In April 2015, Elder Dale G. Renlund shared a story of a mother and daughter in South Africa who faced racism after the apartheid regime ended.
Elder Renlund shares:
One time, as Julia and Thoba attended church, they felt they were treated less than kindly by some white members. As they left, Thoba complained bitterly to her mother. Julia listened calmly until Thoba had vented her frustration. Then Julia said, “Oh, Thoba, the Church is like a big hospital, and we are all sick in our own way. We come to church to be helped.”
So many of us long for a safe place to go as we suffer in a fallen world. Some of our spiritual and emotional illnesses come from our own sins or weaknesses; others are cruelly thrust upon us from the misused agency of others.
When we enter our chapels to partake of the sacrament and commune with one another, do we feel like we are in a place of healing? Unfortunately, sometimes our wards and branches are not places where our “illnesses” are openly discussed and treated. Instead they are theaters, where we perform to fit both cultural and self-imposed ideas of perfectionism.
How can we make sure we cultivate both honesty and healing in our churches? Here are three ideas.
Jesus Christ is the Master Healer
The Church cannot heal someone. Rather, the Church acts as a vehicle to carry the sick to Christ. We do not do the healing. Our covenant goal is to represent Christ and help others come to him. In all of our activities, our sermons, our classes, we should always remember the goal of each of these is to bring others to Christ.
This is achieved by the giving of patient, tender love to all who are around us. It comes as we refrain from judgement and make sacrifices to seek after God’s will to serve others.
Teach & Preach to Address Real Needs
There is much beauty in the Church due to our lay ministry. We are led and taught by one another. This should open a door to address the real needs of the congregation.
Leaders should encourage members to base talks on their life experiences and how it led them to Christ. Teachers should prayerfully think of their classmates and what they need to hear each Sunday. The auxiliary groups are especially posed for distinct help; the Church’s time to council every month should be spent addressing the topics and doctrines most needed to help ward members.
One By One
As Christ taught us, healing is individual. In every instance, Christ ministered and healed one by one. We can support our wards and branches in an effort to help by seeking after the one. But what does this look like?
It looks like extra time spent before and after meetings talking with someone you feel inspired to reach out to. It looks like including those who may look and think differently than you. It looks like not shrinking away from those who may be inconvenient or even hard to love. It looks like asking sincere questions and listening with real intent to understand. It looks like ministering to those you’ve been assigned to serve.
These three ideas are just the beginning. Jesus Christ knows why you are in your ward or branch. He knows you and he knows the people around you. If he were here, he would spend his time loving and healing. In his physical absence, we can step in and strive to do as he would do. What are some ways you think we can make our churches places of healing?