Original Talk Given: May 26, 2013
Care for the Poor and Needy; through faithful payment of tithes and other personal offerings of time, talents, and temporal means.
My talk today may very well resemble a patch work quilt of quotes and stories from prophets and apostles, but I pray the spirit will help to connect the concepts together to share a message that will benefit your life and increase your faith.
Before we dig into the topic assigned today, I wanted to bring to light some of the things our prophet said during this past general conference (April 2013) about obedience. I think it sets a good tone as we begin a conversation about personal offerings.
From President Monson:
My brothers and sisters, the great test of this life is obedience.
The knowledge which we seek, the answers for which we yearn, and the strength which we desire today to meet the challenges of a complex and changing world can be ours when we willingly obey the Lord’s commandments.
from: D&C 93:28 “He that keepeth [God’s] commandments receiveth truth and light, until he is glorified in truth and knoweth all things
“There is no need for you or for me, in this enlightened age when the fulness of the gospel has been restored, to sail uncharted seas or to travel unmarked roads in search of truth. A loving Heavenly Father has plotted our course and provided an unfailing guide—even obedience. A knowledge of truth and the answers to our greatest questions come to us as we are obedient to the commandments of God.”
“There are a lot of uncertainties in life. Many of which we have little control over. What we learn from the prophet’s instruction is through obedience we are able to navigate this life and find comfort in the knowledge and blessings He gives unto us. I think this may be the answer many of us are looking for in the challenges and trails we each face.”
What amazing instruction from a prophet of God. I never considered the power that exists when following obedience to commandments. So, now into the assigned topic:
Payment of Tithes and Offerings
To review… we are asked to pay tithing equivalent to 10% of our income/or increase. In addition we have been asked to pay fast offerings. We have been given a guide of the amount that would cover the cost of the two meals we fast for on fast Sunday. This is merely a guide. Many pay much more than this on a regular basis.
So, why do we pay tithing and other offerings?
Elder James E. Talmage once described this as a contract between us and the Lord. He imagined the Lord saying: “‘You have need of many things in this world food, clothing, and shelter for your family, the common comforts of life. You shall have the means of acquiring these things; but remember they are mine, and I require of you the payment of a rental upon that which I give into your hands. However, your life will not be one of uniform increase so instead of doing as mortal landlords do, requiring you to pay in advance, whatever your fortunes or prospects may be you shall pay me only when you have received; and you shall pay me in accordance with what you receive. If it so be that in one year your income is abundant, then your 10 percent will be a little more; and if it be so that the next year is one of distress and your income is not what it was, then your 10 percent will be less. Whatever your circumstance, the tithe will be fair. “Have you ever found a landlord on earth who was willing to make that kind of equitable contract with you?”
Another reason some pay tithing is because of the blessings we receive. We’ve been promised the in 3 Nephi 24:10… the windows of heaven will be opened up and blessing will pour out that there will not be room enough to receive it.
Before we go picking what blessing we want the Lord to give us for the tithe consider this comment by Robert D. Hales:
“The temporal and spiritual blessings of tithing are specifically tailored to us and our families, according to the Lord’s will.”
I think this can be difficult sometimes, especially when finances are tight. To have the faith to KNOW the Lord will bless us according to what we really NEED is not always easy.
Elder Hales continues to council us:
Would any of us intentionally reject an outpouring of blessings from the Lord? Sadly, this is what we do when we fail to pay our tithing. We say no to the very blessings we are seeking and praying to receive. If you are one who has doubted the blessings of tithing, I encourage you to accept the Lord’s invitation to “prove [Him] now herewith.” Pay your tithing. Unlock the windows of heaven. You will be abundantly blessed for your obedience and faithfulness to the Lord’s laws and commandments.
I think it important to mention for us to be careful here. The blessings WILL come. They have come to me in my own life, but they have not come in the exact way I had hoped for but they have come to me and my family in ways I had not realized we needed.
Let’s turn to the scriptures for a moment for an example of tithes being paid:
We read an account of the Savior observing those paying offerings in to the treasury:
42 And there came a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites, which make a farthing.
43 And he called unto him his disciples, and saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury:
44 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.
If we dig deeper into these scriptures, you can almost see the woman drop the two mites. I envision an older lady, in ratty clothing, with grey hair. She has a tired or worn look about her, but has a brilliance in her face being interpreted as immense gratitude to her Father in Heaven, for the blessings he has put before her. Not to mention the suffering she has experienced. Many years, without her husband. Her children, if she had any, were not around and it is assumed she was left to care completely for herself. Loneliness accompanied her much of the time. She had no well-paying job to speak of, only odd jobs enough to get by. But even with the concern of where she would get her next meal, she, in complete faith must pay her offering to the Lord again in Gratitude for all that she has received even though meager by normal standards. I’m sure she thought, as she dropped the coins, about how happy it made her feel that she could do something to help others… that may be poor and needy. What an amazing example to us all. When we hand our tithing envelope to the Bishop, is it done with this level of reverence or thought. What an uplifting opportunity for each of us that draws us closer to our Father in Heaven and our older brother!
Care for the Poor and the Needy
I want to switch gears here a little and talk more about caring for the poor and needy through personal offerings of time and talents.
Back in 2006 and my wife and I were faced with one of the largest challenges our family had experienced. We were expecting our fourth child (Taylor) and in order for him to survive when he was born, he needed to have fetal surgery. It was a process that required my wife to be in San Francisco for six weeks, and possibly longer if pre-term labor was triggered. This was such an overwhelming time for us. The thoughts of the unknown overwhelmed Paige and I’s minds almost completely. We received so much service at the hands of our families and especially our ward family. It was amazing. I never had to wonder where my kids were at, who was picking them up, who was watching them next, or what we were going to eat that night? I got to focus on what I needed to, spending time with my three children (while their mother was away), being freed up to consider what we needed to do and how, then being able to go and do, at the drop of a hat. We were blessed in innumerable ways. I’m sure there were services performed I’m not even aware of. Fortunately, the surgery was a success, Paige was able to get back here… be it only a few days, then Taylor was born at the University of Utah close to home where we could manage the next three months. Today, Taylor is just a typical eight year old…healthy and strong.
In this past General Conference (April 2013) we were reminded of many statistics about the efforts of the church in helping people around the world. Literally thousands of people, put in thousands of hours, and millions of dollars in aid and other assistance have been given. Our financial offerings are definitely being multiplied into great benefits to our brothers and sisters on this earth.
One might ask why we give such aid, sometimes in countries where the Gospel cannot be preached, but our aid is gladly accepted. As a salesman, trainer, and coach I really appreciated this next story. One of the things we always try to teach our sales people is to ask enough questions to truly understand the prospective client’s needs, then deliver a solution to their “true” problem:
In 1897 a young David O. McKay stood at a door with a tract (religious pamphlet) in his hand. As a missionary in Stirling, Scotland, he had done this many times before. But on that day a very haggard woman opened the door and stood before him. She was poorly dressed and had sunken cheeks and unkempt hair. She took the tract Elder McKay offered to her and spoke six words that he subsequently would never forget: “Will this buy me any bread?”
This event has been related as some of the very first roots of the Welfare program we have thriving today. In many cases, we must first feed people temporally before we feed them spiritually.
I wanted to take some time now to give a few examples of Caring for the Poor and the Needy. As I begin, please recognize in each of these examples, the individual “Giving” in each of these stories is equally or even more needy than the “Receiver.” (Much like the story we just read about the Widows mite). As you sit pondering the things going on in your own lives, and consider how busy each day is, it can seem very easy to push under the rug an opportunity to lift one of our brothers or sisters. I pray these will motivate and inspire you to do more… even with your own trials at hand.
I have used this story in a previous talk, but it crosses over to this subject so well.
Two men, both seriously ill, occupied the same hospital room. One man was allowed to sit up in his bed for an hour each afternoon to help drain the fluid from his lungs. His bed was next to the room’s only window. The other man had to spend all his time flat on his back. The men talked for hours on end. They spoke of their wives and families, their homes, their jobs, their involvement in the military service, where they had been on vacation. Every afternoon, when the man in the bed by the window could sit up, he would pass the time by describing to his roommate all the things he could see outside the window. The man in the other bed began to live for those one hour periods where his world would be broadened and enlivened by all the activity and color of the world outside. The window overlooked a park with a lovely lake. Ducks and swans played on the water while children sailed their model boats. Young lovers walked arm in arm amidst flowers of every color and a fine view of the city skyline could be seen in the distance. As the man by the window described all this in exquisite details, the man on the other side of the room would close his eyes and imagine this picturesque scene. One warm afternoon, the man by the window described a parade passing by. Although the other man could not hear the band – he could see it in his mind’s eye as the gentleman by the window portrayed it with descriptive words. Days, weeks and months passed. One morning, the day nurse arrived to bring water for their baths only to find the lifeless body of the man by the window, who had died peacefully in his sleep. She was saddened and called the hospital attendants to take the body away. As soon as it seemed appropriate, the other man asked if he could be moved next to the window. The nurse was happy to make the switch, and after making sure he was comfortable, she left him alone.
Slowly, painfully, he propped himself up on one elbow to take his first look at the real world outside. He strained to slowly turn to look out the window besides the bed. It faced a blank wall. The man asked the nurse what could have compelled his deceased roommate who had described such wonderful things outside this window. The nurse responded that the man was blind and could not even see the wall.
This is such a great example of showing concern for the one and putting the needs of the one before your own. Think of the blind man. He could have just told the other man he had no idea what was outside and was blind… the man would have understood. Instead he took the time and effort to do something unexpected. To bring a desperately needed happiness at someone else’s time of need.
What inconveniences should we be willing to endure to bring that into someone else’s life?
Elder D. Todd Christofferson
As a boy I witnessed my own mother’s actions to redeem a woman in need. Many years ago when her children were young, my mother underwent a serious operation that nearly took her life and left her bedridden much of the time for nearly a year. During this time, family and ward members helped Mother and our family. For additional help, the ward Relief Society president, Sister Abraham, recommended that my parents hire a woman in the ward who desperately needed work. In recounting this story, I will use the fictional names Sara and Annie for this woman and her daughter. This is my mother’s account:
“I can see it as plain as if it were only yesterday. There I lay in bed, and Sister Abraham brought Sara to the bedroom door. My heart sank. There stood the least attractive person I had ever met—so thin; scraggly, unkempt hair; round-shouldered; head bowed looking at the floor. She wore an old housedress four sizes too big. She wouldn’t look up and spoke so softly I couldn’t hear her. Hiding behind her was a little girl about three years old. What in the world was I to do with this creature? After they left the room, I cried and cried. I needed help, not more problems. Sister Abraham stayed awhile with her, and they soon whipped the house into shape and prepared some good meals. Sister Abraham asked me to try it for a few days, [saying] that this girl had had a really hard time and needed help.
“The next morning when Sara came, I finally got her to come over by the bed where I could hear her. She asked what I wanted her to do. I told her and then said, ‘But the most important thing is my boys; spend time with them, read to them—they are more important than the house.’ She was a good cook and kept the house clean, the washing done, and she was good to the boys.
“Through the weeks, I learned Sara’s story. [Because she was hard of hearing, she didn’t do well in school and eventually dropped out. She married young to a dissolute man. Annie was born and became the joy of Sara’s life. One winter night her husband came home drunk, forced Sara and Annie into the car in their bedclothes, and then dropped them off by the side of the highway. They never saw him again. Barefoot and freezing, Sara and Annie walked several miles to her mother’s home.] Her mother agreed to let them stay in exchange for doing all the housework and cooking, and caring for her sister and brother who were in high school.
“We took Sara to an ear doctor, and she got a hearing aid. … We got her to take adult schooling, and she got her high school diploma. She went to night school and later graduated from college and taught special education. She bought a little home. Annie was married in the temple and had two children. Sara eventually had some operations on her ears and was finally able to hear well. Years later she retired and served a mission. … Sara thanked us often and said she learned so much from me, especially when I told her that my sons were more important than the house. She said it taught her to be that way with Annie. … Sara is a very special woman.”
What can we learn from these two examples?
Is it possible that the way each of these individuals… the blind man in the first example and then Elder Christofferson’s mother in the second story were able to deal with their own trial was to forget themselves and focus on someone that had a need only they could fill? I KNOW the Lord puts us in positions to do exactly this.
I would like to finish where I began… with a reminder about obedience. We talked about tithing, fast offerings, and other personal offerings, where does this all tie together for you?
To reinforce what President Monson taught:
From Richard G. Scott
“I have learned a truth that has been repeated so frequently in my life that I have come to know it as an absolute law. It defines the way obedience and service relate to the power of God. When we obey the commandments of the Lord and serve His children unselfishly, the natural consequence is power from God—power to do more than we can do by ourselves. Our insights, our talents, our abilities are expanded because we receive strength and power from the Lord.”
As disciples of Jesus Christ, we ought to do all we can to redeem others from suffering and burdens. Even so, our greatest redemptive service will be to lead them to Christ. Without His Redemption from death and from sin, we have only a gospel of social justice. That may provide some help and reconciliation in the present, but it has no power to draw down from heaven perfect justice and infinite mercy. Ultimate redemption is in Jesus Christ and in Him alone.
I would like to add my testimony, that through our service to others, the Lord’s work is done upon this earth. It can come in many forms. Tithing, Fast Offerings, and sharing of our individual time and talents are a few of the ways. I further testify that by giving of ourselves, it may be the one thing that helps us to overcome our own trials and relieve our own pain and suffering. I say these things, in the sacred name of Jesus Christ, Amen.