Sunday, December 14, 2008

A Dickens of a Talk

Because my current calling is primarily devoted to teaching and training, many aspects of it slow down this time of year, and I focus on the year to come. But fortunately my own sweet bishop remembers me and asked that I speak in Sacrament Meeting. So here is the gist of my remarks. Because of the way I prepare and deliver such remarks, this is not exactly what was said. When I got up there some things written here didn't get said, and others that are not here did, but this is the collection of thoughts I had while preparing. I hope it inspires you with the true spirit of Christmas at this most loving time of year, and in the times to come.

Caring for the Poor & Needy

Elder Quentin L. Cook:
"We were traveling by car from San Francisco to Utah in June. The weather had been very good.
As we started our ascent to the Donner Pass summit in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, suddenly and without warning an enormous snowstorm hit us. None of the drivers was prepared. A semi-truck in front of us had jackknifed and was spread across two lanes. Other trucks and cars had slid off the freeway. One lane was open, and many vehicles, including ours, were desperately trying to gain traction to avoid the other vehicles. All traffic then came to a halt.
"We were not prepared for this blizzard in June. We had no warm clothing, and our fuel was relatively low. I huddled with the two boys in an effort to keep us warm. After many hours, safety vehicles, snowplows, and tow trucks began to clear up the massive logjam of vehicles.
"Eventually, a tow truck hauled us to a service station on the other side of the pass. I called my wife, knowing she would be worried because she had expected a call the prior evening. She asked if she could speak to the two boys. When it was the three-year-old’s turn, with a quivering voice, he said, “Hope ya know, we had a hard time!
"I could tell, as our three-year-old talked to his mother and told her of the hard time, he gained comfort and then reassurance. Our prayers are that way when we go to our Father in Heaven. We know He cares for us in our time of need.
"The incident I just recounted, while a difficult travel situation, was brief, and there were no lasting consequences. However, many of the trials and hardships we encounter in life are severe and appear to have lasting consequences. Each of us will experience some of these during the vicissitudes of life. Many listening to this conference are experiencing situations of a most serious nature at this very moment."

There is another name for those who are “having a hard time” – It is “the poor & the needy” and today I would like to expand our understanding of who they are, and our responsibility & our capacity to care for them.

Pres. Eyring tells of a priesthood leader who taught him to always treat everyone he met as someone experiencing difficulty, and more than half the time he would be right.

Mosiah 4:26
I would that ye should impart of your substance to the poor, every man according to that which he hath, such as feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and administering to their relief, both spiritually and temporally, according to their wants.

So ministering to those in need includes, but goes beyond, just ministering to their temporal needs.

And the Lord never gives a command without providing a way for it to be accomplished – but it is always the Lord’s way – not the world’s way.

Doctrine & Covenants 104:
11 It is wisdom in me; therefore, a commandment I give unto you, that ye shall organize yourselves and appoint every man his stewardship;
13 For it is expedient that I, the Lord, should make every man accountable, as a steward over earthly blessings, which I have made and prepared for my creatures.
15 And it is my purpose to provide for my saints, for all things are mine.
16 But it must needs be done in mine own way; and behold this is the way that I, the Lord, have decreed to provide for my saints, that the poor shall be exalted, in that the rich are made low.
17 For the earth is full, and there is enough and to spare; yea, I prepared all things, and have given unto the children of men to be agents unto themselves.

Principles taught:
All things belong to the Lord.
He has prepared all things.
He has given all of us earthly blessings.
He has made us stewards over those earthly blessings & agents in their use.
Some are rich in certain earthly blessings, and others are not.
The Lord’s way is for those with abundance to humble themselves by imparting to those without an abundance.

As we follow the admonition of the hymn to prayerful “count our many blessings”, and the scriptural admonition to “thank the Lord in all things”, we discover that our earthly blessings are far more than just our financial means. Since all belongs to the Lord, then our stewardship includes everything we count as earthly blessings:

Family - close and extended; health; physical strength; emotional stability; education; time; musical ability; spiritual gifts, such as faith, prayer, receiving the Word, teaching the word, understanding, listening, hope, cheerfulness - and the list is inexaustable.

All these things are given to us, first to develop - to increase - and then to give to others by casting them into the storehouse of the Lord.

Doctrine & Covenants 82:
16 Behold, here is wisdom also in me for your good.
17 And you are to be equal, or in other words, you are to have equal claims on the properties, for the benefit of managing the concerns of your stewardships, every man according to his wants and his needs, inasmuch as his wants are just—
18 And all this for the benefit of the church of the living God, that every man may improve upon his talent, that every man may gain other talents, yea, even an hundred fold, to be cast into the Lord's storehouse, to become the common property of the whole church—
19 Every man seeking the interest of his neighbor, and doing all things with an eye single to the glory of God.

This latter-day commandment that we are responsible for being diligent in increasing the earthly blessings over which we are stewards is consistent with the parable taught by the Lord Himself, as recorded in Mathew 25:14-30.

And the purpose for which we are all to do so is made clear: to cast them into the storehouse of the Lord for the benefit of the Church.

The most common & obvious example of doing this is in the giving of fast offerings – a freewill offering – that we have been instructed by living prophets should be generous.

I testify that the more generous we are with our fast offerings – and other donations for the relief of those suffering – the more the Lord will increase our earthly blessings to enable us to cast even more into the Lord’s storehouse.

Isaiah 58:
7 Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh?
8 ¶ Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thine health shall spring forth speedily: and thy righteousness shall go before thee; the glory of the LORD shall be thy rereward.
9 Then shalt thou call, and the LORD shall answer; thou shalt cry, and he shall say, Here I am. If thou take away from the midst of thee the yoke, the putting forth of the finger, and speaking vanity;
10 And if thou draw out thy soul to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul; then shall thy light rise in obscurity, and thy darkness be as the noonday:
11 And the LORD shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought, and make fat thy bones: and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not.
12 And they that shall be of thee shall build the old waste places: thou shalt raise up the foundations of many generations; and thou shalt be called, The repairer of the breach, The restorer of paths to dwell in.

But that is just the beginning, we all have other earthly blessings that need to be increased by casting them into the storehouse of the Lord. The Lord has provided us with a way to do this.

Remember that the Lord's way includes:
Organize yourselves.
Appoint stewardships.

This is the great system of home teaching and visiting teaching.

It is organized under the direction of the Bishop and constitutes an integral part of the “Lord’s Storehouse” into which we cast our earthly blessings for the benefit of those in need.

Doctrine & Covenants 50:
13 Wherefore, I the Lord ask you this question—unto what were ye ordained?
14 To preach my gospel by the Spirit, even the Comforter which was sent forth to teach the truth.

We teach the gospel as we visit the home of every member and minister to their needs:

Our faithful participation in home teaching and visiting teaching allows us to retain a remission of our sins, and to participate fully in the gospel.

Charles Dickens' character, Jacob Marley understood the need to "visit the house of every member" relieving suffering:
"It is required of every man that the spirit within him should walk abroad among his fellow-men, and travel fare and wide; and if that spirit goes not forth in life, it is condemned to do so after death. It is doomed to wander through the world - and witness what it cannot share, but might have shared on earth, and turned to happiness.
"Oh! captive, bound, and double-ironed, not to know, that ages of incessant labour by immortal creatures, for this earth must pass into eternity before the good of which it is susceptible is all developed. Not to know that any Christian spirit working kindly in its little sphere, whatever it may be, will find its mortal life too short for its vast means of usefulness.
"Business! Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were, all, my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business.
"At this time of the rolling year I suffer most. Why did I walk through crowds of fellow-beings with my eyes turned down, and never raise them to that blessed Star which led the wise men to a poor abode? Were there no poor homes to which its light would have conducted me?
"The air was filled with phantoms, wandering hither and thither in restless haste, and moaning as they went. The misery with them all was, clearly, that they sought to interfere, for good, in human matters, and had lost that power for ever."

One of the great resources we have to entering the homes of the Saints and "interfering for good" is the Ensign, including the conference addresses.

But this is just the beginning – as we add to those teachings our very selves:

Matthew 25:
31 ¶ When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory:
32 And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats:
33 And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.
34 Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:
35 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:
36 Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.
37 Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?
38 When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?
39 Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?
40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.


  1. Dad, thanks for sharing. Thanks for the reminder that I have not yet read "A Christmas Carol" this year. I'll get right on that.