We think of Jesus as a man of compassion, but the thought usually ends there. We too need to be men and women of compassion. Our official quest for becoming compassionate people began at baptism, but many of us did not recognize our baptism as a means to becoming more compassionate. Let’s look at our baptismal covenant and see what it was we actually promised.
Most every baptismal talk I have ever heard has focused on two main things, promising to obey the commandments, and exercising our faith in Christ. I can’t argue with those two points, because the ordinance of baptism is certainly about those two things. It is also about more than those two things. President Henry B. Eyring, speaking in the March 2015 General Women’s Session of Conference, briefly touched on our baptismal covenant found in Mosiah 18:8 – 9.
As many times as I have heard baptismal talks given in the past, this time reading these verses in Mosiah gave me a completely different experience on the obedience and faith angle we usually walk away with in a baptismal talk. Here is the text of those verses:
And it came to pass that he said unto them: Behold, here are the waters of Mormon (for thus were they called) and now, as ye are desirous to come into the fold of God, and to be called his people, and are willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light;
Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in, even until death, that ye may be redeemed of God, and be numbered with those of the first resurrection, that ye may have eternal life—
Now I say unto you, if this be the desire of your hearts, what have you against being baptized in the name of the Lord, as a witness before him that ye have entered into a covenant with him, that ye will serve him and keep his commandments, that he may pour out his Spirit more abundantly upon you?
A typical baptismal talk might discuss the commandments listed in these verses that we are agreeing to obey. The talk may even include the promise we make to remember Jesus in all that we do and wherever we are as His representative or as His son or daughter. What I just learned in reading President Eyring’s talk is that these verses are really about becoming compassionate as Christ is compassionate.
Compassion is the Goal
President Eyring quoted the verses from Mosiah then said:
That is why you have a feeling to want to help a person struggling to move forward under a load of grief and difficulty. You promised that you would help the Lord make their burdens light and be comforted. You were given the power to help lighten those loads when you received the gift of the Holy Ghost.
The sentiment may be true, but I certainly never had thought of it in those terms before. Upon reflecting on my feelings towards others it dawned on me that I have always had a desire to lift others and lighten their burdens. It brings me peace and happiness to be of use to others. I had never thought of the gift of the Holy Ghost as being the power by which I could do that.
I had to read and reread that last quote many times before it began to sink in. The Latter-day Saint community is constantly working to ease others’ burdens. We re-roof people’s houses, tend their children, clean their homes when someone is injured or in the hospital. We clean the yards and repair the homes of the widows, and countless little things that bless the lives of those around us.
This is what it means to bear one another’s burdens, to mourn with those that mourn, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort. It means getting involved in some very personal ways in the lives of others. What we may want from this behavior is the payoff for such behavior – to be “numbered with those of the first resurrection, that ye may have eternal life.” But what happens after a lifetime of service to others is different than how we started this journey.
What started as an eight year old or a new convert as a checklist of “things I need to do to be saved,” turns into a way of life. What we, at first have to remind ourselves to do, later grows into the first inclination to do. When we are young, our parents may have to insist we be nice to someone, but after practicing being good to others, that becomes our first thought, our first impulse.
Being compassionate to others brings joy in its wake. It is a natural product of being good and kind, thoughtful and forgiving. Over time we find that life without such happiness becomes unthinkable. Life is too good when being good to give up for selfish reasons.
This is the fulfillment of what President Eyring is saying in his talk. The power of the Holy Ghost in our lives enables us to fulfill our desires to lighten the loads of those around us. The Holy Ghost prompts us with urges to help here or encourage there. He teaches us how to speak to someone in a supportive and loving manner. The Holy Ghost guides us and shows us where someone needs help. Sometimes we end up helping people we have never met before, and it seems as natural an act as stretching when we wake up.
When we think of compassion, we often think of the Savior and all His many kindnesses. Our baptismal covenant is designed to make us into that same kind of person. As we seek to bless the lives of others, it is true that their lives are changed and bettered by our efforts, but so are ours. By following the promptings of the Spirit and working to keep the covenant we made at baptism, our life also changes and is bettered. Our hearts are changed. We feel more deeply the sorrows of others. We rejoice more joyously in the happiness of others. All of life becomes living in a state of heightened awareness of the connections that make life truly worth living. We become more Christlike.
Next week I will talk about the compassion of Christ. This is another area in which I have grossly underestimated Him. We know that Jesus was nice. But do we truly grasp how completely engrossed He was in the sorrows, burdens, and joys of His fellowmen? This is what we will look at next week.
Kelly P. Merrill
Kelly Merrill is semi retired and writes for https://gospelstudy.us. He lives with his wife in Idaho. His strength is being able to take difficult to understand subjects and break them down into understandable parts. He delights in writing about the gospel of Christ. Writing about the gospel is his personal missionary work to the members of the Church and to those of other faiths who are wanting to know more about Christ's gospel and His Church.