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“Hands,” Ensign, Aug. 1990, 2

First Presidency Message


When Jesus of Nazareth taught and ministered among men, he spoke not as did the scribes and scholars of the day but rather in language understood by all. Jesus taught through parables. His teachings moved men and motivated them to a newness of life. The shepherd on the hillside, the sower in the field, the fisherman at his net—all became subjects whereby the Master taught eternal truths.

The divinely created human body, with its truly marvelous powers and intricate parts, acquired new meaning when the Lord spoke of eyes that were not blinded but did really see, ears that were not stopped but did truly hear, and hearts that were not hardened but did know and feel. In his teachings he referred to the foot, the nose, the face, the side, the back. Significant are those occasions when he spoke of yet another part—even the human hand. Considered by artists and sculptors the most difficult member of the human body to capture on canvas or form in clay, the hand is a wonder to behold. Neither age, color, size, nor shape distorts this miracle of creation.

First, let us consider the hand of a child. Who among us has not praised God and marveled at his powers when an infant is held in one’s arms? That tiny hand, so small yet so perfect, instantly becomes the topic of conversation. No one can resist placing a little finger in the clutching hand of an infant. A smile comes to the lips, a certain glow comes to the eyes, and one appreciates the tender feelings that prompted the poet to pen the lines:

A baby … that sweet new blossom of humanity, fresh

fallen from God’s own home to flower on earth.

As the child grows, the tightly clutched hand opens in an expression of perfect trust. “Take me by the hand, Mother; then I won’t be afraid,” bespeaks this confidence. The delightful song the little children sing so beautifully at once becomes a plea for patience, an invitation to teach, and an opportunity to serve:

I have two little hands, folded snugly and tight.

They are tiny and weak, yet they know what is right.

During all the long hours till daylight is through,

There is plenty indeed for my two hands to do.

Kind Father, I thank thee for two little hands

And ask thee to bless them till each understands

That children can only be happy all day

When two little hands have learned how to obey.

(Children’s Songbook, no. 272.)

The sentiments such love and faith arouse should ever draw from each parent a pledge of fidelity—a determination to do that which is right.

Should added emphasis be required, we need but refer to that account when the disciples came unto Jesus, saying: “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?

“And Jesus called a little child unto him, and set him in the midst of them,

“And said, Verily I say unto you, Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. …

“And whoso shall receive one such little child in my name receiveth me.

“But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.” (Matt. 18:1–3, 5–6.)

Second, may we turn our attention to the hand of youth. Youth is the training period when busy hands learn to labor—and labor to learn. Honest effort and loving service become identifying features of the abundant life. Each was effectively taught the girls in the Young Women class when cookies were baked and taken to elderly women residing in a neighborhood rest home. The aged hand of a lonely grandmother clasped that of the thoughtful teenager. No word was spoken. Heart spoke to heart. The hand that baked the cookies was raised to wipe a tear. Such hands are clean hands. Such hearts are pure hearts.

Then comes that day when the hand of a boy takes the hand of a girl, and parents suddenly realize their children have grown. Never is the hand of a girl so delicately displayed as when there glistens on her finger a ring denoting a sacred pledge. Her step becomes quicker, her countenance brighter, and all is well with the world. Courtship has come. Marriage follows. And once again two hands are clasped, this time in a holy temple. Cares of the world are for a brief moment forgotten. Thoughts turn to eternal values. The clasped hands speak of promised hearts. Heaven is here.

Time passes. The hand of a bride becomes the hand of a mother. Ever so gently, she cares for her precious child. Bathing, dressing, feeding, comforting—there is no hand like Mother’s. Nor does its tender care diminish through the years. Ever shall I remember the hand of one mother—the mother of a missionary. Some years ago at a worldwide seminar for mission presidents, the parents of missionaries were invited to meet and visit briefly with each mission president. Forgotten are the names of each who extended a greeting and exchanged a friendly handshake. Remembered are the feelings that welled up within me as I took in my hand the calloused hand of one mother from Star Valley, Wyoming. “Please excuse the roughness of my hand,” she apologized. “Since my husband has been ill, the work of the farm has been mine to do, that our boy may, as a missionary, serve the Lord.” Tears could not be restrained, nor should they have been. Such tears produce a certain cleansing of the soul. That boy continues to be very special to me, as he does to her. A mother’s labor sanctified a son’s service.

Not to be overlooked is the hand of a father. Whether he be a skilled surgeon, a master craftsman, or a talented teacher, his hands support his family. There is a definite dignity in honest labor and tireless toil. During the period of the Great Depression, I was a small boy. Fortunate were those men who had work. Jobs were few, hours long, pay scant. On our street was a father who, though old in years, supported with the labor of his hands his rather large family of girls. His firm was known as the Spring Canyon Coal Company. It consisted of one old truck, a pile of coal, one shovel, one man, and his own two hands. From early morning to late evening he struggled to survive. Yet during the monthly fast and testimony meeting, I remember specifically his expressing his thanks to the Lord for his family, his work, and his testimony. The fingers of those rough, red, chapped hands turned white as they gripped the back of the bench on which I sat as Brother James Farrell bore witness of a boy who, in a grove of trees near Palmyra, New York, knelt in prayer and beheld the heavenly vision of God the Father and Jesus Christ, the Son. That boy was Joseph Smith. The memory of those hands serves to remind me of that father’s abiding faith, his honest conviction, and his testimony of truth.

Some years ago, President Harold B. Lee, directed by inspiration and revelation, called DeWitt J. Paul to serve as patriarch in one of the eastern stakes of the Church. The call humbled both Brother and Sister Paul beyond words. They wondered. They worried. They prayed for assurance and heavenly confirmation.

The vote of the people demonstrated their supporting approval. Then came the time for ordination. In a basement room situated in the stake meetinghouse, DeWitt Paul sat nervously on a chair and said a silent prayer. Seated next to Sister Paul was a dear friend to whom she had confided her concern. This trusted friend related a most unusual and inspiring account of that which happened next:

“When Elder Lee, who stood behind Brother Paul who was seated, raised his hands to put them on Brother Paul’s head, a very bright light like sunshine, as if coming through a high window about twelve inches square, suddenly focused on the crown of Elder Lee’s head.” She continued: “What a rare coincidence that the sun should begin to shine with a clear, bright light just at the moment Elder Lee was to place his hands upon the head of Brother Paul to pronounce a blessing and ordination! The experience was a confirmation of a sacred call. Suddenly, I realized there was no window in that basement room through which the sun might beam its rays.”

Peace had replaced turmoil. Faith had overcome doubt. Precious are the hands of a prophet.

Finally, may we speak of yet another hand—even the hand of the Lord. This was the hand that guided Moses, that strengthened Joshua—the hand promised to Jacob when the Lord declared: “Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: … I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.” (Isa. 41:10.) This was the determined hand that drove the moneychangers from the temple. This was the loving hand that blessed little children. This was the strong hand that opened deaf ears and restored vision to sightless eyes. By this hand was the leper cleansed, the lame man healed—even the dead Lazarus raised to life. With the finger of his hand there was written in the sand that message which the winds did erase but which honest hearts did retain. The hand of the carpenter. The hand of the teacher. The hand of the Christ.

One called Pontius Pilate washed his hands of this man called King of the Jews. Oh foolish, spineless Pilate! Did you really believe that water could cleanse such guilt?

I think of his hands pierced and bleeding to pay the debt!

Such mercy, such love, and devotion can I forget? …

Oh, it is wonderful that he should care for me,

Enough to die for me!

Oh, it is wonderful, wonderful to me!

(Hymns, 1985, no. 193.)

Pitied is the hand that sins. Envied is the hand that paints. Honored is the hand that builds. Appreciated is the hand that helps. Respected is the hand that serves. Adored is the hand that saves—even the hand of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Redeemer of all mankind. With that hand he knocks upon the door of our understanding. “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him.” (Rev. 3:20.)

Shall we listen for his voice? Shall we open the doorway of our lives to his exalted presence? Each must answer for himself.

In this journey called mortality, clouds of gloom may appear on the horizon of our personal destiny. The way ahead may be uncertain, foreboding. We may be prompted to ask, as did another:

I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year:

“Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.”

And he replied: “Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the hand of God. That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.”

(M. Louise Haskins, in The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations, 2d ed., London: Oxford Univ. Press, 1953, p. 239.)

As we place our hands in the hand of God, we will avoid the pitfalls of life and arrive safely at our heavenly home.

Ideas for Home Teachers

Some Points of Emphasis. You may wish to make these points in your home teaching discussions:

  1. One way of contemplating life is to contemplate hands:

    • —A child’s hand prompts us to praise God, to seek to be worthy of the child’s trust, to teach with patience.

    • —A youth’s hand is busy learning to labor and serve, preparing to link with another in marriage.

    • —A mother’s comforting hand and tender care never seem to diminish through the years.

    • —A father’s hand reflects the dignity of honest labor and tireless toil.

  2. There is yet another hand that can guide, bless, and protect us—the hand of the Lord.

  3. Our greatest peace and blessings come when we put our hand into the hand of God and trust in his teachings and his power.

Discussion Helps

  1. Relate your feelings about serving others and placing our faith in the Lord.

  2. Are there some scriptures or quotations in this article that the family might read aloud and discuss?

  3. Would this discussion be better after a pre-visit chat with the head of the house? Is there a message from the bishop or quorum leader?

Photography by Craig Dimond