I love watching General Conference! Even the stuff in between session just makes you feel good. Invariably, the broadcasters show lots of the Church’s commercials, always concluding with the tagline, “Family-Isn’t it about time?” (want to see some? Click here:
Our time is really the only thing we have to give to Heavenly Father. Like anything else He asks of us though, when we willingly give of our time in service to Him and His children, we are blessed beyond our expectations.
At a recent Stake Relief Society event, a sister showed a video that taught me much about meaningful prayer and the use of time. Please watch it here.
There are a lot of things I love about this video, but I especially learned from her use of prayer as a time to really communicate with her Father in Heaven to help in planning the day and also, interestingly, to report back. This is a sister who understands the economy and process of heaven. We ask for and receive direction, and then we are to report back. It’s such a simple concept, and yet, I had not applied it to prayer in such a direct way before. I have been trying to follow her process. I still don’t get everything done on my daily list, but I feel that I am accomplishing more of value, and especially that my anxiety about what I accomplish or don’t accomplish has diminished greatly. I feel at peace. There is no greater feeling.
One of my favorite themes that emerged from Conference was helping refugees and also just serving anyone in need who lives near us. As was stated in more than one talk, there are 60 million refugees, and half of them are children. I have recently been to some trainings for attorneys who wish to help.
The practice of granting asylum to people fleeing persecution has been found in texts dating back 3500 years. There is a great misunderstanding about what actually makes a person a refugee. The actual definition is found in a legal document called the 1951 Refugee Convention. A refugee is someone who “owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality, and is unable to, or owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country.”
Most people also don’t understand that the average length of time that a person spends in a refugee camp is 17 years. To even get to a refugee camp, they have to have already gotten themselves outside of their country at great risk and sacrifice. In other words, when we are talking about refugees, we are talking about people who have nowhere else to go, who have no power or ability to change their circumstances because they are caught in a legal limbo. To enter another country, people have to have the support and infrastructure of their own country to provide documents of identity and purpose of entry. This is very different than even economic migrants who wish to move to better provide for themselves or their families. Refugees MUST move to save their lives and do not have the ability to receive protection from their home country, indeed, it’s usually their own leaders that are trying to kill them.
Take a look at the following infographic. The graphic on the left is the full process, which was literally too long to include on the blog. The picture on the right is a screen shot of the first step. If you would like to see the full infographic, go here.
Now, after reviewing this graphic, ask the question, if someone wanted to put themselves in a position to harm others, why would they take the longest, most arduous and well-checked security route to do so? Couldn’t they just secure a work entry, or even short-term travel entry?
With these definitions in mind, let’s take a look at Alma 27 in perhaps a new way.
1 Now it came to pass that when those Lamanites who had gone to war against the Nephites had found, after their many struggles to destroy them, that it was in vain to seek their destruction, they returned again to the land of Nephi.
2 And it came to pass that the Amalekites, because of their loss, were exceedingly angry. And when they saw that they could not seek revenge from the Nephites, they began to stir up the people in anger against their brethren, the people of Anti-Nephi-Lehi; therefore they began again to destroy them.
And we can understand Ammon’s reaction toward wanting to protect this people, who could not protect themselves.
4 Now when Ammon and his brethren saw this work of destruction among those whom they so dearly beloved, and among those who had so dearly beloved them—for they were treated as though they were angels sent from God to save them from everlasting destruction—therefore, when Ammon and his brethren saw this great work of destruction, they were moved with compassion, and they said unto the king:
5 Let us gather together this people of the Lord, and let us go down to the land of Zarahemla to our brethren the Nephites, and flee out of the hands of our enemies, that we be not destroyed.
The people knew that based on past experiences between the two peoples, the Nephites had every reason to destroy them, or at least to turn a blind eye to their plight.
6 But the king said unto them: Behold, the Nephites will destroy us, because of the many murders and sins we have committed against them.
7 And Ammon said: I will go and inquire of the Lord, and if he say unto us, go down unto our brethren, will ye go?
10 But the king said unto him: Inquire of the Lord, and if he saith unto us go, we will go; otherwise we will perish in the land.
And when Ammon prayed, the Lord told him to get the people out of the land or they would die. Ammon reported to the King, and then left to the Nephites to “try their hearts”. When he arrived and explained the situation, the Chief Judge sent a proclamation throughout the land, desiring the voice of the people about the situation.
Is that not what just happened in Conference? A proclamation has been sent out by our leaders about this issue. It’s a call to action. It happened in a letter from the First Presidency, dated October 27, 2015. It happened when the Church donated an additional $5 million to the relief efforts in Europe. It happened during the first session of General Conference, the General Women’s meeting, when an initiative called I Was a Stranger was introduced. It also happened when Elder Kearon talked about the great need, and our individual ability to lift where we can, and stated, “This moment does not define them, but our response will help define us.”
Besides the obvious need to alleviate physical, temporal suffering, why?
Why is this kind of service so necessary? Elder Packer provided insight in a Conference address from 1995. He was teaching that all of us sometimes sin in ways that we cannot repay or restore ourselves. When this happens, we are reliant on the Atonement, and we are indebted to the Savior for his sacrifice that opens this path for us. He stated,
“The Lord provides ways to pay our debts to Him. In one sense we ourselves may participate in an atonement. When we are willing to restore to others that which we have not taken, or heal wounds that we did not inflict, or pay a debt that we did not incur, we are emulating His part in the Atonement.”
What a privilege! We have the opportunity to participate in the Atonement by serving those whom He would have us serve. It gives a little different light to the scripture that we know so well.
“For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:
“Naked, and ye clothed me. …
“… Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”
So, we are inspired. We are ready. Where to begin? Look no farther than https://www.justserve.org/. Maybe have a family home evening, where everyone grabs their device (devices ALLOWED during family home evening??? That will get their attention!) Put in your zipcode, and scroll through the amazing opportunities that await. Look for refugee needs in your area, but also for anything that speaks to you through the Spirit. Heavenly Father loves all His children. I testify to you that there will be something on that list that you can do with the amount of time and with the talents that have been given you. This is the whole purpose you received those talents and time in the first place!
I would love to hear reports about what you and your family are doing. Invite a refugee to dinner (and there’s a video on that in the footnotes! Play games on family night with another family that needs to practice English. Help someone study for the citizenship exam. Help a mother learn how to navigate a grocery store that sells things she has never seen before. Make a birthday cake for a neighbor. Paint a fence for an elderly neighbor. Just stop by and see someone that might be lonely. We can do this!
How do we change the world? By helping one person at a time. How do we strengthen ourselves and our families? By remembering and serving our brothers and sisters in need. When we participate in the Atonement, we allow Christ to be present and at the forefront of our lives.
 Want to learn more? Go here: http://www.unhcr.org/pages/49c3646c125.html
 Matthew 25:35–36, 40