Maureen J. Olson was born and raised in California and attended BYU as a Kimball Scholar. After receiving her M.A. in English, she taught Honors Intensive Writing at BYU for several years. She has served two missions, presently works as an RN, and enjoys writing, hiking and playing with her dogs. In her recent book, One Small Step: Giant Blessings, Maureen talks about one often overlooked manner in which the Savior spurred growth and conversion. See her previous articles with LeadingSaints and visit her at www.theoneneedfulthing.org and on Facebook. Maureen’s books are available at Deseret Bookstore, digitalegend and Amazon.
Enter Maureen …
Close to 3,000 years ago an Assyrian general who came to Elisha for healing was told to “Go and wash in Jordan seven times, and thy flesh shall come to thee, and thou shalt be clean” (2 Kings 5:10).
Challenging as this request was for Naaman to complete, Elisha did not list Naaman’s many sins and tell him to repent of them all in order to obtain healing.
Yet it is easy for me to do this to my brother and sister members of the Savior’s Church. I can “tell it to them straight.” I can sprinkle my advice liberally on others. In so doing, I assume they are in denial about their sins or do not know their own shortcomings. If they just realized their failings and repented of them, they would be happier. They would be healed.
I wonder what the prophet Elisha could have told Naaman about his sins? Probably quite a bit. But Elisha did something different. He gave Naaman the chance to experience the miraculous healing power of God with just one small, but challenging request. He asked Naaman to take a step of faith.
Interestingly, the Lord instructs Moses do something similar in Numbers 21:8:
“And the LORD said unto Moses, Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live.”
The Israelites recognized their need to repent, but Moses did not command them to change everything before they could look at the brass serpent and experience healing. Instead, the Lord instructed him to give them a faith-building experience by asking for one small, but challenging, step of faith.
Since I encourage friends and family members to share their own small steps of faith on my volunteer website, I can share a few things I have learned about one small step of faith as a life-changing faith-builder.
Make a Mindful Small Change
The simplest way I’ve seen people take a step of faith is to make a small change.
Of course, we do not interfere with the guidelines given by the Savior for gospel ordinances and practices. These guidelines we observe exactly and are given to us by His authorized servants.
But while still following these guidelines, we can make a mindful change in small personal habits that have become so routine. We practice some gospel habits without reflection and bypass the spiritual renewal they are meant to bring.
For my mission companion, Sister Shirley Palmer, one small change came as an answer to prayer. It was very simple. She felt inspired to offer her morning prayer before her scripture study instead of after study.
“The scriptures opened right up to me!” she said. She began having insights she’d never had before as she read. She’d been praying after scripture study for many years, never questioning the way she did things.
Another small change helped her feel more renewed by the sacrament. She simply decided to sit up front in the chapel instead of at the back.
Preparing for the sacrament by focusing on repentance, by reading the sacrament hymn, or by making another small personal change will make the sacrament a more mindful experience for me and bring me closer to my Savior today.
Seek Inspired Small Steps for Individuals
A cousin of mine recently decided to ask four members of his gospel doctrine class, two weeks in advance, to read an assigned chapter and share one way in which a verse (or verses) touched their lives personally.
The chance to focus and prepare resulted in participation from class members who had rarely said anything before. We can brainstorm a small step of faith for an individual member, for a group, or for ourselves as leaders (Spark Library for ideas).
Each step will jump-start enthusiasm for living the gospel more powerfully than simple inspiration can because a step requires action. We sit and listen to inspiration, but action brings blessings which then inspire more action and more steps of faith.
The Lord does command us to repent of all our sins, but He motivates us first.
The woman taken in adultery, for example, experienced the motivating, life-saving miracle of forgiveness before the Lord commanded, “neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more” (John 8:11).
One Small Step of Faith for Addiction Recovery
Sometimes we do need a “reality check.” For example, when we avoid the complete, daily commitment it takes to manage an addiction we need a leader to “give it to us straight” in a respectful and loving way.
Our denial about the damage we cause to loved ones helps keep us in hiding, trying to manage our addiction on our own without proper daily support from a group and therapist.
In this case, a leader can “give it to us straight” though it must still be done with love and while building a relationship of trust and respect.
Leaders can begin to build that relationship today by offering a step of faith.
For example, I can brainstorm with a member for a small change to the way he or she practices one gospel habit, and talk about one small personal change that brought me closer to the Savior.
Once the member experiences blessings from that step I can ask for a bigger one: “will you take another step of faith by talking just once on the phone to Brother or Sister Jones who attends Addiction Recovery Program (ARP) meetings and has found them helpful?”
A potential participant needs to build a relationship of trust with another participant before the courage to actually attend a meeting can develop. Brother or Sister Jones can talk about a small personal change recently made that brought him or her closer to the Lord and brought strength.
Small steps, with shared help, build a relationship and keep the crucial process of taking steps going strong. Small steps over time are surer than a big step taken all at once.
A later step—a much bigger one—might be to actually attend one ARP meeting with the friend made on the phone.
One small step of faith begins a process and helps build relationships that support more steps of faith. A person gains confidence that he or she can do this.
If the leader does not start “talking down” to the member, this powerful process will continue. (The empowering attitude that “we are helping each other” is much more effective than the disempowering “I am helping you.”)
Would the Lord counsel us to motivate more often by offering a smaller step of faith, first, that can increase the member’s spiritual confidence?
I think Moses and Elisha have shown us that He does.