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Elder Dale G. Renlund of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles speaks April 2 during the Saturday morning session of the 186th Annual General Conference of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

While serving in Africa, Elder Dale G. Renlund learned a principle from Elder Wilford W. Andersen of the Seventy about helping Saints living in poverty: “The greater the distance between the giver and the receiver, the more the receiver develops a sense of entitlement.”

In his address Saturday morning, Elder Renlund explained that concept underlies the Church’s welfare system but also has profound spiritual applications.

“Our Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, are the ultimate Givers. The more we distance ourselves from Them, the more entitled we feel. We begin to think that we deserve grace and are owed blessings. We are more prone to look around, identify inequities, and feel aggrieved — even offended — by the unfairness we perceive.”

Elder Renlund said that although individuals’ distance from Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ is important, their direction is “even more crucial.”

“God is more pleased with repentant sinners who are trying to draw closer to Him than with self-righteous, fault-finding individuals who, like the Pharisees and scribes of old, do not realize how badly they need to repent,” Elder Renlund said.

Elder Renlund quoted lyrics from a Swedish Christmas carol from his childhood:

Jesus, we need Thee,

Thou dear children’s friend.

I no longer wish to grieve Thee

With my sins again.

As individuals recognize the Savior as a gift from a loving Heavenly Father, they will develop a desire to stop causing God further grief, he explained.

The elements needed to draw closer to the Savior come together in the sacrament, Elder Renlund said. “Indeed, the best way I know of to draw closer to God is to prepare conscientiously and partake worthily of the sacrament each week.”

No one is immune from life’s challenges, he said. “We all need the safety that comes from partaking of the sacrament.”

Elder Renlund explained that the sacrament is a reminder of Christ’s innocent suffering. “If life were truly fair, you and I would never be resurrected; you and I would never be able to stand clean before God. In this respect, I am grateful that life is not fair.”

At the same time, because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, there will ultimately be no unfairness. “Our present circumstances may not change, but through God’s compassion, kindness, and love, we will all receive more than we deserve, more than we can ever earn, and more than we could ever hope for. We are promised that, ‘God shall wipe away all tears from [our] eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away’" (Revelation 21:4).

Elder Renlund concluded with an invitation for listeners to draw near to Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ and to partake of the holy emblems of the Savior’s body and blood every week.

“As you do, I promise that you will feel nearer to God. Natural tendencies to childish whining, disgruntled entitlement, and derisive skepticism will dissipate. Those sentiments will be replaced by feelings of greater love for Heavenly Father’s gift of His Son. As we draw closer to God, the enabling power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ will come into our lives. And, as with the disciples on the way to Emmaus, we will find that the Savior has been nearby all along."

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