One year ago, as an Area Presidency, we attended the General Authority training associated with the October 2011 General Conference of the Church. We were concerned about the challenges in the Africa Southeast Area and we were seeking the Lord’s inspiration as to how the Church could help so many who face financial difficulties.
In the first session of our training, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Second Counselor in the First Presidency, said, “Our members, wherever they may live, will only walk out of poverty and overcome their economic challenges when they pay their tithes, become more self-reliant, care for the needy, and render compassionate service.”(1) Here was a prophetic promise that everyone could follow! Here was an answer to our prayer.
President Uchtdorf promised that you can walk out of poverty and change your economic circumstances if you:
1. Pay tithing
2. Become more self-reliant
3. Care for the needy
4. Render compassionate service
The Lord desires to bless us. But, to qualify for a blessing, we need to be obedient to the law upon which the specific blessing is promised. (2) This is an eternal principle; it is the way it always has been, currently is, and will forever be. This law was taught in our pre-mortal existence. We must keep the commandment associated with the promised blessing. So, the first step to changing our economic condition is to pay an honest tithe.
Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve also promised the Saints in our Area blessings if they would pay an honest tithe. He said, in a Satellite broadcast in 2010, “Tithing is a commandment with a promise. The words of Malachi, reaffirmed by the Savior, promise those who bring their tithes into the storehouse that the Lord will ‘open … the windows of heaven, and pour [them] out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it.’ The promised blessings are temporal and spiritual. For tithe payers, the Lord promises that He will ‘rebuke the devourer’ and that ‘all nations shall call you blessed: for ye shall be a delightsome land.’ (3)
Become More Self-Reliant
In this setting, self reliance means that we do not need others to help support us or our families financially. To achieve this, we need to have a personal plan for how we can achieve greater self-reliance. We cannot sit back and wait for others to tell us what to do. We can look for resources to help us in our quest to become more self-reliant, including counseling with priesthood leaders. Ultimately though, developing a plan and implementing it is our personal responsibility, and ours alone.
In the Local Pages in this edition of the Liahona, a new direction for the Perpetual Education Fund (PEF) is outlined. The rationale for PEF has always been to help qualified individuals become more self-reliant. PEF is only one way toward self-reliance. Many other ways must also be sought. As members do all they can to become more self-reliant they complete step two of the formula to walk out of poverty and change their economic circumstances.
Care for the Needy
One of the wonderful ways to help us care for the needy is to obey the Law of the Fast. In the Church today, one Sunday each month is set aside for the purpose of fasting. During this time, Church members abstain from food and drink for two consecutive meals in a 24-hour period, attend fast and testimony meeting, and contribute to the Church the money that would have spent on food for those meals. This money is called a fast offering. The Church uses the fast offerings to assist the poor and the needy.
Other ways to care for the needy should also be sought. We can do this individually or as families. It will not take much to identify a need of a neighbour or Church member. Do what you can to listen to a friend or to mourn with a neighbour who has experienced a loss. This helps qualify for the third step. Very few injunctions in the scriptures are as frequent and clear as that of helping the poor. (4)
Render Compassionate Service
In the October 2011 General Conference itself, President Uchtdorf spoke beautifully about rendering compassionate service. (5) He said, “The lesson we learn generation after generation is that rich and poor are all under the same sacred obligation to help their neighbour. It will take all of us working together to successfully apply the principles of welfare and self-reliance. Too often we notice the needs around us, hoping that someone from far away will magically appear to meet those needs... When we do this, we deprive our neighbour of the service we could render, and we deprive ourselves of the opportunity to serve.”
Rendering compassionate service is showing love for our neighbour. The second commandment the Lord gave us is to “love thy neighbour as thyself.” (6) Loving our neighbour and showing love to our neighbour is the fourth step that qualifies us for the great blessing promised by President Uchtdorf, walking out of poverty and changing our economic circumstances. When we follow these four steps, we call down the blessings of Heaven on us and our children and our children’s children.
Be a Patriot
Not only will our families be blessed, but so will the countries where we live. I recently had the remarkable opportunity to be present as the first stake in Botswana was organized, the Gaborone Botswana Stake. (7) Before going, I reviewed the dedicatory prayer for Botswana, given by Elder Richard G. Scott of the Quorum of the Twelve August 21, 1992. In that prayer, he promised Church members then and those who joined the Church thereafter in Botswana, that as they lived the laws of God, their obedience would serve as leaven, to bless the whole country.
Leaven is like yeast, a little bit in the unbaked dough will cause the whole loaf to rise. Elder Scott used the word “leaven,” in the Dedicatory prayer much the same way that the Savior used “leaven” in Matthew 13:33. In this scripture, the leaven is the growth and influence of the kingdom of heaven upon the earth.
Elder Dallin H. Oaks said it this way:“I believe these promises apply to the nations in which we reside. When the people of God withheld their tithes and offerings, God condemned the ‘whole nation’ (Malachi 3:9). Similarly, I believe that when many citizens of a nation are faithful in the payment of tithes, they summon the blessings of heaven upon their entire nation. The Bible teaches that ‘a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump’ (Galatians 5:9; see also Matthew 13:33) and that ‘righteousness exalteth a nation’ (Proverbs 14:34). This much-needed blessing can be called down by faithfulness in paying tithing.” (3)
So, if we want to bless our families and our countries in which we live, we should obey the commandments given to us by the Savior. Not only do we have the opportunity to walk out of poverty and change our economic circumstances, but we can be the means of calling down the blessings of Heaven on the wonderful, diverse, and beautiful nations of the Africa Southeast Area.