“I am confident there are within our sphere of influence those who are lonely, those who are ill, and those who feel discouraged. Ours is the opportunity to help them and to lift their spirits” (Thomas S. Monson, “Be an Example and a Light,” October 2015 general conference).
On Oct. 27, 2015, the First Presidency sent a letter to all the members of the Church, asking us to “participate in local refugee relief projects, where practical.” As illustrated by the following tale, we all sit by a “pot of stew.” A man sought out a respected old sage and said, “O wise one, I would like to know what heaven and hell are like.”
The sage led the man to two doors. He opened one of the doors, and the man looked in. In the middle of the room was a large round table. In the middle of the table was a large pot of stew, which smelled delicious and made the man’s mouth water.
The people sitting around the table were thin and sickly. They appeared to be famished. They were holding spoons with very long handles that were strapped to their arms. Each found it possible to reach into the pot of stew and take a spoonful, but because the handle was longer than their arms, they could not get the spoons back into their mouths.
The man shuddered at the sight of their misery and suffering. The wise man said, “You have seen hell.”
They went to the next room and opened the door. It was exactly the same as the first one. There was the large round table with the large pot of stew that made the man’s mouth water. The people were equipped with the same long-handled spoons strapped to their arms, but here the people were well nourished and plump, laughing and talking.
The man said, “I don’t understand!”
“It is simple,” said his venerable guide. “It requires but one skill. You see, they have learned to feed each other, while the greedy think only of themselves” (author unknown).
Do we think of “feeding” others? How bounteous is our pot of stew as we think of President Monson speaking of our sphere of influence? Real joy is within our reach as we become aware of our power to give to one who is needy — perhaps someone who is right in our home.
While stew may fill a belly, even more soul satisfying is filling another’s heart with hope. This attitude of other-mindedness is a beautiful way to avoid, as Helaman puts it, “the gulf of misery” (Helaman 5:12). The plump, happy, well-fed people in the story have learned this truth about service.
Looking to the Savior with a desire to serve is an act of faith and starts a flow of reciprocal blessings. When we make the effort to aid another, remembrance of and commitment to Jesus Christ fortifies our spirits. Mosiah 2:17 teaches “that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God.”
Who can forget Helaman’s admonition to his sons? “And now, my sons, remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, ... it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built” (Helaman 5:12, emphasis added).
Learning of Him through scripture study and looking unto Him in every thought can keep the misery and woe of the adversary away from ourselves and empower us to live and give more freely and selflessly. With nourished spirits, we can become as Lehi, offering the fruit of the tree to those who wait.
As we accept our challenges — our long-handled spoons — and follow Christ, we will serve. Simply put, our ability to give what others need comes from Jesus Christ.
The March 2016 issues of the Liahona and the New Era give solid, useful answers for healing within, then we can help others heal. Eighteen “cut-out cards,” convenient for study, are offered to the seeking reader, each dealing with one difficult emotion. These emotions describe some of what Christ Himself must have felt as He took on the pains of all mankind.
Have you felt weak, afraid, guilty, discouraged, worthless or lonely? If so, there’s a card waiting for you in these Church magazines. They remind us of Jesus Christ and His infinite capacity to move us by His love into a healthier spiritual outlook. As we faithfully draw strength from the Savior, we become a conduit of His grace and healing for those in need. Our long-handled spoons offer up succor for the needy and we become His agents, feeding spiritual nourishment to others even as we are fed by the Source of all good things. In such nourishment and such service we find true joy.
Ways to Serve
· Discuss the needs of your family and neighborhood in a family council.
· Class presidencies, talk about the needs of your class.
· Seek direction from the bishopric on needs within your ward.
· Explore options at justserve.org or through Church humanitarian and welfare services.
· Volunteer with a trusted community outreach effort.