A while ago I was driving down the road having a conversation with a young man about some of his “needs.” He was expressing a desire for something I thought was not necessary, especially when there were other more important things he needed. I asked about clothing–surely he could use a new pair of pants and a shirt. What growing teenage young man couldn’t? He, however, had his heart set on something else that I considered trivial--something he felt he truly needed.
I joked with him about the difference between a need and a want. He then said something that caught my attention. “It would be nice to be able to get something that I both need and want.” Having just finished reading Mosiah 18, my heart softened, and within a few short minutes we were at the store checkout line with his “needed” item.
I have thought about that conversation several times over the last few months. Over the years I have tried to help several families meet the clothing needs of their growing children during difficult financial times. I found great pleasure watching them open the gifts, excited about their new outfits. The smile on the child’s face would warm me for several weeks, and the feeling was renewed each time I saw them wearing the clothes. I knew I was providing a need for the family, and that brought a great peace to my heart. But what of their wants?
Alma teaches us that we must impart “to one another both temporally and spiritually according to their needs and their wants” (Mosiah 18:29). We do not need to look far to see the temporal needs of many of Heavenly Father’s children. The television news floods us with the humanity of famine, war, and inequality. We see the need within our own families and neighborhoods. The needs of our heavenly siblings can be overwhelming in scope and size. Perhaps it is through our own spiritual needs that we come to understand how each of us can do our part to help out. I love to hear of the temporal relief sent through the Church’s humanitarian fund throughout the world. I thrill with stories of hundreds of quilts made and donated to those who need them. Food, clothing, wheelchairs, and more are donated to help make the life of someone better. Simple individual efforts that truly make a difference are the basis for a Zion society. However, reaching out and fulfilling the temporal needs of others is not enough. Alma mentions “both temporally and spiritually” fulfilling their needs and their wants.
While a priest of King Noah, Alma enjoyed a life of wealth and ease. The taxes upon the people provided him with his temporal needs and wants. And yet, with the testimony of Abinadi, Alma realized there was more to life--there was more that he needed and wanted. His unsuccessful attempt to save Abinadi’s life resulted in his fleeing the city to save his own life.
Alma writes that he went through “sore repentance; nevertheless, after much tribulation the Lord did hear my cries, and did answer my prayers” (Mosiah 23:9-10). With his spiritual need and want being fulfilled, he then turned to others, desiring to help them receive what he had received from the Lord. With Alma’s repentance came the Spirit of love and peace that he desired for all his people. He possibly had been given the priesthood authority as a priest, however, he now exercised that authority righteously by privately going about teaching redemption through Jesus Christ to his family, friends, and neighbors. All who believed on his words entered into a covenant to help and serve each other (Mosiah 18:8-10) as “every man should love his neighbor as himself” (Mosiah 23:15).
By gaining a testimony of the redemption of Jesus Christ, Alma and about four hundred and fifty other residents of the land of Nephi, changed their lives through repentance and service to each other, “walking uprightly before God, imparting to one another both temporally and spiritually according to their needs and wants” (Mosiah 18:29). All were blessed, and all were served. Their needs and their wants became one as they looked at each other through eternal eye sight.
Today, some of the greatest wants and needs in the world are spiritual. While the humanitarian efforts of the Church are impressive, the work of thousands of missionaries, leaders, home and visiting ministers, and others is truly making a difference in healing the world. There is a great blessing in serving our fellow men by teaching them the gospel and then encouraging and strengthening each other in living its principles. By serving each other spiritually, we fill an internal and eternal need and want.
While the young man probably could have done without his “want,” I couldn’t do without fulfilling my “need.” I thought about my needs and wants, and felt the need to ask Father in Heaven for help in understanding them. I felt the need to ask the Father for eternal eye sight in understanding both the needs and the wants of those around me. I pray that I might be more “willing to bear one another’s burdens,” “mourn with those that mourn,” “comfort those that need comfort” (Mosiah 18:8-9), and that my heart would be “knit together in unity and in love” towards others (Mosiah 18:21).
There is so much room for growth in this area needed, and wanted, in my life. May we each realize our own needs and wants, and then come to understand each of us have similar needs and wants. Thus we come to know the importance of “imparting to one another both temporally and spiritually according to their needs and their wants” (Mosiah 18:29).