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Review of Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Lorenzo Snow, Chapter 22: Doing Good to Others

During 2013, LDS members will be studying the latest manual published by their church, Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Lorenzo Snow. We will evaluate this book regularly, chapter by chapter, by showing interesting quotes and providing an Evangelical Christian take on this manual. The text that is underlined is from the manual, with our comments following.

Teachings of Lorenzo Snow

We are children of the same Heavenly Father, and we have been sent into the world to do good to one another.

We are of the same Father in the celestial worlds. … If we knew each other as we should, … our sympathies would be excited more than they are at the present time, and there would be a desire on the part of every individual to study in their own minds how they might do their brethren good, how they might alleviate their sorrows and build them up in truth, how [they might] remove the darkness from their minds. If we understand each other and the real relationship which we hold to each other, we should feel different from what we do; but this knowledge can be obtained only as we obtain the Spirit of life, and as we are desirous of building each other up in righteousness.

According to Mormonism, premortality, or the “First Estate,” is a time when all people were once spirits. As Dieter F. Uchtdorf, a  member of the First Presidency, said,

“Nevertheless, everyone you see around you—in this meeting or at any other place, today or at any other time—was valiant in the premortal world. That unassuming and ordinary-looking person sitting next to you may have been one of the great figures you loved and admired in the sphere of spirits. You may have been such a role mode yourself! Of one thing you can be certain: every person you see—no matter the race, religion, political beliefs, body type, or appearance—is family” (“Your Wonderful Journey Home,” Ensign (Conference Edition), May 2013, p. 128).

Yet we don’t remember our preexistent past, as page 10 of the Gospel Principles manual explains:

 “A veil covers our memories of our premortal life, but our Father in Heaven knows who we are and what we did before we came here. He has chosen the time and place for each of us to be born so we can learn the lessons we personally need and do the most good with our individual talents and personalities.”

We have been sent into the world to do good to others; and in doing good to others we do good to ourselves. We should always keep this in view, the husband in reference to his wife, the wife in reference to her husband, the children in reference to their parents, and the parents in reference to their children. There is always opportunity to do good to one another.

The Bible instructs us to be kind to one another (Eph. 4:32). We certainly don’t want to be good to others merely for them to return the favor, but it seems the kinder and more compassionate we are with other people, the more we receive back in love and care from others.

I pray to God, in the name of Jesus, that you and I may try every day to keep a little more faithful, that we may try to be a little better to-day than yesterday, that we may try and have a little more love and affection toward our neighbors, as we are told that upon this hangs the law and the prophets, “to love the Lord, our God, with all our might, with all our mind, and with all our strength, and our neighbor as ourself.” “To do unto others as we would have others do unto us.” This is according to the law and the prophets. These are principles we should and must learn. … We should be friends everywhere and to everybody. There is no Latter-day Saint that hates the world: but we are friends to the world, we are obliged to be, so far as they are concerned. We must learn to extend our charity and labor in the interests of all mankind. This is the mission of the Latter-day Saints—not simply confine it to ourselves, but to spread it abroad, as it of necessity must be extended to all mankind.

Jesus summed up the whole law when he said His people are to love God with our whole heart, soul, mind, and strength, and also to love their neighbor as themselves. This is the Ten Commandments in a nutshell.

Be upright, just and merciful, exercising a spirit of nobility and godliness in all your intentions and resolutions—in all your acts and dealings. Cultivate a spirit of charity; be ready to do for others more than you would expect from them if circumstances were reversed. Be ambitious to be great, not in the estimation of the worldly minded, but in the eyes of God, and to be great in this sense, “Love the Lord our God with all your might, mind and strength, and your neighbor as yourself.” You must love mankind because they are your brethren, the offspring of God. Pray diligently for this spirit of philanthropy, this expansion of thought and feeling, and for power and ability to labor earnestly in the interest of Messiah’s kingdom.

While Christian believers do not believe in premortality—thus, we don’t hold that other people are  our literal “brethren” as Mormonism teaches—it is important to be sacrificial in giving to others, for it is the right thing to do.

Now an individual in order to secure the highest and greatest blessings to himself, in order to secure the approbation of the Almighty, and in order to continually improve in the things pertaining to righteousness he must do all things to the best advantage. Let him go to work and be willing to sacrifice for the benefit of his friends. If he wants to build himself up, the best principle he can do it upon is to build up his friends. …

… Let your minds be expanded to comprehend and look after the interest of your friends that are around you, and where it is in your power to secure benefits to your friends do so, and in so doing you will find that those things which you need will come into your hands quicker than if you labor entirely to secure them to yourselves independent of regarding the interests of your friends. I know this is a good and important principle.

We do good to others–not to “secure the highest and greatest blessings” for ourselves, but rather that God may be glorified through helping other people. Jesus was asked who a person’s neighbor is. He told the story of the Good Samaritan, someone who was a despised individual in Jesus’s day. Thus, we should not be willing to just sacrifice for the benefit of our friends, but for anyone who needs us. Our friends will be willing to pay us back for the good deeds we offer, but a stranger may never be able to pay even a farthing. Instead of having ulterior motives for giving sacrificially, we should help anyone we can without an expectation of receiving compensation.

When we sacrifice for the good of others, we get heaven within us.

We have just got to feel … that there are other people besides ourselves; we have got to look into the hearts and feelings of others, and become more godly than what we are now.

… There is a self sacrifice to be made for the interests of those with whom we are associated. We see this in the Savior, and in brother Joseph, and we see it in our President [Brigham Young]. Jesus, brother Joseph, and brother Brigham have always been willing to sacrifice all they possess for the good of the people; that is what gives brother Brigham power with God and power with the people, it is the self-sacrificing feeling that he is all the time exhibiting. It is so with others; just in proportion as they are willing to sacrifice for others, so they get God in them, and the blessings of the eternal worlds are upon them, and they are the ones that will secure not only the rights of this world but will secure the blessings of eternity. Just in proportion as you … sacrifice one for another, just in that proportion you will advance in the things of God. Now if you want to get heaven within you and to get into heaven you want to pursue that course that angels do who are in heaven. If you want to know how you are to increase, I will tell you, it is by getting godliness within you.

… Individuals can enjoy heaven around them in all places. We have got to go to work and do this; we must go to work and establish heaven upon this earth, notwithstanding the evils that are around us, the devils that are around us, and notwithstanding the wickedness that exists, still we have got to go to work and establish heaven upon this earth.

I’m not sure I would liken doing good to others as “heaven on earth,” but Christians have been commanded to give sacrificially to others. Jesus said in John 13:34, A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.” He added in John 15:12, “This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.” We do this not to receive rewards from God or to have others “owe us one.” Rather, we do this because we show our love for God by loving those whom He has created.

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