Something unusual happened to me last Sunday.
Our high councilman’s wife spoke and she knocked it out of the park. It was, hands down, one of the best talks I’ve heard in a long time.
She began gruesomely. Imagine she said, we were out for a run in the morning and we notice something strange in the street. Upon closer inspection, we discover someone is dead in the street. Not only are they dead, but they are naked and their head is cut off. The final blow: the person is a family member.
There’s nothing like such an image to shake up a sacrament meeting.
If this story sounds at all familiar, you’re right. At the beginning of the Book of Mormon, Nephi spends the majority of a chapter discussing how he didn’t want to kill a passed out Laban. As directed by God, he finally did. After he “smote off his head with his own sword,” Nephi takes the clothes of Laban, “yea, even every whit”, and left the body behind.
At this point, we don’t know what happens to Laban. But, as our high councilman’s wife suggested, there’s a lot we can learn from hypothesizing what happened after Nephi left the city.
We know Laban had a household and we can assume it was large for a man of his position. Servants, followers, family. What would it look like to the people, Laban found dead in the early hours of the morning near his house with his servant Zoram gone? What would it feel like to be the person who stumbled across the body?
What if it was Laban’s 13-year-old son who found him? What would that have been like? What would you say, as a bystander, to him?
There seems to be a prevailing attitude that compassion is a selective commandment. If there are people who are sinning, who are different, who are angry, or who simply don’t understand the things we see through the light of the gospel, we often decide they don’t deserve our civility, let alone our compassion.
If we are to believe the words of Christ, this is a gross error. Multiple times throughout the scriptures, Christ admonishes us to “love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.”
I believe the call to love your enemies goes deeper than simply hiding posts on Facebook so you don’t end up saying something you might regret, even though I think this is a great start and should be implemented more. Taking upon ourselves the robes of charity is truly a change of heart, where we begin to learn to do as the Savior would do and speak as the Savior would speak and love as the Savior would love. Of course, this is the quest of our lifetime and likely the quest of our eternities. As with most quests, the path is often hard and strenuous, but is necessary for our exaltation.
We don’t need to do as others are doing in order to try and understand them, but should we not try to put ourselves in their shoes to try and gain perspective on why they might be doing what they’re doing? Is that not what the Savior did when he took upon himself our sins, our trials, our most devious thoughts, our deepest longings, and every feeling we’ve ever had, including our moments of anger and hatred? Should we not follow his example and try to see things the way he would see them? The Atonement wasn’t selective and when it comes to charity, we shouldn’t be either.
So, let us imagine what the Savior would say to the young teenage son of Laban who has stumbled upon his father’s naked, severed body.
Would it be:
“Your father was a bad man. He deserved what happened to him.”
“I know this is hard, but this needed to happen. In the end this is the best thing for my plan to move forward.”
“I’m very sorry for what you’re going through, but you’ll be better off this way. Just move forward.”
Even though these things are technically true, I don’t believe Christ would say any of these things at this particular moment. I think he’d just take the son of Laban in his arms and let him cry.
There are times to voice our firm positions based on the doctrines of Jesus Christ. There are times to remove ourselves from situations and even relationships that are damaging our spiritual well-being. There are times to stand alone when God asks us to make decisions that are unpopular or hard to swallow.
There are also times to be compassionate, and I believe these times are much more common than any listed above. Every single day, we have opportunities to be with others, whether it is in the workplace, our wards, or on our social media pages. We truly have the chance to take the question “What Would Jesus Do?” and let it change our hearts.
I believe, if we were take hold of these times, we would find not only our hearts changed, but our homes, communities, and nations. I hope we do.