Christ’s Hands

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Elle Mae is a queer Mormon feminist who recently gave this talk in her ward.

In a BYU devotional by Dean Carolina Nunez titled “Loving Our Neighbors,” she said: 

Loving our neighbor requires getting close to our neighbor and giving of ourselves. In Spanish, the term for “love of neighbor” is amor al prójimo, or “love of the one who is in proximity.” The term prójimo connotes a physical closeness and personal touch that neighbor simply fails to capture for me. We follow the good Samaritan’s example not by abstractly loving from afar but by truly connecting and spending time with each other, by genuinely giving of ourselves. This is not always easy: getting close often involves sacrifice and discomfort. It can be awkward, time consuming, and emotionally draining. Surely the Samaritan had other plans for his day, but he stopped to love someone who needed him.

Genuinely giving of ourselves cannot be done just because we want to “be righteous” we have to be vulnerable enough to love those around us without a reward in mind or box to check. Opening our hearts to people is part of building Zion. Our love can’t be conditional on certain outcomes.

This is much easier said than done. Impatience, stress, selfishness, prejudices, or simply a lack of motivation hold us back from truly loving our neighbors. In Moroni 7: 47 we are instructed to, “pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ; that ye may become the [children] of God; that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.”

In the parable of Good Samaritan, a man was beaten, robbed, and left “half-dead” on the side of the road. First, a priest came and also passed by him “on the other side” of the road. Second, a Levite came and also passed by him “on the other side” of the road. When we try to understand why these religious and spiritual leaders would pass by, we often mention a lack of time or convenience. And while those things may be true, there is also importance behind the fact that the unfortunate traveler was “half-dead.” According to biblical law, the holy men were forbidden to touch the dead. Unsure of whether or not he was dead, they choose to pass him by completely instead of risking intentionally breaking the law by crossing the road and touching him. Do we have any pride or judgment in our hearts disguised as “righteousness” causing us to remain purposely ignorant of people who are different than us or show unkindness towards someone out of fear of “condoning” sin? Love is never the wrong choice.

One specific example of this principle was taught a year ago when Elder Ballard said, “We need to listen to and understand what our LGBTQ brothers and sisters are feeling and experiencing. Certainly, we must do better than we have done in the past so that all members feel they have a spiritual home where their brothers and sisters love them and where they have a place to worship and serve the Lord.”

When Lazarus died his sisters Mary and Martha were filled with despair. Despite knowing Lazarus would be alive again shortly, Jesus simply wept with Mary. He provided a perfect example of “mourning with those that mourn.” In a BYU Devotional titled “Hard Sayings and Safe Spaces” by Eric Huntsman he said, “Sometimes we default to platitudes to avoid uncomfortable situations when we do not know what to say. Or, in an attempt to find common ground, we shift the conversation to our own experiences, rather than just listening or giving supportive responses. Jesus’s example with Mary suggests just the opposite.” The most powerful thing we can do is listen to, validate, and mourn with those who are mourning. Not very often does God send angels, but He sends us. And sometimes we feel incredibly inadequate to fill an angel’s shoes or even help at all. However, one incredibly special aspect of God’s grace is God helps us help others. 

In a talk titled “Refuge from the Storm,” Elder Patrick Kearon said, “There are an estimated 60 million refugees in the world today, which means that “1 in every 122 humans … has been forced to flee their homes,”2 and half of these are children.3 It is shocking to consider the numbers involved and to reflect on what this means in each individual life.” 

Even more recently an official church statement said, “The forced separation of children from their parents now occurring at the U.S.-Mexico border is harmful to families, especially to young children. We are deeply troubled by the aggressive and insensitive treatment of these families..” 

 “For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:

Naked, and ye clothed me. …

… Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” 

Elder Patrick Kearon said: 

“Being a refugee may be a defining moment in the lives of those who are refugees, but being a refugee does not define them. Like countless thousands before them, this will be a period—we hope a short period—in their lives. Some of them will go on to be Nobel laureates, public servants, physicians, scientists, musicians, artists, religious leaders, and contributors in other fields. Indeed, many of them were these things before they lost everything. This moment does not define them, but our response will help define us.” 

As Latter-day Saints, we have made covenants to bear each other’s burdens. “Each other” certainly focuses on those immediately around us, but it also includes every one of God’s precious children. Christ suffered and died for every person who ever lived and how we treat each other is how we treat Him. We have made covenants to take the Lord’s name upon us. We are called to be representatives of Christ and “to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places.” Is it possible that the commandment not to take the Lord’s name in vain has just as much if not more to do with how seriously we take this responsibility than any words or phrases? Jesus got angry at the money changers in the temple because he didn’t turn a blind eye when sacred things were violated. Human life, dignity, and safety are all sacred and deserve our protection and concern. 

To close I would like to share a quote from a Quaker missionary named Sarah Elizabeth Rowntree:

“Remember Christ has no human body now upon the earth but yours; no hands but yours; no feet but yours. Yours, my brothers and sisters, are the eyes through which Christ’s compassion has to look upon the world, and yours are the lips with which His love has to speak.”

*Photo by Geetanjal Khanna on Unsplash

Comments

  1. Just the sermon I needed this morning. I was feeling rather low and this has lifted me and caused me to think again of others whom I may be passing by. Thanks, Elle.

  2. Such a perfect Sabbath devotional. Thank you.

  3. Your thoughts are beautifully and profoundly expressed. Thank you for sharing, Elle.

  4. Matthew Price says:

    Simply brilliant. Thank you so much. Needed this today.

  5. I love using Spanish to clarify doctrine. And I love this insight in particular.
    I served a Spanish speaking mission and the doctrinal insights I got from reading scriptures in Spanish and in English were unparalleled.
    My absolute favorite is the subtle word change of D&C 59:5 “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy Heart, with all thy Might, Mind, and Strength”.
    The Spanish Translation is:
    “Amarás al Señor tu Dios con todo tu corazón, alma, mente y fuerza.”
    The word used in place of Might is Alma. Which in Spanish means Soul. I’ve always found that so profound.