Through the prophet Isaiah, the Lord issued a clear warning to political leaders:
Wo unto them that decree unrighteous decrees, and that write grievousness which they have prescribed;
To turn away the needy from judgment, and to take away the right from the poor of my people, that widows may be their prey, and that they may rob the fatherless!Isaiah 10:1-2, 2 Nephi 20:1-2
This passage might seem to refer to laws and policies which directly harm people in poverty. But several Book of Mormon prophets teach us that those of us with the means to help, harm the poor simply by ignoring them.
Alma asked the people of Zarahemla, “Will you persist in turning your backs upon the poor, and the needy, and in withholding your substance from them?” (Alma 5:55).
Moroni, who saw our day in a vision, accused us of the same kind of neglect:
Ye do love money, and your substance, and your fine apparel, and the adorning of your churches, more than ye love the poor and the needy, the sick and the afflicted.Mormon 8:37
In the book of Proverbs, we read the following advice, which King Lemuel learned from his mother:
Open thy mouth, judge righteously, and plead the cause of the poor and needy.Proverbs 31:9
And in 1841, the Lord gave the same counsel to a church leader named Vinson Knight:
Let him lift up his voice long and loud, in the midst of the people, to plead the cause of the poor and the needy; and let him not fail, neither let his heart faint; and I will accept of his offerings,Doctrine and Covenants 124:75
In my city of Charlotte, North Carolina, 12.8% of the population, or about 113,000 people, are living in poverty, according to the United States Census Bureau (“Quick Facts: Charlotte city, North Carolina,” on census.gov, 29 October 2021). Who are these people? What can I do to be more aware of them? How can I plead their cause?
Globally, the situation is even more stark. According to the World Bank, approximately 700 million people live on less than $1.90 per day, which is the poverty line in some of the poorest economies in the world.
These numbers are overwhelming. But even though I can’t solve the whole problem, I can do more:
- I can donate more to organizations which help the poor and needy in my community and around the world.
- I can volunteer more of my time, providing service which benefits the poor and needy.
- I can pay more attention to the needs of everyone around me and look for ways I can help specific individuals and families.
- I can invite others to participate with me in these worthy causes.
Today, I will act upon the Lord’s admonition to plead the cause of the poor and needy. I will be grateful for the opportunities I have to serve and bless others, and I will take more advantage of those opportunities.