“A Reason for the Repetition,” New Era, October 2016, 20–22
You’ve probably been in a Church meeting when someone starts sharing a story that you’ve already heard quite a few times. Maybe it feels like a few hundred times. There are probably a few stories you could even recite.
I remember hearing one such story when I was a young man. It was about President Spencer W. Kimball (1895–1985), and I had heard it so many times that I figured I could probably tell it in my sleep.
One stormy night, President Kimball saw a pregnant young mother and her two-year-old daughter in an airport. The mother couldn’t pick up her child because of the threat of miscarriage, so she scooted the sobbing child along with her foot.
Grumpy passengers looked at her judgmentally and said unkind things under their breath, but President Kimball immediately offered to help.
With the mother’s permission, he picked up and consoled the child and gave the girl a piece of gum. Then he kindly spoke to those in line and asked if the young mother could move to the front. The once-grumbling passengers immediately agreed. He spoke with the clerk and got them on the next available flight, ensuring them a safe and much faster trip home.
It wasn’t until years later that I learned one reason why the Lord wanted me to know this story by heart.
I was living in Tokyo, Japan, with my wife and one-year-old daughter. One cold, stormy day, I walked to the train station to catch a train. I pushed through the masses of people and umbrellas, and I made my way down the flight of stairs where I saw a young woman holding a screaming baby. Tears streamed down the mother’s exhausted face, but the people passing them only walked on, muttering about the pair.
Immediately I remembered the story of President Kimball. The memory came to me with such force that I immediately stopped and asked if I could help. Once I assured her of my sincerity, she let me hold her baby and told me her story.
She was waiting for her husband to return from making a phone call about a possible job offer. He had been out of work for months, and they were homeless and living in a park.
Just then, her husband returned. Once his wife and I explained who I was, he slumped against the wall. The phone call had been fruitless. He was still jobless, and they were still homeless.
I didn’t have a stick of gum to offer anybody, but I wanted to help. Knowing that Church leaders can sometimes help in these situations, I called my stake president and asked if he could meet with them. He quickly agreed to see us that evening. After I hung up, I gave them what money I had and instructed them to buy food and to meet me later. None of them had eaten in over 24 hours.
Later that night, we walked to the stake center, where the stake president warmly greeted them and ushered us into his office.
As we talked, the father told us that after months of living in hunger and desperation, he and his wife decided that if he didn’t get a job that day, they would leave the baby at a police station and take their own lives.
As I listened, I felt a wave of gratitude for the example and teachings of prophets. I silently thanked Heavenly Father for stories that I had once found boring and repetitive. Without that repetition, I doubt the story of President Kimball would have come to me with enough force to guide my own actions that night.
The stake president introduced them to the bishop of their area, and they helped the family get basic necessities. Eventually, the entire ward rallied around this little family while they got back on their feet to become self-reliant again. Over time, they learned about the restored gospel, and then I had the blessing of baptizing the father and mother and then watching the stake president confirm them as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
I don’t consider my role in this to be anything great, but I know that I was prepared for that stormy day in the train station. There was a reason I heard stories from and about prophets throughout my youth. Heavenly Father knew that someday I would need that story about President Kimball and that it would be used to bless someone else.
We need to make time to hear the words of the prophets. With new information available instantly, we can get so focused on searching for something new—new excitement, new entertainment—that we forget that the Lord’s pattern is consistent, and oftentimes repetitive, spiritual nourishment. When we hear a message more than once, it’s better to recognize that it’s for our good rather than tuning out because we’ve heard it before. Oftentimes there’s a greater message that may prove valuable for us down the road.
We can make sure we receive these messages by simply being in the right place at the right time. The consistency of doing the small and simple things allows the constant drip of the gospel to make a lasting impression on us. We will be prepared to do all that Heavenly Father asks of us.