|copyright: Karen Larsen photography
With all of the desperate needs in the world, I struggle to believe that I deserve to have certain blessings in life. A few weeks ago, I read (on CNN because that is the only place I ever read the news) how Venezuela was having rolling black outs because their major source of electricity to power their state is a river and because of the drought, their river is all dried up. For a while, it was just an hour or two a day, now it is days in a row. Businesses are shutting down because they cannot keep running without electricity, so people are not working as much. They showed a typical home, with all of the electronics we have….stereos, computers, stoves, air conditioning, television, lights…..all just sitting there because there was no electricity to power their appliances. Can you imagine how uncomfortably hot and nasty it must be in a South American country without air conditioning? I can’t even think about it. I am completely spoiled here in Northern California when we all think we are dying of heat when it hits 75…….if ever.
A few days ago, I read about how Argentinians are missing work and school to stand in line to purchase food. Adults are eating only one meal a day, or skipping a day of food so there is enough food for the children. And the children aren’t getting enough food either. The economy is collapsing in Argentina and the people are suffering, especially the children who do not have enough nutrition to be growing properly.
And then of course, there are the horrible atrocities happening across the globe with sex slavery, ISIS trying to establish a global Shariah law, famine in various lands, and the natural disasters that occur all over and kill people and make them homeless–even just those things in our own communities here in the United States.
I attended a city council meeting this week because Speedy needed to be there for a class. Our gas taxes have been paying for the street sweeper. Our city council has outsourced that to the garbage company here in the area. Of course, that is going to make our garbage prices rise (I am not speculating…that was part of the discussion at the meeting…..). And they approved doing a study to see how much our sewer and water prices should rise. Of course, they are not going to return our gas taxes. The city has other plans for that money. So they plan on raising our rates for these services, and they have our police department clearing out the homeless population instead of being available for things like traffic accidents and burglaries. We had a friend in an accident, who rolled his car and sat unconscious, upside down, for 15 minutes before the police arrived, in traffic. But we are sending three to four patrols through the homeless population area each day. What is wrong with us? If you are going to raise my taxes and my rates, I don’t want to pay them to the garbage man and the sewer people. I want that money to go to the police and the people who are actually helping our homeless population. How about hiring some of those people to sweep the streets so they have a job and can house their families? I need to write a letter to our city council…..I know, I know…..I will get to that.
But with all of these bigger problems (much bigger than the stresses that I have), I struggle to feel like I deserve to have a life with a lot of material blessings and plenty of monetary resources. I want all people to have food, shelter, love. I want that for every person across the globe. And when so many have so little, I feel undeserving of asking or having more.
For the first time, in a long time, my husband took me out to dinner. We just got Chinese take-out and went and ate it at the beach. Why did we do it? Because for the first time in our married lives we are finally out of credit card debt. Now, just so you have some kind of a perspective, Drew and I have never purchased anything that cost more than $250, in all of our married lives. We have purchased one car that cost $2,000 for which we made $50 monthly payments….seriously. That is the only car we have ever purchased. We have never purchased a new TV, a bed, computer, or furniture that we have needed to pay more for than $250. Isn’t that crazy? So it is not like we have been spending our money for things of no worth. We have used it to buy shoes, fix the car, or go to the dentist, or purchase necessary clothing—by that I mean a pair of pants here or there—not wardrobes or even seasons of clothing.
We are not out of debt. We still have student loans we are working on. And we do not have a mortgage.
The Lord has been trying to help me see that contrary to the way the world works, His desire is that all of His children have everything that He does. He wants everyone to have enough clothing, shelter, food, and love too. He does not want some to suffer and have nothing and starve or freeze, and others to have everything. That is not His program……it is how unrighteous stewards have managed the resources that are available. There is enough on the earth for all of us and more. The Lord has provided that. As an all-wise, all-knowing, all-loving Father, He does not want some of His children to have more than others. He desires all of us to have everything we need and much of what we want. How do I know? Well, scriptures like this:
|copyright: Karen Larsen photography
17 For the earth is full, and there is enough and to spare; yea, I prepared all
things, and have given unto the children of men to be agents unto themselves.
45 That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh
his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.
25 Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life,what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat,and the body than raiment?
26 Behold the fowls of the air: for they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are ye not much better than they?
27 Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?
28 And why take ye thought for raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin:
29 And yet I say unto you, That even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.
30 Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and tomorrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?
31 Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat?or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?
32 (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.
33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.
34 Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.
|copyright: Karen Larsen photgraphy
And who could forget King Benjamin? Mosiah 2: 10-26
10 I have not commanded you to come up hither that ye should fear me, or that ye should think that I of myself am more than a mortal man.
11 But I am like as yourselves, subject to all manner of infirmities in body and mind; yet I have been chosen by this people, and consecrated by my father, and was suffered by the hand of the Lord that I should be a ruler and a king over this people; and have been kept and preserved by his matchless power, to serve you with all the might, mind and strength which the Lord hath granted unto me.
12 I say unto you that as I have been suffered to spend my days in your service, even up to this time, and have not sought gold nor silver nor any manner of riches of you;
13 Neither have I suffered that ye should be confined in dungeons, nor that ye should make slaves one of another, nor that ye should murder, or plunder, or steal, or commit adultery; nor even have I suffered that ye should commit any manner of wickedness, and have taught you that ye should keep the commandments of the Lord, in all things which he hath commanded you—
14 And even I, myself, have labored with mine own hands that I might serve you, and that ye should not be laden with taxes, and that there should nothing come upon you which was grievous to be borne—and of all these things which I have spoken, ye yourselves are witnesses this day.
15 Yet, my brethren, I have not done these things that I might boast, neither do I tell these things that thereby I might accuse you; but I tell you these things that ye may know that I can answer a clear conscience before God this day.
16 Behold, I say unto you that because I said unto you that I had spent my days in your service, I do not desire to boast, for I have only been in the service of God.
17 And behold, I tell you these things that ye may learn wisdom; that ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God.
18 Behold, ye have called me your king; and if I, whom ye call your king, do labor to serve you, then ought not ye to labor to serve one another?
19 And behold also, if I, whom ye call your king, who has spent his days in your service, and yet has been in the service of God, do merit any thanks from you, O how you ought to thank your heavenly King!
20 I say unto you, my brethren, that if you should render all the thanks and praise which your whole soul has power to possess, to that God who has created you, and has kept and preserved you, and has caused that ye should rejoice,and has granted that ye should live in peace one with another—
21 I say unto you that if ye should serve him who has created you from the beginning, and is preserving you from day to day, by lending you breath, that ye may live and move and do according to your own will, and even supporting you from one moment to another—I say, if ye should serve him with all your whole souls yet ye would be unprofitable servants.
22 And behold, all that he requires of you is to keep his commandments; and he has promised you that if ye would keep his commandments ye should prosper in the land; and he never doth vary from that which he hath said; therefore, if ye do keep his commandments he doth bless you and prosper you.
23 And now, in the first place, he hath created you, and granted unto you your lives, for which ye are indebted unto him.
24 And secondly, he doth require that ye should do as he hath commanded you; for which if ye do, he doth immediately bless you; and therefore he hath paid you.And ye are still indebted unto him, and are, and will be,forever and ever; therefore, of what have ye to boast?
25 And now I ask, can ye say aught of yourselves? I answer you, Nay. Ye cannot say that ye are even as much as the dust of the earth; yet ye were created of the dust of the earth; but behold, it belongeth to him who created you.
26 And I, even I, whom ye call your king, am no better than ye yourselves are; for I am also of the dust.
These scriptures help me to know that our Father in Heaven is a loving and gracious Father who desires His children, all of them, to have the things they need and to be treated kindly, justly, and with respect. That is not the reality for most of us. It is the ideal. Why? Why is life like this?
|copyright: Karen Larsen photography
Troubles, great and small, seem to be the natural lot of mankind. In our darkest moments, we may agree with Macbeth’s declaration that life is “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing” (William Shakespeare, Macbeth, 5.5.27–28). However, the scriptures and God’s prophets teach us the fallacy of Macbeth’s bleak philosophy and help us recognize that what we call life is a gift of galactic dimensions, a treasure beyond the counting, a time to prepare for the next steps in our eternal journey.
In Alma 34:32–33 we read: “For behold, this life is the time for men to prepare to meet God; yea,behold the day of this life is the day for men to perform their labors. … This day oflife …is given us to prepare for eternity” (emphasis added). Helaman told his sons Nephi and Lehi, “And now my sons, … [my]desire is, that ye may … lay up for yourselves a treasure in heaven, yea, which is eternal, and which fadeth not away; yea, that ye may have that precious gift of eternal life, which we have reason to suppose hath been given to our fathers” (Hel.5:8).
I bear my witness that life is a gift, unfolding day by day, and, yes, it is sometimes full of sound and fury—but signifying everything. At this season of gift giving and gift receiving, this season of rejoicing in the great gifts that our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ have given us, it is most fitting to ponder their greatest gift of all—the gift of life.
What, then, is the meaning of life? What are its central purposes? Can they ever be identified and understood by mortals? These are questions which in one form or another have occupied the time and attention of thoughtful men and women throughout the ages.
He suggests four reasons for life on earth:
1. To gain a body
2. To be tried and tested
3. To become like Jesus Christ
4. To establish our eternal families.
Regardless of our circumstances, these are central purposes to all of us who live or who have ever lived on Earth. We all have the opportunity to forgive others, become the spiritual master of our temporal flesh, to learn to treat others kindly and justly even in the face of persecution and judgement. And many of us, as we come to know who God is and what He expects of us, will have the opportunity to create eternal families as we become worthy to enter His holy temples and take our families there to be sealed eternally.
The trick is to believe that these things are possible for us and then to act in faith on the hope that we will one day, regardless of our circumstances, achieve these blessings that He has promised to all those who will obey His voice and keep His commandments, which includes receiving all that the Father hath….
|copyright: Karen Larsen photography
33 For whoso is faithful unto the obtaining these two priesthoods of which I have spoken, and the magnifying their calling, are sanctified by the Spirit unto the renewing of their bodies.
34 They become the sons of Moses and of Aaron and the seed of Abraham, and the church and kingdom, and the elect of God.
35 And also all they who receive this priesthood receive me, saith the Lord;
36 For he that receiveth my servants receiveth me;
37 And he that receiveth me receiveth my Father;
Have a great Sabbath…and believe that the Lord loves you and desires you to have all He hath…if you are willing to do what He asks.