“It is easy enough to be friendly to one's friends. But to befriend the one who regards himself as your enemy is the quintessence of true religion. The other is mere business.” Mahatma Gandhi
We are commanded to love our God and to love our neighbor. And Ghandi hits this pretty spot on. We aren’t commanded to simply love those we already love, but to love our neighbor. Each and every one of our spirit brothers and sisters. That includes everybody who has ever lived. I think we could all work on that. We should all have the same goal in mind- getting ourselves, our families, and our neighbor (meaning everyone) to the Celestial Kingdom. We know that Heavenly Father loves every one of us very much, and the Celestial Kingdom will be a much happier place with our entire family, in the Celestial Kingdom with us, all sealed together. The Lord teaches that the worth of souls is great in the sight of God. He wants each and every one of us to come back home to Him. And as we try to become more like the Savior, we, like Him, should have more compassion, and align our goals with His- to bring each of our brothers and sisters home to Him.
President Eyring states of the Lord, “He expects you to treat every person you meet as a child of God. That is the reason He commands us to love our neighbors as we love ourselves and to forgive them.” If we have any negative thought, we should work to fix it. Every life here on Earth is precious, and we should come to truly understand what that means.
Richard G Scott said, “Consider changing from asking for the things you want to honestly seeking what He wants for you. Then as you learn His will, pray that you will be led to have the strength to fulfill it.” Heavenly Father wants you to have joy. He wants you to have a life full of love. But every blessing we have is a product of how we use our agency. We must choose to pray for charity and compassion and act accordingly. Heavenly Father will carefully guide you along that path, but you must first desire it. If you truly seek for compassion, pray for it. Heavenly Father hears and answers prayers, and He will answer you.
We are never asked to do anything by ourselves. We have the Savior and His perfect example of compassion to guide us. During the last week of His life, the Savior walked into the Garden of Gethsemane and atoned for our sins. He suffered, and later died on the cross, that we may be forgiven and healed. He did this out of love. Trust me, He was not saying, I think I want to suffer every bad thing on this earth, and for every sin ever committed. No. He did this out of love.
John 16:33: These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.
He suffered individually for each and every one of us so that we may ALL have the chance to return back home to our Heavenly Parents to dwell with our families for all eternity.
However, Christ set conditions of faith, repentance, baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and enduring to the end. He expects us to try. He simply allowed us to mess up as much as we need to come back to Him. We have His grace, but he expects our desire and our effort.
But, through His compassion and love, He provided a way back, much easier than living a perfect life. We just have to accept Him.
This last year, while at BYU, I had the amazing privilege to work as a security guard at the MTC. While I was in the interview process, I was told that they had a motto of “Sumus Bon Viri” which roughly translates to “we’re the good guys.” As I worked there for a year, I discovered a small part of what that means. And with that, I learned a little bit about compassion.
While working at the MTC, we were first responders to almost any emergency. This included clearing out buildings with really loud fire alarms, or taking charge of a medical situation and dealing not only with the missionary in need of help, but their curious district as well. I’ve gotten to offer understanding to the concerned mother trying to drop off a package to her missionary who I had to say no to. But more importantly, and to a greater degree, I’ve seen compassion from all the missionaries at the MTC. I’ve witnessed missionaries wake up at weird hours to welcome a new, late arrival or to give a blessing to someone in their district. They wave and smile at us when we look bored out in the security booth. The sisters always apologize a little too much for accidently staying up too late or any other mishap. I’ve had the MTC president and other leaders in the MTC care about me and my mission call despite not really knowing me. Outside of the temple, I’ve never been in a place where the Spirit dwells so strongly because of the love and compassion shown in small acts throughout each day.
One of my favorite medical calls was this elder, who was pretty much fine when we made it across MTC campus into their classroom. He was laying on the floor after momentarily having his vision go black and having his hands clench very tight, among other things. He apologized at least every three sentences he said as we made calls up to the front desk and to the on call doctor. I kept reassuring him that that’s why we have a job is to respond to these things, and he wasn’t taking us away from anything important. But he still felt that he was taking our time and kept apologizing. This selfless behavior is seen in so many of our missionaries, and it’s a quality I aim to have.
See, this is really where we can show our compassion-in the everyday moments in life. Whether that be being a little more polite to those waiters or drivers on the road, to having genuine interest in the lives of your family and friends. We can try a little harder to spread the Spirit in all of our interactions and rid ourselves of that feeling of entitlement many of us carry around.
However, there is one more aspect of compassion I would like to cover. We’re living in a world, and a place in the world where we are surrounded by many different and opposing viewpoints to those of our own. It is so easy to fall into just accepting everyone’s different perspectives and avoiding conflict. But is that really what compassion is?
Compassion takes root in having charity- which is the pure love of Christ. We are to love all of God’s children here on this Earth as He loves them. In 2 Nephi 26:30, we read, “Behold, the Lord hath forbidden this thing; wherefore, the Lord God hath given a commandment that all men should have charity, which charity is love. And except they should have charity they were nothing. Wherefore, if they should have charity they would not suffer the laborer in Zion to perish.”
Charity, and by extension, compassion, isn’t acceptance of evil. It’s concern for the ultimate welfare of the soul. We know that we’re given trials to come closer to God, and to become more like Him. He isn’t being vengeful, but rather looking towards our eternal welfare. We can learn a lot from this. Having compassion, is with the utmost love, empathy, and understanding, guiding those we love back to the path to our Heavenly home.
So, back to working as a security guard, whenever I reminded missionaries of the rules, it wasn’t for the sake of being mean. Rather it gave the missionaries an opportunity to learn and be recipients of more blessings.
In the Book of Mormon, there is a story about a person named Alma. Now, Alma rebelled against his father and his God. He admitted to committing the vilest of sins, and, along with his friends, outright attacked the church. One day, an angel appeared to Alma and commanded him to cease his evil works. Alma was struck dumb for two days and two nights. When he arose, he declared he had repented and was redeemed and born of the Spirit. Later on, Alma referenced this point in his life to his son, saying “Yea, and from that time even until now, I have labored without ceasing, that I might bring souls unto repentance; that I might bring them to taste of the exceeding joy of which I did taste; that they might also be born of God, and be filled with the Holy Ghost.
From this story, we learn a bit about the nature of compassion. This angel that appeared to Alma acted with complete compassion. We wouldn’t initially think that would be the case in rebuking someone and striking them dumb. But it is. Now, I’m not saying to go knock people unconscious. But I am saying, that because of that action, Alma was able to repent and receive access to Christ’s atonement. He was able to taste of the sweet joy that comes from following Christ. What we should learn is that we should guide others to Christ. We should help everyone come to desire to taste of eternal life and the joy that we will have therein. However, I think we should consider ourselves more in the role of Alma, than of the angel, in this story. We need to humble ourselves before the Lord first, so that we are more capable of having the Spirit and being filled with compassion.
Christ’s atonement is all encompassing. It is not a punishment to make us repent, but rather a way to bring us to the fullest joy we can receive. But the Christ I know isn’t someone who lets everything slide. He’s the Christ who cleanses the temple. He’s the Christ who curses a fig tree. But He IS also my Savior who forgives so readily. He supports every good thing I do. And He wants me to have everything He has. He wants us to partake of every blessings. He wants us to have every good thing. That is the whole point of our being on Earth. Heavenly Father’s Plan of Salvation is full of compassion. But we have to choose to accept it. And we should encourage our Spirit siblings to do so as well with the guidance of the Spirit. Who are we to correct others, when we don’t first love them?
Okay, but day to day, we probably aren’t faced with those really hard choices of action. Typically, we get to show compassion in a simple, loving way. And we’re really surrounded by countless opportunities to practice this every day. Here’s a poem by William Blake
"Can I see another's woe,
And not be in sorrow too?
Can I see another's grief,
And not seek for kind relief?"
"Can I see another's woe,
And not be in sorrow too?
Can I see another's grief,
And not seek for kind relief?"
Everyone you know has trials and burdens. If you but look, inviting the Spirit to help, you can find small everyday actions to show compassion to your fellow man.
I know that the Savior is filled with infinite charity, love, and compassion for each of us. He has provided the way for each of us to return to our Heavenly Father. I know this church is led by Christ. I know that Heavenly Father hears and answers each of our prayers. He, too, loves us infinitely and individually. I know we should each have our sights set on the temple, and the sealing ordinances found therein so that we may be with our families for all eternity. I know if we study the scriptures, we will come to know of our Heavenly Father’s love for us. I know that if we invite the Spirit into our lives, He will be our constant companion and will help us on in our mortal journey. I know I have been called by a prophet of God, who can receive inspiration like prophets of old, to labor for Him in Peru. I love the gospel, and I love my Savior.
I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.