Tuesday, September 6, 2011

“Opportunities to do Good”

(find the talk here)

I have listened to this talk several times and I always get a little teary-eyed when President Henry B. Eyring talks about the couple who lost their home when the Teton dam broke in Idaho. You’ll have to read the whole talk to find out what happened.

The thing that struck me this time when I read this talk was how timely this talk is (aren’t all the General Conference talks pretty timely?). I think that this talk directly and indirectly addressed some major issues in today’s disaster-ridden world. Natural disasters and financial disasters and political disasters abound in every country. Some of us are asking “Why does God let such bad things happen to His children?” My favorite question to ask is “Why is this happening?” – not in a despairing, or a “questioning” way – but as an  invitation to myself and to Heavenly Father to teach me His will, and to teach me what I need to learn from the situation.

As I attended BYU Campus Education Week recently, I observed that I believe that one of the beautiful effects of agency is that we have the capacity to hurt each other, which gives us the opportunity to learn how to use the atonement both to repent, and to forgive.

The question about natural disasters and other accidents and disasters has led me to believe that God allows bad things to happen so the we have opportunities to do good. If people never lost their homes to floods, earthquakes, fires, and other disasters, we would never have opportunities to shelter the homeless. If there was not drought and famine, we would not have opportunities to feed the hungry. If there were not fires and tornados and hurricanes, we would not have the opportunities we have to clothe the naked.

I believe the God is providing opportunities for us to grow through doing good deeds for each other and taking care of each other. Trials and tribulation are definitely a part of this earthly life – but I think the deeper purpose of those trials and tribulations is to give us opportunities to “bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light” and “mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort” (Mosiah 18:18-19) and “to clothe the naked, and to feed the hungry, and to liberate the captive, and administer relief to the sick and the afflicted.” (Jacob 2:19).

President Eyring pointed out that those who take advantage of the opportunities to do good are “people who out of love have consecrated themselves and what they have to God and to His work.” Something that really stuck out to me in his talk was when he described the Lord’s way of providing these opportunities.

“Because the Lord hears their cries and feels your deep compassion for them, He has from the beginning of time provided ways for His disciples to help. He has invited His children to consecrate their time, their means, and themselves to join with Him in serving others.

“His way of helping has at times been called living the law of consecration.In another period His way was called the united order. In our time it is called the Church welfare program.”

I have always been interested in the law of consecration and the united order, and I often wondered why we do not live the law of consecration in our day. After attending the temple for the first time, I realized that we really do still live in the law of consecration. As President Eyring pointed out, today we call it the “Church welfare program.”

Those who help others have consecrated their lives to building up God’s kingdom on earth – and that means helping those in need. Whenever they need it.

My father used to tell us, “Never deny others the blessings they can receiving from giving (or serving).” His point was that we should let people give us things and serve us, because we would not be the only ones getting blessings – those who served and gave would also be blessed. This has really been significant for me, because I often feel that I am in a “better position” (financially, spiritually, temporally, etc) than those who so often offer to help me. But what I realize my father was trying to teach us was that no matter a person’s position in life, they can always benefit from the blessings the Lord will give them for serving and loving His children.

President Eyring echoed my father’s words when he said, “I have seen the blessings that come to the person in need who receives help and to the person who seizes the opportunity to give it.” Blessings always come to both the giver and the receiver. Later on President Eyring quoted President Marion G. Romney who said, “You cannot give yourself poor in this work.” and President Melvin J. Ballard who said, “A person cannot give a crust to the Lord without receiving a loaf in return.” Both the giver and the receiver area always blessed, and often it is the giver who is blessed more abundantly than the receiver – hence my father’s counsel to never deny those blessing to the person who would serve us.

President Eyring listed four principles that have guided him when he wanted to help in the Lord’s way, and I will simply list them. You can read more about them in his talk.

1. “[A]ll people are happier and feel more self-respect when they can provide for themselves and their family and then reach out to take care of others.”
2. “The power and blessing of unity. When we join hands to serve people in need, the Lord unites our hearts.”
3. “Draw your family into the work with you so that they can learn to care for each other as they care for others.”
4. “[T]he Lord sends the Holy Ghost to make it possible to ‘seek, and ye shall find’ in caring for the poor as He does in finding the truth.”

He then listed three suggestions as you plan to do service

1. “Prepare yourself and those you lead spiritually.”
2. “Choose as recipients of your service people within the kingdom or in the community whose needs will touch the hearts of those who will give the service.”
3. “Draw on the power of the bongs of families, quorums, of auxiliary organizations, and of people you know in your communities. The feelings of unity will multiply the good effects of the service you give.”

I hope that I can put President Eyring’s counsel to work in my life as I consecrate my life to the kingdom and look for those whose lives I can touch through meaningful service.

How do you find and take advantage of “opportunities to do good”? Have you found the principles President Eyring discussed to be true as you have served others? Do you deny others the blessings of giving service when they would serve you? Or do you welcome offers of service, knowing that the giver often receives more than the recipient of the service?

Find more great comments on President Eyring’s talk over at the General Conference Book Club on Diapers and Divinity:

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