I Have a Question

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    Questions of general gospel interest answered for guidance, not as official statements of Church policy.

    Are the Saints advised to share their food storage items with unprepared households during crises of indeterminable length? The parable of the ten virgins seems to indicate not.

    Bishop Vaughn J. Featherstone, second counselor in the Presiding Bishopric In the general conference welfare meeting on Saturday morning, April 3, 1976, I discussed this subject. My exact quote regarding that statement is as follows:

    “I should like to address a few remarks to those who ask, ‘Do I share with my neighbors who have not followed the counsel? And what about the nonmembers who do not have a year’s supply? Do we have to share with them?’ No, we don’t have to share—we get to share! Let us not be concerned about silly thoughts of whether we would share or not. Of course we would share! What would Jesus do? I could not possibly eat food and see my neighbors starving. And if you starve after sharing, ‘greater love hath no man than this …’ (John 15:13.)

    “Now, what about those who would plunder and break in and take that which we have stored for our families’ needs? Don’t give this one more idle thought. There is a God in heaven whom we have obeyed. Do you suppose he would abandon those who have kept his commandments? He said, ‘If ye are prepared ye shall not fear.’ (D&C 38:30.) Prepare, O men of Zion, and fear not.” (Ensign, May 1976, pp. 117–18.)

    These are very strong personal feelings. They have come to me over the years as I have read the scriptures. In my humble opinion, the second greatest discourse ever was given by King Benjamin. In that discourse he discussed what our attitude should be.

    “And also, ye yourselves will succor those that stand in need of your succor; ye will administer of your substance unto him that standeth in need; and ye will not suffer that the beggar putteth up his petition to you in vain, and turn him out to perish.

    “Perhaps thou shalt say: The man has brought upon himself his misery; therefore I will stay my hand, and will not give unto him of my food, nor impart unto him of my substance that he may not suffer, for his punishments are just.” (Mosiah 4:16–17.)

    You can see from the first two verses that the punishments of those who have not put away a year’s supply of food may be just. And so in our minds we may rationalize and suggest to ourselves that we have no need to share, but King Benjamin goes on to say:

    “But I say unto you, O man, whosoever doeth this the same hath great cause to repent; and except he repenteth of that which he hath done he perisheth forever, and hath no interest in the kingdom of God.

    For behold, are we not all beggars? Do we not all depend upon the same Being, even God, for all the substance which we have, for both food and raiment, and for gold, and for silver, and for all the riches which we have of every kind?

    “And behold, even at this time, ye have been calling on his name, and begging for a remission of your sins. And has he suffered that ye have begged in vain? Nay; he has poured out his Spirit upon you, and has caused that your hearts should be filled with joy, and has caused that your mouths should be stopped that ye could not find utterance, so exceeding great was your joy.” (Mosiah 4:18–20; italics added.)

    What brother in the priesthood or sister in the gospel could possibly see a nearby family starving to death and feel that they were justified in withholding their substance? As I mentioned in my talk, I believe the question that we must all ask ourselves is “What would Jesus do if he were here and faced with this problem?” In his ministry, you will recall that he spent most of his time with those in poverty, the grief-stricken, the poor, the poor in spirit, the leperous, the blind, the maimed, etc. He said: “They that be whole need not a physician, but they that are sick.” (Matt. 9:12.)

    I think herein we find the answer to the question posed above.

    The part of the question relating to the five wise and the five foolish virgins may not refer to substance and physical wants—I think it rather refers to spiritual preparedness. I think the measure of whether we have sufficient oil in our lamps or not will not be determined by how much wheat we have in our basement, but rather, if we are keeping all the commandments of God. Are we paying our tithes and offerings? Are we loving our fellowman in that Christlike way the Savior would have us do? Are we filling our assignments in the Church and exercising our stewardship in that way which is appropriate and pleasing to the Lord? Are we pure in heart? Do we follow the prophet? Are we exercising righteous dominion in our homes? Are we actually committed and converted to the gospel of Jesus Christ and living those standards and principles? These are the questions I think we need to ask ourselves regarding whether our lamps have sufficient oil or not. I do not think it refers to the substance we have in our basements for a year’s supply.

    Let me here conclude by repeating a challenge I offered in that same talk that we ought to have a year’s supply of food by April 1977. I mentioned that the Lord would open up the way to help us achieve that goal. Let us then recommit ourselves to reducing or eliminating our vacation if we do not at present have a year’s supply of food and use that money to buy our year’s supply. Let us spend part or all of our Christmas money on a year’s supply. Let us cut our recreation budget in half. Let us be very frugal and store the basics: wheat or grains of your community, salt, sugar or honey, dry milk, and water—these are the basics.

    It is thrilling to live in a Church with vision, with charity and love, a Church that has a modern prophet to guide us. In his talk at the general conference welfare meeting, President Kimball referred several times to the statement by the Lord, “Why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say?” (Luke 6:46.) It was very impressive and powerful as he said this over and over again. Why, indeed? May the Lord bless us to call him Lord, Lord, but also to do what he asks us to do.

    How does one reconcile President Brigham Young’s statement that “it is natural for the child to be influenced by the Spirit of God” with King Benjamin’s assertion that “the natural man is an enemy to God”?

    Spencer J. Condie, chairman, Sociology Department, Brigham Young University To dispute the proper meaning of the word “natural” would miss the message which Brigham Young, King Benjamin, and the apostle Paul sought to convey by their references to the natural man. President Young’s statement, placed in the context of his speech, included the following points:

    “I wish to inform you that it is nature for the child to be influenced by the Spirit of God. It is nature for all people to be influenced by a good spirit; and the evil that is spoken of is the power the Devil has gained upon this earth through the fall. He gained power to tempt the children of men, and wickedness is produced through their yielding to his temptations; but it is not nature in them. They are not ‘conceived in sin and brought forth in iniquity,’ pertaining to their spirits. It is the flesh that is alluded to in that passage. Then why not follow the dictates of the good Spirit?” (Journal of Discourses, 6:330.)

    President Young’s statement seems to be entirely congruent with the thought expressed in Doctrine and Covenants 93:38: “Every spirit of man was innocent in the beginning; and God having redeemed man from the fall, men became again, in their infant state innocent before God.” [D&C 93:38] Thus, the natural man is a child of God, a child of light, at least until he reaches the age of accountability. Doctrine and Covenants 29:46–47 proclaims: “Little children are redeemed from the foundation of the world through mine Only Begotten; Wherefore, they cannot sin, for power is not given unto Satan to tempt little children, until they begin to become accountable before me.” [D&C 29:46–47] In other words, children, prior to the age of accountability, despite the occasional acting out of undesirable influences in unapproved ways, are nevertheless naturally good.

    After reaching the age of accountability, children become susceptible to the temptings of Satan alluded to in section 29. [D&C 29] However, through baptism for the remission of sins and the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost, they also become susceptible to the enticings of the Holy Spirit as proclaimed by King Benjamin in his benedictory address: “For the natural man is an enemy to God, … and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord. …” (Mosiah 3:19.)

    When one yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, he will then put off the natural man and become “a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.” (Mosiah 3:19.) It then becomes more natural for him to do good than to do evil, and he is in a position to follow the admonition of the late President Joseph Fielding Smith, who asserted that it is just as easy (or natural) to keep the commandments of God as it is to break them. (New Era, July 1972, p. 23.)

    The word “natural” in the context in which Brigham Young uses it (similar to the word “normal”) refers to the nature of the young child, who is naturally devoid of evil. In the context of the words of Paul and King Benjamin the word “natural” may be construed to mean that type of behavior which is most prevalent, most common, or most easily engaged in by most of those who have reached the age of accountability.

    The statement of President Brigham Young obviously concurs with the words which the angel put into the heart of King Benjamin, for Brigham Young speaks of following the “dictates of the good Spirit” while King Benjamin advocates “yielding to the enticings of the Holy Spirit.”

    One of the most significant lessons that Latter-day Saints can learn is that the Holy Ghost plays a very active role in our lives in enticing and persuading us to do good (Mosiah 3:19; Ether 4:11) and in striving with us (Moro. 8:28; 1 Ne. 7:14) in our attempts to achieve perfection and to be naturally attracted to that which is “virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy” (A of F 1:13).

    According to King Benjamin, the natural man is an enemy to God unless he yields to the Holy Spirit. Upon yielding to the Spirit he is no longer an enemy to God but rather a friend of the Savior, who has said: “Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.” (John 15:14.) Perhaps President Joseph Fielding Smith best described this transition in our “natural” inclinations as we ascend our secret Sinais, subdue devilish drives on Damascus Roads, and seek sanctification in sacred groves:

    “When a man confesses that it is hard to keep the commandments of the Lord, he is making a sad confession—that he is a violator of the Gospel law. Habits are easily formed. It is just as easy to form good habits as it is to form evil ones. Of course it is not easy to tell the truth, if you have been a confirmed liar. It is not easy to be honest, if you have formed habits of dishonesty. A man finds it very difficult to pray, if he has never prayed. On the other side, when a man has always been truthful, it is a hard thing for him to lie. If he has always been honest and he does some dishonest thing, his conscience protests very loudly. He will find no peace, except in repentance. If a man has the spirit of prayer, he delights in prayer. It is easy for him to approach the Lord with assurance that his petition will be answered. The paying of tithing is not hard for the man, fully converted to the Gospel, who pays his tenth on all that he receives. So we see the Lord has given us a great truth—his yoke is easy, his burden is light, if we love to do his will!” (New Era, July 1972, p. 23.)

    We are active in the Church, paying a full tithe, and trying to live a righteous life, yet we find ourselves unable to meet our financial obligations and are going deeper into debt. Is there something wrong with us?

    Robert F. Bohn, family economics and home management instructor, Brigham Young University First, there’s often no connection between righteousness and financial situation. A parallel can be seen in the Word of Wisdom. Part of the Lord’s law of health is a very comforting promise.

    “And all saints who remember to keep and do these sayings, walking in obedience to the commandments, shall receive health in their navel and marrow to their bones; …

    “And shall run and not be weary, and shall walk and not faint.” (D&C 89:18, 20.)

    Does this general promise mean that a righteous member could not become seriously ill? We all know how false that situation is. In much the same way it is possible for the general law of tithing with its promised blessings to be true even though not every individual case reaps the financial blessings. In my experience, I find that tithe-paying Latter-day Saints are financially better off on the average than nontithe-paying members. But I also know devoted Latter-day Saints who have financial difficulty, who sometimes lose their jobs, who sometimes go into debt.

    In a discussion of finances, the most important issue, in my opinion, is not a person’s devotion to the Church but his practice of wise financial stewardship. It is basically our responsibility to learn how to govern our temporal lives, and to pray for the Lord’s direction in the areas over which we have no control.

    Because of our responsibility to raise large families and build the kingdom on this earth, it is extremely important for Latter-day Saints to become excellent money managers. Here are some places you might contact for information:

    1. Your bishop.

    2. Your local Social Services counselor.

    3. Classes at a community college, university, or an adult education program offered through your school district’s high school.

    4. Consumer information groups or publications. (Your local librarian will be able to help you.)

    5. Financial counselors either in community counseling centers or private practice.

    6. Individual study of the principles and practices of sound money management.