We can make a difference

Once again the world is searching its conscience while images of starving and dying people - many of them children - fill our newspapers and TV screens.

How can we not be deeply moved by those images? At a time of the year when we set new goals for ourselves and pledge to renew our energies in seeking good, we're confronted again with the inequities of life.In an endeavor aptly titled "Operation Hope," the world's nations are trying to bring some semblance of order to one corner of Africa. But the size of the effort needed in just that one country of Somalia is evidence that these situations are neither easy nor readily resolved, nor are the issues as clear as we would hope. The world can concentrate its energy and, yes, its wealth for a short period on one place, but what of all the others?

What of the boat people, risking their lives in makeshift vessels? Or the appalling ethnic cleansing under way in portions of Europe? Or the blood feuds, fueled by centuries of mistrust and bigotry? Or the pillaging brought on by religious intolerance?

In simpler times we were not as intimate with the world's tragedies. Today, the harrowing scenes are transmitted by space-age technology to every portion of the planet, instantaneously.

As the scenes unfold we learn the obvious lesson that the road of hatred and envy is one of desolation. We see firsthand the cruel result of bigotry and the awful legacy of greed and unprincipled power. And our frustration grows.

Evil, we realize, will always be with us. Bigotry and wanton disregard for others is older than civilization. We are brought once again to the inescapable conclusion that the only true change that can take place in the world must first come from within. Righteousness cannot be imposed, a lesson learned in our premortal life by Satan's legions. Rather, goodness must come from the individual efforts of each of us.

This is the area where our belief in the gospel guides us. As Elder James E. Talmage said, "Religion without morality, professions of godliness without charity, church-membership without adequate responsibility as to individual conduct in daily life, are but as sounding brass and tinkling cymbals - noise without music, the words without the spirit of prayer." (The Articles of Faith, p. 429.)

What does the ethical person and the Christian society do when faced with the ascension of evil? The answer is, we do what we can. The gospel's message is one of individual responsibility. We must believe that what we do matters - that we can make a difference, not only in our own lives, but in the lives of those around us.

Edward Everett Hale penned an often-quoted credo that bears remembering:

I am only one,

But still I am one.

I cannot do everything,

But still I can do something;

And because I cannot do everything

I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.

For the Lend-a-Hand Society.

One hundred sixty-one years ago, when the world's parameters were much narrower than ours today, the Lord instructed Joseph Smith, "And remember in all things the poor and the needy, the sick and the afflicted, for he that doeth not these things, the same is not my disciple." (D&C 52:40.) The times may have changed but the message is the same, repeated by succeeding prophets.

In our day, President Ezra Taft Benson reminded the Church: "The Lord Jesus Christ liberated man from the world by the pure gospel of love. He demonstrated that man, through the love of God and through kindness and charity to his fellows, could achieve his highest potential. He lived

the plain and sure doctrine of service,

of doing good to all men - friends and enemies alike." (Teachings of Ezra Taft Benson, p. 275.)

We don't need images from afar to remind us that we have problems close at home to resolve, people within our own neighborhood who are in need of our assistance.

That our neighborhood in this technological age is expanding complicates our responsibility, but does not diminish it.

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