What is My Errand?

Apr 19, 2020

Quarantine life has been good to us so far.

Mike has been working exclusively from home for over a month. It was a struggle at first, and he will still be grateful when he finally gets to be back in a real work environment, but we've fallen into a certain rhythm where it's perfectly normal to have him come up the stairs mid-morning, and I've taken advantage of his close proximity to ask him questions or have him help with potty training. 

The boys are doing well with their schoolwork. They know what is expected of them each day, and they do it. For the most part, I am pretty hands off, except for Clark. Their teachers have been involved and organized, and although we sincerely hope they will all (even Aaron) get to go back to school in the fall, we are making this work.

Our home is a safe, happy place. We are able to do almost all of our favorite activities. We love reading aloud in the mornings before school, rollerblading down the street in the evenings, watching movies, doing puzzles, singing songs around the piano, playing games, worshiping together, baking (and eating), and going on walks. Home has become the haven I always wanted it to be.

Our experience, although not unique, has not been the reality for many people. The immense suffering around the world is vast and agonizing. It is emotional, physical, financial, spiritual, and mental. Some of it is related to the current pandemic, but much of it was already there. The heartache created by this virus has not given the world a free pass on other suffering. It has simply added another layer--the straw that just might break the proverbial camel's back. 

During the first few days, as the virus spread across the nation with alarming speed, I inhaled the news at a feverish pace. I held my breath as things I had never even considered became a stark new reality. I watched the security of everyday life crumble around me. The pain and suffering of others was brought to the forefront of my mind. It was suffocating and unbearable. 

I did not know how I, in my very small sphere, could help with problems that seemed insurmountable.  I felt myself pulling inward because I couldn't handle all of this pain that I couldn't do anything about.

But one day I was reading the Book of Enos, and I was struck by the progression of Enos' prayer. First, he cried in "mighty prayer and supplication for [his] own soul." Following this, he "began to feel a desire for the welfare of [his] brethren." And finally after this, he prayed "with many long strugglings" for his enemies, the Lamanites. 

Applied to my own life, this model of concern for others might look like this: attention to myself and my family, followed by friends, neighbors, and extended family, and finally strangers around the world. The circle begins small but is able to expand outward organically as immediate needs are seen and met.

I had been frozen in indecision because I didn't know where to expend my energies or resources when there were limitless options; and what I could do seemed so small and inconsequential anyway that it seemed rather futile. Although this blueprint didn't do anything to change the collective and individual suffering all around me, it lifted my own paralyzation so I could once more move forward with purpose and genuine intent.

At this same time, a question came into my mind that has since become my daily mantra: What is my errand? It is based on something the prophet Jacob said when he began his ministry to his people: "Wherefore I, Jacob, gave unto them these words as I taught them in the temple, having first obtained mine errand from the Lord."

I decided that I would try to be like Jacob and obtain my errand from the Lord every day. Once again, this narrowed my focus to a single day, even a single hour, which made it so much more manageable for me.

When I wake up and begin my day, I ask, "What is my errand?" And then I listen. I pay attention to the thoughts that come into my head. Interestingly, they are most often about someone in my family or neighborhood, thus following the pattern set forth by Enos. Once I have one or two impressions, I work on accomplishing those before I ask the question again. It feels very much like I am reporting to my commanding officer for duty each day, asking for my orders, and then returning after they are completed.

These errands are small things, easily accomplished in a day. For example, one day I had the thought that I should do something for my sister, Angela. She is currently serving a mission in Pennsylvania. The work has ground to a halt because she and her companion have to stay inside all of the time. They have found creative ways to serve and teach and share their message, but for a very social person like my sister, the confinement is taking a serious toll on her morale. I wondered what I could do for her. I got the idea to cut up strips of paper, write inspirational quotes on them, and then mail them to her. Each day she could pull out one piece of paper, read the quote, and then loop it through the previous one, forming a paper chain.

Another day, I sat down to order some sheet music. I went to Amazon as usual, but then I had the impression, Why don't you order from Day Murray Music [my local music store] instead? It ended up costing me more, but the service was excellent, and it arrived at my house in two days.

When we participated in the worldwide fast on Good Friday last week, I felt like I should pay a fast offering, even though I had just done so a couple of weeks before. I realized that the Church can do things with its resources that I can't do alone with mine.

One morning I approached the Lord with my question, and my sweet elderly neighbor's name came into my mind. I knew I needed to call and check in with her that day.

This is just a sampling of some of the things Heavenly Father has asked me to do in the last few weeks. I feel almost silly writing them down because I know they sound small and insignificant. But I feel strongly that as we each do our small bit in our individual spheres, great things can happen.

I want to tell you about one other small thing I've added to my days. This one is also inspired by Enos. Like me, Enos realized that there were some things beyond his scope of influence. About the Lamanites, he said, "For at the present our strugglings were vain in restoring them to the true faith." In fact, at that point, the Lamanites were threatening to destroy the records and traditions of Enos and his people if they got the chance.

There was only one thing Enos could do for them, and so he did that one thing: he prayed. And the Lord said, "I will grant unto thee according to they desires." That simple prayer of faith made a difference.

Like Enos, there are many things right now outside of my control. I don't have the medical skills to answer the call for help in the NYC hospitals; I don't have the connections to organize big drives for supplies; I don't have the knowledge to study this virus and develop a vaccine against it.

Instead, I have to do exactly what Enos did: see a need and pray for it.

I have made it a habit to pay attention to the seemingly random thoughts I have throughout the day. If a person pops into my memory, even if I haven't had any contact with them for years, I say a prayer for them right then. This is one way I'm expanding my circle. I have found that as my thoughts turn outward to others, my generosity and love expands as well.

I hope this quarantine won't last forever. In fact, I hope it's over before too long. But I also hope to take this simpler, slower pace with me and continue this daily habit of asking the Lord how He can use me. As I narrow my focus on these small things, my love for others is actually widening in a most miraculous way.


  1. This really speaks to me. I've also been trying to start at home and then work outwards. The pain felt by others came home to me today; a dear friend's aunt, a Catholic nun in New York City, died this morning from the virus. I had known her for most of my life. So I can pray for her and for her sisters, and I can keep touch with my friends who have been laid off, and I can call people when they pop into my head. It's not much, but it's not nothing.

  2. Amy- I love, love your thoughts. You need to know that twice you have randomly helped me so much. One morning I was having a particularly hard morning. I normally hop out of bed and get to work but that morning I exercised, got back in bed, pulled the covers over my head and told James that my plan was to just scream under my covers for a bit. He laughed and went to work and then I got the text from you with the link for that great song, Sunday Best. I pulled back the covers and got some "gravity under my feet" and then I tried my best to "leave the day better than I found it." And then on another day you sent me a quote that was exactly what I needed. Somehow you have managed to send me a random text in two of my hardest days. Coinsidence... I think not! Thank you for being on His errand!

  3. Oooooh, I love this! I think this is exactly what President Nelson means when he talks about honing our ability to receive revelation. I especially love that what you were personally studying in the scriptures had so much immediate application to this very unique circumstance. What a beautiful blessing to you and so many you’re connected with, coming out of these strange times. xo

  4. God bless you, Amy. Thanks for sharing this for all of us "daughters of the kingdom."

  5. Thank you thank you thank you for this---I needed this reminder today. I also used to do something very similar to this, after I read a talk from one of the auxiliary sister counselors (I wish I remembered which one). While I've been actively trying to serve others during this time, you reminded me of the power of literally doing so every day.

    Thank you for shining your light with all of us, and I hope things are going well for you guys. I don't know if I ever told you, but I put your son's name in the temple every time I went, even though I don't know you in person. I'm sure I was just one of many, but the power of prayer is real, and I knew every extra one helped! Hope he's doing better.


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