Last week I talked about how the covenant we make at baptism is designed to change us into compassionate people. I used President Eyring’s talk from the March 2015 General Women’s Session of Conference as my main source. I will use him again this week, as well as references from the New Testament and Book of Mormon. Becoming Christ-like is the goal of all we do as members of the Lord’s Church. Christ’s compassion is a defining part of who He is.
In his talk, President Eyring said, in essence, that we want to be baptized because we have the desires within us to ease the burdens of others, to mourn with those who are mourning, and to give comfort to others who are in need of comfort. The gift of the Holy Ghost is what enables us to fulfill these desires more perfectly.
A New Testament Example of Christ’s Compassion
In John 11 we read about the story of Lazarus. I have read the story dozens of times, but this last time some things about the story jumped out at me like never before. Here is a summary of the first part of the story.
Mary, Martha, and Lazarus are siblings, and are more than just good friends with Jesus. He loved these three people, and they loved Him. We don’t usually think about Jesus having best friends or any real kind of social life, but evidently He had made some real close attachments at some point.
The sisters sent a message to Jesus to let them know that their brother was sick. Well, by the time the message found Him, Lazarus was already dead. Jesus knew that Lazarus was dead, but said that this situation was not about him being dead, but about glory being given to God. He knew He was going to raise him from the dead.
The Jews had a three day waiting period before someone was really considered dead for good. So Jesus waited until Lazarus was dead four days, just so no one could say that he wasn’t really dead. Knowing that he was going to their home to give him back to his sisters in life, Jesus should have been happy. He was going to glorify His Father and show everyone the Lord’s power.
But notice what happened when he approached and Mary and Martha met him. Both women were understandably distraught that their brother had died. They both bore witness to Jesus separately that they knew that if He had been there their brother need not have died, for they both had faith that Jesus could have healed him.
Then when Mary was come where Jesus was, and saw him, she fell down at his feet, saying unto him, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.
When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews also weeping which came with her, he groaned in the spirit, and was troubled,
And said, Where have ye laid him? They said unto him, Lord, come and see.
Then said the Jews, Behold how he loved him! (John 11:32 – 36).
To see this scenario for what it was, I had to take an emotional step back to look at the bigger picture. Jesus knew where Lazarus, whom He loved, was. He knew that Lazarus was fine, and that he would soon be walking again alongside his sisters. That should have made Him happy. Yet when Jesus saw the suffering of these two women whom He loved dearly, “he groaned in the spirit, and was troubled.”
He felt so keenly their sense of loss that His tender heart caused Him, the Son of God, the creator of the universe, to weep for their sorrow. No matter what His personal view of the situation was, if it hurt them that much, He could not help but feel their pain. He was filled with compassion for them and told them to take Him to the tomb where they had laid Lazarus.
This touching scene of Christ’s compassion, His tender feelings for others is not just found in the New Testament. When Jesus makes His appearance in the land of the Nephites we have more examples of His compassion for others.
A Book of Mormon Example
President Eyring said that our desire to lift other’s burdens was part of the baptismal covenant discussed in part one of this series. He said: “You were given the power to help lighten those loads when you received the gift of the Holy Ghost.” The Holy Ghost is the great purifier, the great teacher, and our mentor. His job in the Godhead is to lead us home to our Father, teaching us how to be like Christ, bearing witness of our Father and of His Son.
When Jesus visited the Nephites, He taught them His gospel. They had him for a shorter time, instead of the three years the Jews had Him for in Palestine. Toward the end of His time with the people, Jesus had spoken all day to them and perceived that they still did not understand much of what they had been told. He told them to go home and pray to the Father for understanding and He would teach them more the next day.
But when he looked around at the people and could see in their faces that they did not want Him to leave, even for the night, He was filled with compassion. Here is what it says in 3 Nephi 17:5 – 7.
And it came to pass that when Jesus had thus spoken, he cast his eyes round about again on the multitude, and beheld they were in tears, and did look steadfastly upon him as if they would ask him to tarry a little longer with them.
And he said unto them: Behold, my bowels are filled with compassion towards you.
Have ye any that are sick among you? Bring them hither. Have ye any that are lame, or blind, or halt, or maimed, or leprous, or that are withered, or that are deaf, or that are afflicted in any manner? Bring them hither and I will heal them, for I have compassion upon you; my bowels are filled with mercy.
The first thing He did when He felt compassion for His people was to relieve them of their sufferings and lighten their burdens. He immediately called for all their sick, lame, blind, halt, maimed, leprous, withered, deaf, or that had any other form of affliction. He healed them all.
But it didn’t stop there. He prayed with them. He prayed for them. When He saw their faith in Him, He was so filled with joy that He wept again. He then blessed all their children, and wept again. Here is 3 Nephi 17:18 – 22.
And it came to pass that when Jesus had made an end of praying unto the Father, he arose; but so great was the joy of the multitude that they were overcome.
And it came to pass that Jesus spake unto them, and bade them arise.
And they arose from the earth, and he said unto them: Blessed are ye because of your faith. And now behold, my joy is full.
And when he had said these words, he wept, and the multitude bare record of it, and he took their little children, one by one, and blessed them, and prayed unto the Father for them.
And when he had done this he wept again;
Talk about a tender heart. Do we care about others like this? As we keep our baptismal covenants and stay close to the Spirit, we become more like Jesus.
Back to the New Testament
Christ’s concern for us was not just something that filled His time and attention when He was with us in mortality. In President Eyring’s talk he discusses how the Savior’s concern that our needs be met were at the front of His thoughts even as He was about to be crucified.
When He was about to be crucified, the Savior described the way He helps lighten loads and gives strength to carry them. He knew that His disciples would grieve. He knew that they would fear for their future. He knew they would feel uncertain of their capacity to move forward.
So He gave them the promise that He makes to us and to all His true disciples:
And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever;
Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you (John 14:16 – 17).
In the absence of the Christ, He has given us the Holy Ghost to teach us, lift us, and help us strengthen each other. Christ’s compassion for us extended beyond the bounds of mortality. Even in His own death He prepared the way for us to receive the help we would need to carry on with hope.
In the absence of Jesus, we are all pledged to do the work of carrying each others’ burdens. This work is part and parcel with every covenant we make as members of the Lord’s kingdom. To assist us and strengthen us as we assist and strengthen others, the Lord has given us the gift of the Holy Ghost. The more time we spend listening and obeying what He communicates to us, the better we will be at lifting the burdens of others and feeling the compassion Jesus so richly demonstrated for us.
Our goal is to become as compassionate and as tender-hearted as our Lord is. The more we do to seek out the lonely, to feed the hungry, and clothe the naked, the more like Christ we will become. Small wonder He said that if we do it unto even the least of our brethren, we have done it unto Him. He truly feels for us, understands what we go through, and has provided a way for us to be strengthened in our trials by giving us the gift of the Holy Ghost, and the opportunity to serve each other.
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.