Imagine being suddenly jerked away from your chair and dropped back in ancient Rome. You would immediately be conspicuous because of your differences. Your clothes would be out of place; your words would be meaningless babble; your mannerisms would be bizarre. If those Romans found anything normal about you, it would be unusual. And even though you might desperately wish to communicate with them, they might not even care enough to listen. Can you imagine how alone and helpless you would feel?
If you can, then you can better understand being handicapped. Handicaps may give a person a wheelchair, a hearing aid, or a white cane. A handicap may slur his speech or limit his understanding. But, like you in a foreign land, these differences do not detract from the beautiful, capable individual within. The child of heavenly parents is still there in all his glory, desiring desperately to serve and communicate.
Differences, or handicaps, do not imply inferiority. When a man blind from birth approached the Savior for a blessing, the disciples reasoned that a man born with a “weakness” possibly was being punished for former misdeeds. But the Savior refuted them and healed the man of his difference. (See John 9:1–7.) President Joseph Fielding Smith, when asked whether people with some “mental or physical defect” were being punished for wickedness in the premortal world, replied emphatically, “The simple answer to this question is that it is not true and is without one iota of justification.” (Selections from Answers to Gospel Questions, Melchizedek Priesthood Manual, 1972–73, p. 55.)
Why then do people have infirmities? The Lord responds, “I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; … for if they humble themselves before me and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.” (Ether 12:27.) The apostle Paul, who suffered from a “thorn in the flesh,” was told by the Lord that strength was “made perfect in weakness.” Taking courage, Paul said, “I take pleasure in infirmities, … for when I am weak, then am I strong.” (2 Cor. 12:7–10.)
The Savior spent much of his time with people who had infirmities, both in Palestine and in the New World. Thus he set the example and invited us to follow him. Can we accept handicaps as differences rather than as signs of inferiority? Can we be selfless enough to fill the void in communication, to push a wheelchair up a ramp, to guide a blind brother or sister to a seat? Can we give something extra of ourselves to fill the void that a handicap may create? If we can, ours is the joyous promise, “When ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God.” (Mosiah 2:17.)