The widow, as described in the book of Mark, cast two small mites into the treasury, a feeble, inconsequential amount compared to the vast sums put in by the rich. But Jesus, watching, increased our understanding when he came forward and gently taught, “Verily I say unto you, That this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury; For all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living” (see Mark 12:41-44).
What the widow gave, she gave in humility and love. Did she feel inadequate? Most probably. Surely we feel inadequate at times as we struggle to live principles that require the constancy of prayer, dedication, forgiveness, service and love.
The Prophet Joseph Smith enlightened us with his teachings when he told the early Saints: “Faith is the principle of power which existed in the bosom of God, by which the worlds were framed. Faith is the principle by which Jehovah works, and through which he exercises power over all temporal as well as eternal things” (see “The Teachings of Joseph Smith,” edited by Larry E. Dahl and Donald Q. Cannon).
Faith is at times something for which we struggle, but it is also, in part, a gift granted when we truly desire righteousness but perhaps, like the widow, feel we have only a small beginning of this great principle within us. We fear that we are found wanting — and yet we are experiencing a longing to progress.
At times, a crisis may arise with us or in the life of a loved one — some sudden, unanticipated circumstance that requires immediate action, the action of faith, because we find ourselves deeply in need of a power beyond our own. If we feel unworthy or inadequate, all the more reason for us to try. The smallest sincere effort, the most humble desire, will link us to the source of all power, the source of all faith.
We have countless examples of the difference an effort in faith can make.
After receiving his mother’s rather grudging permission, David Lewis was baptized 29 days after the organization of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints on his 12th birthday. The Prophet Joseph Smith performed the ordinance, then urged the boy not to try to go home right then, for a ferocious thunderstorm was building. But David had promised his mother that he would return, so he set off in the teeth of the storm, but soon became lost in the dark woods. He was frightened, but remembered the Prophet’s words when he had told him that the Lord would take him safely home to his mother.
Struggling to ignore his fears, he knelt on the cold earth and prayed that the Lord would be “a lamp to my feet and a guide in my pathway.” At once, a light, much like a coal-oil lamp, “appeared and moved ahead of me down the path to my house, circled around the back door, and went out as soon as my mother opened the door” (see “Personal Glimpses of the Prophet Joseph Smith," by Hyrum L. and Helen Mae Andrus).
In every instance in our lives, faith is the power that draws our Heavenly Father near.
Valborg Henrietta Rasmussen, from Copenhagen, Denmark, was 13 years old when there was an opportunity to leave her homeland and journey to Zion with a company of Saints. But she would have to gain permission from her mother, who was not yet converted to the gospel. And she would have to leave her mother behind.
“The Mormon faith brought a whole new life to me, even as a child,” she wrote and is recorded in “I Sailed to Zion,” compiled by Susan Arrington Madsen and Fred. E. Woods. Now she faced a decision that was almost beyond her scope.
“I had really never had anything so important to pray about before as this object now in view,” she said of the realization. “Oh, I had had my small everyday wishes, but never a need so great that it required more than just a few minutes of prayer.”
Valborg discovered, as we may, that she possessed a much stronger faith than she realized. She loved the gospel and, with all her girlish soul, she wanted to live with members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. She succeeded in her quest because she placed her all on the altar. And she could do that because her whole soul had felt the love of her Savior, and her whole soul had responded to that love.
The reasoning of the world is often very different from the reasoning of God. It is good to remember that he sees us as we really are — as we were before we came and as we have power to become. We must not fall into the error of seeing ourselves in the dim, distorted prism of only the here and now, especially at times when we have important choices and decisions to make. When we attempt to give our all, as little Valborg did — as the widow did — only then do we learn what it is we truly have within our own selves.
Jessie Evans was a famous woman in her own right. In Salt Lake City, she gave freely of herself by singing for several mission farewells and funerals every month. She had made a place professionally, beginning when she joined the Tabernacle Choir at the age of 15. She sang in operas all over the world, and suddenly the ultimate was before her: an offer from the Metropolitan Opera. Of course, she must sing with them. And yet, that would mean turning her back on her beloved community, and turning her heart, in some very real degree, to the ways of the world.
Let us remember: Jessie could not see around the corners of her life any more than you and I can. After prayer and fasting, after considering the counsel of her beloved mother and her patriarchal blessing, Jessie decided to stay “home” and use her gifts to bless the LDS Church and kingdom that she loved.
This was an act of faith. And it led her to a blissfully happy marriage, at the age of 26, to the Apostle Joseph Fielding Smith. It brought her years of joyful service and a life filled with tender appreciation and love, according to information from family history and records.
If we feel all we have is the widow’s mite, let us give it — gladly. Pray and believe that the Lord will magnify our efforts and our love until we feel, without doubt, the blessings he begins to pour upon our heads.
We are his children. Everything we give he receives with open arms. As Joseph Smith said, “And lastly, but not less important to the exercise of faith in God, is the idea that he is love” (see “The Teachings of Joseph Smith,” edited by Larry E. Dahl and Donald Q. Cannon).