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`LOOK TO THE LORD’

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If money makes the world go around, as a song implies, the unrighteous pursuit of money may be one of humankind's basest quests. Money has taken over much of our consciousness, whether it's the worker worried about an elusive pension, a retiree struggling to live on a fixed income or a teenager trying to break into the work force.

Perhaps it's not the money we crave but the things money provides us: security, peace of mind and worldly possessions. Lots of stuff. It piles up around us, a growing outward sign to others of our monetary worth. If we don't curb our cravings and rein in our expectations sometimes our possessions overwhelm us and the means of paying for it puts us into financial straits.It may be that what started out as a right-eous intent - providing for one's family, helping others or saving for our future - got sidetracked along the way as well as our good intentions. The scriptures are replete with warnings about the folly of pursuing wealth for wealth's sake. The Savior Himself challenged us to lay up for ourselves treasures in heaven, not here on Earth.

And, of course, the payment of tithing, freely and willingly, is one excellent way to do just that.

When the Church was faced with financial bondage during the administration of President Lorenzo Snow, the Lord reaffirmed by revelation this counsel: "The time has now come for every Latter-day Saint . . . to pay his tithing in full. That is the word of the Lord to every settlement throughout the land of Zion. . . . The Lord has blessed us and has had mercy upon us in the past; but there are times coming when the Lord requires us to stand up and do that which He has commanded and not leave it any longer." (Teachings of Lorenzo Snow, p. 155.)

The Savior wants us to obey His commandments because we love Him and are willing to sacrifice for Him. He reminded His disciples often about the difference between merely living the letter of the law and abiding by the spirit of the law.

Thirty years ago, President Howard W. Hunter, as a member of the Council of the Twelve, related this principle to the law of tithing when he said, "The principle of tithing should be more than a mathematical, mechanical compliance with the law. The Lord condemned the Pharisees for mechanically tithing herbs without coming into the circumference of spirituality. If we pay our tithes because of our love for the Lord, in complete freedom and faith, we narrow our distance from Him and our relationship to Him becomes intimate. We are released from the bondage of legalism, and we are touched by the Spirit and feel a oneness with God." (April 1964 Conference Report).

The Savior was quick to condemn hypocrisy wherever He encountered it, especially among those who sought for the honors of men, rather than humbly seeking to do the will of the Father. The Savior doesn't inquire about our net worth or the year of our automobile. He only inquires about our availability and our ability to love Him and each other.

It's easy at this season of the year to be enticed by joys of the holidays, and expressing our love one to another by giving gifts - expensive or otherwise. But the gifts of self - as the Savior's life so powerfully testifies - are the ones that make a real difference and are the ones that will be remembered long after our possessions have vanished.

Too often in our rush to live the gospel more fully, we erect barriers to the courts on high because we complicate the commandments. Money, or the pursuit of it, is just one of those barriers. We seek to purchase happiness for ourselves and others instead of realizing that the gospel is basically a simple set of instructions: Love God and love our neighbors as ourself. A checkbook, a credit card or a passbook savings account are not required.

The Savior taught plain and precious truths, if only we will seek them. To those looking for complicated solutions to complex problems He had a relatively simple answer:

"Come unto me all ye that labour and are heavy laden and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." (Matt. 11:28-30.)

We need to turn our focus from the financial pages and their listings of stock and bond prices, interest rates and other forms of commerce, and look to the Lord who invites us to come unto him.

We need only bring ourselves. What we possess is unimportant.