I heard absolutely the best story today and I have permission to share it with you. Of course it’s from my best friend, who teaches a teen Sunday school class, because she’s awesome, as everyone who knows her can and does attest. They were discussing Elijah, and she chose to focus on the story of the widow of Zarephath. The scriptural discussion wasn’t going much of anywhere, because the boys are getting ready to spend a week camping and hiking King’s Peak, and they kept talking about that. So she had to ramp up the connection to get their attention. Here is the story, as if you had been there (and as if I had, so some of the details may not be absolutely word for word.) But you’ll get it.
Brian (who is 18), your mom loves you. (He nods, because it’s a well-known truth.) Imagine we’re living in a time when it just stops raining. There’s no snow-pack, and there’s no summer melt. There’s no food. It goes on for a couple of years. People are dying from starvation. Your dad and your brothers die. It’s just you and your mom. You’re devastated, the two of you, alone, and you know you’re dying too. You’re down to 70 pounds, she’s weak, you’ve eaten everything you have, tried to sell things to get food, and you have nothing but a bag of spinach and a little oil. She’s going to try to make something of it for you, and then you’re both just going to wait until you die.
Then President Monson (our faith’s leader) walks all the way from Salt Lake, because there’s no transportation and he’s speaking at a conference way down here in Springville. It takes him two weeks to walk it, because he’s an old man, and the drought has weakened him too. He sees your mom as she’s out gathering the spinach. She’s crawling because she’s faint and weak. He walks up to her, looks at her, and asks her for a drink of water.
What would you do, Crista, if a man, a religious leader, walked up to you and asked that? (I’d tell him to get his own darn drink of water!) What would your mom do, Brian? (She’d do it. She wouldn’t even think about it; she’d help him.) Even if she were crawling and weak? (Yep, without a question.)
What if Pres. Monson then asked for her to make him the spinach, and to do it before you, then promised her that spinach would grow in her back yard without water for as long as the drought lasted if she would do it? (She’d believe him, and she’d do it.)
What if Pres. Monson stayed with you for awhile and ate spinach with you and you all survived, barely, through this drought. And then one morning, after living in faith and seeing the rewards, she awoke one day and found that you were dead. What would she do? (She’d lose it. She wouldn’t just cry, it would destroy her. Nothing would be worse.) Everyone is silent and riveted at this point, and several are teary.
Can you imagine a situation, say you Brian, going on a mission, where you exercise your faith and do all in your power, and things go well, and then all of a sudden it takes a sudden turn for the worst? Say you get a companion who suffers from terrible depression and refuses to go outside for two months, and you’re trapped inside with him and can’t go anywhere or do what you need to because of him? That happened to me. It could happen to you. What would you do then? What would your mom do? (She’d do her duty.)
What if you died, Brian, after she had done all in her power to preserve a miracle for your sake? (She’d still believe. She’d still know he was a prophet and he could do all things.)
Who chose, Brian? Who had the freedom to choose? (Mom. Mom could choose whether or not to believe, and she would choose to believe.) Are you sure? (Yep.) Who makes miracles, Brian? (We do. We do by believing.) Never forget that when it seems like you’re out of the woods and then one more bad thing happens, the worst you could imagine. Never forget that if the miracle is offered, the choice is yours. And never forget what your mom would do.
This is the story of the widow of Zarephath. This is the power of a story buried in the Old Testament. This is what happens at the intersection of priesthood power and personal faith. And this is why we liken the scriptures to us. Until it’s real, until we can look through their eyes, we miss the power those stories give us.
Liken the scriptures. Like them, liken them to your lives. Like your mom.