James E. Talmage told the story of a naturalist in the nineteenth century who had been called to a grand estate in Great Britain to be honored for his contributions in the world of science. He left his cottage early in the morning to go for a walk, and while he was out walking, he saw two boys down by the lake. He also heard the frantic meowing of a cat; and so, curious, he walked down to see what was happening.
When he arrived he saw the two boys with a mother cat and some kittens. The boys were taking each kitten, tying it up in a rag with a rock, and tossing it into the lake. As you can imagine, the mother cat was just frantic, watching her kittens being drowned.
A little upset, the naturalist asked the boys what they were doing. It turned out to be quite innocent on their part. The mistress of the great estate had an old mother cat that she loved, but she didn't want any more cats around. Whenever the mother cat had a litter, the woman hired the two boys, who were children of some of the servants, to go down to the lake and drown the kittens.
The naturalist talked to the boys and said he would make sure they didn't get in trouble, but he would take care of the remaining three kittens. To the scientist's surprise, the mother cat behaved as if she understood exactly what was happening. As he walked back to his cottage with the kittens, she ran alongside him, rubbed his leg, and purred happily. He took the kittens into his cottage, gave them some milk, and put them in a warm boat.
The next day, when all of the company was gathered together in the great house to honor the scientist, suddenly the door pushed open and in came the mother cat with a large fat mouse in her mouth. She walked to the scientist and laid the mouse at his feet.
In the words of Elder Talmage, here is the marvelous parable that he drew from this story:
"What think you of the offering, and the purpose that prompted the act? A live mouse, fleshy and fat! Within the cat's power of possible estimation and judgment it was a superlative gift. To her limited understanding no rational creature could feel otherwise than pleased over the present of a meaty mouse. Every sensible cat would be ravenously joyful with such an offering. Beings unable to appreciate a mouse for a meal were unknown to the cat.
Are not our offerings to the Lord—our tithes and our other free will gifts—as thoroughly unnecessary to His needs as was the mouse to the scientist? But remember that the grateful and sacrificing nature of the cat was enlarged, and in a measure sanctified, by her offering.
Thanks be to God that He gages the offerings and sacrifices of His children by the standard of their physical ability and honest intent rather than by the gradation of His esteemed station. Verily He is God with us; and He both understands and accepts our motives and righteous desires. Our need to serve God is incalculably greater than His need for our service."