One Isn’t the Loneliest Number; It’s the Most Important
Not a Coincidence – Connections
As occasionally happens in the world of Facebook, I found out today that one of my nieces knows someone from my home ward. I suppose I should stop being amazed at the non-coincidence of what a small, connected world the church is, but I never stop being surprised when I see two people who know each other, who I otherwise keep in completely separate Venn diagrams in my mind.
But that’s not the cool part of the story.
The cool part of the story is that this friend, let’s call her Allison, reminded me I had been her seminary teacher back in the day.
Okay, the fact that I was her seminary teacher isn’t the cool part either.
I had just returned from my mission. It was a time of year that wasn’t conducive to starting school or any other pursuits a recently returned missionary might engage in, so I was working full time and probably driving my parents crazy. I had a solid case of reverse culture shock, and English was now my second language. At least I can safely say that I wasn’t preachy as many shell-shocked missionaries are fresh off their missions; I simply was nursing a case of good old-fashioned boredom.
Someone thought it would be a good idea to call me to be an early-morning seminary teacher. It was a great plan. Here was an outlet for my recently discovered love of teaching, as well as added another activity to my day, and necessitated consistently studying the gospel.
What wasn’t awesome was probably everything else. I had no formal teaching experience or training. I like to think that what I lacked in maturity and experience I more than made up for with my innocent enthusiasm. And since I wasn’t much older than the teenagers I was teaching, so I considered myself still “cool” enough to relate to them.
Inadequate and Unprepared
When Allison reminded that I was her seminary teacher back then, she also said, “I’m so sorry you had to put up with us!” Funny she should say that, because the only bad memories I have of that time is that I was an immense failure at object lessons.
Years of perspective and growth, as well as a second go-around at the early-morning seminary gig have taught me nothing but how woefully inadequate I must have been back then. I responded, “That was so much fun back then! However, I’m the one who should apologize for any negative seminary experience. Any error there was completely due to my immaturity and lack of experience. I loved every minute of it, though.”
Yet, Despite those Inadequacies…
Okay, finally we’re getting to the cool part of the story. Allison said, “No, I loved it. I remember sitting there and listening to you explain things and feeling the Spirit each time. I knew you KNEW and I wanted to know like you did. It definitely contributed to me seeking a testimony of my own.”
What makes that so cool to me isn’t that I did anything special or that I’m getting an awesome compliment many years after the fact. No, what makes this spectacular is that despite my inexperience, my love of the gospel and testimony of the atonement overcame any weaknesses of mine and the spirit still worked in that classroom.
I made a difference to one person. Maybe more, sure, but to one person, just being me mattered and was enough, and the powers of heaven stepped in to make up for all of my inadequacies.
The most important number in the atonement, in the gospel, and the only one that matters, is “one.” We approach the heavens in prayer on an individual basis, “to work out [our] own salvation.” (Philippians 2:12.) No one else can approach the Savior on our behalf; we alone are responsible for that.
When Jesus visited the Nephites, on that first day, 2500 people individually approached the Savior, “…going forth one by one until they had all gone forth, and did see with their eyes and did feel with their hands, and did know of a surety…” (3 Nephi 11: 15.) Twenty-five hundred people, sure, but each one counted as an individual, and had that one-on-one experience with their Savior.
Additionally, Jesus Himself reminds us of the principle of the One when he said, “And if it so be that you should labor all your days, and bring, save it be one soul unto me, how great shall be your joy…!” (D&C 18:15.)
The Most Important Number is You
One person matters. Each person matters. Every individual is counted and known and matters.
“Sadly, in today’s world, a person’s importance is often judged by the size of the audience before which he or she performs. Yet, in the eyes of the Lord, there may be only one size of audience that is of lasting importance—and that is just one, each one, you and me, and each one of the children of God. The irony of the Atonement is that it is infinite and eternal, yet it is applied individually, one person at a time.” (2004–A:84, M. Russell Ballard, “The Atonement and the Value of One Soul.”)
You matter, and don’t you ever forget it.