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What have we learned at LDS conference about caring for the poor and needy?

Published: Friday, Oct. 4 2013 10:20 p.m. MDT

“Thus, through the welfare program, the Lord has given us specific instructions as to how we must provide for the poor in this our day, and he has left no doubt about the dire consequences if we fail to do so.”

Six years later President Romney spoke on the subject again, referring to caring for the poor and needy as “a covenantal obligation.”

“Few, if any, of the Lord’s instructions are stated more often, or given more emphasis in the scriptures than is the commandment that we members of his church take care of the poor,” President Romney said. “It follows, then, that we look after our poor and distressed not only because it is convenient, or exciting or socially acceptable; we should do it first and foremost in fulfillment of our covenant with the Lord that we will do so.”

We should also do it because we love the Lord and want to serve him and his children, said Elder Holland in 1996.

“I know that a talk in general conference is not going to cut through the centuries of temporal inequity that have plagued humankind, but I also know that the gospel of Jesus Christ holds the answer to every social and political and economic problem this world has ever faced,” Elder Holland said. “And I know we can each do something, however small that act may seem to be. We can pay an honest tithe and give our fast and free will offerings, according to our circumstances. And we can watch for other ways to help. To worthy causes and needy people, we can give time if we don’t have money, and we can give love when our time runs out. We can share the loaves we have and trust God that the cruse of oil will not fail.”

Echoing a similar theme, Presiding Bishop H. David Burton pointed out in April 2011 that “since the foundation of the world, the cloth of righteous societies has ever been woven from the golden threads of charity.”

“We yearn for a peaceful world and for prosperous communities,” Bishop Burton said. “We pray for kind and virtuous societies where wickedness is forsaken and goodness and right prevail. No matter how many temples we build, no matter how large our membership grows, no matter how positively we are perceived in the eyes of the world — should we fail in this great core commandment to ‘succor the weak, lift up the hands which hang down, and strengthen the feeble knees,’ or turn our hearts from those who suffer and mourn, we are under condemnation and cannot please the Lord and the jubilant hope of our hearts will ever be distant.

“As sons and daughters of God, we cannot inherit the full measure of eternal life without being fully invested in caring for each other while we are here on earth,” he continued. “It is in the benevolent practice of sacrifice and giving of ourselves to others that we learn the celestial principles of sacrifice and consecration.”

Elder L. Tom Perry of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles gave the Christian covenant of caring for the poor and needy a personal touch in April 1986 when he shared a memory from his childhood, when his father was serving as a ward bishop during the Great Depression.

“I watched him administer to the needs of the poor in his ward with great love and tenderness,” Elder Perry said. “How often I raced home from school anticipating a planned activity. As I would round the corner of our home, there I would see sacks of flour, sugar and other commodities. My heart would fall, as I knew it would be another evening out with Father as he delivered these commodities to those in need. The planned activity would have to be canceled for that evening.

“When he arrived home, I was always enlisted to help him put the commodities in the car and travel with him to make the deliveries. Sometimes I would grumble under my breath for having been so put upon, but then I would have the remarkable experience of watching the light come back into the eyes of a depressed family as food was brought into their home. I always returned home from those experiences with an exhilarated feeling of watching the Church in action as it was caring for its poor and its needy through fast offerings and good, kind priesthood leaders.”

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