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Mollie Higginson: What Does the World Owe You? (1916)

By: Ardis E. Parshall - August 01, 2013

What Does the World Owe You?

The story is told of a young boy who was arrested for stealing and being asked why he stole replied that “the world owed him a living.” How far was he right and what does the world owe you?

In the beginning of time the Great Creator made this earth. When it left His hands it was perfect in every minutest detail, for He who is perfection could never be the author of imperfection. He gave this world as a legacy to man and in the world today there is a niche for every individual born into it, there is room for all, there is work for all. If the available resources were only wisely utilized, every man would find his rightful corner, every man would have enough and to spare. That there is poverty and misery is man’s misfortune, but more often his fault.

We are placed upon this earth to gain an experience which will fit us, if rightly used, to dwell in celestial glory throughout all eternity. In early ages there seems to have been little to make life worth living, and I for one thank the Lord He kept me in my heavenly home during those periods of spiritual darkness; but a change came. Men woke up and began to realize that they had a spark of divinity in them, that the God who made them had a living interest in them and that He delighted to surround them with all that was beautiful and uplifting. They began to realize that the world was not confined to the narrow limits available to their own powers of locomotion or to that of their faithful horse. They looked out across the great expanse of waters and the question arose as to what lay beyond. So they built ships and began to explore; and countries formerly divided by the great waters were now united by them. For a long time their attention was confined to the east, but at last the great Columbus came on his mission, and declared amidst the scoffs and gibes of all around him that a way lay westward. Night and day he held onto his firm conviction, and finally ships were given him, and he sailed westward to find his theories had been inspired by the Great Controller of the universe.

The path-finders! what a debt of gratitude does not the world owe them? One by one they crossed the waters, one by one they blazed the trail, yes, and one by one they laid down their lives that you and I might benefit by their sufferings. Then another thought arose – the world is round and Magellan led his faithful band through the strait that bears his name. On he sailed and still on. Five ships and 254 men left Spain on this eventful voyage – one ship and fifteen men returned triumphant after compassing the globe, but, when the roll was called, Magellan’s name was answered by a mighty silence.

Time again passed and other masterminds arose and employed their energies on land. The rumbling of the stagecoach and the jog-trot of the horse gave place to railroad, street and motor cars. Electricity took the place of the tallow dip; sailing vessels were displaced by the fast sailing steamships. Modern contrivances, beautiful homes, good roads displaced primitive makeshifts, mud hovels and muddy tracks of earlier days; schools, colleges, gymnasiums, etc., etc., contributed to the welfare of the rising generation, until the keynote of the age in which we find ourselves inhabiting this earth is ease and luxury. Everything conduces to the comfort and well being of mankind; and now young man, surrounded with every facility for gaining knowledge, with everything upon the earth combining for your welfare, I would ask you, What does the world owe you? Open out your account, creditor or debtor, which are you? Make a personal application of the question. Ponder over the lives that have been sacrificed, the blood that has been spilt to make the world such a grand place for you to live in. Think on the mighty war that gave to this nation its glorious independence and then say, if you dare, that, added to the great legacy or accomplishments and achievements that you are born heir to, it also owes you a living. Shame upon the man who dares to give utterance to such a thought. No, you are and ever will be, no matter what great deeds you may accomplish, from the day of your birth to the day when you answer the roll call in another sphere, the world’s debtor.

Your parents owe it to you that you should be rightly born, the community in which you find yourself owes you toleration, the nation to which you are born owes you an education, but there your credit account ends; from then on you are the world’s debtor, and you owe it to the world to make a man out of the raw materials entrusted to you. You owe it to the world to put your shoulder to the wheel, push along; “and to devote every ounce of energy and brain power you possess to the uplifting and betterment of mankind.

I was talking one day here in Zion to the elder who brought me the Gospel, and he was telling me of his plans for the future; how in this spot he would build a fine home, in that erect barns. “Would you do all this,” I asked, “when you contemplate that not many years hence and the migration to Missouri will begin?” “Mollie, you see this little corner, indicating the farmlands around his home, “this is the place the Lord has entrusted to my keeping, and I owe it to Him to improve and beautify it to the best of my ability. All my best efforts must be expended right here where I find myself, and then, when the Lord calls me to Missouri, I will be able to look the other man in the face.” These few words contain one of the most powerful sermons I ever heard.

You owe it to the world to make any place in which you find yourself better, brighter and happier for your presence there; your home should be the brightest, your lawn the greenest, your garden the gayest with flowers. Your Sunday-school lesson should be the best prepared, your thoughts the most often raised to heaven, your presence the most often seen in meeting, your particular work in life better done than the next man’s.

What does the world owe you? When you consider the work of the great historians,inventors,explorers,etc.;when you compare conditions to-day with those that existed only one hundred years ago, the question is soon answered. The world owes you nothing, but your debt to it is inconceivable. When the saints settled in Ohio the Lord told them they would be there only a short time, but they must set to and work as though they were staying there for years. (Doc. & Cov. 51:16-17.) This should be the keynote of all true Latter-day Saints, for only so can they leave a place better than they found it, and pay off some little portion of the great debt they owe to the world. “Who sweeps a room as in His name, makes it and the action fine,” and he who but plants a tree with the thought in mind that it will benefit, not himself but he who comes after, has not lived in vain and in the heavenly records he may find his name stamped not on the debit but on the credit side.

“Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might,” so “do all to the glory of God”and “in all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct thy paths,” for this is the only way to pay back the debt you owe the world.



2 Comments »

  1. Your parents owe it to you that you should be rightly born, the community in which you find yourself owes you toleration, the nation to which you are born owes you an education, but there your credit account ends; from then on you are the world’s debtor, and you owe it to the world to make a man out of the raw materials entrusted to you . . . and to devote every ounce of energy and brain power you possess to the uplifting and betterment of mankind.

    Nice!

    Comment by David Y. — August 1, 2013 @ 9:39 am

  2. Interesting comment about the return to Missouri. I wonder if that train of thought had any real impact on financial or economic decisions and structures in the Mormon heartland.

    Comment by Amy T — August 1, 2013 @ 9:55 am

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