Instruments in God's Hands
By Bishop L. Todd Budge | Second Counselor in the Presiding Bishopric
Several years ago, Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf, who was then the Second Counselor in the First Presidency, told of a large statue of Jesus Christ that was damaged during World War II. The statue was an important symbol of the faith of the people who lived in that city, and they asked experts to repair their beloved statue. While most of the statue was restored, its hands were too damaged to be repaired. They considered making new hands but decided instead to leave it without hands. At the base of the statue, they added a sign that read, “You are my hands.”
One of the great joys that comes from serving others is that we are instruments in God’s hands to build up His kingdom. In Alma 26, Ammon glories in the Lord about their experiences in serving the Lamanites and asks this question in verse 2: “And now, I ask, what great blessings has he bestowed upon us? Can ye tell?” Then he gives the answer in verse 3: “This is the blessing which hath been bestowed upon us, that we have been made instruments in the hands of God to bring about this great work.” I love that the blessing of doing God’s work is that we get to do God’s work! The work is its own reward. This principle is relevant to all aspects of the Lord’s work, including philanthropic giving.
“This is the blessing which hath been bestowed upon us, that we have been made instruments in the hands of God to bring about this great work.”
Some may wonder why we would ask people to donate to a church that is prospering. The role of philanthropic giving is to provide people an opportunity to be instruments in God’s hands, to allow them to participate in the joy of giving and the joy of being a part of God’s kingdom on the earth.
Invitations to Feel the Light
When I was serving as a mission president in Japan, one of my sister missionaries shared with me an insight she gained about the shepherds who saw the Christ child in the manger. That baby in the manger must have looked like any other baby. How did the shepherds know He was the Son of God? This sister missionary’s insight was that the shepherds knew the same way that we know: the Holy Ghost bore witness to them that this is the Christ child. She said, “I realized that when I bear my testimony, when I’m teaching the Japanese people by the power of the Holy Ghost, I’m giving them that opportunity to feel and see the Savior, to feel of His light through me. I’m just an instrument in His hands.”
The pattern of feeling and seeing the Savior is clear in Jesus Christ’s ministry to the Nephites. In 3 Nephi 11, He extends to them a sacred invitation:
“Arise and come forth unto me, that ye may thrust your hands into my side, and also that ye may feel the prints of the nails in my hands and in my feet, that ye may know that I am the God of Israel, and the God of the whole earth, and have been slain for the sins of the world.
“And it came to pass that the multitude went forth, and thrust their hands into his side, and did feel the prints of the nails in his hands and in his feet; and this they did do, going forth one by one until they had all gone forth, and did see with their eyes and did feel with their hands, and did know of a surety and did bear record, that it was he, of whom it was written by the prophets, that should come” (3 Nephi 11:14–15).
The Savior comes back to this idea later when He says to the Nephites, “Therefore, hold up your light that it may shine unto the world. Behold I am the light which ye shall hold up” (3 Nephi 18:24). Christ is the light. When He says, “Let your light shine,” it is not our light that shines; it is the light of Christ that we should hold up, “that which ye have seen me do. . . .And ye see that I have commanded that . . . ye should come unto me, that ye might feel and see”—and this is the interesting part— “even so shall ye do unto the world” (3 Nephi 18:24–25).
Have you thought of that? Jesus Christ is inviting us to do what He did, to invite people to come and feel and see the light of Christ through us.
A Matter of Intent
From time to time, the Philanthropies Department of the Church will get a letter from somebody referencing Matthew 6:3–4: “But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what they right hand doeth: That thine alms may be in secret.”
They will quote those verses and then say, “In your newsletter, you talk about all the wonderful things the Church is doing with these funds. But I thought we weren’t supposed to let the left hand know what the right hand does. So why are you doing that?” In the previous chapter of Matthew, the Savior says: “Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. “Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 5:14–16).
I have wondered, is that a contradictory statement? Don’t let the left hand know what the right hand does, but then let your light shine so people can glorify God.
It really is a matter of intent. If one’s intent is to glorify God and help people come and see and feel the Savior’s love and His good-ness, then it’s a good thing. If the intent is to bring attention to oneself and to show how good one is, then that’s evil.
This reminds me of a missionary who told his mission president that he wanted to have 100 baptisms, and then he asked if that was a good goal. The mission president said the answer depended on his intent. If the missionary’s intent was to look good so all the missionaries would think he was great and his parents would think he was great and he would become a zone leader and an assistant to the president and get fame and glory, then no, that was not a good goal. But if the intent was to baptize 100 people because the missionary loved the people and wanted to see as many as possible come unto Christ, then yes, that was a good goal. The missionary responded, “I have some repenting to do.”
Why do we do what we do? Why do we give? We do it to glorify God. We do it for His name’s sake, not for our own. I love in Moses where you can see that contrast between Satan and Christ. Satan says:
“Behold, here am I, send me, I will be thy son, and I will redeem all mankind . . . ; wherefore give me thine honor.
“But, behold, my Beloved Son, which was my Beloved and Chosen from the beginning, said unto me—Father, thy will be done, and the glory be thine forever” (Moses 4:1–2).
Our Savior Jesus Christ was our perfect exemplar. His only desire was to serve His Father. He was an instrument in God’s hands in all that He did in teaching, serving, and loving. We can strive to do the same as we, in effect, say, “Here am I, send me” to accomplish the building of God’s kingdom on earth today.