"Character is the one thing we make in this world and take with us into the next."
- - Ezra Taft Benson
June 08, 2015
Puzzles
by Janae Stubbs

Last Sunday registered at a level of crazy that I promise I attempted to prepare for. If Sabbath Day success is measured in "needed items actually taken to church" then I got a pretty low score. I left important lesson papers and my scriptures at home, my grumbling stomach didn't get any lunch, and by golly I am amazed I didn't forget to bring one of my sticky children.

Before I had steeled myself for Primary, the calm of sacrament meeting was over. My kids burst from the safety of our pew to get to their favorite part of the church block, and I gathered bags and followed in a hurry. Teachers are supposed to set the spiritual and reverent tone for their class, and how is that going to happen if the kids get there first and lock them out?

Once I got the nursery-bound potty trainee ready to go and delivered, it was time for my own class. In the swirling madness of my mind I tried with all of my heart and soul to give those obnoxious and adorable ten-, eleven-, and twelve-year-olds my entire testimony.

The lesson was about a triad of "lost" parables found in chapter fifteen of Luke the lost sheep, the lost piece of silver, and the prodigal son. My whole idea (hope? goal?) was to tie the search for these lost items and people into the magnificent Doctrine and Covenants 18:10.

"Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God."

Trying to judge the attentiveness of the class drove me crazy. One boy literally jumped up and down and sometimes it seemed he was even jumping off the walls. I tried to ask engaging and thought-provoking questions. A few of the students were right there, focused. God bless them.

In the thick of it all I asked, "Why did that one sheep matter? Without it the guy had almost a hundred others, so why did one sheep matter at all?"

And this moment became golden and stuck with me because a girl raised her hand and the spirit touched my heart as she said, "Well, you could say that the lost sheep is like a missing puzzle piece. It needed to be with all of the others, or none of them would be complete."

The rest of the lesson was still like slogging through spiritual molasses. The kid helping write on the board was also playing tic-tac-toe and disposing of stick figures in violent ways. Another boy turned his iPad on and off, just to see his starting screen photo (which makes sense because it's new). Another child was doing pretty much everything with the library Bible except reading it.

But for me, suddenly, I felt different full of understanding. That lost sheep wasn't just a sinner returning to the fold, and the man who went after it wasn't just a kind shepherd who knew his duty or just a poverty-stricken farmer who needed his whole flock.

The sheep was a child, learning and making mistakes. Even sinning on purpose, perhaps. The man was a concerned father, trying to complete a picture puzzle of eternal happiness. For him, that meant that his entire family needed to be there. That's why the one piece mattered to him.

The parable became the importance and necessity and joy of sealing ordinances done through missionary work for the living and the work of salvation for the dead.

I had never seen those possibilities before. And in a very small way I noticed that "remembering the worth of souls" had very eternal, and still very personal, implications. Because, no puzzle would be complete without all the pieces.

Yes, the rest of the meetings were crazy. By the time I picked up my own children I was seriously grumpy with all other children in the world and couldn't wait to get back to the sanctuary of my own home. But I had had my learning moment, and it stuck with me.

One of my favorite things about volunteering in the Church is that I stumble into these learning moments. They come often, especially when I'm open to receiving them, but honestly it isn't easy to have this openness as consistently as I'd like to have it.

(I think another word for "open to instruction" is humility, and humility often results in my feeling like "ain't that a kick in the head." So, yeah I'm still working on that.)

But when the stars align and I'm actually ready and able to listen to the quiet whispers of the ever-patient Spirit of God, I can learn wonderful things. Those learning moments always do seem to hang around, and I'm so glad they do.


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About Janae Stubbs

Janae and her husband were an inseparable, delightful pair before the coming of their children. Now they are just as delightful and inseparable but with quite a bit more mass—mass that won't go to bed on time and asks so many questions that Janae often wonders if college was enough preparation for motherhood (it's not).

Janae currently serves as a senior primary teacher, a temporary sunbeam teacher, an assistant ward organist, an assistant primary pianist, and the choir pianist. And maybe some others. If you're bored on Sundays you should move to her ward.

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