Adapted by Elisa Pearmain from a Japanese and Chinese folk tale
Long ago there lived an old woman who had a wish. She wished more
than anything to see for herself the difference between heaven and hell.
The monks in the temple agreed to grant her request. They put a
blindfold around her eyes, and said, "First you shall see hell."
When the blindfold was removed, the old woman was standing at the
entrance to a great dining hall. The hall was full of round tables, each
piled high with the most delicious foods — meats, vegetables, fruits,
breads, and desserts of all kinds! The smells that reached her nose were
The old woman noticed that, in hell, there were people seated around
those round tables. She saw that their bodies were thin, and their faces
were gaunt, and creased with frustration. Each person held a spoon. The
spoons must have been three feet long! They were so long that the
people in hell could reach the food on those platters, but they could
not get the food back to their mouths. As the old woman watched, she
heard their hungry desperate cries. "I've seen enough," she cried.
"Please let me see heaven."
And so again the blindfold was put around her eyes, and the old woman
heard, "Now you shall see heaven." When the blindfold was removed, the
old woman was confused. For there she stood again, at the entrance to a
great dining hall, filled with round tables piled high with the same
lavish feast. And again, she saw that there were people sitting just out
of arm's reach of the food with those three-foot long spoons. But as the old woman looked closer, she noticed that the people in
heaven were plump and had rosy, happy faces. As she watched, a joyous
sound of laughter filled the air.
The people in heaven
were using those long spoons to feed each other.
We need to be able to rely on each other. We need to serve others, and we need to be able to accept service from others. Every part of the Gospel plan revolves around this--God asks us to ask Him for help; He tells us we cannot make it without the Atonement of Christ; He tells us we cannot make it without help from those around us; He tells us we cannot make it without helping those around us. We are each given special ways to share with those around us, and we are each denied special ways so that we can ask others for help.
Let us not forget that learning to serve others and have the capability to do so is not the only task we need in order to feast at the Heavenly Banquet. We must also be able to ask for help from others, and receive it gracefully.