Monday, March 5, 2012

Providing in the Lord’s Way

This entry is part of my general conference application series.

Providing in the Lord’s Way, by Dieter F. Uchtdorf
Second Counselor in the First Presidency

While I was a student at BYU, the university newspaper ran some letters to the editor that contested what they called "welfare." The main vocal arguments, I recall, were that so much help shouldn't be given to people, especially people that weren't working to meet their own needs.

In discussions on the topic with friends, I found that some shared this viewpoint, even though they received government-backed Pell Grants, had applied for (and received) Medicaid assistance for pregnancies, and were students at a Church university that has a bit of a socialistic tuition policy. When asked about this apparent hypocrisy, the answer seemed to be, "It's fine for me to get government help because I'm actually trying to make the world a better place."

That response still tastes bad.

I publicly declare that I received much help as I went to school for many, many years. Pell grants, scholarships, Section 8 housing assistance, Medicaid, you name it.

Because of my history with varied sources of assistance and help, I have a lingering question whenever self-reliance is discussed at church. Was I in the wrong to accept help from others?

I take comfort in knowing that President Uchtdorf spoke fondly of being the recipient of similar assistance as a child. Granted, the source of his help was from the Church.

Every election cycle I hear debates over the appropriate expenditure of taxes, and how many there should be! I asked myself similar questions while reading this talk. Here is something that I found comforting:

There are many good people and organizations in the world that are trying to meet the pressing needs of the poor and needy everywhere. We are grateful for this, but the Lord’s way of caring for the needy is different from the world’s way.

I'm reminds me of Elder Oaks' talk on Good, Better, and Best (link). Government programs helping those in need may be good, but there are better (and best) ways to help.

President Uchtdorf's comforting explanation continues:

The Lord has said, “It must needs be done in mine own way.” He is not only interested in our immediate needs; He is also concerned about our eternal progression. For this reason, the Lord’s way has always included self-reliance and service to our neighbor in addition to caring for the poor.

For some reason, when I think of self-reliance and helping others, I often think of gardening.

What is "the Lord's way," you ask? Here's an illustrative answer from President Uchtdorf (which tickles my civil engineering training, btw):

The Lord’s way is not to sit at the side of the stream and wait for the water to pass before we cross. It is to come together, roll up our sleeves, go to work, and build a bridge or a boat to cross the waters of our challenges.

I spoke of the great assistance I've received. Please know that during all of this I wasn't a passive recipient; I worked hard to help others while being helped. I know that I'm a better person because of the combined help and helping.

And I'm still trying to build bridges.

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