“Needs,” New Era, Sept. 1987, 47
Taken from a devotional address delivered at Brigham Young University on February 18, 1986.
Everyone has certain necessities in common.
Anciently, the Apostle Paul gave firm assurance that “my God shall supply all your need” (Philip. 4:19). Likewise in latter-day revelation the Lord himself has declared: “Every man who has need may be amply supplied” (D&C 42:33).
As we study man in his many roles and challenges, we find that there is not a single one of God’s children who does not have many needs. All of these can be fulfilled by a loving Heavenly Father. Indeed, he wants to fulfill our needs. I would like to share with you some thoughts on the nature of needs. In so doing it is my earnest desire and prayer that we all become aware not only of our own needs, but especially of the needs of others.
Of paramount importance is the need to pray. How wonderful that God has identified himself to us, through his beloved Son, Jesus Christ. He has revealed himself to us as our Father in Heaven, who wants us, his children, to keep in touch with him while we are away from our heavenly home. Jesus taught us not only the need to pray but how to pray, showing reverence and gratitude, making petition and commitment, praying daily and in his name. What great blessings come from prayer, which not only brings rich rewards, but is its own reward. “Seek, and ye shall find” (Luke 11:9).
I think of the faithful Saints in West Africa who prayed and petitioned five, ten, fifteen years, for the fullness of the restored gospel to be taken to their land. Answers to prayer are not in man’s time, but in God’s time. Patience, faith, humble submission, are finally rewarded. How wonderful to see the results of these prayers, as the gospel rolls forward among God’s children in Africa.
There are many other needs, of course, as important as prayer. For example, the need to have faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. He laid down his life for our sins. We show our gratitude by our faith, and we show our faith by our thoughts, words, and especially our deeds, by making the necessary changes to conform with his teachings through the process of repentance. After repentance, a person is ready to be baptized. Baptism is also a fundamental and universal need, for it is the gateway into the Church of Jesus Christ.
My thoughts again turn to Africa, which I have been privileged to visit a number of times. Never have I seen so many different Christian churches, all professing Christ but not being in conformity and unity with his teachings. There is always a mass of confusion when men’s ideas predominate and the Savior takes second place. There is a need for the cleansing ordinance and unifying bond of baptism.
I am happy to declare that the light has dawned. I received the assignment to dedicate four small meetinghouses in Nigeria. I had seen them under construction—simple, functional, but beautiful—gleaming white against the brilliant greens of the tropical rain forest. The local Saints had helped when they could, and the sisters deserve special mention for carrying water on their heads for two or three miles to the building sites.
In each new chapel, as we took our places on the stand, we paused to shake hands with the local chiefs who had been invited to attend and to occupy the front seats. They were dignified in their robes, each carrying a chief’s cane. The head chief at each chapel graciously accepted the invitation to address the congregation. Of course, they used different words, but they expressed the same powerful sentiments: “You are the light of this community. You have brought us the true gospel. Thank you for coming.” Did not the Savior exhort us, “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matt. 5:16)? Oh, that we might all be a light to our respective communities!
In West Africa the good news, the gospel of Jesus Christ, travels fast, for it is shared with members of the extended families who frequently live in close proximity. The people are spiritually ready for baptism; they love the Lord, they help their neighbors, and they sing and pray with all their hearts and voices in praise and gratitude.
I have been impressed with the bright-eyed children as they sing “I Am a Child of God.” They are already alert and teachable, but following baptism, when they have received the Holy Ghost by the laying on of hands, their understanding and desire to serve the Lord is quickened. How eager were the children in a little African school in Zimbabwe as we were privileged to go into three classes and give them a spiritual message, testimony, and blessing. These were the same children who had recently seen the Church film Man’s Search for Happiness and had written: “This was a wonderful film. This Church should make more films and everyone should see them.” Another had said, “Everyone should search for happiness. Happiness comes through overcoming temptation and sin.” There is a great need for every person in the world to have the guidance of the Holy Ghost. We can bring blessings to others and live purposeful lives ourselves when we have the Holy Ghost with us.
Another important need is knowledge, especially knowledge of the Almighty God, and of his Beloved Son, Jesus Christ. As Paul wrote to the Hebrews: “Ye have need that one teach you” (Heb. 5:12). The Old Testament prophet Hosea declared that “my people are destroyed for lack of knowledge” (Hosea 4:6). Yes, we all need knowledge, and we all need a teacher. The missionaries of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are such teachers, who will not only impart facts and share knowledge, but who will also help us to develop wisdom.
How grateful I am that missionaries traveled across the world to teach me and my family in England 35 years ago. It was not long after our baptism that a fine local brother who was serving as counselor to the mission president said to me, “Find yourself a teacher who can lift you and inspire and motivate you. But remember, he must be standing on higher ground.”
I have had many such teachers since. One was a prophet of the Lord, Spencer W. Kimball. I was visiting from England for general conference and asked if I could see him. I was told that he was in his office and no one was with him. I knocked on the door and his familiar voice said “Come in.” I started to open the door, but before it was fully open, he was there already. I felt a sense of urgency and real caring. He took me by the arm, showed me round his office, then sat me down across the desk. “How is the work going in England?” he inquired. I gave a brief report, but he knew already; he was teaching me the principle of stewardship and accountability. Then he reached up to his bookshelves, took down a book, and handed it to me. “Have you read this?” he asked. He smiled, took a pen, opened the book and wrote a message, and then gave it to me. I shall always treasure that copy of The Life Story of Heber C. Kimball, the first missionary to England.
There are many more great teachers—exemplars—of whom I could tell, but I will just mention one more, my dear wife. How much I have learned from her, in charity, in patience, in endurance, in joyfulness. She has lifted me now for over 40 years, and has shown me wisdom as we have counseled, prayed, laughed, and cried together.
As we seek to fill our need for knowledge, we would do well to follow the classic example of one who lacked wisdom, the boy Joseph Smith. He wanted to join a church but was confused as to which one. Fortunately, he was a student of the Bible and found the necessary guidance in the Epistle of James. “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God” (James 1:5). By his humble and sincere application of the need for God to fill his lack of wisdom, the heavens were opened to him and he became the means of restoring to the earth the fullness of the gospel and the Church of Jesus Christ.
Sometimes we do not realize what knowledge or wisdom we need. You will remember the young man who came face to face with Jesus and asked him what he needed to do to have eternal life. Jesus told him to “keep the commandments” (Matt. 19:17), and then he interviewed him as to whether he was keeping them. Apparently he was. The young man then asked a question we all need to ask, “What lack I yet?” In other words, “What other needs do you see that I have?” It was important for him to have asked the question. He was told to sell all that he had and follow Jesus. This he felt was too much to ask, and he went away sorrowful. How sad that his meeting with the Son of God should end in this way. What of us? Some of us tend to say, “I keep the commandments, I attend my church meetings, I pay my tithes and offerings and live the Word of Wisdom.” Then the Lord gives us a real test: Leave the things of the world and give yourself in service.
Before my calling as a General Authority, I was engaged in the industrial world, particularly in petrochemical operations. As we set out to manufacture certain products, we would produce many worthwhile by-products along the way. So it is with life. The main product of a Christian life is service. But as we set out to help others, we find that our needs have been met by the by-products of service.
Sometimes we feel deprived of friendship, not realizing the solution lies in our own hands. We need to be outgoing as well as inward looking. The gospel of Jesus Christ is a social gospel; Jesus was constantly among the people. His first miracle was performed at a wedding feast, the people were always thronging round him, he spoke to multitudes, and he reached out to all. How wonderful that each of us can be counted one of his friends, for he declared, “Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you” (John 15:14).
As I travel to the stakes and missions of the Church, sometimes to far corners of the earth, I am always making new friends. What a marvelous feeling it is, having arrived in a distant country, to make instant friends through the common bond of the gospel. Wherever we are, we can make friends through the gospel.
Another universal need is peace of mind. Without it there can be no lasting happiness. The gospel of Jesus Christ brings peace and harmony.
I remember the day my father died, my mind was somewhat in anxiety and turmoil. I returned home, sat in my favorite chair, and picked up the scriptures. I read a little, then closed my eyes. In my mind’s eye I saw my father as a young man, and he was dressed in white. Although he had never become a member of the Church, I knew I would see him in the resurrection and, furthermore, I had seen him as he would appear. My mind was at peace again. When we rely on the Lord, we can have fulfillment of his promise, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: … Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27). He is “The Prince of Peace” (Isa. 9:6).
The need for happiness is a paramount need—lasting happiness, not fleeting happiness. True happiness comes from knowing one’s purpose in life and in fulfilling it. When I served as a mission president in Scotland, two of our fine sisters taught a man in his 80s, and he was baptized. In a testimony meeting soon afterwards, he stood and gave thanks that he now had purpose in life. “I was waiting to die when the sisters knocked on my door,” he said tearfully. Before long, he was called as counselor in the ward Sunday School presidency, and later as Sunday School president. He had great joy and happiness in his church service and made many new friends. A year or so passed and he visited Salt Lake City, made more friends, and gained more experiences, including going to the temple for the first time. When he did step from this life a few months after his return to Scotland, what a full and purposeful life he had had—and all within two years.
This leads us then to the last need I will discuss, the kind of need which prompts Christlike feelings of compassion. I speak of a condition requiring urgent relief. Over half the world’s population, over half the children of God, live in countries where starvation is a fact of life. How wonderful that your fasting, prayers, and donations have brought some relief.
The scriptures are replete with references to this great need and how it should be fulfilled. “Open thine hand … to the needy,” the Lord proclaimed through Moses (Deut. 15:11).
I have a tape-recorded message from the Saints in Ghana, West Africa, which is very special to me. Branch President Ato Dadson says, “The Mormon Church is one big family and came to our aid in these critical times. When my members came around for me to distribute the goods, a lot of them shed tears. They couldn’t believe it. Neither could I myself. I discovered that, in the Lord’s true Church, all things are possible. The words of Malachi came true that if we are faithful to the Lord, paying our tithes, blessings would be showered upon us. We are very, very grateful and don’t have enough words to express our gratitude. We shall never forget such a gesture by our brothers and sisters.”
The Relief Society president, Elizabeth Kwaw, added her feelings, “I don’t know how to express my gratitude for the food we have just received. On behalf of all the sisters, I say a big ’thank you.’ For some time we have been very short of food. Last week, at our Relief Society Homemaking meeting, we were able to prepare rice pudding.”
I like the account given by Luke in the fourth chapter of the Acts of the Apostles, “And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul . … Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold. And laid them down at the apostles’ feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need” (Acts 4:32, 34–35). You, the rising generation, have the great responsibility upon your shoulders to reach out to those in need as never before.
In these critical years of your life, you need to discern and discover needs, your own needs and those of others. You need to learn to fulfill those needs, whether they be physical, spiritual, mental, or social. Learn well, and live accordingly, and you will enjoy a fullness of life. Above all, have a grateful heart, which will always prompt and motivate you to reach out to others, for “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren,” Jesus said, “ye have done it unto me” (Matt. 25:40).
In conclusion, my dear young friends, I testify to you that since becoming a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I have had all my needs fulfilled—spiritually, physically, mentally, and socially. I have found that it is a combination of gratitude, service, prayer, and work that gives such fulfillment. May you have a similar rewarding and enriching experience.