, looking around at the others all put together so well. It was hard not to compare and feel sorry for myself. I was feeling pretty pathetic, when she turned to me with a beautifully wrapped package, and said, “I brought you this.” It was a book on the great cathedrals of Europe. I wasn’t exactly sure why she’d given it to me until I read her inscription: “With admiration for the greatness of what you are building when no one sees.”
In the days ahead I would read—no, devour—the book. And I would discover what would become for me, four life-changing truths, after which I could pattern my work:
· No one can say who built the great cathedrals—we have no record of their names.
· These builders gave their whole lives for a work they would never see finished.
· They made great sacrifices and expected no credit.
· The passion of their building was fueled by their faith that the eyes of God saw everything.
A story of legend in the book told of a rich man who came to visit the cathedral while it was being built, and he saw a workman carving a tiny bird on the inside of a beam. He was puzzled and asked the man, “Why are you spending so much time carving that bird into a beam that will be covered by the roof. No one will ever see it”. The workman replied, “Because God sees.”
I closed the book, feeling the missing piece fall into place. It was Almost as if I heard God whispering to me, “I see you. I see the sacrifices you make every day, even when no one around you does.
“No act of kindness you’ve done, no sequin you’ve sewn on, no cupcake you’ve baked, no Cub Scout meeting, no last minute errand is too small for me to notice and smile over. You are building a great cathedral, but you can’t see right now what it will become.”
I keep the right perspective when I see myself as a great builder. As one of the people who show up at a job that they will never see finished. To work on something that their name will never be on.…
When I really think about it, I don’t want my son to tell the friend he’s bringing home from college for Thanksgiving, “My Mom gets up atin the morning and bakes homemade pies, and then she hand bastes a turkey for three hours and presses all the linens for the table.” That would mean I’d built a monument to myself. I just want him to want to come home, and then, if there is anything more to say to his friend, he’d say, “You’re gonna love it there…”
As mothers, we are building great cathedrals. We cannot be seen if we’re doing it right. And one day, it is very possible that the world will marvel, not only at what we have built, but at the beauty that has been added to the world by the sacrifices of invisible mothers.4
Sometimes your work may seem fruitless and unsuccessful but, just like the perspective of the builders of the cathedrals in the before mentioned story, your work does not go unnoticed in the sight of God and someday you will appreciate the beauty of it. Be humble in the small things you can do to enhance someone’s life. The following short story from Sister Jezelle Cutia, who’s just returned from serving in the Philippines, illustrates that the seeds you humbly plant may become fruitful at a later time:
Sister Sanders and I have had the blessing of teaching Eloisa, a new investigator. The first missionary Eloisa met was Sister Wilson, a Long time ago, before I came into the area. Sister Wilson and I tried several times to visit, but every time she said she was busy. Now that I am with Sister Sanders, she has let us come into her home and share. She is so amazing! Eloisa told us that she is searching for the true church, knows it is out there and believes God will lead her to it. Everything we teach her she understands so well. The Spirit is so strong with her.
The point I want to share is that Sister Wilson had planted a seed in Eloisa’s heart to learn more about the gospel. 5, Eloisa told us that even though she was searching for the true church and encountered missionaries from other sects, she never let them into her home. It was when she met Sister Wilson and her other companion and they told her that they were servants of Jesus Christ, that her interest really piqued. She said for some reason she felt that she should listen to them. Unfortunately, during that period, she was really busy with work and unable to talk with them. Now, her schedule allows her more time, and she is so willing to listen and loves what she hears. I am thankful for the work Sister Wilson did and for the seeds sown while she was here. Even though she may not see the fruits of her labor immediately, she created the foundation for Sister Sanders and myself to begin teaching someone who is now very ready. It gives me hope that the people I have talked with, but didn’t necessarily see progress, will one day be ready as well, just like Eloisa.
Elder Brandon Winward now serving in the Philippines shares what he has learned about humility in the following account:
The Mission Tour was really good. There was one thing I really liked in Elder Ardern’s words about how we are not just suppose to “humble up” to our leaders but also “humble down” to our juniors or other people that would socially be considered of lower experience. He then demonstrated the principle in a way with a Q&A section where we asked him a question and then he would ask us a question. I felt really honored and blessed to be a part of this mission under President Lopez when he said some stats and then asked “What is the Bacolod Mission doing different than the other missions that is causing this success?” It is really miraculous what is going on in Negros. The mission averaged one baptism per week per companionship in the month of September. Weekly baptism is a reality!!! After that he asked some questions about our retention efforts and seemed impressed with the answers. I hope this doesn’t sound prideful (Elder Ardern warned us a lot about pride and how it would destroy us if we let it) but I just feel like Ammon to boast in my God.6
Elder Alex Spencer serving in Canada witnessed the humble nature of a new convert and shares this which exemplifies humility and conquering our fears:
Bishop Darby asked David if he could bare a brief testimony after the sacrament, which he agreed to do. Simply Amazing! He bore testimony that the church was true, and that absolutely no one could ever disprove the truth. He shared his love for everyone in the ward, even though he still doesn’t know most of them! The spirit was very strong in that sacrament meeting. I wrote in my journal throughout, and had some of the most incredible thoughts as I did.7
Also in True to the Faith humility tells us that, “Jesus Christ is our greatest example of humility. During His mortal ministry, He always acknowledged that His strength came because of His dependence on His Father. He said: ‘I can of mine own self do nothing. … I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me’ (John . The Lord will strengthen you as you humble yourself before Him. James taught: ‘God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble. … Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up’ )(James 4:6, 10).”
May we all be humble in our service and reflect on the sacred nature of the Savior and follow His divine example. Have a great year!
1. Elder Dallin H. Oaks, “The Witness: Martin Harris”, Ensign, May 2014
2. Larry E. Morris, “The Life of Martin Harris: Patterns of Humility and Repentance”, Ensign, July 2012
3. Sister Haley Giblette, “Can I Overcome My Social Fears?”, www.reallifeanswers.
org, Boston Massachusetts Mission, 2014
4. Author Unknown, Life Moments website, The Invisible Mother, http://joy-
5. Sister Jexelle Cutia, Phillipines, Quezon City (Manilla) Mission, 9 July 2014
6. Elder Brandon Winward, Bacalod Philippines Mission, 16 November 2014
7. Elder Alex Spencer, Edmonton Canada Mission, 15 December 2014