- Visiting the African continent brought back memories of my earlier assignments to East and West Africa. I thought once again of the special fast by Church members worldwide in 1985. It provided approximately six million dollars to relieve suffering and hunger primarily in drought-stricken Ethiopia. Brother Glenn L. Pace and I witnessed firsthand the fruits of generous contributions by Church members when the First Presidency assigned us to go to Africa, assess the needs of the people, and recommend how to make the best use of these special funds.
- We visited refugee camps in that arid country. The land was as barren as any I had ever seen. We visited Red Cross centers and field hospitals where the desperately ill were being cared for. Such dreadful, pitiful suffering broke our hearts. We saw sick mothers lying on cots trying to feed and comfort their children, many of whom had the sunken eyes and pencil-thin arms and legs of those in the advanced stages of starvation. This was one of the most heart-wrenching experiences of my life. I had never seen anything that touched my heart so deeply as the anxious yearning for food and nourishment that I saw there.
Elder Ballard talks about another famine in the land. That is the famine of the word of God in peoples lives.
- Brothers and sisters, even as people in Ethiopia were starving physically because of the lack of food, far too many people in the world are starving spiritually. Sadly, most of them have no idea where to find real spiritual nourishment.
Elder Ballard teaches us that the hunger for the word of God has to be within us first before we can share it with others.
- For The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to fulfill its divine mission to assist in bringing “to pass the immortality and eternal life of man,” all members need to generate an appetite for gospel sustenance. We must “hunger and thirst after righteousness” before we can be filled. We need to cultivate spiritual strength within ourselves before we can ever hope to engender it in others. Individual, personal testimony of gospel truth, particularly the divine life and mission of the Lord Jesus Christ, is essential to our eternal life. “And this is life eternal,” said the Savior, “that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou has sent.” In other words, life eternal is predicated upon our own individual, personal knowledge of our Father in Heaven and His Holy Son. Simply knowing about them is not enough. We must have personal, spiritual experiences to anchor us. These come through seeking them in the same intense, single-minded way that a hungry person seeks food.
He speaks about the significance of the family in giving us a place to find spiritual nourishment. The home is a place for us to find comfort and peace from the things of the world.
- The home and family have vital roles in cultivating and developing personal faith and testimony. The family is the basic unit of society; the best place for individuals to build faith and strong testimonies is in righteous homes filled with love. Love for our Heavenly Father and His Son Jesus Christ is greatly enhanced when the gospel is taught and lived in the home. True principles of eternal life are embedded in the hearts and souls of young and old alike when scriptures are read and discussed, when prayers are offered morning and night, and where reverence for God and obedience to Him are modeled in everyday conduct. Just as the best meals are home cooked, the most nourishing gospel instruction takes place at home. Strong, faithful families have the best opportunity to produce strong, faithful members of the Church. The recent proclamation to the world on the family issued by the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles makes very clear that the family is ordained of God. The proclamation warns that the disintegration of the family will bring upon individuals, communities, and nations the calamities foretold by ancient and modern prophets.
He shares that the family is the foundation of our spiritual growth and the church is the scaffolding that supports our family.
- The family is where the foundation of personal, spiritual growth is built and nurtured; the Church, then, is the scaffolding that helps support and strengthen the family. While the Church is secondary to the family in teaching gospel principles, much spiritual learning and growth come through the Church.
He gives us some advice on teaching other members of the church what the Savior wants us to know. We are to help strengthen the family unit
- The First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles ask leaders to emphasize constantly, in priesthood quorums, auxiliaries, and stake and ward councils, the preeminence of the home and family. That is where scriptures are studied and prayers are offered regularly so all family members will strive to follow the Savior in all things.
- Leaders also need to emphasize that all adult members of the Church should strive to become worthy to receive the ordinances of the temple. They should identify their ancestors and perform the sacred temple ordinances for them.
- Parents and leaders need to do everything possible to prepare each young man to receive the Melchizedek Priesthood and the ordinances of the temple and to serve a full-time mission. Likewise, young women need to prepare to make and keep sacred covenants and receive temple ordinances. Making and keeping sacred covenants in the house of the Lord is the most delicious course at the Lord’s table. It is the ultimate, satisfying spiritual feast of the gospel of Jesus Christ in mortality; it has eternal consequences.
I agree with Elder Ballard and one cannot reach out to those in need and be empty of the gospel message. There has to be a strong desire to want to learn about the things of God and what His ultimate plan is for our lives. I am grateful to have that desire to become a better disciple of Jesus Christ. I am grateful that the desire has moved me to share my efforts through this blog. I am grateful that I am helping to nourish others while I nourish myself.