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I had the opportunity recently to hear Leigh Anne Touhy speak at a function recently. Her effort to rescue a young black man from the streets of Memphis was immortalized in the Michael Lewis book “The Blind Side” and a movie by the same name.

Leigh Anne saw a person walking down the street in shorts and no coat on a cold day in November. She turned the vehicle around and asked the young man if they could do anything to help him. He only wanted to be dropped off at the closest express bus stop. Later, Leigh Anne, not willing to be satisfied, went to the school where this young man, Michael Oher, had recently transferred. She was told repeatedly to drop her interest in the young boy as he was a lost cause.

You probably know the story – this lost cause, adopted by the Touhy family, played football at the University of Mississippi and was drafted by the Baltimore Ravens.

In her presentation, Leigh Anne also told the story of the father and son walking down the beach after a storm. The boy was busy throwing starfish that had been washed ashore back into the water. When his father asked the boy why he thought he could make a difference, the boy replied, tossing the starfish back into the water, “I made a difference to that starfish.”

starfish on beach

She also talked of her faith in God, relaying that we are not to be the judge of those in need. God will judge those who receive our help, and God will judge us for our help or non-help of others.

As she talked of this topic, I was reminded of the scripture in the sermon by King Benjamin regarding retaining a remission of one’s sins found in Mosiah, chapter 4:

16  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.

In this day, can we rightly assume that ‘the government’ will step in to help those who are in need of succor? With the great safety net provided to all who reside in our country’s borders, are there any truly needy?

17  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—

Did the person in need not try hard enough in school? Did they choose to be lazy? Were they not given the appropriate role models to understand how to be successful?

18  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.

No place in the kingdom of God if one does not help the needy? How much background information do we need before we should be willing to help?

19  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?

What is really ours? We are born, we live, we pass away. We are not able to take any of our substance, our gold and silver and riches, with us when we move on.

20  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 exceedingly great was your joy.

Does receiving a remission of our sins not bring joy into our lives? Does it ‘rewire’ our view of others? Being born again does fill our hearts with joy. It does change our view of our place in the world.

21  And now, if God, who has created you, on whom you are dependent for your lives and for all that ye have and are, doth grant unto you whatsoever ye ask that is right, in faith, believing that ye shall receive, O then, how ye ought to impart of the substance that ye have one to another.

Does becoming a son or daughter of God place us in a position of responsibility to help those around us who are in need?

22  And if ye judge the man who putteth up his petition to you for your substance that he perish not, and condemn him, how much more just will be your condemnation for withholding your substance, which doth not belong to you but to God, to whom also your life belongeth; and yet ye put up no petition, nor repent of the thing which thou hast done.

Does the beggar need to be in danger of perishing before we are obligated to help? How do we know when this is the case?

23  I say unto you, wo be unto that man, for his substance shall perish with him; and now, I say these things unto those who are rich as pertaining to the things of this world.

Who, reading this, could not be considered ‘rich’ today when those considered poor have access to food stamps and free cell phones?

24  And again, I say unto the poor, ye who have not and yet have sufficient, that ye remain from day to day; I mean all you who deny the beggar, because ye have not; I would that ye say in your hearts that: I give not because I have not, but if I had I would give.

25  And now, if ye say this in your hearts ye remain guiltless, otherwise ye are condemned; and your condemnation is just for ye covet that which ye have not received.

If one is poor relative to the things of the world and hates his neighbor who has more, they are equally condemned?

26  And now, for the sake of these things which I have spoken unto you—that is, for the sake of retaining a remission of your sins from day to day, that ye may walk guiltless before God—I would that ye should impart of your substance to the poor, every man according to that which he hath, such as feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and administering to their relief, both spiritually and temporally, according to their wants.

27  And see that all these things are done in wisdom and order; for it is not requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength.  And again, it is expedient that he should be diligent, that thereby he might win the prize; therefore, all things must be done in order.

We are told in these verses that we are all beggars, that we are to share of our substance with those that are less fortunate without judgment. We cannot know what is in the heart of those people we see who are in need. As I pondered these things, my mind went back to those occasions when I was too busy to stop for a moment and provide financial help to those who are less fortunate. I asked myself if I would have taken the same steps as Leigh Anne Touhy and turned around to help a black youth on the streets of Memphis. I doubt I would have had the courage.

Rock Waterman, in his June post, http://puremormonism.blogspot.com/2013/06/of-alms-and-offerings.html, hit the nail on the head. It is easy for many of us to make the assumption that we are covered because of our donations to the church. We give our tithing, fast offerings and other items by check each month and are absolved of any need to help? I believe that is not the case. We are, as instructed, in the passage above, to help those people in need that we encounter on a daily basis. We are to give of our substance to those people who are less fortunate. We are to do it without judgment

Leigh Anne told a story of her son at a gas station. The electronics at the pump were not working so all customers had to go inside to prepay. As her son, Collin, waited to pay, the man ahead of him gave the clerk a $5 bill. Questioning, in his mind, why someone would only ask for five dollars worth of gas, Collin reached forward and added a $20 bill to the man’s request.

Outside, the man came to Collin with tears in his eyes. He didn’t have enough money to pay for gas to get to work that week. Both the man and Collin went away from the event with joy in their hearts.

We are told in the scriptures that it is our obligation to help those in need. We cannot know the true circumstances of another person, only God does. I recall, years ago, going to catch a flight at O’Hare airport in Chicago. I came across a nicely dressed man who asked me for some change to make a telephone call (this is before the era of cell phones). I gave him several coins and went on my way. The next week, I saw the same man who made the same request. I challenged him on being there a week earlier and refused to give him any assistance.

I look back now on that experience. The man was not enhungered, he did not appear to be destitute, he was wearing nice clothes.  I judged him as being deceitful and did not give him of my substance. Is there an obligation on the part of the ‘poor’ to be honest? Was it judgmental of me to not give the man more money?

There is a lot of deceit in the world today. We see scams and viruses, derivatives and pyramid schemes. We see reports of the activity of greed swirling about us. There is a natural reaction to question the motives and real circumstances of anyone who approaches us. I can only hope to rely on the Spirit to guide me in these circumstances.

If we are to ‘retain a remission of our sins’ as promised by King Benjamin, we are required to give of our substance without questioning the motive of the poor. We are to feed the hungry, provide clothing to the naked and provide spiritual nourishment to those in need.  A giver and a receiver.

In the end, all my questions are moot. There is little room for self analysis. If we are to be about God’s work, we should be looking for ways, after the poor are clothed and fed, to seek to uplift them spiritually. To expand our vision beyond our little spot on earth is very challenging. There is much hunger and nakedness in the world at large, how are we to make a difference in this vast ocean of pain, misery, hunger, disease, malnutrition, and filth?

The physician we have chosen to use locally spends much of his time in places where people are in great need. He uses the income from his practice to participate in Doctors without Borders. He collects computers and has volunteers who help him prepare them for use in areas where he visits. He has adopted a school in Haiti that takes much of his time and energy. There are others that give of their time and talents to help those unfortunate enough to be born in the ‘wrong’ place.

Is doing good healthy? In a recent study conducted by scientists at UCLA and the University of North Carolina found that there were positive immune system affects from living a ‘purposeful’ life, while a hedonistic life style had an adverse affect at the genetic level. Here is a quote from BioscienceTechnology.com:

People who have high levels of what is known as eudaimonic well-being— the kind of happiness that comes from having a deep sense of purpose and meaning in life (think Mother Teresa)— showed very favorable gene-expression profiles in their immune cells. They had low levels of inflammatory gene expression and strong expression of antiviral and antibody genes.

However, people who had relatively high levels of hedonic well-being— the type of happiness that comes from consummatory self-gratification (think most celebrities)— actually showed just the opposite. They had an adverse expression profile involving high inflammation and low antiviral and antibody gene expression.

Favorable gene expression equates to a positive health environment. So, charity is good for the immune system, as well as the soul.

What think ye?

6 Responses to “The Poor and Needy”

  • JR:

    I notice that King Benjamin thought caring for the poor was important enough that he mentioned it as the method by which we can retain a remission of our sins. That seems pretty important. Who is poor? Who needs our help? The Spirit can assist in making this determination. Lest we be guilty of unrighteous judgment, we should err on the side of generosity. Good post Spek.
    JR

  • Log:

    JR,

    There was another blog in which the question was asked, “should we put conditions on who we give money to?”

    I responded thusly.

    Romans 12:20

    20 Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head.

    3 Nephi 12:40-42

    40 And if any man will sue thee at the law and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also;

    41 And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.

    42 Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn thou not away.

    43 And behold it is written also, that thou shalt love thy neighbor and hate thine enemy;

    44 But behold I say unto you, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them who despitefully use you and persecute you;

    45 That ye may be the children of your Father who is in heaven; for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good.

    3 Nephi 13:1-4

    1 Verily, verily, I say that I would that ye should do alms unto the poor; but take heed that ye do not your alms before men to be seen of them; otherwise ye have no reward of your Father who is in heaven.

    2 Therefore, when ye shall do your alms do not sound a trumpet before you, as will hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, they have their reward.

    3 But when thou doest alms let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth;

    4 That thine alms may be in secret; and thy Father who seeth in secret, himself shall reward thee openly.

    3 Nephi 14:1-5

    1 And now it came to pass that when Jesus had spoken these words he turned again to the multitude, and did open his mouth unto them again, saying: Verily, verily, I say unto you, Judge not, that ye be not judged.

    2 For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged; and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.

    3 And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?

    4 Or how wilt thou say to thy brother: Let me pull the mote out of thine eye—and behold, a beam is in thine own eye?

    5 Thou hypocrite, first cast the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast the mote out of thy brother’s eye.

    3 Nephi 14:7-12

    7 Ask, and it shall be given unto you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.

    8 For every one that asketh, receiveth; and he that seeketh, findeth; and to him that knocketh, it shall be opened.

    9 Or what man is there of you, who, if his son ask bread, will give him a stone?

    10 Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent?

    11 If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father who is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?

    12 Therefore, all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them, for this is the law and the prophets.

    Mosiah 4:16-26

    16 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.

    17 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—

    18 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.

    19 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?

    20 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 exceedingly great was your joy.

    21 And now, if God, who has created you, on whom you are dependent for your lives and for all that ye have and are, doth grant unto you whatsoever ye ask that is right, in faith, believing that ye shall receive, O then, how ye ought to impart of the substance that ye have one to another.

    22 And if ye judge the man who putteth up his petition to you for your substance that he perish not, and condemn him, how much more just will be your condemnation for withholding your substance, which doth not belong to you but to God, to whom also your life belongeth; and yet ye put up no petition, nor repent of the thing which thou hast done.

    23 I say unto you, wo be unto that man, for his substance shall perish with him; and now, I say these things unto those who are rich as pertaining to the things of this world.

    24 And again, I say unto the poor, ye who have not and yet have sufficient, that ye remain from day to day; I mean all you who deny the beggar, because ye have not; I would that ye say in your hearts that: I give not because I have not, but if I had I would give.

    25 And now, if ye say this in your hearts ye remain guiltless, otherwise ye are condemned; and your condemnation is just for ye covet that which ye have not received.

    26 And now, for the sake of these things which I have spoken unto you—that is, for the sake of retaining a remission of your sins from day to day, that ye may walk guiltless before God—I would that ye should impart of your substance to the poor, every man according to that which he hath, such as feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and administering to their relief, both spiritually and temporally, according to their wants.

    Luke 14:12-14

    12 ¶Then said he also to him that bade him, When thou makest a dinner or a supper, call not thy friends, nor thy brethren, neither thy kinsmen, nor thy rich neighbours; lest they also bid thee again, and a recompence be made thee.

    13 But when thou makest a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind:

    14 And thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee: for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just.

    3 Nephi 14:24-27

    24 Therefore, whoso heareth these sayings of mine and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, who built his house upon a rock—

    25 And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not, for it was founded upon a rock.

    26 And every one that heareth these sayings of mine and doeth them not shall be likened unto a foolish man, who built his house upon the sand—

    27 And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell, and great was the fall of it.

    We must be even as God is, in this world, to be as He is in the next.

    1 John 4:17

    17 Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world.

  • Log:

    Apparently, speaking about our individual duty to “not suffer that the beggar putteth up his petition to [us] in vain” invites silence.

    It is rather straightforward, isn’t it?

    As I mentioned elsewhere, I’ve had conversations with other LDS who admitted that they never, ever answered the beggars’ petitions because the beggar might use the proceeds for purposes the LDS would judge to be wicked. Yet that is the precise kind of resentful judgement we are commanded to refrain from making, according to Benjamin’s teachings.

    1 Corinthians 9:6 But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully.

    7 Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.

    Is there a relationship between personal, individual generosity towards the beggars, the poor, the sick, and the afflicted, and one’s spiritual state before God?

    Moroni 7: 6 For behold, God hath said a man being evil cannot do that which is good; for if he offereth a gift, or prayeth unto God, except he shall do it with real intent it profiteth him nothing.

    7 For behold, it is not counted unto him for righteousness.

    8 For behold, if a man being evil giveth a gift, he doeth it grudgingly; wherefore it is counted unto him the same as if he had retained the gift; wherefore he is counted evil before God.

    9 And likewise also is it counted evil unto a man, if he shall pray and not with real intent of heart; yea, and it profiteth him nothing, for God receiveth none such.

    10 Wherefore, a man being evil cannot do that which is good; neither will he give a good gift.

    Could this principle apply?

    Luke 7: 36 ¶And one of the Pharisees desired him that he would eat with him. And he went into the Pharisee’s house, and sat down to meat.

    37 And, behold, a woman in the city, which was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at meat in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster box of ointment,

    38 And stood at his feet behind him weeping, and began to wash his feet with tears, and did wipe them with the hairs of her head, and kissed his feet, and anointed them with the ointment.

    39 Now when the Pharisee which had bidden him saw it, he spake within himself, saying, This man, if he were a prophet, would have known who and what manner of woman this is that toucheth him: for she is a sinner.

    40 And Jesus answering said unto him, Simon, I have somewhat to say unto thee. And he saith, Master, say on.

    41 There was a certain creditor which had two debtors: the one owed five hundred pence, and the other fifty.

    42 And when they had nothing to pay, he frankly forgave them both. Tell me therefore, which of them will love him most?

    43 Simon answered and said, I suppose that he, to whom he forgave most. And he said unto him, Thou hast rightly judged.

    44 And he turned to the woman, and said unto Simon, Seest thou this woman? I entered into thine house, thou gavest me no water for my feet: but she hath washed my feet with tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head.

    45 Thou gavest me no kiss: but this woman since the time I came in hath not ceased to kiss my feet.

    46 My head with oil thou didst not anoint: but this woman hath anointed my feet with ointment.

    47 Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little.

    48 And he said unto her, Thy sins are forgiven.

    I’m going to suggest that not only is giving alms to the poor the way we retain the remission of our sins, as Benjamin has taught, but if a person desires to be born again, doing these things, without resentment, while petitioning God for the remission of one’s sins is a good way to move God to bestow it.

    And if a man pretends to have been born again, to have received the Holy Ghost, yet imparts not his portion unto the poor, the needy, the sick, and the afflicted, he may know that he either has never had faith – in other words, he never was born again, and never received the Holy Ghost – or, if he has once had it, it is dead in him.

    James 2:1 My brethren, have not the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with respect of persons.

    2 For if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment;

    3 And ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto him, Sit thou here in a good place; and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool:

    4 Are ye not then partial in yourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts?

    5 Hearken, my beloved brethren, Hath not God chosen the poor of this world rich in faith, and heirs of the kingdom which he hath promised to them that love him?

    6 But ye have despised the poor. Do not rich men oppress you, and draw you before the judgment seats?

    7 Do not they blaspheme that worthy name by the which ye are called?

    8 If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well:

    9 But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors.

    10 For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.

    11 For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law.

    12 So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty.

    13 For he shall have judgment without mercy, that hath shewed no mercy; and mercy rejoiceth against judgment.

    14 What profit is it, my brethren, for a man to say he hath faith, and hath not works? can faith save him?

    15 Yea, a man may say, I will show thee I have faith without works; but I say, Show me thy faith without works, and I will show thee my faith by my works.

    16 For if a brother or sister be naked and destitute, and one of you say, Depart in peace, be warmed and filled; notwithstanding he give not those things which are needful to the body; what profit is your faith unto such?

    17 Even so faith, if it have not works is dead, being alone.

    18 Therefore wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead and cannot save you?

    19 Thou believest there is one God; thou doest well; the devils also believe, and tremble; thou hast made thyself like unto them, not being justified.

    20 Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar?

    21 Seest thou how works wrought with his faith, and by works was faith made perfect?

    23 And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God.

    24 Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.

    25 Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent them out another way?

    26 For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.

    Of course, which man among us knoweth the hearts of others, except God? Therefore let every man judge himself in these things, and ask God to search his heart, and instruct us in that which we lack, that we may be one with Him according to His promises.

  • JR:

    Log,
    I always find it disconcerting when I post something and there is deafening silence in response.
    In this case, it may be that the readers agree with your point and feel there is little more to be said.
    Here is my experience on giving…
    My wife and I went on a short vacation, years ago before we had children, to the Grand Canyon. We flew from SLC to Phoenix and rented a car. At the time we were both students and had little money but we had scraped up enough to take a much needed short vacation. On the way back to Phoenix, while driving, we talked about someday being rich and having plenty of money to help people. When we arrived in Phoenix we had to refill the gas tank on the rental car before dropping it at the airport. While I was pumping gas a young, dirty, disheveled man approached me and asked for money. I turned on him and said, “why don’t you get a job”. Didn’t think more about the encounter and we proceeded on our way. On the plane back to SLC, I opened my BoM and it fell open to King Benjamin’s teachings in Mosiah 4…as I read I felt convicted in my own conscience because I had literally turned away a beggar and it was as though an angel had tested me and I had failed the test miserably. Since that time I have tried very hard to never pass a beggar, even driving around the block at times to go back and give something. It was a bitter lesson to learn but it certainly taught me the importance of never turning away the beggar.
    Just my thoughts.
    Much love Brother,
    JR

  • Log:

    JR,

    It makes me happy to hear that you have learned that lesson from your heart. I have recently been around some LDS relatives who have the polar opposite perspective on beggars.

    If only people understood that we truly are, to God, all beggars. He knows to what use we will put our time, talents, and energy before He gives them to us; even if we are in our sins, He is actively upholding and sustaining our lives (truly, His hand is in all things [D&C 59:21]). He knows with perfect assurance what we will do with the blessings He bestows. Even when we serve Him, we consume more energy from Him than we provide in service.

    When we fully appreciate that, then we don’t mind giving even to the guy who holds up the sign, “Why Lie? Need Beer!”

    As we sow, so shall we reap; he who is merciful shall obtain mercy. Giving to the poor and showing mercy to the weak are the works of Abraham.

    Watch this video to see.

    http://maxwellinstitute.byu.edu/video/abrahamcreation.mov

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