When the new budget policy of the Church was announced in December 1989, a chord struck strong and true somewhere inside me. It seemed to make perfect sense—but would I be able to change old spending habits as I fulfilled my Church callings?
I was on the stake Primary board, in charge of music. With a preparation meeting coming up, I decided to commit myself at once to operating under the new system, which was to go into effect in January 1990.
No one, I suppose, could have been more tempted than I was to visit the craft stores and buy materials for twenty adorable little handouts to go along with my chosen theme: “Sing with all your heart.” Would they be heart-shaped, felt bean bags? Wooden heart key chains? Heart magnets? The ideas for clever handouts crept into my thoughts every time I worked on my presentation.
But priesthood leaders had instructed us not to spend our own money on our callings, and I could not feel justified in spending stake budget money on handouts that were not truly necessary, so I stopped in the middle of my preparations and honestly examined my motives. Why did I really want to give gifts at a stake meeting—to impress sisters from the wards with how imaginative and creative I am? To prove to them with doohickies how much I appreciated their efforts? Could I offer something more valuable if I put my efforts instead into discovering real needs in the wards?
This soul searching was quite revealing. I was humbled, and I renewed my commitment to stick to the main objective of my lesson. Difficult as it was to pass up those perfectly darling handout ideas, I did it, knowing in my heart that I really would spend my time better by reviewing my presentation and seeking the guidance of the Spirit.
On the night of the meeting, I felt more calm and confident than ever before during the year I had served in my calling.
The lesson was an unexpected success! The sisters were responsive to the ideas I presented, and each left with a stack of handwritten notes for future reference. For the first time, I felt my efforts had been a service to them in practical, valuable ways—and with only the visual aids I found in the meetinghouse library, with no showy posters or flamboyant handouts.
The lesson I learned was reinforced when I was asked to substitute, at the last minute, as a teacher in my daughter’s Merrie Miss class. I prepared no extra handouts. But I felt an unusual calmness.
Teaching that class was like slowly opening and admiring a valuable gift. We shared feelings, read scriptures, and felt warmed by the Spirit. Eight eleven- and twelve-year-olds showed me again that the thoughts and feelings in our hearts and minds can be of far greater value than any wares passed into our hands.
Sometimes we see elaborate visual aids covering the walls of classrooms, expensive treats served at meetings, or lavish displays and decorations for special programs.
Yet at other times presentations may be simple and adornments few.
As we prepare lessons and presentations, perhaps we should ask ourselves this question: Would the Savior see the need for elaborate presentations and for gifts in his church? We know that his teaching methods were simple.
Perhaps we need help to keep our perspective in these affluent modern times. I know that the Lord inspired the counsel from our Church leaders to reduce and simplify our programs and our approaches to service.
Meetinghouse libraries abound with practical, usable visual aids. Lesson manuals, too, offer suggestions for visual aids, demonstrations, and simple classroom exhibits that strengthen and enhance lesson presentations.
It doesn’t take elaborate baubles and fluff to reach our children, youth, and adults. We can reach and hold them better with spiritual treasures: testimony, shared insights and feelings, selfless motives, and pure love.