It is my desire to be led by the Spirit of the Lord in what I say. The wards and branches of the Church have been organized to give activity to a large number of the members, the great majority actually. Yet there are many with no official position or no specific responsibility that calls them to do formal acts for the organization. They belong to the Church; they belong to the stake; they belong to the ward. They are invited to attend various classes and meetings designed for their instruction, but at the conclusion of a meeting they go home, having no particular appointment to arouse them to organizational activity. Many of them feel that they are being left out, that their talents are not wanted. Others do not want to accept any responsible calling.
This may be because they do not understand the responsibility they have to the Church of Jesus Christ. Each of us has the same general calling. Each of us has the same responsibility as a result of entering into the waters of baptism and making the covenant. The Lord will not hold us blameless if we allow organizational responsibility, or the lack of it, to interfere with this special calling. Let me point out some necessary obligations in the words of the prophets.
Jeremiah said to a people who were rebellious and recalcitrant: “… do no violence to the stranger [he may have needed to say it in that day], the fatherless, nor the widow.” (Jer. 22:3.)
Of a king he said with approbation, “He judged the cause of the poor and needy; then it was well with him: was not this to know me? saith the Lord.” (Jer. 22:16.)
These thoughts were later reiterated by the Lord through Micah when he told the people that what was required was “to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God.” (Micah 6:8.)
Paul told the saints to be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving, having charity one to another. (Eph. 4:32.)
Alma was a little more specific. He urged them to cry to the Lord over all of their activities and their possessions and for the welfare of themselves and those about them. Their whole attitude should be one of prayer to the Lord for all they had and all they were. Then he said, “… do not suppose that this is all; for after ye have done all these things, if ye turn away the needy, and the naked, and visit not the sick and afflicted, and impart of your substance, if ye have, to those who stand in need—I say unto you, if ye do not any of these things, behold, your prayer is vain, and availeth you nothing, and ye are as hypocrites who do deny the faith.
“Therefore, if ye do not remember to be charitable, ye are as dross, which the refiners do cast out, (it being of no worth) and is trodden under foot of men.” (Alma 34:28–29.)
The revelations given to Joseph Smith on this subject are numerous and were among the early ones. To care for the poor is one of the first and early obligations. To help the needy and those who mourn follows close behind. All of us have some time, but those who are not given great responsibility in the organizations have more time to seek out the poor, needy, and helpless.
And this help is badly needed. All about us are those in need of encouragement, assistance, and help—help of a kind we can all give, not money, but time and attention and personal encouragement, especially to those who must bear great responsibility for loved ones and who cannot pass it to others for the simple reason there are no others to whom to pass it.
What great relief would come to a young mother with a sick child if one assisted her for a while. A little time, not just calling on the confined for five minutes, but for an hour, reading, helping, feeding, cheering, will change whole attitudes. You will find the need in many homes.
Once when I had responsibility for an invalid, a good woman said, “I am coming to your house every Friday night from six until ten. You can count on it, so plan to go at six and find relief for those four hours.” How blessed she was to me! How good! She blessed both me and the invalid by new cheer, new smiles, new ideas.
There are many lonely people, people whose loneliness is hidden. We need to seek them out and relieve them. There are those who feel they are not accepted, who need to be built up in spirit and helped to find themselves. There are unmarried girls away from home who think no one cares. There are those troubled in spirit. It occurs to me that family home evening could occasionally be timed to bring in some of the lonely ones, some of the fearful, some of the downhearted, some of those troubled in spirit.
I know of a prominent worker with a big church assignment who had no ward responsibilities. Weekly she went to Sunday School and sacrament meeting and came away feeling that she was no part of the program. Then she became aware of a sister who had been raised without a knowledge of the gospel, who would come to the door of the church on Sunday but was afraid to enter, and would then return home. She helped her to enter and to become enlarged in her soul. Then she noticed a man, a nonmember who was almost a member, and changed his outlook into membership. She noticed several single girls without purpose and gave them the desire to be what they could be. She was interested in the aged, and gave encouragement to young men nearing the age to go on missions. Suddenly she found herself a big part of the ward, not by a bishop’s appointment but by obeying the law which calls us to be our brother’s keeper.
We may be sure that if there are many children or invalids or aged in a home, it is almost a certainty that such homes need help. O ye saints, do not pine if you have not presidency or teaching positions. Be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of your own free will. You may come nearer your heaven by the unobtrusive help you render those standing in need of comfort, succor, and attention. You won’t feel important to the organization, but the angels will be smiling as they record the hours of church service given to those whom the Lord loves and to whom he personally directed his own effort—the poor, the downtrodden, the needy, the ill, the discouraged.
We are all church workers; those with specific assignments and those with none are required by revelation to go to the house of prayer weekly to offer up their oblations. We then renew our pledges to remember him who is our Savior and to keep his commandments, the second one of which is to remember to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. Having entered into this covenant, it is our responsibility to seek diligently to show this love through our deeds.
Those with no ward assignments have more time to pursue this great work of the salvation of souls. Let us not sit back jealous of those giving attention to the stake, the ward, the auxiliaries, but seek our salvation where the Lord appointed us, among those who, weak in spirit, weak in body, or weak in desire, need to be encouraged, need to be raised up in the kingdom of God on this earth.
I know that home teachers are responsible for these needs, but often those at home conceal the needs from them. I know there are visiting teachers, but still there are many who hide their needs from them. I know the priesthood is expected to be alert, but this responsibility goes beyond the organized priesthood. This is a personal obligation that no living soul who loves the Lord can dismiss. It is one to which we must ever be alert.
The needy neighbor could be next door. The one in need may not be a member of the Church. It can be anybody who stands in need. I know of no one who is exempt from the responsibility of constant succor and personal encouragement to many who never report their difficulties to the bishop, but who, in spite of pride, and even of means, badly need the help, understanding, and love we all can give as individuals.
This echoes what James said: “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.” (James 1:27.)
One last word from the Lord to us in this day: “And remember in all things the poor and the needy, the sick and the afflicted, for he that doeth not these things, the same is not my disciple.” (D&C 52:40.)
I know that Jesus Christ lives, and that his Holy Father lives also. I sustain President Joseph Fielding Smith as the living prophet with all my heart. I know too of the blessings that come to both the giver and the receiver when one obeys the injunction that the way to love the Lord is to love and serve his neighbors. In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.