Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Covenant of Charity: Mourning With Those Who Mourn

Last week, part of our Sunday School lesson addressed being cheerful and happy. It quickly became clear that most people subscribed to the "fake it 'til you make it" theory of life.

This didn't sit quite right with me, perhaps because despite being a naturally cheerful person and inclined to look on the bright side, I've not been particularly cheerful over a big chunk of my life.

As I was sitting there, pondering over this concept, the baptismal covenant found in Mosiah came to my mind.
". . . as ye are desirous to come into the fold of God, and to be called his people, 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 . . . 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 . . . ?
As I thought of these words, I experienced an enlightenment.

Charity is not dispensing something from a heightened position. It is getting down in the trenches. That is why it is the "pure love of Christ". And that is partly why the Atonement had to happen.

By atoning the way He did, Christ demonstrated that He would get down in the dirt and grime with us. He showed that even though it was not His actions that brought about mortality, He would suffer it with us. He is not a God of dictum from on high, He is a God of the trenches.

I always knew that, I just needed to be reminded. And the question came to me, who needed me to get down in the trenches with them, "that [Christ] may pour out his Spirit more abundantly upon [me]?"

Sure, the gospel is not a gospel of sad faces and flashy weeping and wailing. It is certainly important to be of cheerful countenance in the right times and right places. But it is also a gospel of mourning with a person who needs you, of being genuine and empathetic.

That is charity.


  1. This is beautiful and so true! Christ really was out there with the people, helping those in need and it wasn't just bringing over a casserole occasionally (although anyone who wants to make me dinner is welcome to do that! ;))

    Thanks for writing this!

  2. In order to be "in the world but not of the world", we must be IN the world. That's so easy to forget.

    I said today in HPG meeting that one of the great failures I've seen in many of the wards where I've lived is how little time the membership at large spends serving and really getting to the know the most needy around us - those that have the most obvious cause to mourn, not just due to the circumstances of their lives but due to being rejected by so many.

  3. "To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven.
    A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to reap that which is planted.
    A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
    A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to to mourn, and a time to dance.
    A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing.
    A time to get and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
    A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence and a time to speak;
    A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace."

    Ecclesiastes 3: 1

  4. There's a lot to be said for "fake it til you make it." It is a tried and true practice in the rooms of AA and other 12-step programs. But it is not a cure-all, to be sure.

    There is an intimacy in sharing our pain with someone else. The sharing is risky (as is any intimacy) because we don't know ahead of time how it will be received. And finding the person with whom to share is never easy. (Why would anyone listen to me? I don't want to be seen as a compainer? Who has time for this?)

    As we seek to mourn with those that wourn, there's value in our mourning -- in our feeling genuine sadness at the pain and suffering of another. That act of empathy goes a long way to allowing someone to share his or her pain.


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