Claire had discovered that the hymn A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief has seven verses and if we sing that song at bedtime she can have me in her room scratching her back longer. Often this is the song she chooses.
I love the words of that hymn.. It’s about a man who goes and helps someone in all stages of need. Hungry and he feeds him, thirsty and he gives him drink, cold and he gives him shelter, imprisoned and visits and condemned to death and will take his place…The last verse reads:
Then in a moment to my view The stranger started from disguise. The tokens in his hands I knew; The Savior stood before mine eyes. He spake, and my poor name he named, “Of me thou hast not been ashamed. These deeds shall thy memorial be; Fear not, thou didst them unto me.”
“In as much as he have done it unto the least of these my brothern ye have done it unto me”(Matthew 25:40).
When we came here to earth the Lord knew that it would be easy to be selfish and seek our own interests and the praise of others. Selfishness can block us from knowing God. When we become self centered we may forget God and become insensitive to other people. In this state we could not live to fulfill our missions and become more like God.
In one of my favorite hymn is the line “sacrifice brings for the blessings of heaven.” To sacrifice means to put others needs above our own. This is easily written but sometimes not so easily lived.
How do we learn to put the things of God first in our lives? One way is to obey the law of tithing.
There are some commandments that are easy for people to live and others that are hard. It depends a lot on your personality and your God given weakness. But I have always found great joy and blessings and even miracles in living the law of tithes and offerings.
I remember a primary lessons where my teacher gave me ten shiny chocolate coins. All ten were mine. Then she asked, “I gave you ten can I please have back one?’ So wait a minute, you gave me ten and I can keep them all… but you who gave me the whole lot is just asking for one in return? I don’t know what kind of business she was running but that seemed amazing!
Years later when I would use a very similar lesson to teach my own children in family home evening they readily, without hesitation, handed one back. There was no regret. Perhaps that is why we are commanded to be like little children. When you teach them truth, they readily see how simple, wonderful and beautiful it is. We must ever be grateful that we keep 90%. Perhaps we need to change the verbiage around this commandment … Perhaps we need to to remember that we are not paying ten percent we are keeping 90.
The world would teach you to be leery of anyone wanting your money. But the Lord gives us this commandment that governs the finances of a world wide church in 35 words in the 119th section of the doctrine and covenants …. “what a contrast to the cumbersome complex and difficult tax codes to which we live as citizens.” (President Hinckley)
As a missionary in France it wasn’t often that we would get to the fifth discussion wherein we taught the law of sacrifice and tithing. I remember the shock and often anger that came with “Oh yeah, now I see… you want my money. I knew this would be about me giving you money.” To which I thought. I don’t want any of your money and the Lord doesn’t need it either. I think often of the story where Jesus miraculously provided the tribute money by commanding Peter to “go thou to the sea, and cast an hook, and take up the fish that first cometh up; and when thou hast opened his mouth, thou shalt find a piece of money.”(Matt 17:27) He who created all the world and it`s wealth surely doesn’t need our offerings. But we are here to be tested and need to prove faithful in all things. We need the blessings and the spirit that accompany unselfish acts.
In a day such as this, when we are abundantly blessed we need to remember the Lord and not “rob God”. President Hinckley said, “The worst fear that I have about this people is that they will get rich in this country, forget God and his people, wax fat, and kick themselves out of the Church and go to hell. This people will stand mobbing, robbing, poverty and all manner of persecution, and be true. My greater fear for them is that they cannot stand wealth; and yet they have to be tried with riches, for they will become the richest people on this earth. [Nibley,Brigham Young, p. 128]
To which I can hear many of you say, “Hasten the day.” ( I love the laughter that he receives here)
I believe that day, spoken of by Brigham Young with a voice of prophecy that rose above the voices of defeat and criticism, has come. We have been blessed with the bounties of heaven and the bounties of earth. Oh, how magnificently…we have been blessed! Now, with gratitude in our hearts, let us …count our blessings and in a great spirit of gratitude, motivated by a great faith, go forth to build the kingdom of God in the earth.” (Gorden B Hinkley)
Perhaps this is why the story of Josphine, a faithful African woman who we found and taught the gospel to, was overjoyed at the good news that we shared. As we preached and taught and were edified together right there in the back of a French city bus. She exclaimed, “Your church is beautiful where can I pay my tides?” She spoke in English but I thought, she wants to come to church and bring good tidings to the church members? So I replied, “We meet on Sundays.” She exclaimed, “No, I want to PAY my tides. I looked at her in amazement YOU WANT TO PAY TITHING? We haven’t even invited you to baptism. She will always be a great example of faith to me.
Elder Hales proclaimed:, “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” (Malachi 3:10). 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”(Hales, 2002).
He continues:, “I know of two missionaries who visited a very poor family. The family’s home was made of pressboard and sticks, with a dirt floor and no electricity or beds. Each evening the father, a farm laborer, spent his entire day’s wages on groceries for dinner. Departing from their humble home, the senior companion thought to himself, “The law of tithing will surely be a stumbling block to this family. Perhaps we shouldn’t bring it up for a while.” A few moments later, the junior companion, who had grown up in similar circumstances in his own country, voiced his own thoughts aloud: “I know the principle of tithing isn’t taught for four more discussions, but can we please teach it the next time we visit? They need to know about tithing now because they need the help and the blessing of the Lord so much.”(October, 2002)
To help us avoid selfishness we are given two great commandments… love God and love your neighbour. We show our love to God by our obedience to His commandments. We must seek His will and try our best to live it. This takes great courage and sacrifice.
Another way we can put God first and put off our own selfish interests it to, as Elder Holland says “to heed the Redeemers persistent call … to join Him in lifting this burden from the people. This can be accomplished by participating at least monthly in the law of the fast and giving a generous offering.”
Before I left on my mission a very good friend asked if he could share some advice that he had learned. Of course I wanted to hear it! He told me as a missionary you don’t pay tithing. But he had been taught that you could still give a generous fast offering. He said he had gained a testimony of fast offerings on his mission. So, I decided that I would try what he had suggested and pay a fast offering.
For Christmas our ward had given us food. As a mission, we were allowed to do one big spectacle for Christmas. Because I was serving in a tiny French town we decided to go to a beautiful restaurant. Transfer came and I didn’t think I would be transferred, but I was and I had no money to pay for the train ticket. I knelt down and said “O Heavenly Father I am so sorry. I thought I had planned ahead.” But then with confidence I added, “I have paid a generous fast offering I would like you to provide a way.” Later a little old lady in my home ward had sent me money in a Christmas card that paid for my ticket. Isn`t that what Isaiah teaches when he says we fast “to make our voice heard on high and when we call he shall say here I am.”
The Lord often meets our needs through the hands of others and I appreciate that faithful widow who followed a prompting and answered my prayers.
On the subject of offerings I have to tell you the story of a family that is dear to my heart. When I was finishing university my roommate and I would graduate together and then she was leaving for a mission. I remember telling her, “I am so jealous of you. I wish I was going, but there is no way I can because I have student loans and my parents are already paying for my brother’s mission.” I didn’t think much more of the conversation than that.
A few days later I got a call from this girls father. He just asked me, “Danielle do you want to serve a mission?” and as I kinda started to explain why I couldn’t go … he interrupted and said, “I’m just asking you if you want to go… Yes was my honest and simply reply. Then I will pay for it!
That day my red sea opened. I was so grateful for someone giving me a blessing and opportunity I so desired and would never be able to obtain without their generosity and kindness. They were quite wealthy and lived in a simple home. It wouldn’t be till after I came home from my mission that they would put air conditioning in their home. I will forever be grateful for the lessons and experience learned that were taught to me because of the sacrifice and generosity of this couple. I can testify to Elder Holland’s words that as I found “relief at [their] hands I will call their name blessed forever”. What could we sacrifice to serve others?
For, in the words of the Prophet Joseph Smith, “a religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things never has power sufficient to produce the faith necessary unto life and salvation.” 20
This past conference Elder Holland stated “the great Redeemer has issued no more persistent call than for us to join Him in lifting this burden from the people. As Jehovah, He said He would judge the house of Israel harshly because “the spoil of the [needy] is in your houses.”
This phrase pierced my heart. It zinged me and I knew I was guilty of holding things back that would bless others.
“I don’t know exactly how each of you should fulfill your obligation to those who do not or cannot always help themselves.” Elder Holland would continue to say, “But I know that God knows, and He will help you and guide you in compassionate acts of discipleship if you are conscientiously wanting and praying and looking for ways to keep a commandment He has given us again and again.”
Towards the very end of my mission my grandpa had given me some money. I had kept a bill for tithing because I knew my grandfather hadn’t paid tithing on the money. Now as I went to pay tithing I happened to be fasting that day. And the thought came to me… “I don’t have a fast offering… What should I do? Should I pay tithing?.. but I am a missionary and don’t need to pay tithing.. or do I give it as a fast offering? If you pay it as tithing you will have nothing to give to the Lord as an offering. Even though the struggle was only for a minute or two, a thought came clearly to my head… “No, you always pay tithing first!” Decidedly I reached into that tiny change purse to get the bill I had saved for tithing… A few coins fell out of the folds and I could pay both. I had no more money than that bill in that wallet that day. I don’t know how the coins got there but I do know that that day, that little missionary girl felt the windows of heaven open and pour her out a blessing. She could obey two commandments by putting her faith in the first.. that day I truly cast in the widows mite for an offering.
I know this is a hard commandment for some, but I can honestly testify of the beauty and love that has come into my life as I have tried to obey these two commandments.