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The Abundant Life

I spent the morning on Hau’ula Beach. Running (a term I always use very loosely) as far as I could go, from one rock outcropping to the other, I thought of all the people in the world who have never witnessed such an idyllic scene. The waves crashing, the air moist, a slight breeze blowing, my feet sinking into the wet sand at every step. This is so wrong. Why should I be so lucky?

A few years ago, Sam offered to take his employees out to lunch. They accepted, but one quickly offered, “Um…why don’t we take my car.” Sam’s two-tone red (due to a poor repaint job when some damage was repaired) Eagle Summit had, literally, rusted through the floor. Some of the upholstery was worn through to the cushioning. It ran very rough and loud. It was an embarrassment even to the most junior of his employees.

Finally, we broke down and went car shopping. As usual, we checked the latest issue of Consumer Reports, found the deals of the century, and headed out to test drive. We looked at all the models and options; drove a number of cars. Then, on a whim, as we drove home from Fort Lauderdale, we stopped by a Lexus dealer “for fun.”

Oh!

For months Sam had been taking a longish commute down to Dania. It had been a stressful transition since his department had moved to another county. And now, here was a car that ran smooth as silk, quiet and tranquil, without all the jolts and jars. And really, the low-end Lexus was only a teeny, tiny upgrade from the high-end Camry.

When Sam went to High Council meeting the next Sunday, he parked near the back of the building and walked around. We made sure we took the old Caravan whenever anyone would see us.

Arriving at a friend’s house one day, she opened with, “Oh, I see Sam got a new car!” I grimaced, apparently, because her husband who happened to be my stake president saw the need to teach me a lesson.

“Alison, you husband works hard, he earns his living honestly, he deserves a decent car. Now, enjoy it.”

But what about all the starving kids in Ethiopia? What about the people in Homestead who lost their houses in Hurricane Andrew? And the people in Pompano who can’t afford electricity? How can I buy a nice car? A nice home? A TV (or two!)? Or ice cream?

How can I go to Hawaii and actually enjoy it?

As I ran and thought of all the reasons that I shouldn’t be there when there were so many more important ways to use my money and my time, a thought struck me and spread over me:

Why would God make this amazing, paradisiacal place, if he didn’t intend for us to enjoy it?

I am starting to rethink my life and the way I see things. Abundance for one, doesn’t require scarcity for another. There truly is enough and to spare. Perhaps we are all intended to have lives of abundance after all.

{ 29 comments… add one }
  • facethemusic May 20, 2007, 8:21 pm

    Well spoken, Alison.
    I’ve often felt the same way.
    I remember watching a TV special 4 or 5 years ago, about orphanages in Romania– or was it China? I think it was Romania.
    Anyway… they actually kept the babies in drawers. The drawers pulled out of this vented cabinet kind of thing, not too different than a dresser in your bedroom. They had 3 or 4 babies in a drawer. There were so many babies, so few staff, that they were changed, fed and put back into the drawers. Rarely held, cuddled or loved. I was absolutely shocked and sickened.
    They talked about how many of the babies were there because their families coudn’t afford to take care of them. They’re other children were starving, they were starving, barely getting by on a half a loaf a bread for the entire family. Or maybe a few scrap potatoes left behind in some farmers field. And that’s all they had.
    The next night was one of my kids’ birthdays, and they wanted to go to Ryan’s. (A buffet-style restaurant. A never ending dessert bar. Oh yeah, every kids’ dream!)
    All day long I’d been thinking about the show the night before. I just couldn’t get that picture out of my mind. Babies in a drawer.
    We got to the restaurant and I couldn’t eat. There was this huge buffet, food out the wazoo.
    Piles and piles and piles of it. Before a pan of mac and cheese was even gone, someone was there to fill it again. And you know what they do with the leftovers at the end of the night? Yup. It’s trash. They can’t save it. “Health Code'”
    So there I was surrounded by all these people eating to their heart’s content– even PAST their hearts content, and all I could think about was drawers full of babies.
    It made me question things. Why am I different? Why was I born here, with all the blessings that I have? I have everything I need and more, and those poor babies have nothing.
    I determined that first, I needed to be more grateful. More appreciative of the blessings I have that are sometimes so easy for us to forget ARE blessings. Second, I made a commitment to be more giving in my fast offerings.
    It still doesn’t do anything to help those poor children. It’s upsets me just thinking about it again. Ugh. Now I’ll think about it all night!! Okay self, sing your favorite hymn…
    Whenever I hear the song of a bird, or look at the blue blue sky….

  • JustRandi May 20, 2007, 9:34 pm

    I think you’re right, Alison. I also think we are guilty of ingratitude when we belittle our blessings. There is a balance that’s hard for me to find between on one hand enjoying my blessings and shouting my gratitude from the rooftops, and on the other hand flaunting what I have been given.
    When is it OK for me to say that I love my life, and I am so grateful for the house I have, the very beautiful part of the world where I live, and my husband that is so good to me, when I know that there are people all around me who don’t enjoy those same blessings? Sometimes it feels like flaunting it, so instead of being grateful, I try to hide it, (like you) or at least not bring it up. But that doesn’t feel right either…

  • mlinford May 21, 2007, 1:01 am

    This is such a thought-provoking post (in addition to spurring thoughts about wishing that my life were so abundant as to be sitting on a beach in Hawaii…. 😎 )

    Just joking. Really, I’m chewing on this one. Don’t know quite what to say just now, but I’m chewing….

  • zmg May 21, 2007, 9:36 am

    I understand feeling bad for those less fortunate but I don’t understand feeling bad because your Heavenly Father gave you gifts (blessings). That seems wrong to me too. We should rejoice in our blessings because they are visible manifestations of the Father’s love for us. I don’t have a Bible with me right now but there is a passage where it talks about how we delight in giving good gifts to our children. How much more so does our Heavenly Father desire to give us good gifts. (paraphrased but that’s the general gist). Guilt in this instance (to me) is the adversary’s tool. Think how you would feel if you gave something wonderful to your child out of love for them and they didn’t enjoy it but felt guilty.

  • Alison Moore Smith May 21, 2007, 12:13 pm

    Thank you all for the insights. zmg, while I agree, I struggle with the “visible manifestations” because I know so many more worthy of them.

    A couple of thoughts:

    First, a number of years ago, we lived had just had our fourth daughter and lived in a 1,500 square foot home with three bedrooms and two baths. We also housed two businesses in our little home. Every inch of house, garage, etc. was packed with shelves. (My business included inventory.) We began to build a new home in a gated community. It was about twice the size and had five bedrooms and three baths. It might as well have been a mansion to us.

    Yes, there were many bigger, finer homes in Boca, in our ward, etc. But we didn’t tell anyone about the house. I was thrilled, but did not know how to rejoice in this blessing without it being seen as boastful. Or, maybe more to the point, without it seeming to indicate that this blessing was given because we were more righteous than those who didn’t receive it.

    Finally I told my very best friend. Her response stunned me. Even though she lived in a house comparable to mine (though a bit bigger and nicer), she was thrilled FOR me. She constantly asked about the progress and wanted to see it and was so happy FOR me. I knew she was a great person, but I was amazed that she rejoiced in my good fortune more that I did. Then I began to notice that she did that with everyone. When something good happened–even something she would, herself, have liked–she was so grateful for it and excited for it. There was never a hint a jealousy or anger at the inequity in life.

    I haves tried to learn from her great example. It was almost as if seeing abundance in others did not mean a lack in her own life, it meant POSSIBILITIES in her life.

    Second, part of what I’ve been thinking about has to do with the idea that it’s acceptable to God to ask for abundance. Sure, we’re supposed to pray for faith, charity, and service opportunities. But it occurred to me (am I just really slow?) that God WANTS us to enjoy the wonderful things on this earth as well. That we really are that we might have joy and that, just as with other blessings or help, he is just waiting for us to ask because he wants to bless us with great, abundant, fulfilled lives as well. I’m not just talking about material things, but I am including them. Perhaps he is pleased if we have beautiful homes and take trips to see wonderful things in the world. And perhaps he is also pleased when we work to make our lives amazing, by striving to do big things (whatever that is to each of us). Perhaps he wants each one of us to be a “superstar” in the sense that we take our gifts and move mountains with them.

    I guess these things have not really been part of what I considered a spiritual life before.

    One example, Molly Christensen (who is The Learning Curve columnist) is a homeschool mom, like me. A year or more ago, she had an idea to create a series of classes for homeschooled kids. Rather than just go with the flow (like most of us do, really), she has worked and worked to get this going. It’s not quite where she would like it, yet, but the classes have been running all year. She has benefited so many people. She has created this amazing thing, just by stepping forward and taking action on an idea.

    Molly would probably be the last person to call this an amazing feat, but how many other people have done it? Mostly we think how nice it would be if someone ELSE would do it.

    Before, I wouldn’t have seen that as a SPIRITUAL or MORAL endeavor, but I’m beginning to see that being a force for good is, well, good. And that God is probably as pleased with her for being a force of good and a force of action as he is with someone who created a good Sharing Time presentation.

    Honestly, this post doesn’t express well what I’m trying to say. The ideas are too new in my head to verbalize well. But I hope you all will continue to help me to clarify my own thinking by contributing what you think.

  • facethemusic May 21, 2007, 1:08 pm

    zmg, I totally understand what you’re saying. And for the most part, I agree. Recognizing the blessings in our lives and being truly grateful for them is essential. He WANTS us to be happy in our blessings and rejoice in them.
    In fact, the scripture you’re referencing is one of my favorite passages.

    Matt. 7:7-11
    7 Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you:
    8 For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.
    9 Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone?
    10 Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent?
    11 If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?

    But, I don’t think its as simple as:

    We should rejoice in our blessings because they are visible manifestations of the Father’s love for us… Guilt in this instance (to me) is the adversary’s tool.”

    Heavenly Father ALSO loves those who don’t have the blessings I have. I’m sure He loves those babies just as much as He loves me, but He didn’t grant them the blessings that I have.
    If we assume that our blessings our nothing more than manifestations of Heavenly Father’s love for us, then how do we explain the LACK of the simplest blessings to others whom He ALSO loves? And I’m not talking about a bigger house or a trip to Hawaii. I’m talking about food, a family who loves you, clothes, decent shelter, etc.
    Part of my point ( seeing the show about the orphanage, then being at a buffet dinner and thinking of all the questions–“Why do I have all these blessings?” “Why doesn’t so-n-so?”) was that there must be a REASON for it. Something that HE knows that I don’t know and can’t understand, or at least, don’t understand YET.
    Maybe my previous post wasn’t worded properly. I didn’t mean to say that I felt “guilty”.
    In fact, I don’t think I used that word, though that must be the impression I gave. I don’t feel guilty for the blessings I have. When I see those less fortunate, I feel even more THANKFUL for what I have, not guilty for having it. My loss of appetite wasn’t necessarily “guilt”– though, I guess that may have been part of it. But honestly, I don’t remember feeling guilty as much as…ergh…I can’t think of how to explain it. I just felt so much pain for those babies, that I just didn’t feel hungry. It wasn’t “guilt” about me and my blessings, it was intense sympathy for THEM. Does that make sense? And even a sense of hopelessness, because I knew that there really wasn’t ANYTHING I could do about it, other than praying for some kind of relief for them, and giving more in my own fast and humanitarian aid offerings.

  • zmg May 22, 2007, 7:06 am

    But don’t you see, everyone’s blessing is different. Who are we to say that because someone lives in squalor that they have no blessings? That’s not to say that we shouldn’t do our part to help them but (and again, I don’t have a reference handy) we are told to be happy where we are at. Perhaps that person is happy. I have in my lifetime been homeless (actually we slept on the floor of the church basement) but still considered myself blessed. We had a roof, we had food and my family was together. That was all I needed to feel blessed. Sure, being homeless can be stressful but like everything in this life it was temporary.

  • zmg May 22, 2007, 7:15 am

    Just an FYI – The ads on the side of this topic are for Baptist and Vineyard Churchs. I thought that you might want them to filter those out.

    Zmg

  • Alison Moore Smith May 22, 2007, 12:08 pm

    Part of my “new thinking” is to wonder if we aren’t ALL meant to prosper. In other words, are some really destined or doomed to squalor? Couldn’t God lift all to even material abundance? Is he unwilling to do so, or is he, actually, just waiting for us to ask for his favor in this way, as in others?

  • mlinford May 22, 2007, 3:27 pm

    I think I remember something from Pres. Hinckley where he said that if the law of the fast was lived in the whole world by everyone, that poverty would be greatly alleviated (at the least). I think the gospel holds the key to all people being able to prosper. The problem is that not all people want to live it. I imagine that the Millenium will be a lot more prosperous all around because there will be more hearts of charity to spread the joy around and keep things more “equal.”

    I do believe He can and will bless us if it’s according to His will. Sometimes I do wonder if a trial for one could be to have less. But again, I’m still chewing on this.

  • mlinford May 22, 2007, 3:30 pm

    I will add that it’s not that God CAN’T lift us all but I think some of the problem is not that HE won’t but that His children won’t make that happen. Too much is built into our systems of government/politics and economics that create economic divides (rich get richer and all of that).

    I think that this kind of reasoning could fall into many different categories…couldn’t He lift us all to health, or to fertility, or ________ . Mortality by definition is a fallen existence, and yet there are promises available. How much will God do to change our circumstances? How much of trials really are part of mortality? How much are part of selfish human nature or at least fallen nature? Am I getting off topic?….

  • facethemusic May 22, 2007, 5:16 pm

    Well, He certainly COULD lift all to “material abundance”. But as zmg pointed out “material abundance” is relative. (Unless you’re speaking of what we as Americans consider ‘material abundance’ in a secular way.)
    As zmg said, she felt blessed just to have a church basement floor to sleep on. That certainly isn’t “material abundance”, but it IS abundant to the person who doesn’t have any shelter at all, and is sleeping under a tree somewhere.
    Even though there are 6 of us, I feel blessed to be in a two bedroom, one bathroom house, with the family room converted into a third bedroom, because I know that sometimes, people are sleeping on church basement floors and under trees. Compared to them, we live in abundance. Compared to my husbands’ brothers and sister, we live in a shack. Perspective has so much to do with it.
    Certainly, I think everyone has the POTENTIAL to live in material abundance. Even the Ethiopian refugee COULD live in “material abundance”– IF he was given the chance to escape the situation he’s currently in– had a chance at an education, etc.
    My family could be living in material abundance right now if my husband and I had made different decisions. If I’d put off having children, stayed in college and finished my degree and was working full-time we WOULD be living in material abundance. If my husband wanted a career based on how much money it brought in, we WOULD be living in material abundance.
    We WERE planning a life in the military– which would have still resulted in us living with the same income we have now. Now he’s a police officer and he LOVES his job. I was perfectly happy to marry someone, KNOWING that he’d never be able to provide “material abundance”. We could have made that a goal, but to US it isn’t worth the sacrifices we’d have to make. He isn’t the “sit behind a desk, or talk on the phone and do business” type. He’d have to sacrifice a job he loves, that REALLY DOES suit his personality, to get a more financially rewarding job. He wouldn’t want to do that, and I wouldn’t want him to, either.
    We CHOSE a life withOUT material abundance. Like I said, we could have had that.
    That said, if Ed McMahon showed up at our door with one of those gargantuan $11,000,000 plastic checks and announced that we’d just won the Publisher’s Clearing House Sweepstakes, I’d take it with very happy and anxious hands! If it falls into our laps, sure!
    So yes, I do agree that everyone COULD be blessed with material abundance. The right circumstances could allow that for anyone. Do I think Heavenly Father WANTS that for everyone? No. I think he wants for them, what would make them truly happy. I don’t think material abundance makes you happy though. It helps, by making things easier, more accessible, and provides more opportunities for things. But if I have to give up being home with my kids and putting them in daycare, or if my husband has to give up a job he loves and DOES provide for us what we need and some to spare– then we wouldn’t be happy with the material abundance.

  • SilverRain May 22, 2007, 5:20 pm

    Well, my theory is there is no one easy answer. Each soul is tested by different things. Some are most tested by wealth, others by poverty. For some, it may not be a matter of testing, but a matter of where they can do the most good for those around them. In addition, poverty gives many people a chance to learn charity. Wealth gives many a chance to learn humility. I think it is more a case that temporal ease is not of eternal import. Thankfulness for our blessings is, as is giving of what we do have. I suspect the answer to “why is there poverty?” is an intricate one with many answers.

  • facethemusic May 22, 2007, 5:23 pm

    I think your “theory” would be more accurately described as “fact”. :thumbup:

  • mlinford May 22, 2007, 5:57 pm

    Yeah, SilverRain, that was more what I was trying to get at in a general sense. I do think we will get to a day when wants and needs are more equally met, but until then, we each have our trials and have to press forward.

  • Alison Moore Smith May 22, 2007, 6:04 pm

    Interesting, all. Thought more about this today. Tracy, you bring up an important point that not everyone even WANTS prosperity. You are right. And, yes, there are costs to everything.

    I, too, chose to stay home with my children after hearing the “To Mothers in Zion” talk when President Benson gave it at BYU. (It made me really angry at the time, actually–another topic altogether.) But I don’t think my staying at home limits God’s ability to bless my family materially.

    To be clear, I wasn’t really questioning God’s ABILITY to lift us from poverty. I know he is omnipotent. What I was pointing at is the idea that we are BOUND by our circumstances to a particular condition–such as lack of material abundance–when God is so much more powerful than our circumstances.

    I’m starting to see a lot of things in a different light. The scriptures say that we should pray for all good gifts. Not all of us are born with great levels of faith, integrity, charity, empathy, etc. But even though they may not be part of who we are now, or part of our childhood families, we are commanded to seek after them, to get them, to gain them.

    Within the church, I don’t think we often limit ourselves in THESE areas as we do in others. “Oh, well, my trial is to live with no patience, just like my parents and grandparents. I suppose my mission in life is to show others that lack of patience is a terrible way to live and to serve the only five people who can stand to be around me because I’m so impatient.”

    Rather, we expect people with no patience to CHANGE. To become more like Christ, to remove the negative character with a positive one. We expect them to be humble and prayerful and move forward–with God’s grace–to a better place.

    So, I’m wondering why we don’t see EVERYTHING that is good in the same way? If we have bad marriages, ill health, great debt or financial instability; if we are lonely or unfulfilled–if there are negative things in our lives, things that pull us down and keep us from reaching our great potential, that are obstacles to helping and serving, that keep us from enjoying the wonderful things of this world, why don’t we see these as things that can ALSO change to become positive with God’s help?

    Are we so limited in what we do with our lives, at least to a great extent, because WE have limited what God can do in our lives due to our lack of faith?

  • mlinford May 23, 2007, 12:16 am

    Alison,
    These are great questions, but also tricky ones, because, like SilverRain said, our trials will come in different packages and sometimes what we think we want or deserve or need to “reach our great potential.” As one with health problems that have really slowed me down, and being told in several blessings that this was foreknown and chosen even, it’s hard to know what to pray for. I believe God can make me better and it’s something my kids pray for all of the time. God’s will and ours won’t always line up, so it seems to me that what is “good” to God won’t always be “good” in our eyes. I must admit that it’s painful to hear that maybe I’m still slow and slogging because of a lack of faith. I have heard some people say that if you are sick, it’s simply because you lack faith. But is faith’s purpose to change our circumstances or to draw us to the Lord and His will? I tend to think the latter. But it can include the former, just not exclusively, at least in my understanding and experience.

    Sometimes the only thing that gets me through this is feeling that there is a purpose in the suffering that is greater than my desire to be made well. I believe that can be the case and have seen and felt blessings as a result of the trial, so I’m not easily persuaded that it’s simply a matter of asking in more faith to change our circumstances. Sometimes it really is that WE need to be changed in spite of the circumstances that may seem to pull us down. So, how does one know which to pray for? I don’t think we can simply pray for what we want or think is good. I’ve just seen too many situations where all the faith and prayers in the world did not stop or change the “negative” things. (I’m repeating myself, aren’t I?)

    I also don’t see the Savior’s life as the example of all negative things removed from His path to perform His mission and reach His potential (and help us reach ours!) He was born in the most primitive of circumstances; His trade was a simple one; He died accused of something He didn’t do, suffering for sin He never committed.

    I loved this from Elder Maxwell:
    Amid life ?s varied ironies, you and I may begin to wonder, Did not God notice this torturous turn of events? And if He noticed, why did He permit it? Am I not valued?

    Our planning itself often assumes that our destiny is largely in our own hands. Then come intruding events, first elbowing aside, then evicting what was anticipated and even earned. Hence, we can be offended by events as well as by people.

    Irony may involve not only unexpected suffering but also undeserved suffering. We feel we deserved better, and yet we fared worse. We had other plans, even commendable plans. Did they not count? A physician, laboriously trained to help the sick, now, because of his own illness, cannot do so. For a period, a diligent prophet of the Lord was an idle witness. ? (Morm. 3:16.) Frustrating conditions keep more than a few of us from making our appointed rounds.

    Customized challenges are thus added to that affliction and temptation which Paul described as common to man. ? (1 Cor. 10:13.)

    In coping with irony, as in all things, we have an Exemplary Teacher in Jesus. Dramatic irony assaulted Jesus ? divinity almost constantly.

    For Jesus, in fact, irony began at His birth. Truly, He suffered the will of the Father in all things from the beginning. ? (3 Ne. 11:11.) This whole earth became Jesus ? footstool (see Acts 7:49), but at Bethlehem there was no room ? in the inn ? (Luke 2:7) and no crib for his bed ? (Hymns, 1985, no. 206.)

    At the end, meek and lowly Jesus partook of the most bitter cup without becoming the least bitter. (See 3 Ne. 11:11; D&C 19:18 ?19.) The Most Innocent suffered the most. Yet the King of Kings did not break, even when some of His subjects did unto Him as they listed. ? (D&C 49:6.) Christ ?s capacity to endure such irony was truly remarkable.

    So, on one hand, I am prone to not want to jump and ask for more when 1) I already have so much and 2) I don’t really know what to ask for (if I were more in tune, perhaps I would!) But I also do think that it’s likely that we live beneath our privileges in a general sense and that we’d probably be blessed a lot more if we really knew how to “ask, seek and knock.”

    And now that I am re-reading what you said, maybe you suggesting that we ask more for things to “change to become positive with God’s help” isn’t necessarily removing the negative but giving us strength. Is this something you are driving at? If so, it jibes with something I hold onto in my health struggles, from Elder Oaks:

    Healing blessings come in many ways, each suited to our individual needs, as known to Him who loves us best. Sometimes a healing ? cures our illness or lifts our burden. But sometimes we are healed ? by being given strength or understanding or patience to bear the burdens placed upon us.

    All things can be turned to positives, but maybe not simply by receiving the opposite of what is holding us back, but by being changed and strengthened and helped.

    OK, this is way too long. Cuz it’s way too close to my heart right now….

  • Alison Moore Smith May 23, 2007, 3:11 am

    Thanks for your input, Michelle. To be honest, I’m not driving at anything. I’m sorting through all this.

    Yes, I know there are trials that are imposed by God, and if they are God’s will, then we must endure. But what are all the sources of trials that cause suffering? (1) God gives them to us, (2) they are consequences of sin, (2) they are imposed by the agency of another, (4) they are the by-product of living in an imperfect world. Did I miss any?

    So, where does the ability to move mountains come in? Perhaps only the first one cannot be overcome with great faith, in the sense I’m talking about?

    Maybe a better way to ask is this: is the fact that we aren’t born with something, equivalent to the idea that God wants us to live without it?

    Again, the ideas I’m thinking of don’t apply to every whim. We can’t thwart God’s plan and we can’t thwart his work. But do we often assume that the way we are or the way things are is unchangeable and so we don’t move forward and stake our claim on the lives we could have?

    I suppose I feel as though we do that a great deal, even though there are really few times when our situations are actually imposed by God.

  • Oregonian May 23, 2007, 3:17 am

    I think I’m seeing what you’re saying, but the idea is pretty complicated.

    I’ll have to think about the barriers I have place in my life, that I may have blamed on genetics, God, my husband/parents/kids, and then get back to you.

    Sorry, but I have to ask. Is this all about justifying your own rich lifestyle?

  • SilverRain May 23, 2007, 7:50 am

    Perhaps the key is in this verse (1 Ne 17:50):

    And I said unto them: If God had commanded me to do all things I could do them. If he should command me that I should say unto this water, be thou earth, it should be earth; and if I should say it, it would be done.

    Perhaps we should not be asking for anything except the knowledge of what God would have us do. If, in our varied situations, we ask thusly “Father, I have such an abundance. What wouldst thou have me do?” or “Father, I am very sick. I cannot do all the things Thou hast commanded me through Thy prophets. What wouldst thou have me do?” and add “Please bless me with an increase in thy Spirit, that I might be guided in how to use these blessings/challenges to build Thy kingdom and accomplish Thy work?” If we do that with an open heart and faith that we shall be answered, God can then command us to whatever purposes He has in mind – whether that be smiling at a lonely child or moving mountains. If we are floundering in our preconceived notions of what can and can’t be done, we eliminate the gap in our understanding in which faith can work.

  • Rebecca May 23, 2007, 2:01 pm

    I have been thinking about this thread over the past few days and I think I have a couple of thoughts. First off I believe that being ‘poor’ is a mindset and that feeling sorry for people because we judge their well-being by how affluent they are is also a mindset. A few years ago my husband decided to work for himself. He is a very bright man but far too nice to run a business. As a result our income plummeted. We had never been really well-off but he made enough for me to stay home and put food on the table and a roof over our heads. Suddenly we were living far beneath the national average poverty level. I admit it was stressful at times to make ends meet but overall we were happy. We had a nice home, my husband said that we ate better because I put much more thought and effort into what we ate, I had the skills and resources to clothe my family without going to the store, and we learned to be very innovative. We only had one car (that often didn’t work), we didn’t ever eat out, we grew our own food and used our food storage, milk and other fresh products were great luxuries, we really cut back on everything we could…and you know what? Not only did we survive but we thrived. We paid off our debts, we donated a great amount of our very meager disposable income to charity, and above all we felt blessed. Because I knew that there were things that I couldn’t do or have I didn’t even think about them and when we were able to have things like cheese or a gift certificate to eat out it was a real treat.

    Now we live in different circumstances, we are far wealthier (materially at least) than we were a few years ago but honestly I don’t think we are better off. Sure it is less stressful to pay the bills and it is sort of nice to go to the store and not have to literally watch every penny that I spend but overall I am less thankful for everything. It’s harder to be thankful for fresh milk when you always have six gallons in your fridge. I also have found that I want more now and because I have the money to go and get what I want I don’t work and plan for those things. When we were poor I really, really wanted a new sewing machine. I saved every penny I could find in a jar and over the course of a year or two managed to save a large sum of money. Although I ended up having to use that money for more practical things I felt a great sense of pride and accomplishment that even though I was so poor I could save up for a rainy day.

    I assumed that if we ever were able to earn more money that I would use it as frugally and charitably as when I had so little but I am afraid to admit that isn’t the case. We may give more dollar wise than we did before but it doesn’t stretch us like it used to. I felt like I used to really be willing to give of my time and resources happily because time was a commodity that I did have to give and now it’s almost as if I feel that my time is worth too much to give away.

    So while I agree that no matter how you look at it being an orphan in a drawer is such a sad way to start a life I don’t agree that affluence or lack of it has much bearing on how blessed we are. If anything I feel more ‘poor’ now than I did before. I also believe that if someone really, really, wants something badly they will work and pray to make that dream happen whether it’s taking their family to Hawaii or obtaining an education. I believe that it goes back to those compensatory blessings I mentioned in another thread too, because I firmly believe that those blessings come and they help make life beautiful no matter your material circumstances.

  • SilverRain May 23, 2007, 4:11 pm

    Thanks, Rebecca. That is a beautiful truth.

  • mlinford May 23, 2007, 9:01 pm

    Alison, I know you are sorting through this. I think these really are great questions and I do think that sometimes we get in the mode of being “acted upon” rather than “acting.” It’s just hard sometimes to figure out where the line is. At least that is one of my struggles right now.

    SilverRain, I love you! Your words hit me to the core and I think hit the nail on the head. I loved this: “God can then command us to whatever purposes He has in mind – whether that be smiling at a lonely child or moving mountains.” I think the key is knowing what to ask for. Is it “right”? (Mosiah 4:21) Expedient? (D&C 88:64-65) According to the Lord’s will? (1 John 5:14; Hel. 10:5)

  • Alison Moore Smith May 24, 2007, 12:19 am

    Honestly, it never occurred to me that anyone would NOT want material abundance. Certainly I knew that desire would not be made at any cost, but I figured that, like Tracy, most would gladly accept it, if they didn’t have to violate their standards or sacrifice something of more worth in order to achieve it. I don’t mean, by that, that I thought everyone would use their money to go to Hawaii or to buy a huge house or fancy sports cars. I just means having access to those resources, for whatever purpose.

    My question was whether or not God intended us to have material abundance. Perhaps “intended” wasn’t the right word. Maybe it’s more accurate to say that I wonder if God is happy to allow us or even provide material abundance, if we desire it–along with many other good things.

    The thing that strikes me the most is that abundance is beginning to seem much more like any other blessing, one that also exists in the spiritual realm, than it used to to me. Wealth can provide us with comfort, beauty, happiness, fun, health. It can also give us the means to employ others, to serve, to bless, to save, to build, to support.

    So, while we seem perfectly willing to ask God’s help in other areas that also contribute to these things, we seem (collectively) to shy away from prayer for material means. And we seem to shy away from rejoicing over these kinds of blessings.

    Anyway, none of this is articulated very well. It’s still rather stream-of-consciousness, so take it for what it’s worth.

    Oregonian, that’s a good question. The answer is a profound yes, a serious maybe, and a sincere no.

    Some people think I’m rich. I would say they are wrong, but it’s all relative, isn’t it? I’m in Hawaii in a house on the beach. I have a big house at home and two good cars that both run well and hold our family, and my husband and I go out on a date every week. That’s the limit of our extravagance, really (unless someone who knows me wants to point out something I missed). We don’t have an RV or a boat or a pool or fancy clothes or lots of jewels. We eat frugally and I still can’t bring myself to buy clothes that aren’t either on sale or from Wal-Mart…or both.

    So, I’m more wealthy than lots of people, but I’m also poorer than a ton. Yes, I carry some measure of guilt (or angst or whatever) over everything I have, but my feelings have stayed pretty much the same since I was a struggling college student, because I still had more than millions. And the feelings haven’t kept me from, oh, having Christmas, going on trips once in a while, having desserts on Family Night, etc.

    In other words, I’m not living what I’d call a meager life, but I’m not living, generally, extravagantly, either. So the feelings temper us, but only in, still, a relative sense.

    So, part of what I’m wondering is if enjoying my blessings–whatever they may be–is acceptable to God. Even if they are as unessential as a trip to Hawaii. And, honestly, this week I came to the conclusion that God made this beautiful place to bring us joy and so it IS OK for me to spend some resources to be here with my family and that, rather than feel guilty or anxious about it, it is acceptable to him to just rejoice in being here and to thank him for creating such a place.

  • mlinford May 24, 2007, 12:37 am

    So, part of what I’m wondering is if enjoying my blessings–whatever they may be–is acceptable to God.

    From President Hinckley:
    “I am satisfied that the Father of us all does not wish His children to walk in poverty. He wants them to have comforts and some of the good things of the earth. In the Old Testament, He speaks of a land flowing with milk and honey, ? of the fatlings of the flock, and of other things which indicate that He would have His children properly fed and clothed and sheltered, enjoying the comforts that come of the earth, but not to excess.

    It is when greed takes over, when we covet that which others have, that our affliction begins. And it can be a very sore and painful affliction.”

    And, so, I’d say it’s OK to enjoy some of the good things of life, even comforts. Even maybe trips to Hawaii! 🙂 (And don’t forget, though, that even that you did frugally by using miles, right?) 😉

  • SilverRain May 24, 2007, 6:53 am

    I would also add that I think people are afraid to ask for wealth because wealth can be very dangerous. It’s hard to be certain of the purity of your motives.

    (And thanks, mlinford – you make me blush.)

  • zmg May 24, 2007, 7:50 am

    To the question of whether or not everyone would want material abundance, let me tell you a story about my grandmother.

    She was raised here in Missouri in poverty by today’s standards. Her brother moved to Oklahoma to make his fortune. Now my grandmother didn’t even have indoor plumbing in her home when she died in 1967. She had her garden where she grew a few vegetables and she worked pretty much from sun up to sun down.

    Her brother had done pretty well for himself particularly by depression standards. He and his family had a large home with plumbing, electricity and he had a maid and cook. He wanted his sister to come visit so he sent for her. The visit didn’t last long. My grandmother loved her brother but she was used to working and taking care of herself. She didn’t know what to do in all of that affluence and it made her uncomfortable and unhappy. They always kept in touch but that was the last visit they had.

  • Alison Moore Smith May 24, 2007, 9:44 pm

    Interesting story, zmg. Thanks for bringing that up. Don’t you think that wealth and leisure are two different issues, really? I know some poor people who do all sorts of nothing all day, and wealthy people who run themselves ragged. And, of course, vice versa.

  • Sharilee10 May 29, 2007, 12:46 am

    Wow! What an interesting thread! I have so many thoughts going through my head, and forgive me if I don’t go back to see who said what, but I really want to add my thoughts as this is something I have been learning a great deal about for the past several years. Here is my take . . .

    First of all– the Lord does want us all to live in abundance. Living in abundance is not a measure of money but a measure of peace and joy. If used correctly, financial abundance can be a part of living the abundant life. However, there are many people who live abundant lives in spite of not currently experiencing financial wealth. Of course, even material abundance is all relative since almost everyone living in the U.S. lives in abundance compared to millions throughout the world living in Third World Countries. Why we were born here and they were born there I’m sure has a muti-faceted answer, so I will stick with the simple response that everyone is born at a time and place appointed that will allow them to fulfill the purpose of their creation.

    Now– back to the other issues– I have learned that whatever is happening in our lives we have attracted into our lives. When I first heard that I was livid– after all, I was in the middle of a very nasty divorce and my first thought was, “I was not the one who beat me up every day. I am not the one who keeps taking me back to Court over and over.” It was a hard truth to accept, and it probably is for all of us at some point, but I believe it is true. Once I took responsibility for my experiences everything changed! My EX didn’t change– but I did, which changed the way I looked at it and changed what showed up in my life, in spite of my Ex’s continuing behavior. We are attracting into our lives the experiences and circumstances that we are getting. I believe that any of us can have anything we want. I am finding that when the Lord said, “Ask and ye shall receive” He meant, “Ask and ye shall receive.” He didn’t say “Ask and ye shall receive it as long as the planets align and I think it’s okay and your neighbor will be okay with it.” Now— looking a this head on we might say, “But if we can ask for anything and receive it we will always ask for the easy life and the things that bring us joy and no one would ever ask for challenges and difficult situations.” I believe the key is that it’s not our conscious mind that is doing the asking– it is our energy that is in line with God’s energy and knows the experiences we need to achieve the ultimate goal, which of course is eternal life. We will not become as God and become like him without experiencing challenges, so our energy attracts those experiences that will allow us to become like him. That IS what we want, even if we don’t consciously know that. There is so much more than what I can say here— but it could be a book if I continue on this one point.

    So– where does material wealth fit into all of this? I believe that we can all receive material wealth if that is what we want. We can also experience things like traveling without the financial wealth if that’s what we want. Last November I spent a month in Israel, went to California in February, Vienna and Budapest in March and took my daughter to New York in April and will be going to London in the Fall and Israel again next summer. None of it really had anything to do with money– the only trip I actually paid for was Vienna and Budapest. The others were paid for through my volunteer efforts. I intended to travel and the Universe (that was created by God and is ruled by God) created that for me. I am very grateful. I believe that each of us has the power to work in harmony with our Creator to bring into our lives the things that we really want to have and the things that will bless our lives.

    I also have limited myself in the past. As a single mother I held on to the belief that as a single mother I should have limited income and yet I had a strong desire to have money in the bank and provide well for my children, so for years I have lived on limited income and yet in the process been able to create a rather large savings and have pretty much whatever my children needed. While I have always been very frugal, when the kids really wanted something that would enrich their lives (like a harp for my daughter or certain camps and experiences for the boys) the money has been there.

    I have recently had the opportunity to be personally mentored in my finances by multi-billionaire Robert Allen and Richard Paul Evans and what I have learned is that I do not have to limit my own income because of some belief that single mothers should have limited income. My top priority is and always has been my children, which is why everything I do is done on a flexible schedule that works around my kids’ schedule and not them working around my job. That is important to me and so I have made it a point not to focus too much on an income, which for years has kept me thinking I would have to make do with limited wealth. However, in order to build sustainability into the non-profits I volunteer with and other non-profits, which is a very strong desire and intention of mine, it is necessary to have that money flow through me to them. In other words, I have to be willing to be materially wealthy in order to pass that wealth on. I also have learned that there is more than one way to create that and it doesn’t have to look like what it has always looked like. There is no need to feel guilty or to even question whether or not to enjoy it– I can’t begin to describe how exciting it is to think about being able to be a philanthropist not only with my time and effort as I have for years, but with money as well– to sit in board meetings and talk about how we can expand the programs instead of where we can go to get another grant to keep the doors open! I am enjoying every second of the abundant life with every fiber of my being! How grateful I am for the many wealthy people in the world who have contributed of their abundance to establish these organizations in the first place and to keep them going; for wealthy LDS men and women who pay an honest tithe and more in order to build the beautiful temples and churches and provide the numerous church programs that we all enjoy. Money is not the root of all evil— it is the love of money that can destroy us if we forget to center our hearts on Christ. I believe the Lord wants each of us to enjoy whatever blessings we desire and whatever experiences will bring us joy– after all, man is that he might have joy, and women too!

    Now, before anyone gets defensive– let me share my mantra: Everything is exactly as it should be. What this means to me is that whatever each one of is experiencing is exactly the experience we need in this moment, so no one needs to feel guilty or question themselves. Whatever we each have experienced up to this point is exactly what we needed. We may find a completely different experience tomorrow– or we may find more of the same. It would be easy to regret not learning this as a young teenager like my children, but everything is as it should be. I have learned it in the perfect timing and sequence to fulfill my purpose here on Earth. I will be satisfied with that. Whatever, if we just allow ourselves to experience whatever it is we are experiencing and ask the Lord for guidance on where He would have us go next we will find peace and joy in whatever situation we find ourselves in. It is what it is . . . there are lessons to learn for all of us. Whatever is happening in our lives is absolutely perfect for this moment. It probably needs to change in the next moment— but for this moment it was what it needed to be, so learn the lesson and move forward in life.

    Well . . . I don’t even dare see how long that got . . .and it’s only part of what I’m thinking so I hope it made sense and came out the way I meant for it to. Thanks for letting me share.

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