“Messages from the Doctrine and Covenants: Thou Wilt Remember the Poor,” Ensign, Sept. 2005, 39–41
Some time ago, on a Friday evening, I left my office for home in a hurry to catch the subway. As I passed a homeless woman whom I had seen often but never spoken to, she called out to me, “You’re a Mormon, aren’t you?”
I was startled that she knew my faith. Somewhat impatiently, I replied, “Yes, I am!”
She then said to me, “I would like to learn more about your church. I want to be a member.”
I am ashamed now that I thought to myself in a judgmental way, “Sure you do!” I told her I was in a hurry but that if she would be there on Monday morning, I would tell her how she could learn more about the Church. I then went on my way.
I had a miserable weekend. I knew I had judged her harshly, and I regretted it. I was anxious for Monday to arrive to see if her interest in the Church was genuine.
After arriving at my office, I wrote down the telephone number of the missionaries and went out to find her. She was at the agreed-upon location. I gave her the card with the telephone number on it and encouraged her to do all the missionaries asked her to do.
“I will,” was her reply.
Then I said, “Tell me about your interest in the Church.” I thought she would say that the Church had a wonderful reputation for taking care of its own and then would admit she could use some help herself. I was not prepared for her response.
“My children are Mormon. And so was my mother.”
Still doubting, I asked, “Where do they go to church?”
“In the Mount Pleasant First Branch,” she said.
Her response only intensified my feelings of guilt. I began to see her as a daughter of God, a sister of mine who needed help. I realized that even if she had requested aid, I should have treated her with compassion, as the Savior and the prophets have taught. I thought of King Benjamin’s instruction to the Saints of his time:
“Ye yourselves will succor those that stand in need of your succor; … and ye will not suffer that the beggar putteth up his petition to you in vain, and turn him out to perish.
“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—
“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” (Mosiah 4:16–18).
I sorely needed to repent!
Like our other books of scripture, the Doctrine and Covenants is replete with exhortations to care for the poor. On February 9, 1831, the Lord declared through the Prophet Joseph Smith:
“And behold, thou wilt remember the poor, and consecrate of thy properties for their support that which thou hast to impart unto them, with a covenant and a deed which cannot be broken.
“And inasmuch as ye impart of your substance unto the poor, ye will do it unto me” (D&C 42:30–31).
Later that same month the Lord gave this instruction: “Behold, I say unto you, that ye must visit the poor and the needy and administer to their relief” (D&C 44:6).
President Marion G. Romney (1897–1988), then Second Counselor in the First Presidency, pointed out that caring for the poor is a covenantal obligation for all Church members.1 We fulfill this obligation in part by faithfully paying our tithing; paying a generous fast offering; contributing to the Church Humanitarian Services program, the Perpetual Education Fund, and other worthy causes; and donating our time to minister to those in need. We also help fulfill this obligation by recognizing that those in need are beloved children of our Heavenly Father and should be treated accordingly.
In an April 2001 general conference address, Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles made this eloquent statement: “Far too many in the world today—thousands upon thousands of families—experience want each day. They hunger. They ache with cold. They suffer from sickness. They grieve for their children. They mourn for the safety of their families. These people are not strangers and foreigners but children of our Heavenly Father. They are our brothers and sisters. … At this very hour on this very day, some members even in our Church are praying for the miracle that would allow them to surmount the suffering that surrounds them. If, while we have the means to do so, we do not have compassion for them and spring to their aid, we are in danger of being among those the prophet Moroni spoke of when he said, ‘Behold, ye do love money, and your substance, and your fine apparel … more than ye love the poor and the needy, the sick and the afflicted.’”2
Charity, the pure love of Christ, is the essence of the gospel. Let us therefore reach out with love and compassion to those around us who are in need. In serving them, we are serving the Savior.
Most Ensign articles can be used for family home evening discussions, personal reflection, or teaching the gospel in a variety of settings.
Have two family members role-play Elder Sleight’s opening story. Discuss what this situation teaches about needing help and judging others. Decide how your family can reach out with love and compassion to those in need.
Have family members read and discuss the scriptures found in the article and the quotation by Elder Wirthlin. Testify that in serving others we are serving the Savior.