For the past several months, my wife and I have been in the process of selecting a new insurance company. After study and comparison of ratings, we settled on a provider. Within a week after sending in a deposit for several hundred dollars, I opened the newspaper to read that the company I thought was solid and which was now holding my money was underwater and in need of a loan from the government in the amount of 85 billion dollars. The irony is that the company was running expensive ads touting it strength and promising to be there when we need it, right up until the day it wasn’t.
The first section of the Doctrine and Covenants says that part of the reason for the Restoration is to teach us not to trust in the arm of flesh. If I didn’t know that lesson a month ago, I have learned it now.
I have had some other recent experiences which have caused me to think about what this all means. Please consider:
1. A returned missionary who served in a large city in South America told me that the biggest challenge of his mission was not the language or the food or getting along with his companions or homesickness. It was the daily confrontation with real poverty and hunger. He told of once giving a piece of hard candy to a child after church, and then immediately being surrounded by thirty other children and adults who also wanted candy.
2. A couple who served a mission in the Caribbean told me that they often tried to serve meals at the church on Saturday afternoons in an effort to build friendship in the ward. They paid for the food and prepared it themselves, since no church funds were available. The meals were very simple, usually just sandwiches, rice, and boiled eggs. And yet they often had to barricade themselves in the kitchen, literally barring the door as they prepared the food. The ward members — our brothers and sisters — were so hungry that they tried to get into the kitchen to eat the meal before it was fully prepared.
The recent upheavals in the financial markets have brought about a situation where people try to shift blame and point fingers. It is a spectacle that is reminiscent of children playing in a sandbox, fighting over a toy. Against the backdrop of that comedy of errors, the speakers in conference offered a message of hope and reminders of our obligations to the poor. President Monson has often taught that our hands can be God’s hands, and that His work is usually accomplished by our brains and arms. When our service is consecrated, we are assisting God in His work and glory.
President Uchtdorf closed his talk in priesthood meeting by reminding us that we are
…devoted to give our all to the cause of Zion and bound by covenant to stand close together…
The message of conference for me this time came as a revelation. If I feel good placing hundreds of dollars into the hands of people I don’t know and obviously cannot trust, I also need to find a way to use at least an equivalent amount to assist those to whom I am bound by covenant.