- While living in Africa, I sought advice from Elder Wilford W. Andersen of the Seventy about helping Saints who live in poverty. Among the remarkable insights he shared with me was this: “The greater the distance between the giver and the receiver, the more the receiver develops a sense of entitlement.”
This insight reminded him of the principles of the welfare system.
- This principle underlies the Church’s welfare system. When members are not able to meet their own needs, they turn first to their families. Thereafter, if necessary, they can also turn to their local Church leaders for assistance with their temporal needs. Family members and local Church leaders are closest to those in need, frequently have faced similar circumstances, and understand best how to help. Because of their proximity to the givers, recipients who receive help according to this pattern are grateful and less likely to feel entitled.
He then likens this insight to our spiritual lives and how we look at our blessings from God.
- The concept—“the greater the distance between the giver and the receiver, the more the receiver develops a sense of entitlement”—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. While the unfairness can range from trivial to gut-wrenching, when we are distant from God, even small inequities loom large. We feel that God has an obligation to fix things—and fix them right now!
We need to be close to the Savior but ultimately, that decision on how close is based on us. We determine the distance that we have between us and the Savior.
- The closer we are to Jesus Christ in the thoughts and intents of our hearts, the more we appreciate His innocent suffering, the more grateful we are for grace and forgiveness, and the more we want to repent and become like Him. Our absolute distance from Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ is important, but the direction we are heading is even more crucial. God is more pleased with repentant sinners who are trying to draw closer to Him than with self-righteous, faultfinding individuals who, like the Pharisees and scribes of old, do not realize how badly they need to repent.
One easy way for us to come closer to the Savior is to imagine we are at the birth of the Savior. By doing so, we can see that His birth was for each of us individually. This will help us to increase our desire to stop sinning and come unto Christ.
- When we figuratively transport ourselves to the Bethlehem stable, “where God in the nighttime hours already rests upon the straw,” we can recognize better the Savior as a gift from a kind, loving Heavenly Father. Rather than feeling entitled to His blessings and grace, we develop an intense desire to stop causing God further grief.
Elder Renlund offers these encouraging words about wherever we are in life.
- Whatever our current direction or distance to Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, we can choose to turn toward Them and draw closer to Them. They will help us.
- To draw closer to the Savior, we must increase our faith in Him, make and keep covenants, and have the Holy Ghost with us. We must also act in faith, responding to the spiritual direction we receive. All of these elements come together in the sacrament. 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; we all need the safety that comes from partaking of the sacrament.
My children like to look at the world and claim that it is so unfair. They think that everything has to be fair. Elder Renlund responds to this idea beautifully.
- 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.
Elder Renlund leaves us with an invitation and promise if we will accept the invitation.
- No matter where you stand in your relationship to God, I invite you to draw nearer to Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ, the Ultimate Benefactors and Givers of all that is good. I invite you to attend sacrament meeting each week and partake of the holy emblems of the Savior’s body and blood. I invite you to feel God’s nearness as He is made known to you, as He was to the disciples of old, in the “breaking of [the] bread.” As you do, I promise that you will feel nearer to God.
What really spoke to me in this talk was how we can become closer to the Savior through the sacrament. I have always found comfort in the ordinance of the sacrament. The importance is demonstrated by the frequency. This week in church, I am going to prepare differently to receive it. I am going to take a little extra time Sunday morning, try to imagine that I am at the bedside of the Savior's birth, and try to find personal meaning that he was born and lived for me personally. I invite you to join me and share your experiences in the comment section below of with me on Twitter.