“Peter may have given the best description of the Savior’s mortal ministry in five words when he referred to Jesus, “who went about doing good.” You want to know what to do with your life? There it is, simply put. In Doctrine and Covenants Section 81, we are given the same charge with more detail.
You can also find the podcast on the following platforms (click on the platform of your choice):
Join our study group and let’s delve into the scriptures in a way that is inspiring, expanding and joyful.
“Peter may have given the best description of the Savior’s mortal ministry in five words when he referred to Jesus, “who went about doing good.” (M. Russell Ballard, Precious Gifts, https://abn.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/2018/04/precious-gifts-from-god?lang=eng ) You want to know what to do with your life? There it is, simply put. If we are to be like him, we go about doing good. In Doctrine and Covenants Section 81, we are given the same charge with more detail: “succor the weak, lift up the hands which hand down, and strengthen the feeble knees” (Doctrine and Covenants 81:5). That is a very vivid picture.
Hello, We’re Scot and Maurine Proctor and this is Meridian Magazine’s Come Follow Me podcast. This week we’ll be studying Doctrine and Covenants Sections 81-83 in a lesson called “Where ‘Much is Required’” You can find the transcripts to these podcasts at latterdaysaintmag.com/podcast. That’s latterdaysaintmag.com/podcast. Please tell a friend about the podcast. We’d love to have them join us.
When I think of strengthening the feeble knees, I think of a friend of mine who got some terrible news about her husband’s medical condition. She hung up the phone, with all of the energy suddenly drained out of her as if she was about to collapse, until two friends rushed to her side to lift her up with their protecting arms. I can see my mother, just hours after my father died, picking out a coffin. As she stood there before that box that would soon hold the husband she was just talking to yesterday, the reality of her anguish suddenly set in, and her knees all but collapsed as we held her up.
Some burdens are just too much, and though we can’t usually see the collapse of the knees and the hearts of people around us, this is the picture the scripture depicts. The burdens, even if they are invisible to the rest of the world have become overwhelming. Just one more thing is too much. Just one more moment of this kind of pain takes them beyond what they can bear. They are weak, not so much in character, but from having been punched in the stomach with the pains and struggle of mortality.
President Henry B. Eyring said, “When I was a young man, I served in the Church as a counselor to a wise district president. He was constantly trying to teach me. I remember the advice he once gave to me: ‘When you meet someone, treat them as if they were in serious trouble, and you will be right more than half the time.’ I thought then that he was pessimistic. Now, more than 50 years later, I can see how well he understood the world and life.”
Marjorie Pay Hinckley said, “Be kind. Everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” People don’t usually announce their hard battles. Most often we can put on bright faces for each other, but there is always so much more than meets the eye. I love this song by Hilary Weeks, called “Not Too Far from Here.”
[Play the music that is here. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=82KzEnD841g through end of first verse.]
Somebody’s down to their last dime
Somebody’s running out of time
Not too far from here
Somebody’s got nowhere else to go
Somebody needs a little hope
Not too far from here
And I may not know their name
But I’m praying just the same
That You’ll use me Lord to wipe away a tear
Cause somebody’s crying
Not too far from here
Hilary’s lyrics continue:
Somebody’s troubled and confused
Somebody’s got nothing left to lose
Not too far from here
Somebody’s forgotten how to trust
Somebody’s dying for love
Not too far from here
It may be a stranger’s face
But I’m praying for Your grace
To move in me and take away the fear
Cause somebody’s hurting
Not too far from here
This song sticks with me, because when I hear it, I look out my window and wonder who that is? I look at the passersby and wonder, ‘Is it you?’
Everyone needs help, encouragement, love, a sense that they are seen and heard. Everyone needs strength, a friend, an arm around the shoulder. The Lord has made it clear. “A new commandment I give unto you. That ye love one another, as I have loved you” (John 13:34).
This commandment was given at the Last Supper just as Jesus was telling his apostles “yet a little while I am with you.” This timing tells us that though He would be leaving, his disciples would always be marked by this reigning attribute. Remember that old saying. If someone did not know you were a Christian, would they be able to tell?
Succoring the weak and lifting up the hands that hang down is pure religion. It is about visiting the fatherless and the widows in their affliction. Having eyes to see who needs you now. Religion is not about lists of things to do or check off, but about an inner transformation so that you have eyes to see.
When I hear this—and, of course, we all hear it often—I think how do I know who needs me—and even more to the point—what do I have to give those people who are hurting and not too far from here? I think sometimes we have more willing hearts than a sense of what to do.
Part of the answer to that is that we become very intentional in our prayers and in our choices. I want to be like Christ and so I want to love as He asked. How can I do that? We not only pray for opportunities to serve, but we also “pray for the ability to see unplanned opportunities to serve.” (See Preach My Gospel). Is there someone right before my eyes who needs encouragement or just a nod of recognition? Will someone cross my path today whose life I can brighten or lift, if I only had eyes to see and was in tune with the Spirit? Since the Lord has asked us to serve and love one another, He knows just how to bring those opportunities to us.
Your mother made an unforgettable choice to serve in a specific way.
She did. Just months after my father, who was an educator died, she decided to run for the Jordan School board in the Salt Lake valley. It was a chance to carry on the legacy that they had shared together. In that role, she often visited the schools, and she noticed the unsung and excellent work of the custodians and other staff. She made it a point to find the custodians and thank them for their work that kept such a great atmosphere at the school. Most often, she wrote them letters of gratitude.
I remember going with her to one of the retirement dinners for the service staff in Jordan School district, and a custodian got up and said that in his entire career, he had only received two thank you notes. One was from your mother and one was from your father—each sending a letter years apart, and unbeknownst to each other.
My mother’s kitchen table was always scattered with thank you notes, and she combed the local newspapers so if students or teachers were mentioned, she could encourage and thank them for their good work. It was an intentional choice to lift and notice others. Our opportunities to show gratitude are easy now with the advent of texting. How it lifts you when someone texts, “I liked your talk today in Church. Thank you.”
Scot, you had an experience in the Sacred Grove never to be forgotten.
[Tells own story.]
That day you were given the ability to see an unplanned opportunity for service.
So many times when my hands hung down and my knees were feeble, I received acts of unexpected kindness. I cannot express what this has meant to me when I need help or hope or even just a bit of encouragement. Could we really have the privilege of giving such gifts to others?
I remember I was very pregnant with my first child, and exhausted from working too hard at a temporary job, and something that I can’t even remember now had gone terribly wrong. I stood alone on a busy corner in Chicago, and tears of frustration and pain started rolling down my cheeks, and a man came by, handed me a rose, saying, “You need this,”and disappeared into the crowd. I remember when I was a very young Relief Society president in an inner city ward of Chicago, and was worried about paying for Thanksgiving dinner with all the extra people we had invited over, and my Dad sent some money as a surprise, to cover the costs of groceries. He used to say, “When you need help, is when you need it, not some other time.”
I remember looking out the door from a grocery store at a blizzard, and your going to get the car, so I wouldn’t get cold. This has happened more than a thousand times. I remember the day I was having a hard time, and our daughter, Mariah, left me a letter of encouragement on our bed. I remember the stranger in Amman, Jordan, who would never see us again, who gave us 15 minutes of his time, to lead us through the maze of streets to the freeway entrance, when we were lost.
Opportunities to help are all around us. One of my favorite stories of succoring was one that Elder Holland told about what his parents did for him. He said, “As we encourage missionaries to do, I had saved money and sold personal belongings to pay my own way as best I could. I thought I had enough money, but I wasn’t sure how it would be in the final months of my mission. With that question on my mind, I nevertheless blissfully left my family for the greatest experience anyone could hope to have. I loved my mission as I am sure no young man has ever loved one before or since.
“Then I returned home just as my parents were called to serve a mission of their own. What would I do now? How in the world could I pay for a college education? How could I possibly pay for board and room? And how could I realize the great dream of my heart, to marry the breathtakingly perfect Patricia Terry? I don’t mind admitting that I was discouraged and frightened.”
Elder Holland said, “Hesitantly, I went to the local bank and asked the manager, a family friend, how much was in my account. He looked surprised and said, “Why, Jeff, it’s all in your account. Didn’t they tell you? Your parents wanted to do what little they could to help you get started when you got home. They didn’t withdraw a cent during your mission. I supposed that you knew.”
Well, I didn’t know. What I do know is that my dad, a self-educated accountant, a “bookkeeper” as they were called in our little town, with very few clients, probably never wore a new suit or a new shirt or a new pair of shoes for two years so his son could have all of those for his mission. Furthermore, what I did not know but then came to know was that my mother, who had never worked out of the home in her married life, took a job at a local department store so that my mission expenses could be met. And not one word of that was ever conveyed to me on my mission. Not a single word was said regarding any of it. How many fathers in this Church have done exactly what my father did? And how many mothers, in these difficult economic times, are still doing what my mother did?” (Jeffrey R. Holland, “Because of Your Faith” https://abn.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/2010/10/because-of-your-faith?lang=eng
Last week we talked about the mobbing of Joseph Smith and Sidney Rigdon in Hiram, Ohio and that in just a few days, Joseph left for Missouri. The purpose, among other things, was to command these nine men—Edward Partridge, Newel K. Whitney, A. Sidney Gilbert, Sidney Rigdon, Joseph Smith, John Whitmer, Oliver Cowdery, W.W. Phelps and Martin Harris “to be bound together by a bond and covenant that cannot be broken by transgression, except judgment shall immediately follow, in your several stewardships to manage the affairs of the poor, and all things pertaining to the bishopric both in the land of Zion and in the land of Kirtland” (vs. 11-12). They would also govern the church’s publishing and mercantile endeavors.
Speaking of strengthening the feeble knees, who has more struggle than the poor who must worry for shelter and sustenance? The Zion that the Saints hoped to build is a place that would look to take care of these insecure.
Listen to the vision the Lord has for His people:
14 For Zion must increase in beauty and in holiness; her borders must be enlarged; her stakes must be strengthened; yea, verily I say unto you, Zion must arise and put on her beautiful garments.
17 And you are to be equal, or in other words, you are to have equal claims on the properties, for the benefit of managing the concerns of your stewardships, every man according to his wants and his needs, inasmuch as his wants are just—
18 And all this for the benefit of the church of the living God, that every man may improve upon his talent, that every man may gain other talents, yea, even an hundred fold, to be cast into the Lord’s storehouse, to become the common property of the whole church (Section 82).
People who are in a covenant with the Lord are also covenanted to serve each other—and the results are powerful. We have just returned from visiting Nauvoo and it always astonishes me. In six short years, Nauvoo went from an uninhabitable swamp to a city that rivaled the size of Chicago. It’s square blocks and 1200 frame homes, its 350 more of brick were a model of industry, and its ordered, neat farms a productive place. How is it possible for all that to happen in such a brief time? It is because they were a people covenanted to the Lord, and therefore covenanted to serve each other. Together they rose to a place of great strength.
Here in Missouri, what the Lord is ultimately asking is for the people to live a consecrated life where they not only abandon their sins but are willing to give their all—even when it is very difficult. The Lord has offered a covenant to us of mighty proportion. He offers prophets and priesthood, posterity and promised land, prosperity and ultimately the opportunity to enter God’s presence. That is six gifts—all that start with the letter “P”. God invites us to be joint heirs with Him. He offers to give us all He has and is. We have very little to offer on our end for the enormity of these gifts. All He asks, is what we are. That is a small offering compared to the return.
We learn in Section 82, “Unto whom much is given, much is required; and he who sins against the greater light shall receive the greater condemnation.” What does this mean? Let’s look at the second part first. When people sin, the degree of their accountability depends upon the extent of their knowledge, gifts and blessings. “Two different persons may commit exactly the same sin and yet be held accountable in vastly different degrees, depending upon their gospel understanding.” What the Lord says here is “I am offering you the covenant, and all that I have”, and so your accountability and responsibility are greater than those who do not have it.
It is also intriguing, that where much is given, much is not just expected, it is required. A requirement is greater than an expectation. Because we are in His covenant, much is required of us. The best schools require the most work here on earth. It should be no surprise that the best gifts are also attached to the highest expectations.
The Lord requires much of us because it is the only way we may become capable of receiving all He has. If building a space rocket demands a certain level of physics and mathematical understanding, telling a student who wants to be a rocket engineer that algebra would be sufficient, would be unkind and untrue. Requirements that stretch us are God’s gift to us. It is in that struggle to meet His requirements that we begin to unfold, break out of that small shell of self with its nagging voice that always invites us to be less. It is not enough to walk after our own way and in our own light. It won’t get us where we want to go.
Discipleship is a daunting journey that will try your faith. Trying your faith is the only way to have a sturdy faith. Developing capacities is the only way to have those capacities. There is no shortcut.
Sheri Dew once told this story about a professional assignment that required her to travel out of the country, but, she said, “I felt such a foreboding about the trip that prior to leaving I sought a priesthood blessing. I was warned that the adversary would attempt to thwart my mission and that physical and spiritual danger lay ahead. I was also counseled that this was not to be a sight-seeing or a shopping trip and that if I would focus on my assignments and seek the direction of the Spirit, I would return safely home.
“Well, the warning was sobering. But as I proceeded, pleading for direction and protection each step of the way, I realized that my experience wasn’t all that unique. Might not our Father have said to you and to me as we left His presence: ‘The adversary will attempt to thwart your mission, and you will face spiritual and physical danger. But if you will focus on your assignments, if you will heed my voice, and if you will refuse to reduce mortality to a sight-seeing or a shopping trip, you will return safely home’?
“The adversary is delighted when we act like sightseers, meaning those who are hearers rather than doers of the word (see James 1:22), or shoppers, meaning those preoccupied with the vain things of this world that suffocate our spirits. Satan baits us with perishable pleasures and preoccupations—our bank accounts, our wardrobes, even our waistlines—for he knows that where our treasure is, there will our hearts be also (see Matt. 6:21).
Sheri continued, “Unfortunately, it is easy to let the blinding glare of the adversary’s enticements distract us from the light of Christ. ‘For what is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?’ (Matt. 16:26).
“…Said President Spencer W. Kimball, “If we insist on spending all our time and resources building up … a worldly kingdom, that is exactly what we will inherit” (“The False Gods We Worship,” Ensign, June 1976, 6). How often are we so focused on pursuing the so-called good life that we lose sight of eternal life? It is the fatal spiritual equivalent of selling our birthright for a mess of pottage.
“…We are unique. We are unique because of our covenants, our spiritual privileges, and the responsibilities attached to both. We are endowed with power and gifted with the Holy Ghost. We have a living prophet to guide us, ordinances that bind us to the Lord and to each other, and the power of the priesthood in our midst. We understand where we stand in the great plan of happiness. And we know that God is our Father and that His Son is our unfailing Advocate.
With these privileges comes great responsibility, for “unto whom much is given much is required” (D&C 82:3), and at times the demands of discipleship are heavy. But shouldn’t we expect the journey towards eternal glory to stretch us? We sometimes rationalize our preoccupation with this world and our casual attempts to grow spiritually by trying to console each other with the notion that living the gospel really shouldn’t require all that much of us. The Lord’s standard of behavior will always be more demanding than the world’s, but then the Lord’s rewards are infinitely more glorious—including true joy, peace, and salvation.” (Sheri L. Dew, “We are Women of God” https://abn.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/1999/10/we-are-women-of-god?lang=eng )
Sheri noted that “We no longer have the luxury of spending our energy on anything that does not lead us and our families to Christ…A casual commitment to Christ will not see us through.” End quote. As we learn in Doctrine and Covenants Section 25, it is time for us to “lay aside the things of this world and search for the things of a better” (Doctrine and Covenants 25:10). We don’t live in a time when we can merely believe passively. We have to be passionate, committed, and all in. It is certain that we will be challenged on every front, but if we are true, we will be able to stand. Much will be required of us, but would we expect less?
We look at the work that little group in Missouri had to do with a commission to build Zion, and be certain that the requirements upon us will also be high. President Gordon B. Hinckley said…that “the eternal salvation of the world … rests upon the shoulders of this Church. … No other people in the history of the world have received … [a] more compelling mandate … , and we’d better be getting at it” (“‘Church Is Really Doing Well,’” Church News, 3 July 1999, 3).
This means we each get to step up in our lives to be more committed and truly aligned with the Lord. Is there something you need to do? Some new habit that is calling to you? Some stumbling block to overcome? You were invited to participate in the greatest work ever given to man. Don’t stand out in the shallows because you think it is asking too much.
President Russell M. Nelson says of it: “I cannot speak of the Restoration in tempered tones. This fact of history is absolutely stunning! It is incredible! It is breathtaking! How amazing is it that messengers from heaven came to give authority and power to this work?
“Today, the Lord’s work in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is moving forward at an accelerated pace. The Church will have an unprecedented, unparalleled future. ‘Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, … the things which God hath prepared for them that love him’ (1 Corinthians 2:9; see also Doctrine and Covenants 76:10).”(Russell M. Nelson, “The Future of the Church: Preparing the World for the Savior’s Second Coming.”https://abn.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/ensign/2020/04/the-future-of-the-church-preparing-the-world-for-the-saviors-second-coming?lang=eng )
You and I are invited to be a part of preparing the world for the Savior’s second coming. How can there be a greater privilege?
Now in verse 10 of Section 82 the Lord says something astonishing. “I, the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say; but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise.”
We can understand this verse on so many levels. First, that behind all that we see and experience in the universe, there is an underlying law that Joseph Smith taught is co-eternal with God. The law is. It exists. All things operate according to law. Some of that is clear on the most basic level. If we protect our body using the principles of good health, we are healthier than if we didn’t. If we insist on eating foods that are bad for us, we should not be surprised if our bodies respond with complaint, discomfort and dis-ease. Keep the law and things work. Break the law and they don’t. If we keep sound business principles, our businesses usually flourish. If we don’t, they don’t.
President Nelson said it this way: “Truth is truth.
“Some things are simply true. The arbiter of truth is God—not your favorite social media news feed, not Google, and certainly not those who are disaffected from the Church.
“President Spencer W. Kimball taught that absolute truth cannot be “altered by the opinions of men. . . . If men are really humble, they will realize that they discover, but do not create, truth.”
President Nelson continued, “After graduating from medical school, I pursued advanced education in surgery. At that time there was no such thing as heart surgery. Then I teamed up with other researchers in the daunting task of making an artificial heart and lung machine. We knew that such an apparatus could possibly maintain the body’s circulation while repairs might be made on the heart. But during that early era, there was much we did not know.
“Then one day, two truths articulated in the Doctrine and Covenants spoke to my inquiring mind. These truths were, first, that all blessings are predicated upon obedience to law3 and, second, that to every kingdom there is a law given.4
“Well, I reasoned that if every kingdom had a law, there must be laws that govern the beating heart. I was determined to discover those laws and obey them. By doing so, blessings would come and lives could be saved.”
President Nelson continued:
“In medical school I had been taught that if one touched the beating heart, it would stop beating. However, one of the first laws we discovered in the lab was that we could touch the heart of an animal without losing its heartbeat. This finding opened the door later to uncovering another law that made more complex open-heart operations possible.
“We learned that if we added potassium chloride to blood flowing into the coronary arteries, thereby altering the normal sodium/potassium ratio, the heart would stop beating instantly. Then, when we nourished the heart with blood that had a normal sodium/potassium ratio, the heart would spring back to its normal beating pattern. Literally we could turn the heart off long enough to repair it and then turn it back on again.
President Nelson said, “Decades later, when I explained this to a group of medical students, one prominent professor asked, “But what if it doesn’t work?” My answer? It always works, because it is based on divine law.
“Divine law is incontrovertible! The same can be said of the law of gravity and the laws of foil and lift that allow airplanes to fly. Each is an absolute truth. Doctors or pilots do not have the power to change those laws, but their understanding of them safeguards lives.” (Russell M. Nelson, “The Love and Laws of God” https://speeches.byu.edu/talks/russell-m-nelson/love-laws-god/ )
These are laws and they always work, but on an even deeper level, when we read, “I, the Lord am bound, when ye do what I say,” we are hearing a covenant promise. If we are in a covenant promise with the Lord, he is bound to keep his side of the offer. He promised and He cannot lie. That would be utterly against His nature.
“How can an infinite and omnipotent God be bound by anything?” ask the scholars. It is that we bind ourselves to truths, which God honors. Human beings may sometimes break their word and violate their promises, but God does not and cannot. He is bound because he chose to be bound in a covenant with us. Our lives are marvelously secure because He is.
Because God has chosen to be bound to us in this way, we are safe.
Kerry Muhlestein wrote in his book God will Prevail, “We all have an innate need to belong to something. The divine part of us acutely feels the need to belong to God. Because covenants forge connections, they help us feel that we belong: we belong to each other and we belong to God. The covenant binds us to Him in a way we desperately need, though we may not recognize the need as much as we should. The key is to remember that God has initiated the connection. Ever since the Fall, He has voluntarily bound Himself to us, despite our continual steps away from Him.”
That’s all for today. Thanks for being with us, our friends. We’re Scot and Maurine Proctor and this has been Meridian Magazine’s Come Follow Me podcast. Next week we will be studying Doctrine and Covenants Section 84 called “The Power of Godliness”. Thanks to Paul Cardall for the music and to Michaela Proctor Hutchins, our daughter and producer. See you next week.