Ross is a bishop serving in the UK. He’s been our guest before and we’re pleased he’d share his thoughts on how to aid those in need.
Today I taught a combined Relief Society and Priesthood lesson in our ward. For the past three years the Europe Area Presidency has asked us to focus on three areas as part of their area plan: bringing a friend to church, becoming spiritually and temporally self reliant and finding an ancestor for temple ordinances. Basically the three-fold mission of the church with friendlier language.
I chose to focus on how we as individuals can become more spiritually self-reliant by taking care of the poor and needy. There are a few ways we can do this. We can pay a generous fast offering which is used to look after our own ward members, we can link up with local charities to look after poor and vulnerable members in our local areas and we can work with international charities that help with the poor and needy throu
ghout the world.
We are under covenant to do so. At baptism, we promised to “mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort” (Mosiah 18:9). Scripture doesn’t define who “those” are but I’m pretty sure it means all of the children of our Heavenly Parents.
We further learn that “I would that ye should impart of your substance to the poor, every man according to that which he hath, such as feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and administering to their relief, both spiritually and temporally, according to their wants.“ (Mosiah 4:26). Once again, the scripture doesn’t define who the “poor” are, so I’m going to assume it is anyone who has a need, irrespective of their background, culture, nationality, religion, sexuality, gender etc etc.
Last April, Elder Patrick Kearon, a General Authority and current Europe Area President, spoke about refugees in General Conference. Elder Kearon spoke of how “We must take a stand against intolerance and advocate respect and understanding across cultures and traditions.”
The words from that talk have resonated with me ever since, even almost a year later. At the time, it left me in tears. Unbelievably, after this talk was given, I had conversations with some church members that disagreed with Elder Kearon’s words. They said we shouldn’t aid refugees because some of them might be terrorists in disguise or that they might be economic migrants wanting to take advantage. Refusing to aid refugees for these reasons is the same as refusing to pay a fast offering because somebody might be taking advantage of the bishop. It’s basically finding an excuse not to live our covenants. It allows our prejudices to overrule the teachings of the Saviour.
As Latter-day Saints, if we really want to “defend the family”, we can’t sit idly by as families are split up over international borders due immigration policies. If we really believe in freedom of religion, we must be ready to defend the freedom of all religions.
The Twelfth Article of Faith cannot be used as an excuse to condone oppression. Governments can only be honoured and sustained as long as they have the moral authority to be worthy of those things.
Re-read the talk by Elder Kearon and then look at the news this week. You can’t be in agreement with the doctrine behind those remarks as well as the politics behind banning refugees from the richest country in the world without some serious mental gymnastics.
We are safe, we have refuge in the church. We know if we come up against difficult times we can be looked after by the loving embrace of our fellow saints and the blessings of church welfare programmes. We are Latter-day Saints, under covenant to look after those that need it. We can do some great things as individuals and amazing things when we work together to “lift up the hands which hang down, and strengthen the feeble knees”.
Sometimes our own prejudices prevent us from keeping probably the most important covenant we have ever made. Now petty political actions are doing the same. We need to eradicate both.