We did something this year that we have always wanted to do. I took my family to Broadway to see Wicked and experience a Times Square holiday. Mom has wanted to do that for many years. She loved being in Times Square for New Year’s Eve and was able to check that item off her bucket list. We also experienced cultural events, ate at great restaurants, and enjoyed numerous offerings available in Manhattan.
One impression I had at the time was how easy it is to follow the crowd and feel totally comfortable if you put yourself in compromising situations. When we arrived we weren’t doing anything wrong per se and changed our activities to those appropriate for the Sabbath, mostly. We visited the temple and enjoyed celebrating the good things there. Large signs in Times Square promoted the birth of the Savior. But as we were walking around Times Square seeing all the activities, and being engrossed in the New York version of economy and lifestyle, we found ourselves stopping and shopping, which we should have delayed. It’s easy to say “We may never get back here” or “It’s not really that big of a deal,” but the truth is we should have recognized the day and waited a few hours, that’s all.
I think that lesson is applicable in other areas of life, as well. You should put yourself in the best situations among good people that make you want to be better, then your actions, attitude, and activities will likely be in harmony with the gospel. But the inverse is also true. Place yourself in unseemly environments among people that do not share your values, and chances are you will succumb to their actions ever so innocently as it may seem.
Though relatively small and perhaps ineffective, little things matter. Great things are built from small components properly situated. I can think of a couple examples from our recent trip. The Empire State Building is a 102-story skyscraper located in Midtown Manhattan, New York City, on Fifth Avenue between West 33rd and 34th Streets. That tremendous building stands 1,454 feet high to tip. It is made of thousands of small bricks that together combine into one of the world’s most miraculous structures.
The Brooklyn Bridge is a hybrid cable-stayed/suspension bridge in New York City and is one of the oldest bridges of either type in the United States. Completed in 1883, it connects the boroughs of Manhattan and Brooklyn by spanning the East River. The bridge’s cables enable it to support millions of cars regularly traveling between the cities and make it one of the best known bridges on earth. Small things can make a big difference. In the overall scale of things, bricks or cables may seem relatively insignificant and not be the focus of what makes these things great, but without them, they would not exist at all.
Similarly, the obstacles we face in life, may appear to be annoying and a nuisance, but I venture that without them, our capacity and development would be hindered.
“Our past does not define us. We can change! I am so grateful for the Atonement and the blessing it is for us to repent. If we ever put a negative connotation on repentance we have missed the boat,” writes a missionary currently serving in the western United States. He sees people struggling every day to face insurmountable obstacles and come out on top. The message he preaches offers hope.
There is a reason that many of the general conference addresses, Church university devotionals, and institute firesides are recorded and made available online. We need that guidance and lift in the midst of today’s challenges. Let me share with you an experience from the scriptures to illustrate my point:
Prior to the Lord’s ascension to heaven, he offered his grieving and fearful apostles assurance that he would not leave them comfortless. He gives us the very same promise.
Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give
I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. John 14:27
Many of you have heard that the person who can but does not read has no advantage over he who cannot read at all. I think the same principle is true for us who possess the Gift and spirit of the Holy Ghost—perhaps the greatest gift ever given mankind—yet I fear many of us are not taking advantage of it as we should and possibly not at all.
The experience of the Israelites who were bitten by fiery serpents comes to mind. At one point during the 40-year wanderings of the children of Israel in the wilderness, the convoy spoke against God and Moses, so “the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people” (Numbers 21:6). Many were bitten and died. Repentant of their sins, the people went to Moses. He prayed, and the Lord provided a way for them to be protected. He instructed Moses to make “a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole” (verse 8). Those who had been bitten would live if they simply looked at the brass serpent. I was reading an article in a church magazine, Modern-day Fiery Serpents by David R. Smith where he states the following:
“When I read this story, I would say to myself, “How could the people not do something so simple when their lives depended on it?” I couldn’t understand. All that changed when the Spirit showed me how similar I was to the Israelites.
One morning, as I thought about the Savior, I recalled the sacrament prayer, which says that we may have His Spirit to be with us if we always remember Him (see D&C 20:79).
It seemed so easy. Then I realized how often I get caught up in my daily life and give little thought to the Savior. I remembered that the brass serpent symbolized Jesus Christ being lifted up on the cross. Suddenly I realized that the “remember Him” in the sacrament prayer could be considered the latter-day version of looking to Him in the story of Moses and the brass serpent. “
We can avoid stress and unnecessary anxiety by looking to the Atonement of Jesus Christ. That is the good news! The Savior is already victorious and as we align ourselves with him, so are we.
He provided a plan and gives us second chances if we will follow him and repent when necessary. What he asks of us is small. The blessings he promises are great.
About Walter Penning
In 1989, Walter Penning formed a consultancy based in Salt Lake City and empowered his clients by streamlining processes and building a loyal, lifetime customer base with great customer service. His true passion is found in his family. He says the best decision he ever made was to marry his sweetheart and have children. The wonderful family she has given him and her constant love, support, and patience amid life's challenges is his panacea.