In the fall of 1990 I started my senior year at Provo High school in Provo, Utah. Being a (mostly good) Mormon boy I (somewhat) dutifully attended “Seminary”. For readers who are not LDS, seminary is an hour of religious instruction held as a “class” during the school day. In Utah, it is usually taught in a church house or a “Seminary” building that is near or adjacent to the local high school. Each year a specific book of scripture, as accepted y the LDS Church, is taught. That year we were studying the Book of Mormon.
After all these years I remember two things from seminary that school year. One was that the classes put on a “Dress like Nephi” contest and my contribution to my class’s entry was that I brought a sword that my father owned that had at one time been a Hollywood movie prop to be our “Nephi’s” “Sword of Laban.” The other thing I remember is our lesson on Mosiah chapter 4.
Our teacher had started his lesson. I honestly cannot remember just what he was saying or what direction the lesson was going. I do recall that we took turns reading some of the passages and we probably discussed them. Then, maybe 20 or 30 minutes into the lesson, we could hear music playing from down the hallway. Our teacher stopped talking and we listened. The music that was playing was Phil Collins hit song from the year before, “Another Day in Paradise.” We had literally just read and started discussing King Benjamin’s teaching about beggars:
16 And also, ye yourselves will asuccor those that stand in need of your succor; ye will administer of your substance unto him that standeth in need; and ye will not suffer that the bbeggar putteth up his petition to you in vain, and turn him out to perish.
17 Perhaps thou shalt asay: The man has brought upon himself his misery; therefore I will stay my hand, and will not give unto him of my food, nor impart unto him of my substance that he may not suffer, for his punishments are just—
18 But I say unto you, O man, whosoever doeth this the same hath great cause to repent; and except he repenteth of that which he hath done he perisheth forever, and hath no interest in the kingdom of God.
19 For behold, are we not all abeggars? Do we not all depend upon the same Being, even God, for all the substance which we have, for both food and raiment, and for gold, and for silver, and for all the riches which we have of every kind?
And now we were hearing Phil Collins sing:
She calls out to the man on the street
“Sir, can you help me?
It’s cold and I’ve nowhere to sleep,
Is there somewhere you can tell me?”
He walks on, doesn’t look back
He pretends he can’t hear her
Starts to whistle as he crosses the street
Seems embarrassed to be there
Oh think twice, it’s another day for
You and me in paradise
Oh think twice, it’s just another day for you,
You and me in paradise…
Oh lord, is there nothing more anybody can do
Oh lord, there must be something you can say
Our teacher let the song finish playing before he spoke again. AS near as I can remember he said something like this:
I hope that you never forget what we felt just now as we listened to that song. It captures very well what King Benjamin taught. Some members of the Church say that you should not give to beggars because where they are is their own fault, or they say that because they already pay tithing and fast offerings they do not need to help beggars. Some will say that there are agencies and institutions to help and it is better to send beggars there. One more excuse is that some, or even many of the panhandlers, are liars, that they are lazy and do not want to work and they are begging because it is an easy way for them to get money. This is clearly against the teaching of King Benjamin and of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
True Latter-day Saints “will not suffer that the bbeggar putteth up his petition to you in vain,” and will not, “asay: The man has brought upon himself his misery; therefore I will stay my hand,” and “whosoever doeth this the same hath great cause to repent;”. Joseph Smith said, “”It is better to feed ten impostors than to run the risk of turning away one honest petition.” And Brigham Young said that if there are 10 beggars and 9 of them are imposters than it is “best, to give food to the ten, to make sure of helping the truly needy.” Someone who believes King Benjamin and is trying to be like Christ would never, “Walk on” on and “not look back” or “pretend that they can’t hear” when they have the means to help. There is “more that we can do” and we should always do our best to try…
It has been 20 some years since that lesson, and while I AM approximating what he said, I remember the feeling of what was said and the points of what he said very well. I have not always done as good of a job as I should to help the beggar, but, thanks to Chris and Phil’s reminders, I am determined to do better.
Please enjoy today’s “Hymn of Social Justice” this unusual live recording of Phil Collins “Another Day in Paradise”