My Life Skill lesson this week was on the principle of giving back. Giving back includes replenishment, charity, and gratitude. The purpose of the lesson was to help us learn to recognize our blessings, acknowledge the hand of the Lord in our lives, and then lovingly serve other people.
The doctrinal foundation for the lesson comes from the Book of Mormon – Another Testament of Jesus Christ: “Think of your brethren like unto yourselves, and be familiar with all and free with your substance, that they may be rich like unto you.
“But before ye seek for riches, seek ye for the kingdom of God.
“And after ye have obtained a hope in Christ ye shall obtain riches, if ye seek them; and ye will seek them for the intent to do good – to clothe the naked, and to feed the hungry, and to liberate the captive, and administer relief to the sick and the afflicted” (Jacob 2:17-19).
When we speak of replenishment, we speak of building up a reserve or restoring something that has been depleted. An example of replenishment comes from the trek of the Mormon Pioneers. The Pioneers moved across the United States in companies; the leading companies would plant crops to be harvested for the companies that followed. Those companies would in turn plant more crops for companies that followed them. In this way, all the companies had food to eat.
Taking a lesson from this experience The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints used a variation of it to bring converts to Utah in a program known as the Perpetual Emigration Fund. The Church provided funds to help some converts in Great Britain and Europe to immigrate to the United States and cross their new nation to Utah. Once the converts were in Utah, they would find work and repay the funds, which would then be used to bring more converts to Utah. Approximately 30,000 converts to Church moved to Zion with the help of this fund.
In our day the Church has established another fund known as the Perpetual Education Fund. In this program the Church loans money to people in third world country to help them get an education. Once the people have graduated from their chosen educational facility, they obtain jobs and pay back the funds, which are then disbursed to help someone else. Members of the Church also make donations to the fund.
The second component of giving back is charity. President Thomas S. Monson spoke about charity to the sisters at the General Relief Society Meeting: “Life is perfect for none of us. Rather than being judgmental and critical of each other, may we have the pure love of Christ for our fellow travelers in this journey through life. May we recognize that each is doing her best to deal with the challenges which come her way, and may we strive to do our best to help out” (“Charity Never Faileth,” Ensign, November 2010).
President Gordon B. Hinckley told a cute story that he learned from his father. The story is about two boys who were “walking along a road which led through a field. They saw an old coat and a badly worn pair of men’s shoes by the roadside, and in the distance they saw the owner working in the field.” After some discussion the boys decided to put a silver dollar in each shoe and then hide to see what the man did when he found the money. The man soon came out of the field, found the first dollar and looked around to see who put it there. Then he found the second dollar. “His feelings overcame him…. He knelt down and offered aloud a prayer of thanksgiving, in which he spoke of his wife being sick and helpless and his children without bread…. He fervently thanked the Lord for this bounty from unknown hands and evoked the blessing of heaven upon those who gave him this needed help.” The boys waited for the farmer to leave and then walked away with a good feeling in their hearts (“Some Lessons I Learned As A Boy,” Ensign, May 1993).
The last component of giving back is gratitude. Elder Kim B. Clark, President of BYU-Idaho, spoke at the university about the spirit of gratitude and the spirit of entitlement. He explained that the “spirit of entitlement is a poison that works on the spiritual heart.” He explains that our “heart contains our deepest desires and commitments and our character and our will” and “the Lord communicates spiritual truth and divine guidance” to our hearts. The poison of the spirit of entitlement wounds and scars the heart; this causes the heart to become “tough and insensitive” – a condition known as a hard heart.
President Clark gave five “warning signs of the spirit of entitlement” for us to search for in ourselves.
(1) “Are you overly critical of others? Do you look down on others? (2) Is the word `deserve’ used frequently in your vocabulary – as in `I deserve’` or `I don’t deserve’ this or that? (3) Do you care too much about indicators of status and rank? (4) If you are not recognized, or accorded a privilege, or blessed immediately after doing something good – do you hear a voice inside saying `What about me?’ or `That is not fair’? (5) Do you ever seek special treatment for yourself? Does it happen often?”
Later in his talk President Clark stated that “gratitude is the great antidote, the great protection against the spirit of entitlement. What we need is deep gratitude for the Lord Jesus Christ. We need to be drenched in gratitude for Him….” He suggested three actions we can take “to engender a spirit of gratitude in our lives: pray with real intent, partake of the sacrament with our hearts and minds focused on the Savior, and worship in the temple with thanksgiving. These are gifts from the Savior. He has created them for us and taught us how to use them. They are opportunities to help us always remember Him and express our love and gratitude for Him” (“Drenched in Gratitude: Protection Against the Spirit of Entitlement,” September 14, 2010).
To round out the lesson we learned about pride from President Ezra Taft Benson: “The central feature of pride is enmity – enmity toward God and enmity toward our fellowmen. Enmity means `hatred toward, hostility to, or a state of opposition.’ It is the power by which Satan wishes to reign over us.” President Benson discussed the different aspects of pride and then gave the antidote for it. “The antidote for pride is humility – meekness, submissiveness. (See Alma 7:23.) It is the broken heart and contrite spirit…. God will have a humble people. Either we can choose to be humble or we can be compelled to be humble” (“Beware of Pride,” Ensign, May 1989).