Taming My Little Tempest
July 1997

“Taming My Little Tempest,” Ensign, July 1997, 61–62

Taming My Little Tempest

Several months after joining the Church, I was called to teach the five- and six-year-olds, a calling that perfectly matched my degree in early childhood education. The course of study focused on the life and teachings of Jesus Christ. Before beginning my assignment, however, I was required to take a teacher development course. I was rather disappointed because I felt that my educational background fully qualified me to teach. Through the course, however, I not only gained new insights to my chosen career, but I also learned how to teach by the power of the Holy Spirit.

One child in particular taught me a great lesson about following the Spirit in my teaching. He found it difficult to endure the length of the lessons and would share his discomfort by disrupting the whole class. Once, as we were discussing how Jesus had calmed the sea, I invited the chorister into my class to teach us a hymn I had discovered just weeks before: “Master, the Tempest Is Raging” (Hymns, no. 105). Like the storm referred to in the hymn, that child tempestuously raged until the chorister broke down in tears. I grabbed him and proceeded to give him quite a scolding in the hall. I wasn’t pleased with myself, knowing in my heart that Jesus would never have lashed out angrily in that situation.

Not knowing what to do, I reviewed my training materials again and again searching for clues. I prayed for guidance, fearing that my inadequacies might reflect negatively on Jesus Christ—the subject of our lessons. After one such fervent prayer, a specific thought entered my mind: Send a letter home praising good behavior. I thought about it and decided to give it a try.

The next week I explained to my class that those who could listen and participate attentively in class would have a letter sent home describing their virtues. All their eyes lit up, and each of them, including my little tempest, prepared to be honored.

In the next couple of weeks every child received a letter except, to my great disappointment, the one who was the reason behind my efforts and inspiration. He would try, but he could not get through a whole lesson without a problem. Week after week this occurred. I prayed for him, knowing that I had received divine inspiration. I encouraged him privately each week, reminding him how badly I wanted to send him that letter.

Finally it happened. Miraculously, he not only got through the lesson without disruption, but he even participated in the discussion. When the lesson ended, I excitedly told him of his great accomplishment. He smiled from ear to ear and walked out in triumph.

That night I created a veritable epistle praising him. Throughout the following week I smiled as I thought of his parents sharing that letter with him. The following Sunday, a new boy walked into class. He looked like my tempest of weeks past, yet he had confidence and self-discipline that continued for the rest of the time I knew him.

As I think of the fertile spiritual ground in which I was placed as a new convert, I have little trouble believing in the Master’s words to his disciples when he said, “Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 18:3).

  • Stephen P. Westfall serves as a counselor in the bishopric in the Bothell Fifth Ward, Bothell Washington Stake.