...Alma described this part of the Savior’s Atonement: “And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people” (Alma 7:11; also see2 Nephi 9:21).
Think of it! In the Savior’s Atonement, He suffered “pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind.” As President Boyd K. Packer explained: “He had no debt to pay. He had committed no wrong. Nevertheless, an accumulation of all of the guilt, the grief and sorrow, the pain and humiliation, all of the mental, emotional, and physical torments known to man—He experienced them all.”1
Why did He suffer these mortal challenges “of every kind”? Alma explained, “And he will take upon him their infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities” (Alma 7:12).
For example, the Apostle Paul declared that because the Savior “hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted” (Hebrews 2:18). Similarly, President James E. Faust taught, “Since the Savior has suffered anything and everything that we could ever feel or experience, He can help the weak to become stronger.”2
Our Savior experienced and suffered the fulness of all mortal challenges “according to the flesh” so He could know “according to the flesh” how to “succor [which means to give relief or aid to] his people according to their infirmities.” He therefore knows our struggles, our heartaches, our temptations, and our suffering, for He willingly experienced them all as an essential part of His Atonement. And because of this, His Atonement empowers Him to succor us—to give us the strength to bear it all.
While Alma’s teaching in the seventh chapteris the single clearest of all the scriptures on this essential power of the Atonement, it is also taught throughout holy writ.
At the beginning of His ministry, Jesus explained that He was sent “to heal the brokenhearted” (Luke 4:18). TheBible often tells us of His healing people “of their infirmities” (Luke 5:15; 7:21). The Book of Mormon records His healing those “that were afflicted in any manner” (3 Nephi 17:9). The Gospel of Matthew explains that Jesus healed the people “that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, Himself took our infirmities, and bare our sicknesses” (Matthew 8:17).
Isaiah taught that the Messiah would bear our “griefs” and our “sorrows” (Isaiah 53:4). Isaiah also taught of His strengthening us: “Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee” (Isaiah 41:10).
Thus, we sing:
Fear not, I am with thee; oh, be not dismayed,
For I am thy God and will still give thee aid.
I’ll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand, …
Speaking of some of his own mortal challenges, the Apostle Paul wrote, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Philippians 4:13).
And so we see that because of His Atonement, the Savior has the power to succor—to help—every mortal pain and affliction. Sometimes His power heals an infirmity, but the scriptures and our experiences teach that sometimes He succors or helps by giving us the strength or patience to endure our infirmities.4
32 And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you.
We each have a backstory—the experiences, events, and choices that helped shape us into the people we’ve become. One of the best ways to understand a person, even someone we might disagree with, is to learn his or her story. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow put it this way:
“If we could read the secret history of our enemies, we should find in each man’s life sorrow and suffering enough to disarm all hostility.”1
Though most of us don’t see each other as enemies, the sentiment is clear. It’s much harder to dislike a person whose story you understand. For example, one man seemed to have a hard time connecting with other people. He wasn’t very easy to talk with; he had such strong opinions about almost everything. Many people found him off-putting or tiresome. But a neighbor made the effort to become his friend. He listened rather than judged; he understood instead of dismissed. The kind neighbor explained, “I learned a long time ago that everyone has a story to tell, and the more I get to know a person, the more I like him.”
This experience has been played out countless times in countless places. Perhaps you’ve lived it. It begins when you open your heart enough to say to someone, in so many words, “Tell me your story”—and then truly listen. You will hear some stories that will surprise you, others that will inspire and humble you.
As we listen with empathy and compassion, we come to see others much as we should see ourselves: some strengths and weaknesses; some successes and setbacks; some shining moments when we were truly our best selves, along with some mistakes and regrets. Insignificant differences between us begin to wash away, leaving the common experiences, hopes, and desires that unite the human family. Of course, some meaningful differences will most likely remain, but it will hardly seem worth ruining a potential friendship over them. In fact, the privilege of coming to understand someone better—and maybe even finding a new friend in the process—will become an important new chapter in our own backstory, helping us become kinder, more compassionate people.
-Lloyd D. Newell
1. Prose Works of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, 2 vols. (1873), 1:452 Aug. 23, 2015 Broadcast Number 4,484
Kindness is the essence of a celestial life. Kindness is how a Christlike person treats others.
Many years ago, when I was called as a bishop, I had a desire for the bishopric to visit those who were less active in the Church and see if there was anything we could do to bring the blessings of the gospel into their lives.
One day we visited a man in his 50s who was a respected mechanic. He told me the last time he had been to church was when he was a young boy. Something had happened that day. He had been acting up in class and was being noisier than he should when his teacher became angry, pulled him out of class, and told him not to come back.
He never did.
It was remarkable to me that an unkind word spoken more than four decades earlier could have had such a profound effect. But it had. And, as a consequence, this man had never returned to church. Neither had his wife or children.
I apologized to him and expressed my sorrow that he had been treated that way. I told him how unfortunate it was that one word spoken in haste, and so long ago, could have the effect of excluding his family from the blessings that come from Church activity.
“After 40 years,” I told him, “it’s time the Church made things right.”
I did my best to do so. I reassured him that he was welcome and needed. I rejoiced when this man and his family eventually returned to church and became strong and faithful members. In particular, this good brother became an effective home teacher because he understood how something as small as an unkind word could have consequences that extend throughout a lifetime and perhaps beyond.
...Kindness is the essence of greatness and the fundamental characteristic of the noblest men and women I have known.
Kind words not only lift our spirits in the moment they are given, but they can linger with us over the years. One day, when I was in college, a man seven years my senior congratulated me on my performance in a football game. He not only praised how well I had done in the game, but he had noticed that I had showed good sportsmanship. Even though this conversation happened more than 60 years ago, and even though it’s highly unlikely the person who complimented me has any recollection of this conversation, I still remember the kind words spoken to me that day by Gordon B. Hinckley...
Kindness is the essence of a celestial life. Kindness is how a Christlike person treats others. Kindness should permeate all of our words and actions at work, at school, at church, and especially in our homes.
Jesus, our Savior, was the epitome of kindness and compassion. He healed the sick. He spent much of His time ministering to the one or many. He spoke compassionately to the Samaritan woman who was looked down upon by many. He instructed His disciples to allow the little children to come unto Him. He was kind to all who had sinned, condemning only the sin, not the sinner... Yet His greatest act of kindness was found in His atoning sacrifice, thus freeing all from the effects of death, and all from the effects of sin, on conditions of repentance.
(A) Church is not a place where perfect people gather to say perfect things, or have perfect thoughts, or have perfect feelings. (A) Church is a place where imperfect people gather to provide encouragement, support, and service to each other as we press on in our journey to return to our Heavenly Father.
Each one of us will travel a different road during this life. Each progresses at a different rate. Temptations that trouble your brother may not challenge you at all. Strengths that you possess may seem impossible to another.
Never look down on those who are less perfect than you. Don’t be upset because someone can’t sew as well as you, can’t throw as well as you, can’t row or hoe as well as you.
We are all children of our Heavenly Father. And we are here with the same purpose: to learn to love Him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love our neighbor as ourselves.
One way you can measure your value in the kingdom of God is to ask, “How well am I doing in helping others reach their potential? Do I support others in the Church, or do I criticize them?”
If you are criticizing others, you are weakening (mankind). If you are building others, you are building the kingdom of God. As Heavenly Father is kind, we also should be kind to others.
When we are filled with kindness, we are not judgmental. The Savior taught, “Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven.”4He also taught that “with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.”5
“But,” you ask, “what if people are rude?”
“If they are obnoxious?”
“But what if they offend? Surely I must do something then?”
The answer is the same. Be kind. Love them.
Why? In the scriptures Jude taught, “And of some have compassion, making a difference.”6
Who can tell what far-reaching impact we can have if we are only kind?
As our Heavenly Father loves us, we also should love His children.
May we be models of kindness. May we ever live up to the words of the Savior: “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.”7Of these truths I bear witness in the sacred name of Jesus Christ, amen.