Memories: The Milk of Kindness

Ed J. Pinegar, Richard J. Allen

My father was a generous man. I can recall with utter clarity the scene I saw through the front porch windows of my childhood home one blistering-hot summer day. There was a gruff-looking stranger out there cutting down the weeds along the edge of the street. He would pause to mop his brow from time to time. My father was also watching. Suddenly my father went to the kitchen and retrieved a new, unopened quart bottle of milk and, much to my amazement, he walked passed me (I was perhaps five or six years old at the time) and went directly outside to speak with the stranger. I watched with fascinating as they exchanged a few words. Then my father handed the milk bottle to the man, who gratefully accepted it, opened it, and drank down the contents in nearly one draught.

There were two aspects to this memory for me. The one was seeing a total stranger drink down a quart of milk right from the jar—quite a feat in itself. The other was the grateful look on his face, which was matched only by the glow on my father’s. Despite its simplicity, this example from my father has been a lasting legacy concerning the milk of human kindness and a vivid reminder to be generous and charitable to others in their need.

In the eighth year of his tenure as chief judge and high priest among the people at Zarahemla, Alma the Younger perceived a destructive rift in the social fabric of his nation. A large segment of the population became dominated by self-consuming pride because of their abundant wealth and prosperity: “Yea, he saw great inequality among the people, some lifting themselves up with their pride, despising others, turning their backs upon the needy and the naked and those who were hungry, and those who were athirst, and those who were sick and afflicted” (Alma 4:12). He also saw others who remained compassionate and caring, “abasing themselves, succoring those who stood in need of their succor, such as imparting their substance to the poor and the needy, feeding the hungry, and suffering all manner of afflictions, for Christ’s sake, who should come according to the spirit of prophecy” (Alma 4:13). Because of this dangerous rift, Alma conveyed his chief judgeship to a worthy colleague and took upon himself the responsibility to go forth and preach the word of God to the people, “to stir them up in remembrance of their duty, and that he might pull down, by the word of God, all the pride and craftiness and all the contentions which were among his people, seeing no way that he might reclaim them save it were in bearing down in pure testimony against them” (Alma 4:19).

In effect, he was extending to them the promise that Isaiah, before him, had extended to the people: “Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price” (Isaiah 55:1; compare 2 Nephi 9:50; 26:25). In his extraordinary discourse to the people, Alma was to ask them this compelling question: “Have ye experienced this mighty change in your hearts” (Alma 5:14)—this change that would cause them to keep all of the Lord’s commandments, including repenting of the prideful denial of the petitions of the destitute and “turning your backs upon the poor and the needy, and in withholding your substance from them” (Alma 5:55). Charity to one’s fellows is a reflection of the matchless charity of the Savior who imparted the bread of life and the water of salvation freely to all of God’s children. Charity, rather than pride, is what we must each develop to become like our Great Exemplar, Jesus Christ. (Richard J. Allen)

Commentaries and Insights on the Book of Mormon, Vol. 1