The story is told of a man named Jack who had a beloved bird-hunting dog named Cassie. Jack was so proud of Cassie and often bragged about what a skilled dog she was. To prove this, Jack invited some friends to watch Cassie perform. After arriving at the hunting club, Jack let Cassie out to run around while he went inside to check in.
When it was time to begin, Jack was anxious to show off Cassie’s amazing skills. However, Cassie was acting strangely. She wouldn’t obey any of Jack’s commands as she usually did so willingly. All she wanted to do was remain by his side.
Jack was frustrated and embarrassed and angry with Cassie; soon he suggested they leave. Cassie wouldn’t even jump into the back of the truck, so Jack impatiently picked her up and shoved her in the kennel. He fumed as those with him made fun of his dog’s behavior all the way home. Jack couldn’t understand why Cassie was misbehaving. She had been trained well, and her whole desire in the past had been to please and serve him.
After arriving home, Jack began examining Cassie for injuries, burrs, or ticks, as he usually did. As he put his hand on her chest, he felt something wet and found his hand covered with blood. To his shame and horror, he found that Cassie had a long, wide gash right to her chest bone. He found another on her right front leg, also to the bone.
Jack took Cassie into his arms and began to cry. His shame at how he had misjudged and treated her was overwhelming. Cassie had been acting uncharacteristically earlier in the day because she was hurt. Her behavior had been influenced by her pain, her suffering, and her wounds. It had nothing to do with a lack of desire to obey Jack or a lack of love for him.1
I heard this story years ago and have never forgotten it. How many wounded individuals do we have among us? How often do we judge others based on their outward appearance and actions, or lack of action, when, if we fully understood, we would instead react with compassion and a desire to help instead of adding to their burdens with our judgment?
I have been guilty of this many times in my life, but the Lord has patiently taught me through personal experiences and as I have listened to the life experiences of many others. I have come to more fully appreciate the example of our dear Savior as He spent so much of His time ministering to others with love.
My youngest daughter’s life experience has included emotional health challenges from the time she was a little girl. There have been many times throughout her life when she felt like she couldn’t go on. We will be forever grateful to the earthly angels who have been there during those times: sitting with her, listening to her, crying with her, as well as sharing together unique gifts, spiritual understandings, and a mutual relationship of love. In such loving circumstances, burdens have often been lifted on both sides.
Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin, quoting 1 Corinthians, said, “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.”2
“Paul’s message to this new body of Saints was simple and direct: Nothing you do makes much of a difference if you do not have charity. You can speak with tongues, have the gift of prophecy, understand all mysteries, and possess all knowledge; even if you have the faith to move mountains, without charity it won’t profit you at all.
In John we read, “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.”4
Many talks have been given by our Church leaders on charity, unity, love, kindness, compassion, forgiveness, and mercy. I believe the Savior is inviting us to live a higher, holier way5—His way of love where all can feel they truly belong and are needed.
“Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
“Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; …
“For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”9
The Savior does not condone sin but offers us His love and extends forgiveness when we repent. To the woman caught in adultery, He said, “Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.”10 Those He touched felt His love, and that love healed and transformed them. His love inspired them to want to change their lives. Living His way brings joy and peace, and He invited others to that way of living with gentleness, kindness, and love.
Elder Gary E. Stevenson said: “When we confront life’s wind and rainstorms, sickness and injuries, the Lord—our Shepherd, our Caregiver—will nourish us with love and kindness. He will heal our hearts and restore our souls.”11 As followers of Jesus Christ, shouldn’t we do likewise?
The Savior asks us to learn of Him12 and do the things we have seen Him do.13 He is the embodiment of charity, of pure love. As we incrementally learn to do what He asks of us—not out of duty or even for the blessings we might receive but purely out of love for Him and our Heavenly Father14—His love will flow through us and make all that He asks not only possible but eventually much easier and lighter15 and more joyful than we could ever imagine. It will take practice; it could take years, as it has for me, but as we even desire to have love be our motivating force, He can take that desire,16 that seed, and eventually turn it into a beautiful tree, full of the sweetest fruit.17
We sing in one of our beloved hymns: “Who am I to judge another when I walk imperfectly? In the quiet heart is hidden sorrow that the eye can’t see.”18 Who among us might have hidden sorrows? The seemingly rebellious child or teenager, the children of divorce, the single mother or father, those with physical or mental health challenges, those questioning their faith, those who experience racial or cultural prejudice, those feeling alone, those longing to be married, those with unwanted addictions, and so many others dealing with a wide variety of challenging life experiences—often even those whose lives appear perfect on the surface.
None of us have perfect lives or perfect families; I certainly don’t. When we seek to empathize with others who also experience challenges and imperfections, it can help them feel that they are not alone in their struggles. Everyone needs to feel that they really do belong and are needed in the body of Christ.19 Satan’s great desire is to divide God’s children, and he has been very successful, but there is such power in unity.20 And how we need to walk arm in arm with each other on this challenging journey of mortality!
Our prophet, President Russell M. Nelson, said: “Any abuse or prejudice toward another because of nationality, race, sexual orientation, gender, educational degrees, culture, or other significant identifiers is offensive to our Maker! Such mistreatment causes us to live beneath our stature as His covenant sons and daughters!”21
While President Nelson has invited all to enter and stay on the covenant path that leads back to our Father in Heaven, he also provided the following counsel: “If friends and family … step away from the Church, continue to love them. It is not for you to judge another’s choice any more than you deserve to be criticized for staying faithful.”22
Friends, let us remember that each person on this earth is a child of God23 and He loves each one.24 Are there people in your path who you have felt inclined to judge? If so, remember that these are valuable opportunities for us to practice loving as the Savior loves.25 As we follow His example, we can be yoked with Him and help foster a feeling of love and belonging in the hearts of all our Father’s children.
“We love him, because he first loved us.”26 As we are filled with the Savior’s love, His yoke truly can be easy, and His burden can feel light.27 Of this I so testify in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.