One day when the Savior was on his way to perform a miracle, a wonderful thing happened. We learn beginning in Luke 8:41 that he was en route to respond to a request from a man named Jairus, a ruler of the synagogue, whose only daughter was dying. As Jesus went along, the people thronged about him. A woman who was ill came close to him and touched the hem of his garment. He stopped and comforted her. She had been healed. Jesus then continued on his way to Jairus’s home. Someone let him know that the daughter had already died, but Jesus went on to the home and restored her to life.
The Savior stopped on his way to a miracle to give attention and help to another in need. He did this many times. In 3 Nephi 17 we read about Christ visiting the Nephites. After teaching them he said, “But now I go unto the Father, and also to show myself unto the lost tribes of Israel” (3 Ne. 17:4). Then he looked on the people and saw that they were weeping and looking “steadfastly upon him as if they would ask him to tarry a little longer with them” (3 Ne. 17:5).
And he did. He had them bring their sick to him to be healed. He prayed in such a marvelous way that his word could not be written. He wept with them. He blessed their little children one by one and prayed for them. He instituted the sacrament among them. Marvelous things happened because the Savior remained.
The Lord taught a parable about a good Samaritan who was perhaps on his way to an important meeting or appointment but stopped when he saw someone in need of his help (see Luke 10:30–37).
How often have you stopped, in the hall at school or church, to answer the phone, to visit a neighbor, to listen to a friend in need, to respond to the prompting of the Spirit?
We need more of these kinds of Latter-day Saints and Christians: those who are willing to stop. We need more people who will take the opportunity to do good and to be good.
One day a friend and I noticed a young mother standing by her truck looking very frustrated and unhappy. She had several children watching and waiting. We were prompted to stop and offer help. She explained that she had run out of gas while on her way to pick up a daughter from a dancing lesson. We said we’d go get some gas for her. She seemed grateful for the help but reluctant to be “on the receiving end.” When we returned with the gasoline, the woman was thankful but still a little uncomfortable.
Then an idea came to me. I said to her, “You’d do the same for us!” That stopped her. She thought about it, then broke into a smile. “You’re right! I would!”
I no longer remember where I was going that day, but I do remember the sweet experience of helping. I’m convinced that most of us would like to stop and help, but we’re unsure or busy or frightened. When you stop, it’s too late to try to find some instruction book or to attend a seminar on how to respond. Besides, there is no way that a manual or handbook can tell you how to respond in those moments when one single individual needs you. You get ready ahead of time and then react immediately when preparation meets opportunity.
You have to prepare spiritually. You learn what’s in the Lord’s “handbook,” and you gain experience working with the Spirit. This is something which can be developed and improved. We can become better at responding to those sweet, still, small promptings.
Speaking of books, there seem to be quite a few books on the market right now about how to say no. But there are also some very important books, the scriptures, which spend a great deal of time on how to say yes. This should be our attitude about how to respond to and care for others in a Christlike way. We should say yes, we have time or we’ll find time. Yes, we will listen and share. Yes, it matters to us what happens to you. There is no substitute for the scriptures and the Spirit as we strive to become more like our Savior.
There are so many ideas which may help us increase our love, compassion, and responsiveness to the Spirit. Some of the following suggestions may be helpful:
—Visit someone who can’t come to see you. The Savior showed a strong example of visiting those in need.
—Try to think of reasons people do and say certain things, especially if they are things you don’t understand.
—Strive to avoid reacting to others in negative, angry ways.
—Practice becoming a better listener; pay attention and go beyond just hearing words to gaining understanding.
—Once a week, speak to someone you don’t know (yet).
—Work to develop a countenance of love; strive to look at others in such a way that they know they are loved, even if they have no idea who you are.
—Remember that your own sorrows and challenges can help deepen your compassion and patience.
—Minimize any competition which you feel towards anyone else; cooperation will usually accomplish more good. Rejoice in the success and accomplishments of others.
—Make it a point to relate to and associate with children and older friends as often as you can; they can teach important lessons about how to be genuine.
—Seek to be responsive to the Spirit and to become a more effective instrument in God’s hands.
—Cheerfully and willingly respond to opportunities for service even when it’s inconvenient, even when it may require sacrifice.
—See if you can find someone who has a need to give, and think of something they can do for you or teach you.
—More fully live the law of the fast as explained so beautifully in Isaiah 58:5–12.
—Learn to be grateful.
—Think of someone (be specific) to telephone or write a note to and do it!
—Be specific in your prayers; pray about individuals who come into your heart and mind as you are communicating with your Heavenly Father. Ask him if there is anything he would have you do.
As we move in a direction of being more like the Savior, we will feel closer to him and be more aware of his influence in our lives and the lives of others. “We are far from being a perfect society as we travel along the road to immortality and eternal life. The great work of the Church in furthering this process is to help men and women to move toward the perfection exemplified by the Savior of mankind. We are not likely to reach that goal in a day or a year or a lifetime. But … as we strive in this direction, we shall become better men and women, sons and daughters of God” (Gordon B. Hinckley, in Church News, 6 Mar. 1982, p. 14).
For a short few months of my life I lived in western Africa, in Nigeria. In our branch was a precious little child I called “Broomstick.” She was 7 years old and weighed only 23 pounds. Often as I would enter our rented chapel, she’d be sitting on the back bench. I loved to pick her up and take her to the front with me and hold her during the meetings. It was as if she would soak up all the love that I had in me, and more. But it was always replaced and increased.
Once at Easter time I was holding my little friend, and it was announced that we would be singing “I Know That My Redeemer Lives” (Hymns, 1985, no. 136). A prompting came to me to sing it not to myself, as the words say, but to her. It was a powerful, sweet, unforgettable experience for me, and I hope for her as well. Those words were so meaningful and touching. “He lives to bless you with his love. He lives to plead for you above. He lives your hungry soul to feed. He lives to bless in time of need. … He lives to comfort you when faint. He lives to hear your soul’s complaint. He lives to silence all your fears. He lives to wipe away your tears. He lives to calm your troubled heart. He lives all blessings to impart. He lives, your kind, wise, heav’nly Friend. He lives and loves you to the end. … He lives and grants you daily breath. He lives, and you shall conquer death.” One thing I realized is that Christ does all that and more for each one of us, and that he needs us to participate, to take time to stop and do.
I remember repeating a certain phrase in my prayers which was so familiar that it came out rapidly and had lost almost all meaning. It went something like this: “Bless the poor and the needy, the sick and the afflicted, and those that have cause to mourn.” I would almost add, “And good luck!” It didn’t occur to me that perhaps I should offer to be “on the team,” willing to participate in the miracle of service, comforting, and healing.
I began to think of myself as a “minimal Mormon,” or a “not-quite Christian.” It hurt when I heard someone say, “You people are so busy being Mormons that you don’t take time to be Christians.” I began to recognize that many of my own prayers and pleadings had been answered through other people. We need each other. Both those who give and those who receive are blessed and come closer to their divine potential. As President Marion G. Romney put it, “There is an interdependence between those who have and those who have not. The process of giving exalts the poor and humbles the rich. In the process, both are sanctified” (Ensign, Nov. 1982, p. 93).
That great soul Helen Keller put it this way:
“I believe that love will finally establish the kingdom of God on earth, and that cornerstones of that kingdom will be liberty, truth, brotherhood, and service. I believe that we can live on earth according to the fulfillment of God’s will, and that when the will of God is done on earth as it is in heaven, every man will love his fellow men and act toward them as he desires they should act toward him. I believe that the welfare of each is bound up in the welfare of all” (The Face of Helen Keller, ed. Jack Belck, Hallmark ed., 1967, p. 32).
There is a greeting used in Africa which impresses me. One will ask of another, “Are you well?” The response is, “I am well if you are well.” They seem to have an understanding of what Paul the Apostle was teaching in 1 Corinthians 12. He teaches that we are one body with many members, and that we have great and continuing need of each other—with all our variety, our strengths, our needs, our love and experience. We even have great need of those “which seem to be more feeble” (1 Cor. 12:22).
“And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it” (1 Cor. 12:26). The Savior taught us to esteem others as ourselves (see D&C 38:24–27), and to love others as he loves them.
May our awareness of the Savior and those for whom he suffered and died cause us to be willing to serve him by serving others. May we come unto Jesus ready to “succor the weak, lift up the hands which hang down, and strengthen the feeble knees” (D&C 81:5).
Can we comprehend what it might be like to be invited to sit on the right hand of God at some future day because we truly fed the hungry, clothed the naked, visited the sick, and administered to their relief, “both spiritually and temporally, according to their wants” (see Mosiah 4:26 and Matt. 25:34–40)? “Feast upon the words of Christ; for behold, the words of Christ will tell you all things what ye should do” (2 Ne. 32:3).
Where do we start? By being willing. Willing to stop on our way to a miracle, a movie, a meeting. Willing to bear one another’s burdens that they may be light, to mourn with those that mourn and comfort those who stand in need of comfort (see Mosiah 18:8–9). Willing to take upon us the name of Christ—to be known and called by that name, and to be worthy of such a holy, sacred name.