Am I My Brother’s Keeper?
After Adam had been created by the Lord in his image and after his own likeness, the Lord pointed out that it was not good for man to be alone. So Eve was created and given to Adam to be his wife, his companion and helpmeet.
Adam and Eve received many instructions from the Lord. Among them was the mandate to multiply and replenish the earth, or in other words, to bring children into the world. Without hesitation they followed that injunction, and in due time children were born to them. How proud, how thrilled and delighted they must have been with their offspring. Undoubtedly, they had wonderful dreams and high hopes for them. When one son was born they gave him the name of Cain. Later they were blessed with another son, who was called Abel.
The boys differed noticeably in temperament and disposition. As they matured and reached manhood, Cain became a tiller of the soil and Abel chose to become a keeper of sheep. The scriptures reveal that Abel loved the Lord. He was obedient and hearkened unto his voice. Cain was rebellious and loved Satan more than God. Out of selfishness and in a fit of jealousy, Cain rose up and slew his brother, Abel.
When the Lord inquired of Cain, “Where is Abel, thy brother?” Cain arrogantly replied with the question, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Moses 5:34.)
Over the years that question has been asked numerous times. To that question, many today would respond with firm conviction, “Yes, Cain, you are your brother’s keeper, and not only you, but each one of us is our brother’s keeper.”
Those who labor so diligently and unselfishly with aching backs and blistered hands on welfare projects are doing so because they love their brothers and sisters and do not want them to suffer from cold nor hunger.
The home teachers and visiting teachers who faithfully visit their assigned families regularly to determine if all is well and in order surely believe, Cain, that they are their brother’s keeper.
When one visits the houses of the Lord, the temples, he is impressed by the dedicated members of the Church who have sought out their deceased loved ones through research. They attend the temples often to perform vicarious ordinances for them that will make exaltation and eternal life possible. Truly they believe that they are their brother’s keeper.
As we observe the sincere and enthusiastic labors of the thousands of missionaries throughout the world declaring the restored truth, not for their individual benefit, but to teach the glorious principles of the gospel to the peoples of the earth for their blessing, we are again impressed, Cain, that they have a conviction that they are their brother’s keeper.
There are over 5,000 American Indian children, coming from fifty tribal backgrounds, living with Latter-day Saint families during the school year. They receive the same love and attention given to their foster brothers and sisters—a true act of love and brotherhood on the part of these families, with no reward other than the knowledge that they are helping a choice son or daughter of our Heavenly Father take his or her rightful place in the world. They too are their brother’s keeper.
In teaching his followers, Jesus often used the scriptural terminology of neighbor in designating his brother.
At one time a certain lawyer asked the Savior what he must do to inherit eternal life. The Master asked him what he read in the law. The lawyer pondered a moment and then replied: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself.” (Luke 10:27.)
He was assured his answer was correct. In order to justify himself, he then posed the question: “And who is my neighbour?”
Jesus, the Master Teacher, then told of a certain man who was traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho. Thieves fell upon him, stripping him of his clothing, beating him brutally, and leaving him half dead. By chance a priest came along and, observing the wounded man, turned his head, crossed the road, and passed by on the other side. Soon a Levite came along, and when he saw the injured person, he also passed by on the opposite side of the road.
But a Samaritan riding along was filled with compassion when he viewed the unfortunate man. Stopping his animal, he bound up the victim’s wounds and poured oil and wine into the afflicted parts. Placing the suffering man upon his beast, he took him to a nearby inn, where he further ministered unto him.
On the morrow when he departed, he took some money from his purse and handed it to the innkeeper, requesting him to care for the injured man and promising that he would compensate him for any additional expense incurred when he returned from his journey.
The Savior then posed the question: “Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves?” To this the lawyer readily answered: “He that shewed mercy on him.” The Savior said unto him: “Go, and do thou likewise.” (Luke 10:36–37.)
One of the most beautiful and tender accounts of brotherly love, concern, and devotion took place in Carthage Jail on the afternoon of the martyrdom. “The afternoon was sultry and hot. The four brethren [Joseph and Hyrum Smith, John Taylor, and Willard Richards] sat listlessly about the room with their coats off; and the windows of the prison were open to receive such air as might be stirring. Late in the afternoon Mr. Stigall, the jailor, came in and suggested that [in view of threats made by the radical and bloodthirsty mob] they would be safer in the cells. Joseph told him that they would go in after supper. Turning to Elder Richards the Prophet said: ‘If we go into the cell will you go with us?’”
Elder Richards answered, “Brother Joseph, you did not ask me to cross the river with you [referring to the time when they crossed the Mississippi, en route for the Rocky Mountains]—you did not ask me to come to Carthage—you did not ask me to come to jail with you—and do you think I would forsake you now? But I will tell you what I will do; if you are condemned to be hung for ‘treason,’ I will be hung in your stead, and you shall go free.”
With considerable emotion and feeling Joseph replied, “But you cannot,” to which Brother Richards firmly replied, “I will.” (B. H. Roberts, A Comprehensive History of the Church, vol. 2, p. 283.)
In these words Brother Richards displayed his concern for Joseph, who was his beloved brother and neighbor. The Savior taught: “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13.)
As Latter-day Saints, we firmly believe that we are brothers and sisters, spiritual offspring of heavenly parents, members of a royal family who once dwelt and associated together. There is a beautiful song that our children sing called “I Am a Child of God,” which teaches that our Heavenly Father has sent us here and has given us a home on earth with kind and dear parents. The song contains the prayer that our Father in heaven will direct us, inspire us, and teach us what we must do to again live with him some day.
With the dawning of each new day, there will be opportunities for all of us to help our neighbors, who are our brothers, in their hour of need.
How will we respond? Will we be like the priest and like the Levite described by the Savior, and turn our heads, walk across the road, and proceed in an unconcerned and selfish way?
Or will we follow the example of the Good Samaritan and thoughtfully and sympathetically assist our neighbors and brothers in their time of trial, and thus receive approbation and the blessings of our Heavenly Father?
The choice is ours to make. May the Lord bless us that our decisions will be correct and righteous ones, for which I humbly pray, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.