July 18, 2007

You Find What You Seek

On Charity, and other nice advice for emigrants
Franklin D. Richards
Brigham Young
October 6, 1853

Between 1847 and 1869 approximately 70,000 people migrated across the United States to join the saints in Salt Lake. Periodically, when an especially large group of saints arrived they would be addressed in conference with advice on settling into a new location, economy, and overall lifestyle. At October's General Conference of 1853 Elder Franklin D. Richards and Brigham Young took the opportunity to urge the saints to have charity in their new surroundings. Brigham said some saints who had made the trek with money from the Perpetual Immigration Fund would arrive in the valley, find work, money to be made, goods to be purchased, and other blessings, but when asked to assist others they would decline, thus showing ingratitude towards those who had helped them cross the plains:

When they are brought to this place, they do not know their benefactors, who saved them from death, but they are ahead and shoulders above them, when they meet them in the streets. Do you know the conclusion that is natural to man, when he is treated in such a manner by his fellow man? It is, "I wish I had left you in your own country." I wish so too. I say, let such persons starve to death, and die Christians, instead of being brought here to live and commit the sin of ingratitude, and die and go to hell.
This seems harsh, but Brigham goes on to explain it would have been better for these people to live without the "blessing" of crossing the plains rather than to be given the blessings and lack the gratitude. Many of these Saints, according to Brigham, would actually lose the Spirit as they crossed the plains:
Let us now read a chapter on the other side of the page, and we find the hearts of men and women, by crossing the ocean, by traveling a few weeks or months by water and land, appear to become partially closed up, and they lose sight of the object of their pursuit. It seems as though the hardships they pass through, in coming to this land, banish nearly every particle of the light of Christ out of their minds. 
If you started on your journey with the influence of the Holy Spirit warming your hearts, who prevented you from retaining it every day of your life? You may say it was the devil that robbed you of it. But what business had you with the devil? Was there any necessity that you should enter into fellowship with him, or into partnership with the works of darkness? (Brigham Young, JD 1:322-328).
We’re responsible to keep the influence of the Holy Ghost in our lives. It’s possible to offend, grieve, or even quench the Spirit, leaving us to ourselves where we may find ourselves wandering in "strange roads" (see 1 Nephi 8:32).1 President James E. Faust explained:
The still, small voice, though still and small, is very powerful. It “whispereth through and pierceth all things.” But like my old crystal set, the message may be there but we fail to pick it up. Perhaps something in our lives prevents us from hearing the message because we are “past feeling.” We often put ourselves in spiritual dead spots—places and situations that block out divine messages. Some of these dead spots include anger, pornography, transgression, selfishness, and other situations that offend the Spirit (James E. Faust, “Did You Get The Right Message?” Ensign, May 2004).
Elder Franklin D. Richards said the Saints would find what they were looking for in the valley. If they looked for problems, they’d find them. If they looked for good, they’d find it, too:
You will find Saints living about you, that have the good Spirit, and can give you the word of comfort, and take you by the hand and pour the oil of consolation into your heart, and do you good in the name of the Lord. If you seek that kind of society, you will tend upwards towards the realms of light, in duty and intelligence. By taking this course, you will be cultivating the same good Spirit in your own hearts, that you see in the hearts, examples, and general conduct of your brethren and sisters around you, and which I most conspicuous in those who are called to lead and direct in the Priesthood. 
On the other hand, if you come in here, with the intention to be right downsharp, careful to watch and to criticize your brethren very closely, you will find all the evil you look for, and see imperfections which the cloak of charity and good will would have covered, had you possessed it yourself[2] (Franklin D. Richards, JD 1:316-322).
Again, it seems we find and become whatever type of society we seek. Our perceptions of others can expand or contract our views, depending on what we focus upon. (I am reminded of the beam and mote parable in the New Testament.) Self-righteousness blocks the spirit, while seeking the good in others is an attribute of charity. Joseph Smith spoke on this subject in a discourse to the Relief Society in Nauvoo in 1842:
As you increase in innocence and virtue, as you increase in goodness, let your hearts expand--let them be enlarged towards others--you must be longsuffering and bear with the faults and errors of mankind. How precious are the souls of man!...You must not be contracted but you must be liberal in your feelings…

Nothing is so much calculated to lead people to forsake sin as to take them by the hand and watch over them with tenderness. When persons manifest the least kindness and love to me, O what pow'r it has over my mind, while the opposite course has a tendency to harrow up all the harsh feelings and depress the human mind. All the religious world is boasting of its righteousness--it is the doctrine of the devil to retard the human mind and retard our progress by filling us with self righteousness-- The nearer we get to our heavenly Father the more are we disposed to look with compassion on perishing souls to take them upon our shoulders and cast their sins behind our back. (Relief Society Minutes, Nauvoo Female Relief Society, April 28, 1842, Held in upper room of Red Brick Store).
Loving others in this way can seem difficult, especially when we must love those who hurt us, or even those we don’t really know yet. Where does this charity, come from? Is it self-generated? I believe it is not. I believe the more we have the Spirit of God with us, the more He fills us with charity, as a gift. We need room to receive that charity, so we have to clear the junk out of our lives; the self-righteousness, the anger, the unworthiness. As we do this, the Spirit will bestow upon us the gift of charity. And the more charity we receive, the more the Spirit can be with us. The process, then, is self-reinforcing. We are more likely to look upon others with compassion because we begin to see them as God sees them. The entire Book of Enos details the process of seeking God, being forgiven, seeing as God sees, being led to love others, including enemies. When charity didn’t come easy, he served his enemies anyway, praying for them, and was filled with love for them, but it took effort:
And my soul hungered; and I kneeled down before my Maker, and I cried unto him in mighty prayer and supplication for mine own soul; … And there came a voice unto me, saying: Enos, thy sins are forgiven thee, and thou shalt be blessed… Now, it came to pass that when I had heard these words I began to feel a desire for the welfare of my brethren, the Nephites; wherefore, I did pour out my whole soul unto God for them… And after I, Enos, had heard these words, my faith began to be unshaken in the Lord; and I prayed unto him with many long strugglings for my brethren, the Lamanites. And it came to pass that after I had prayed and labored with all diligence, the Lord said unto me: I will grant unto thee according to they desires, because of thy faith (Enos 1:4-11).
Moroni also described the process:
But charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him. Wherefore, my beloved bretheren, pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ; that ye may become the sons of God; that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is; that we may have this hope; that we may be purified even as he is pure. Amen.” (Moroni 7:47-48. See also Mosiah 2:4; Alma 38:12; 3 Ne. 12:6; Moroni 8:26.)
Notice we must be filled with the love. Again, it is not self-generated; it is a gift by the grace of Jesus Christ.2 It seems we can measure our closeness to God by observing our feelings of others. Do you have any enemies? Arguments? Is the Spirit with you? We all fluctuate in this process, being closer at some times than at others. Our goal is to seek to be filled with that love, and share it with others. Not to be wieghed down by our own shortcomings, but strengthened in confidence that God loves us and his grace can save us from ourselves as we try. When we are converted, we will want to strengthen others (see Luke 22:32). Seek to have charity through prayer and service, which brings the Holy Ghost, which fills us with charity, which inspires us to love, pray for and serve others, and the cycle continues. Joseph Smith:
While one portion of the human race is judging and condemning the other without mercy, the Great Parent of the universe looks upon the whole of the human family with a fatherly care and paternal regard; He views them as His offspring, and without any of those contracted feelings that influence the children of men (TPJS, p.218).3


[1]Alma 7:21 “And he doth not dwell in unholy temples; neither can filthiness or anything which is unclean be received into the kingdom of God..” D&C 121:37-38 “That they may be conferred upon us, it is true; but when we undertake to cover our sins, or to gratify our pride, our vain ambition, or to exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness, behold, the heavens withdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man. Behold, ere he is aware, he is left unto himself, to kick against the pricks, to persecute the saints, and to fight against God.1 Thess. 5:19 “Quench not the Spirit.”  

[2]Thomas B. Marsh, the senior apostle of the Quorum of the Twelve, left the Church after losing confidence in the Prophet Joseph Smith. It is likely the rift developed over land deals of which Marsh disapproved. He also felt Joseph was giving more honor to the High Council in Kirtland rather than the Twelve who were supposed to stand "equal" in authority with the First Presidency. Marsh described his feelings later after rejoining the Church:
"I became jealous of the prophet, and then I saw double and overlooked everything that was right and spent my time looking for evil. I got mad and wanted everybody else to be mad. I talked with Brother Brigham and Brother Heber and I wanted them to be mad like myself; and I saw they were not mad, and I got madder still because they were not. Brother Brigham, with a cautious look, said 'Are you the leader of the Church, Brother Thomas?' I answered, 'no.' 'Well then,' said he, 'Why do you not let that alone?'"
Even after this realization, Marsh left the Church and didn't return until almost two decades later. (see Brigham Young, American Moses, Leonard J. Arrington, pg. 65-66). 

[3] I charged the Saints not to follow the example of the adversary in accusing the brethren, and said, “If you do not accuse each other, God will not accuse you. If you have no accuser you will enter heaven, and if you will follow the revelations and instructions which God gives you through me, I will take you into heaven as my back load. If you will not accuse me, I will not accuse you. If you will throw a cloak of charity over my sins, I will over yours–for charity covereth a multitude of sins. What many people call sin is not sin; I do many things to break down superstition, and I will break it down" (Joseph Smith, November 7, 1841.) History of the Church 4:445-446. 

A simple object lesson: -Charity is a gift, it must be bestowed and it fills us. [Moroni 7:47-48; 1 Cor. 13.] -An empty glass represents us. [The glass could even be filled with dirt, representing sin or hate, etc.] -Take a pitcher of water, representing God, and fill the glass. The water is symbolic of the charity. This is a simple way of demonstrating that we must be filled, we cannot create charity; it is a gift. -The water can evaporate, and must constantly be refilled. Also, it can be poured into other glasses and shared, etc.

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