Matthew 15 details the discussion Jesus has with the Pharisees regarding the traditions of the elders (Matthew 15:1-15). At issue is the condition of our heart. Why do we do the things that we do?
The second section of this chapter deals with the policy the Savior put in place in Matthew 10. In this chapter, He instructed the Twelve to only teach “the lost sheep of the house of Israel”, or in other words, the Jews living in and around Jerusalem (Matthew 10:6). We do not know why Jesus gave this command, but we do know that later in the book of Acts (chapter 10) that he changes this command and instructs Peter to take the gospel to the Gentile nations. This is hinted at in Matthew 28 where the Savior says, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you…” (Matthew 28:19-20)
Although He came not to teach those except the lost sheep of Israel, Jesus does heal the daughter of the woman of Canaan. She understood His mission, and yet came to Him making her request. Knowing that she was not of the house of Israel, and that He was not sent to her, she said, “Truth, Lord: yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from the master’s table” (Matthew 15:27).
The last section of Matthew 15 deals with the multiplication of the loaves and fishes. This is another miracle, separate from the miracle in chapter 14. I believe the numbers to be significant in both chapters, teaching aspects of the Savior’s mission. The point that is relevant to teenagers has to do with the Savior’s ability to provide for our needs. If we have faith in Him and work according to the laws of this mortal sphere, we are assured that there will be sufficient for our needs. He is more than capable of taking a few ordinary loaves and fishes and transform them into something marvelous, a miracle that provides for the hungry in all of us.
Many students today are taught that the world is full, that there are not enough resources to provide for our needs, and that we should forego having children. This idea is perpetuated through the media to the point that many are indoctrinated with the false teaching that we should aim for “zero population growth”. This idea is very damaging to young people and it frustrates the purposes for which the Lord has created the earth in the first place. The Lord has designed the earth for His children. True, there is hunger in the world. But hunger is not a result of overpopulation, but of poverty. The Lord has given us a clue as to how eliminate poverty in the Doctrine and Covenants. He has also stated in clear terms that the world has within itself sufficient to provide for the needs of His children. In section 104 he stated:
I, the Lord, stretched out the heavens, and abuilt the earth, my very bhandiwork; 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 away; and behold this is the way that I, the Lord, have decreed to provide for my saints, that the bpoor shall be exalted, in that the rich are made low. For the aearth is full, and there is enough and to spare; yea, I prepared all things, and have given unto the children of men to be bagents unto themselves (D&C 104:15-17).
Recently Elder Neil L. Andersen of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles stated:
“The Savior of mankind described Himself as being in the world but not of the world. We also can be in the world but not of the world as we reject false concepts and false teachings and remain true to that which God has commanded.” Many voices in the world today marginalize the importance of having children or suggest delaying or limiting children in a family.” 1
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.
In April 2012, 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. 2
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.” 3
An important lesson taught in Matthew 15 is that by following the Savior, we will have sufficient for our needs, even more. Just as there was food left over after all were full, following the Savior will bring about an abundant life. The rich must share what they have, and the poor need to contribute. Many of the young people in our seminary classes have been blessed with great abundance. They have the gospel of Jesus Christ, families, and a support system of a ward family. It is important that in realizing this that we need to share of what we have both materially as well as spiritually.
2. BYU-Idaho: ‘Face the future with optimism’ Church News, Published: Saturday, April 14, 2012 By Marianne Holman.
3. emphasis added, Conference Report, April 1969, p. 12.