I noticed the little booklet on the floor, that it had been the canvas of one of Abbie's recent master pieces. I picked it up and began to flip through it. It had been lying on a counter for a few days, but I hadn't taken the time to read it. As I read an article in it about extreme poverty in the world, the event of the previous week began to become much more meaningful, filling in the empty places of my wondering.
On a sunny morning a few days before, I spent a bit of time reading from the Conference edition of the Ensign, April 2011. One particular talk was about the humanitarian efforts of the Church, and how important it is in the gospel to help our fellow man in need. H. David Burton's talk The Sanctifying Work of Welfare mentions the life's work of the Savior. He spent his time administering to the sick, relieving the suffering of the poor, and lifting those who were destitute. There were examples in the talk of those who had followed the example of the Savior in giving what they had to help and be kind to the poor.
I pondered on this. I knew there was a great deal of humanitarian work going on in the world in answer to the great dilemmas of our day. The response to natural disasters that have occurred in Japan, New Zealand, Haiti, and many other places has been a combined effort of many individuals, communities, churches and government entities. In all of it, there has been an increased feeling of brotherhood, despite the tragic circumstances.
After I had finished reading, the kids and I went outside to do some work in the front yard. While I was watering the lawn, a well-dressed older gentleman and a young woman approached me. They were representatives of a local congregation, desiring to share a spiritual message. Always eager to engage in religious conversation, I said hello to them and welcomed their message.
As I listened, I said a little prayer that I would know what to say. After referring to a scripture reference, the man said to me,
"Wouldn't you agree that the world is in unrest, and that there is no one that does the will of the Lord?"
I responded brightly, "I disagree!"
A little surprised, he asked, "What do you mean?"
I felt my heart beat a bit faster, but responded, "When you pray to know what God wants you to do, then receive direction and follow it, you are doing the will of the Lord. When we kneel together as families and receive direction and act on it, we are doing the will of the Lord. When we come together as communities and nations and strangers to relieve the suffering of the poor, we are doing the will of the Lord, because that is what the Lord would do if He were here! His life was spent with the poor, the lonely, the down-trodden. So, when we do the same, we are doing His will, no matter what faith or religion we are."
"Well.." he stuttered a bit, "wouldn't you agree that we live in a time of great darkness?"
I responded enthusiastically, "Yes, BUT- we live in a time of tremendous light! We live in a time of great knowledge, technology and communications. We live in a time when the fullness of these gifts is available to us. We live in a time when women can receive opportunities for education and leadership. We live in a time, preceding the Second Coming, when we can prepare for His return. We live in the best of times!"
He had a couple of other points with scripture references, both of which were also a bit of doom and gloom. Luckily, I was able to point out the brightness of the time in which we live, the opportunities to prepare for the Lord's return. I thanked him for his efforts in this cause. He nodded with a smile and then they left.
I hoped I had said the right thing. I had said a prayer, and I felt directed in what I said, but didn't really know if it was effective.
It was days later when I finally read the message in the booklet. It was largely doom and gloom, that there is great poverty in the world, and that there is none in the world that does good. Everything I read was directly opposite to the points I had made. When those representatives from another church came, I did not know what they were prepared to share, but the Lord did. I realized after I read that booklet that he had prepared me that morning that I might be able to share the message of the gospel.
I recently read the account of the Savior's lesson to his disciples on this subject. It is found in Matthew chapter 25. Here is an excerpt from verses 31 through 40:
"When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats:
"And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:
"For I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: naked and ye clothed me: I was sick and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.
"Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungered, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?
"And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me."
In essence, that is what the gospel is: Lifting our brothers and sisters who are in need, following the example of the life of Jesus Christ. That's what He would do if He were here. That is the opportunity presented to us.