This is a talk I gave a few years ago, when I was serving in the Timpanogos Stake Young Women Presidency. Since it has been a good long while since I posted anything, I thought I'd share this to go along with my "40 Days Closer to Christ" reading challenge that I am working on. Much of this talk came directly from Professor Swift's beautiful words.
Two Loaves and One Fish
Thursday, April 21, 2011
2 weeks ago, I had the opportunity to attend the BYU Easter Conference where
Charles Swift, an associate professor of ancient scripture, shared some
insights into three important New Testament stories, all found in chapter 14 of
Matthew. I was really touched by his talk, and so would like to share one of
those stories and some of the things that I learned as I reread this
chapter with new eyes.
John the Baptist was killed by King Herod, the disciples buried his body and
then came to tell the Savior of his death. We read that “when Jesus heard of it, he departed thence… into a desert place apart.(vs13)”
Imagine how the Savior must have felt to hear this news. John was his
cousin, the prophet that was called to prepare the way for the Lord’s own
ministry. Perhaps he went to this desert place to contemplate, to grieve, to
get some space and regroup and just simply to mourn. Surely he felt the need
for privacy and for some time to commune with his Father. And yet in that same
verse, we read “and when the people had
heard thereof, they followed him on foot out of the cities. And Jesus went
forth, and saw a great multitude, and was moved with compassion toward them and
he healed their sick. (vs13-14)”
remarkable is the selflessness the Savior demonstrated here. Any one of us in a
similar situation might long for some solitude and peace – and rightly deserved
– but He took compassion on the multitude and healed them. How long this went
on, Matthew leaves to our imaginations, but it mentions that “when it was evening, (so who know how
many hours had passed at this point) the
disciples came to him, saying, This is a desert place…send the multitude away,
that they may go into the villages, and buy themselves victuals.”
They were in an uninhabited place, it was late, with thousands of people who had no food. There had been no plan or expectation to take care of this impromptu crowd. It was a perfectly reasonable and sensible suggestion to make, to send them off to the villages to find food for themselves. Jesus had just healed their sick. He had spent perhaps hours ministering to them. It had been a long, heart-breaking day for him. And yet the Savior’s response? “They need not depart; give ye them to eat.” It may be easy to overlook this response, or to consider it just a piece of dialogue. We may think that this is simply another story to show that the Savior could perform miracles. But what can we learn about the Savior, beyond the fact that he didn’t want them to leave? How often, for example, do modern-day disciples of Christ, weary after a long Sunday of service, or after yet another endless Wednesday night activity, have someone come to them in need? How often do we hear the Spirit whisper in our ear “Do not turn them away, but feed them.”?
The disciples had “but 5 loaves and 2 fishes” (vs17). The Savior said, “Bring them hither to me”. What if they had only had 2 loaves and 1 fish? Would the miracle not have been possible? If they had had 10 loaves and 5 fishes? Would the Savior have turned to them and said, “I don’t need 10 loaves. Bring me 5 and I’ll really show you somethin’ special.”? The number of loaves and fishes is insignificant. The important point here is that the disciples brought all that they had – holding nothing back. And the Savior took what they had to offer and worked a miracle with it. “And they did all eat, and were filled: and they took up of the fragments that remained twelve baskets full.” If we come to him and humbly, willingly receive all that he has for us, he will not leave us wanting. No one who comes to him will be left without. But here is an even greater miracle: if we come with all we have, we will leave with more than we came with. It is clear from the story that some came to this desert place with little. And some brought nothing. But none were turned away, and all were filled. We each do not have to bring the same thing to the Lord, nor do we have to bring the same amount. We just need to make sure it is all that we have.
Do not be discouraged! God is over all!! Sister Ardeth Kapp once mentioned that when she was the General President of the LDS Young Women's Organization, she felt that she was not adequate for her position until a dear friend said to her "You Are Better than you think you are." That reminded me of a time when I was feeling overwhelmed and inadequate and complained to a friend that I was probably the worst YW President ever. She paused a moment and then said “I wouldn’t say you’re the worst…” The point is, I was doing the best I could. I brought all I could to the desert place – sometimes it felt like a can of tuna and a day old loaf of bread, and I had to trust in the Lord to make it stretch to feed those girls.
President Hinckley counseled: “Brethren and Sisters, we must get on our knees and plead with the Lord for help and strength and direction. We must then stand on our feet and move forward....We call upon the women of the Church to stand together for righteousness. They must be the teachers and the guardians of their daughters. Those daughters must be taught in the Primary and in the classes of the Young Women of the values of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day saints. When you save a girl, you save generations.”
I have read that quote dozens of times. And often wondered who this hypothetical girl was that I might save. And it finally dawned on me last night that I am that girl. You are that girl. The sister you are sitting by is that girl. Carissa, Shauna, Emily, Amy, Nicole, Laura …. Is that girl.
Girls, we have been saved! And we are saving generations. I was saved by Corey, and Norma Jean and Teri. I was saved by Missy and Alane, by Jeanette and Janice and Jenn, by Jana and Nancy and Andrea and Pam. I was saved by Lonnie Rae and Sarah Pearl and Ulah Viola; by my sisters. I was saved by countless Bishops and priesthood leaders who have sat and listened to me cry – again and again. I was saved by my Savior and his miraculous loving atonement. We have been saved for such a time as this. And we are here to save generations. It doesn’t matter how much we bring – or how much we think we bring. The Lord will take what we can give – all of it, and he will make miracles with it. He will use what we bring to bless our lives and the lives of those we serve – and save.
Of all the miracles the Savior has performed, is there any so beautiful as the miracle of His love? Just as the Savior had his disciples take the baskets around and feed the people gathered in that place, we must be his disciples here and go out and serve the people in this place. We must take what HE has to offer and share it with those in our stewardship. And as we do this, they will feel the miraculous love of the Savior through OUR service and it will work miracles in their lives. In their families’ lives. And in our own.
Sisters, you are working miracles. It may seem like a minnow and hardtack kind of miracle sometimes. But miracles are happening. President Hinckley promised that “…Heaven will smile upon us. The Lord will hear and answer our prayers if we will commit ourselves, giving our very best to this work.”