There is an increasing sentiment among some seminary students that the world is overpopulated, running out of resources and that the future looks bleak. Many students have expressed to me thoughts such as, “What’s the use? The world is going to end anyways. Why get married and have children? Will there even be a world for me to live in anyway?”
While I certainly agree with the fact that we face great challenges, that unemployment is a struggle for many families, and that we do live in a world that is increasing in darkness, I also find evidence to be optimistic. We have more priesthood holders on the earth than ever before. We have close to 60,000 missionaries serving in countries all over the world, bringing the message of the gospel of Jesus Christ to more people in their own language than in any other age of the earth (see Matthew 28:19-20).
The Lord has prepared us to work and to live in a time of uncertainty. When he introduced the law of consecration to the Saints, the tendency to fear that others would not pull their weight was very real. Others feared that the resources to provide for the Saints would be scarce. Said the Lord in a revelation to the prophet Joseph:
“I, the Lord, stretched out the heavens, and built the earth … and all things therein are mine. And it is my purpose to provide for my saints, for all things are mine. But it must needs be done in mine own way; and behold this is the way that I, the Lord, have decreed to provide for my saints, that the poor shall be exalted, in that the rich are made low. For the earth is full, and there is enough and to spare; yea, I prepared all things, and have given unto the children of men to be agents unto themselves.” (D&C 104:14-17)
There are some folks that interpret the preceding verses to mean that since the Lord has prepared all things, we do not need to worry about energy conservation, or the environment and the like. The revelations of the restoration are replete with the concept that man is a steward. We will be held accountable with what we have done with the material wealth the Lord has placed in our hands. D&C 59 seems to indicate that we use the materials of this earth that it may benefit man, to please the eye and gladden the heart, yet we are warned to beware of excess (D&C 59:16-21). There seems to be a balance that the Lord wants us to find with respect to using the resources of the earth.
Today we hear much about the state of the world’s condition, climate, atmosphere, and the like. While I sometimes question the politics and motivations of the doom and gloom prognosticators on television, it is wise to have an understanding of D&C 104 in its context.
The Lord is addressing a group of Saints who are striving to live the law of consecration. Prior to this revelation, in 1831, Leman Copley broke his covenant to consecrate his large farm as a place of inheritance for the Saints arriving from Coleville, New York. Because of this, many of the Saints suffered (see D&C 54:5 and 56:14-17). The issue is not about resources or the lack thereof. At issue is the state our hearts. There are rich and poor that have bankrupt hearts. Leman feared that in contributing to the Saints he would lose his property. What he failed to realize is that it was never his to begin with. His fear of loss was stronger than his faith in Christ. The Lord seems to be indicating that the poor also need to have broken hearts, finding ways to work to contribute and not expect others to do for them what they should be doing for themselves (see D&C 56:17).
I find the Lord’s instruction to Leman and the Saints in D&C 54, 56, and 104 applicable today. The United States of America is at a point where both groups, the wealthy and the disenfranchised, need to come to the Lord with broken hearts and help to do the Lord’s will. But I digress. I must return back to the concern of the student.
Because the Lord has given us an indication that the earth is full, and that there is enough and to spare, it is our duty to help Him make this a reality in the lives of His children. While the world looks at people as a drain on the earth, to the contrary, the Lord looks at His children as the purpose for which it was created (see Moses 1:39). Indeed, people are a wonderful resource. When we see people from heaven’s perspective, everything changes. What we believe really does affect our behavior.
Can you imagine if Thomas Edison’s mother viewed him as a burden and abandoned him? She already had six other children. I for one am grateful that Thomas was allowed to perform his life’s work. Certainly we all can agree that our lives have been illuminated by his genius and determination. The materials needed to change the world as he knew it existed before his mind unlocked their potential. What other technologies and inventions await the creativity of human minds to unlock as humanity moves forward?
We should have the right attitude of optimism and hope, coupled with the willingness to apply ourselves, working diligently to bring to pass the Lord’s purposes in our lives. As we do this, we will see the hand of the Lord working in our lives, as our desires fall in line with his purposes. It is His will that we should raise families and provide for them. I have found that whenever I am stressed or fearful, instead of dwelling on things I cannot control, it is useful to do all I can to prepare, then to have hope.
Recently Elder M. Russell Ballard addressed BYU-Idaho’s graduating class. His talk was one of hope for the future for the class of 2012. His words apply to all of us as we live in a world of uncertainty and constant change. He stated:
“Face the future with optimism…I believe we are standing on the threshold of a new era of growth, prosperity and abundance…Many of these discoveries — as in the past — will be the result of the Spirit whispering insights into and enlightening the minds of truth-seeking individuals.
Many of these discoveries will be made for the purpose of helping to bring to pass the purposes and work of God and the quickening of the building of His kingdom on earth today… With these discoveries and advances will come new employment opportunities and prosperity for those who work hard and especially to those who strive to keep the commandments of God.
As you graduates do your part, the Lord will bless you with prosperity and the wisdom to keep your mind focused on what matters most in your life… I believe you graduates sitting here today will be active participants in temporal blessings if you keep the commandments of the Lord. With prosperity will come a unique challenge — a test that will try many of you to your spiritual core. As you step into this new world of prosperity and engage in converting your education into financial success, you will always have to control wants versus needs.”
Elder Ballard spoke of two motivational choices: to build and acquire the blessings of the Lord for personal gratification, for the recognition of men, for power, influence and self-aggrandizement; or, to acquire those blessings with the motive to glorify God and, thereby, working to help usher in the growth and expansion of His Church.
“Those who seek riches to build up their own egos will find their treasure to be slippery and easily lost in unwise ways,” he said. “The welfare of their souls will be in great jeopardy… The Lord is not telling us that we should not be prosperous or that prosperity is a sin or is evil. On the contrary, He has always blessed the obedience of His people with prosperity. He is telling us that we should seek prosperity only after we seek, find and serve Him. Then, because our hearts are right, because we love Him first and foremost, we will choose to invest the riches we obtain in building His kingdom.”
It is through choosing to seek riches for the sake of riches that individuals will always fall short, he said. (BYU-Idaho: ‘Face the future with optimism’ Church News, Published: Saturday, April 14, 2012 By Marianne Holman)
Ezra Taft Benson knew more about agriculture and the workings of government than anyone I know. He served as the Secretary of Agriculture from 1953-1961 during which he was also a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. He made some interesting comments with respect to man’s ideas on population control and the earth’s resources. He said:
“The precepts of men would have you believe that by limiting the population of the world, we can have peace and plenty. That is the doctrine of the devil. Small numbers do not insure peace; only righteousness does. After all, there were only a handful of men on the earth when Cain interrupted the peace of Adam’s household by slaying Abel… and so far as limiting the population in order to provide plenty is concerned, the Lord answered that falsehood in the Doctrine and Covenants when he said: ‘For the earth is full, and there is enough and to spare; yea, I prepared all things, and have given unto the children of men to be agents unto themselves.’ (D&C 104:17)
A major reason why there is famine in some parts of the world is because evil men have used the vehicle of government to abridge the freedom that men need to produce abundantly. True to form, many of the people who desire to frustrate God’s purposes of giving mortal tabernacles to his spirit children through worldwide birth control are the very same people who support the kinds of government that perpetuate famine. They advocate an evil to cure the results of the wickedness they support.” (Conference Report, April 1969, p. 12)
I conclude with an optimistic point of view from one of my favorite authors, C.S. Lewis:
“In one way we think a great deal too much of the atomic bomb. ‘How are we to live in an atomic age?’ I am tempted to reply: ‘Why, as you would have lived in the sixteenth century when the plague visited London every year, or as you would have lived in a Viking age when raiders from Scandinavia might land and cut your throat any night…’ In other words, do not let us begin by exaggerating the novelty of our situation. Believe me, dear sir or madam, you and all whom you love were already sentenced to death before the atomic bomb was invented…It is perfectly ridiculous to go about whimpering and drawing long faces because the scientists have added one more chance of painful and premature death to a world which already bristled with such chances and in which death itself was not a chance at all, but a certainty…“If we are all going to be destroyed by an atomic bomb, let that bomb when it comes find us doing sensible and human things- praying, working, teaching, reading, listening to music, bathing the children, playing tennis, chatting to our friends…not huddled together like frightened sheep and thinking about bombs. They may break our bodies (any microbe can do that) but they need not dominate our minds.” (C.S. Lewis, The Quotable Lewis, p. 606)