Becoming Disciples of Christ.
As one comes unto Christ, he is invited to repent and change in order to receive a remission of his sins. This process, described by Mormon, helps us see the impact of keeping the commandments in our lives: “And the first fruits of repentance is baptism; and baptism cometh by faith unto the fulfilling the commandments; and the fulfilling the commandments bringeth remission of sins; And the remission of sins bringeth meekness, and lowliness of heart; and because of meekness and lowliness of heart cometh the visitation of the Holy Ghost, which Comforter filleth with hope and perfect love, which love endureth by diligence unto prayer, until the end shall come, when all the saints shall dwell with God.” (2)
The first mile of discipleship.
The first mile of discipleship would be for members of the Church to seek to keep the commandments that would allow the atonement to purify their lives and be unspotted from the world. These could include: keeping the Sabbath day holy, observing the law of chastity, the word of wisdom, being honest in our tithe and renewing our baptismal covenants weekly. This faithful obedience leads to remission of sins and the visitation of the Holy Ghost, which fills us with hope and perfect love.
Many of us have felt the sweet peace that comes from keeping the commandments of God and the love that grows in our hearts. We rejoice and bear witness of the divine nature of the restored gospel of Jesus Christ as we experience the changes in our lives. Our families have been blessed with greater strength and as we paid honest Tithes we have seen the windows open and have received countless blessings.
The Second Mile of discipleship.
King Benjamin invited his people that had received a remission of their sins to seek to retain this state when he said, “And now, for the sake of these things which I have spoken unto you—that is, for the sake of retaining a remission of your sins from day to day, that ye may walk guiltless before God—I would that ye should impart of your substance to the poor, every man according to that which he hath, such as feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and administering to their relief, both spiritually and temporally, according to their wants” (3).
Jacob, when teaching the Nephites, taught the same principle: “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.” (4). The Invitation to care for the poor and the needy is a central theme of the gospel and is found throughout the sacred scriptures. The Savior taught that those whose discipleship would lead them to care for the poor and the needy would inherit eternal life, while those that would not, could not inherit the same blessings. Caring for the poor and the needy is then essential to our progression and salvation.
Who are the Poor and the Needy? And how can we care for them?
In Moses 7:18 we read that when Zion is established there shall be no poor among them. Poverty starts when a person cannot provide for his or her needs. When this becomes a chronic state, the person is considered poor. Some circumstances can cause a person, who has always been able to provide for himself, to become unable to do so for a time and that person would then be considered as needy. In both cases the Lord invites His disciples to rescue and care for those that cannot provide for themselves. Only by a constant attitude of seeking out the poor and needy will we be able to identify them and see opportunities to minister unto them. Both Jacob and King Benjamin invite us to impart of our substance to the poor, to visit them and administer unto them.
Impart of our substance.
The minimum of what our substance could be is to engage every month in a sincere fast and pay generous fast offerings. Isaiah reminds us of the fast that is pleasing unto the Lord: “Is not this the fast that I have chosen? to loose the bands of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, and to let the oppressed go free, and that ye break every yoke? Is it not to deal thy bread to the hungry, and that thou bring the poor that are cast out to thy house? when thou seest the naked, that thou cover him; and that thou hide not thyself from thine own flesh?” (5). Fasting and paying a generous fast offering is then an intimate part of our discipleship to the Savior and a way to help provide for the poor and the needy.
The resultant blessings are precious: “Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thine health shall spring forth speedily: and thy righteousness shall go before thee; the glory of the Lord shall be thy rereward. Then shalt thou call, and the Lord shall answer; thou shalt cry, and he shall say, Here I am. If thou take away from the midst of thee the yoke, the putting forth of the finger, and speaking vanity; And if thou draw out thy soul to the hungry, and satisfy the afflicted soul; then shall thy light rise in obscurity, and thy darkness be as the noonday: And the Lord shall guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought, and make fat thy bones: and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not.” (6)
Visit the Poor and the Needy.
The Lord always provides ways for us to accomplish the things that he commands us. The invitation to visit the poor and the needy, in order to understand their needs and serve them, is best done in the Lord’s way, through our priesthood responsibility as home teachers and visiting teachers. Each of us has been assigned members that have special needs, or new members or returning members; all of them are in great need of love, service and spiritual and temporal self-reliance. Could the words of the Savior be applied to us as home teachers and visiting teachers: “Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” (7). When have we considered our responsibility as a home teacher as an intimate part of our qualification for eternal life? As we learn to visit and minister to those that are in need, both spiritually and temporally, we are agents unto the Lord and our ability to feel and love is tested and improved by our frequent service. What a blessing and a privilege the Lord gives us to minister to our needy brethren and thereby experience the transformation in our own lives as we develop the Savior’s pure love.
Administer relief unto them:
All Priesthood holders have the privilege of bringing the tender mercies of the Lord to those that they serve; ministering to those in need. All ordinances of the gospel bring peace and relief to the recipients; the Sacrament to those who are bed ridden, a blessing to the sick, the vicarious ordinances to the deceased, helping others come to the temple and receive the highest blessings of the gospel. There are many ways that priesthood holders can minister to those in need.
True Disciples of Jesus Christ.
Truly, pure religion is to visit and care for the poor and the needy and keep ourselves unspotted from the world. As we strive to achieve these ideals, the foundations of Zion are being planted and the Savior’s Kingdom is being established. Charity rises from the earth and invites heaven to come. As we evaluate our discipleship to the master may we consider our efforts to care for the poor and the needy in the Lords way and to seek to keep all of his commandments. The Master, announcing his ministry said, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised,’ (8). May we continually engage in true discipleship.
- James 1:26-27.
- Moroni 8:25-26.
- Mosiah 4:26.
- Jacob 2:17-19.
- Isaiah 58:6-7
- Isaiah 58:8-11.
- Matthew 25:34-40.
- Luke 4:18.