12 November 2008

Begging at the Temple

This morning I was approached by a homeless person in front of Temple Square asking for money. This experience reminded me of a trip to Temple Square many years ago when I was young and saw a sign on the wall near the entrance. The sign asked Temple-goers not to give money to the panhandlers on the street but rather to give to charitable organizations. After my experience this morning, I looked for the sign but was unable to find it. Regardless of a person’s view of the various ways of how best to help the poor and homeless, there seems to be something significant about a person coming to the Temple begging for help.

-In Acts we read of the story of the lame man who was carried each morning to the gate of the Temple in order to ask alms of them that entered into the Temple. (Acts 3:2) This beggar at the Temple asked the Apostle Peter for money. Peter responded saying he had no money but could offer a physical healing of his ailment. He did this and then entered the Temple with the man.

-The speech King Benjamin gave his people was at the Temple. They were living in tents around the Temple begging for a remission of their sins. With the building of the tower and all the burnt offerings performed, they were likely there for several days, if not longer. Camping there for so long, they probably looked pretty ragged, prompting Benjamin to refer to them as beggars. Here was a group of homeless beggars living in tents at the Temple. (Mosiah 2-4)

In similar ways all of us are beggars when we go to the Temple. Is there any distinction between someone coming to a Temple begging for alms versus someone begging for a remission of sins, versus someone begging for guidance from the Lord? Does it matter that some of the beggars remain on the outside of the Temple and some go inside?

Unless we are going for the first time, Temple work essentially involves a service to others; to those who have already lived and died. I find it interesting that we so easily pass the living beggars in the street in order to get into the Temple to help the beggars who have already died achieve salvation.

According to Malachi we rob God when we don’t pay tithing. And according to Nephi we rob the poor with our beautiful buildings and fine clothing (2 Ne 28:13). Ironically in the Church our most beautiful buildings are Temples and we wear our best clothing to attend. Does this change how we should approach or respond to the beggars we see at the Temple?

6 comments:

KingOfTexas said...

I worked for the homeless shelter in Salt Lake City for about three years. You can get at least six hot meals a day in Salt Lake from different shelters. Almost every church there has a food pantry because of Welfare Square Bishops' Storehouse. There are at least three different shelters for families, women, men and one for battered women. Everybody knows Saints at the Temple are a soft touch.
That being said you never know.

Tod Robbins said...

I usually talk myself into at least speaking heartily with those that beg, and sometimes open the coffers. I think, in a Church where we believe in personal revelation, God can surely send a message to the sincere heart as to what your action should be.

I'm still working on the whole sanctification part, and therefore knowing the truth way at every moment.

Alas...

KingOfTexas said...

tod when you walk on water; could I get a picture? :)

A Girl Called Dallan said...

I hope you don't mind that I linked to this from my blog yesterday. Thank you for sharing your insights.

Flyingpackman said...

There was an interesting article in the Deseret News about this topic recently. Here is the link:

http://www.deseretnews.com/article/1,5143,705321947,00.html

Personally, I think the majority of the panhandlers around temple square are "professionals".

Nathan said...

I have to suggest some caveats. Your two scriptural examples raise some good questions. In the case of Acts 3, Peter actually declined to give the beggar money. Instead, he used everything in his power to help the beggar become self-reliant.

In the case of Mosiah 4, King Benjamin urges rich people to give to poor people just as God gives to sinful mortals. And how does God give to mortals? Indiscriminately, giving them any and everything they ask for? No, he gives us whatever will help us most, even if it's not necessarily what we want or think we need.

Granted, that requires us to use good, Spirit-informed judgment. I'm not saying we should never give; I just wince when people imply that King Benjamin said we must always give, regardless of the circumstances, if we want to be Christ-like. After all, if that were true, why would the Brethren put the sign outside Temple Square that urges people to not give beggars money?