In speaking to Frederick G. Williams, who was called as a counselor to the Prophet Joseph Smith, the Lord said, “Wherefore, be faithful; stand in the office which I have appointed unto you; succor the weak, lift up the hands which hang down, and strengthen the feeble knees” (Doctrine and Covenants 81:5).
If we liken the scriptures unto ourselves, as Nephi suggests we do (see 1 Nephi 19:23), and when we consider that the Lord further states, “What I say unto one, I say unto all” (Doctrine and Covenants 82:5), would not this injunction apply equally to each of us today? This tender invitation to “succor the weak, lift up the hands which hang down, and strengthen the feeble knees” is especially relevant during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many are weak and suffering from loss: loss of life of loved ones in some instances, loss of health, loss of mental wellness, loss of financial means, loss of hope, loss of faith, and perhaps other forms of loss.
Restoring the Lord’s Storehouse
The Lord has always been concerned about the needs of the vulnerable who have lost much. At the time when state laws did not give widows full rights to their deceased husband’s property, the Lord directed the brethren of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to be concerned about the women and children who have “lost their husbands or fathers” (Doctrine and Covenants 83:1). This revelation goes on to explain their responsibility to use the Lord’s storehouse to care for the most vulnerable segments of society then and now: “And the storehouse shall be kept by the consecrations of the church; and widows and orphans shall be provided for, as also the poor. Amen” (Doctrine and Covenants 83:6).
This reference to the Lord’s storehouse bears consideration. Early Latter-day Saints were commanded to consecrate their money, materials, commodities, and lands to the bishop for the needs of the people (see Doctrine and Covenants 51:13; 57:8; 70:7; 72:10).
Today, we often think of the bishops’ storehouse as the place where the poor go to get food. Yet the Lord says, ”And all this for the benefit of the church of the living God, that every man may improve upon his talent, that every man may gain other talents, yea, even an hundred fold, to be cast into the Lord’s storehouse, to become the common property of the whole church” (Doctrine and Covenants 82:18). Thus, we are to contribute more than just our excess material possessions, but our talents as well.
When I thought to myself, “How do I consecrate my talents to the Church and the work of the Lord?” I immediately thought of my Church calling(s). By faithfully fulfilling my callings, I willingly give of my time, energy, and talents to Jesus Christ and His restored Church. But is that sufficient?
Learning to Love Our Neighbors
In the very next verse, the Lord says, “Every man seeking the interest of his neighbor, and doing all things with an eye single to the glory of God” (Doctrine and Covenants 82:19). This clarifies that our outward service needs to be directed to our neighbor. Who is our neighbor? We can immediately think of those who physically live in our neighborhood, “whether out of the church or in the church” (Alma 1:30). Or maybe we should consider the New Testament definition of neighbor that was given when Jesus was asked by a lawyer, “who is my neighbor?” Christ chose to answer the question by recounting the parable of the good Samaritan teaching that we need to serve with mercy all those in need, regardless of religion or cultural background (see Luke 10:29-37).
To me, this comes to the major theme of Doctrine and Covenants sections 81-83—we are to be anxiously engaged in serving the poor and vulnerable in our communities.
Building Zion throughout the World
To the Church leaders in 1832, they were commanded to bind themselves by a covenant, “to manage the affairs of the poor” (Doctrine and Covenants 82:12). This suggests that there was a causal relationship between caring for the poor and the establishment and flourishing of Zion: “For Zion must increase in beauty, and in holiness; her borders must be enlarged; her stakes must be strengthened; yea, verily I say unto you, Zion must arise and put on her beautiful garments” (Doctrine and Covenants 82:14). Does that mean, by earnestly caring for the poor and vulnerable in our communities (not just those who are members), the Church will flourish, Zion will be established, and the temples will be filled? We need to remember what was revealed in the days of Enoch, “And the Lord called his people Zion, because they were of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness; and there was no poor among them” (Moses 7:18).
So, in a post-COVID world, we are to increase our commitment to caring for the poor and vulnerable in our community. This sounds very consistent with President Russell M. Nelson’s emphasis on ministering (see “Opening Remarks,” Ensign, Nov. 2018) but expands our reach beyond the walls of our chapel into our community and around the world. As members of the restored Church of Jesus Christ, we have already made covenants to bear other’s burdens and mourn with those who mourn (see Mosiah 18:10-12). Indeed, our connection to the Abrahamic covenant means that we are responsible for blessing “all the families of the earth” (Abraham 2:11).
Wisely Help Others—Try JustServe
In section 83:3, the Lord states, “For of him unto whom much has been given much is required” (Doctrine and Covenants 82:3). Do you consider yourself as one “unto whom much is given”? In what ways? So much is then required of you and me, in terms of caring for the needs of humanity. How do we do that? For ideas on how we can give to others in our community in need, consider these suggestions:
Pay a generous fast offering.
Contribute to the Church’s humanitarian fund and to other charities addressing the needs of the vulnerable populations both locally and internationally.
Become educated on the needs of vulnerable populations and lobby for policies and practices that strengthen and uplift them.
Talk to the person in charge of the local foodbank, shelter, or soup kitchen and explore what their unmet needs are and how you can help.
Choose a career path that allows you to be directly providing relief to those in need.
Volunteer in organizations committed to providing “succor the weak, lift up the hands which hang down, and strengthen the feeble knees” (Doctrine and Covenants 81:5).
This may all sound overwhelming to some. King Benjamin’s counsel seems appropriate in managing this responsibility, that “it is not requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength” (Mosiah 4:27). This instruction would also include our time and resources.
One tool that the Church has developed to make it easier for members and nonmembers to find local service opportunities is www.justserve.org. JustServe is a Church sponsored website that hosts community service opportunities, and stake Relief Society presidents are responsible for mobilizing members to avail themselves of these and other community service opportunities. Do you want to easily find volunteer opportunities to care for the poor and vulnerable in your community? Check out www.justserve.org!