Principle 10

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“Lift Up the Hands Which Hang Down,” Support Guide: Help for Spouses and Family of Those in Recovery (2014).

“Lift Up the Hands Which Hang Down,” Support Guide: Help for Spouses and Family of Those in Recovery.

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Principle 10

Lift Up the Hands Which Hang Down

“Wherefore, be faithful; stand in the office which I have appointed unto you; succor the weak, lift up the hands which hang down, and strengthen the feeble knees” (D&C 81:5).

Supporting in Righteousness

We support our loved ones in righteousness by reinforcing their efforts to come unto Christ and recover from their poor choices. When our loved ones make poor choices that result in severe consequences, it is natural to want to protect them from those consequences. We may try to repair the damage ourselves and make restitution in their behalf. In some instances our help can be very beneficial and even lifesaving; however, we must be careful not to support them in their poor choices or enable them to commit sin. If we fall into a trap of consistently rescuing them, we may hinder their recovery and delay them from turning to the Lord for help.

It is important to remember that “the Lord cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance” (D&C 1:31). Experiencing the negative consequences of their actions can help our loved ones determine to change (see Luke 15:17). The prophet Alma counseled his son, “I would not dwell upon your crimes, to harrow up your soul, if it were not for your good” (Alma 39:7). We are all accountable for our own words, deeds, and thoughts (see Mosiah 4:30); we cannot remove our loved ones’ accountability for their actions. Only by repentance and obedience to the commandments can our loved ones be healed, receive forgiveness for their mistakes, and stand uprightly before the Lord.

  • Why is it important for your loved one to be accountable for his or her actions?

  • How can you determine if you are really supporting your loved one in recovery, rather than enabling his or her misbehavior?

Giving Our Support and Encouragement

Our loved ones face many trials in their efforts to recover. They may feel broken, defective, and unworthy of God’s love and our love. They can lose hope that they will ever be clean again. In order to change, they need hope for the future and reassurance that they are worth the required effort. Our role isn’t to recover for them but to encourage and love them as they work toward recovery. Expressing our faith in the Savior and supporting our loved ones in their honest efforts to change can help them progress toward recovery.

The Savior is the perfect example of support and encouragement. He was “filled with compassion” toward those around him (see 3 Nephi 17:6; Matthew 9:36; 14:14). Sister Barbara Thompson, a former counselor in the Relief Society general presidency, explained: “Compassion means to feel love and mercy toward another person. It means to have sympathy and desire to relieve the suffering of others. It means to show kindness and tenderness toward another” (“And of Some Have Compassion, Making a Difference,” Ensign or Liahona, Nov. 2010, 119). When we are compassionate, we strive to understand the shame or despair our loved ones may feel and consider all the efforts they are making. We “bear one another’s burdens, … mourn with those that mourn; … and comfort those that stand in need of comfort” (Mosiah 18:8–9). Compassion doesn’t mean we support their poor choices or excuse their behavior. How­ever, we extend a loving hand and give encouragement.

  • Why is it important to show compassion while supporting your loved one?

  • How can you express your compassion?

Continuing to Minister

Our loved ones are the ones responsible for their recovery, and they may not yet be ready for our support. In some cases, they might even reject or resent our efforts to help. We may feel discouraged and powerless when we watch them continue in their poor choices. But we can still love them and pray for them. Speaking of those who are struggling spiritually, the Lord counsels us to not “cast [them] out” but to “continue to minister; for ye know not but what they will return and repent, and come unto me with full purpose of heart, and I shall heal them; and ye shall be the means of bringing salvation unto them” (3 Nephi 18:32). Patiently waiting may be the best approach for some circumstances.

In the meantime, we can pray for our loved ones and support them in appropriate ways. The Lord uses our prayers and faith to bless our loved ones. Elder Robert D. Hales said that a family member’s “faith, prayers, and efforts will be consecrated to the good of their [loved one]” (“With All the Feeling of a Tender Parent,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2004, 88). Our loved ones may not always choose to change their destructive behavior, but we know that our prayers in their behalf are heard by a loving Heavenly Father.

  • How can you respond to a loved one who does not seem ready or willing to accept your support?

Serving Others

When our challenges seem overwhelming or our situation seems hopeless, we can find spiritual renewal in giving service to others. Service provides an opportunity to look beyond our personal difficulties or challenges. Of course, we can’t serve everyone, and we should be careful not to run faster than we have strength (see Mosiah 4:27). However, even the simplest acts can bless and encourage others—and lift our own spirits. Helping others is also one way we show our love and appreciation to our Heavenly Father and the Savior. We know that “when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God” (Mosiah 2:17). Elder M. Russell Ballard taught that the Spirit can be our guide in such efforts: “In all of our service, we need to be sensitive to the promptings of the Holy Ghost. The still, small voice will let us know who needs our help and what we can do to help them” (“Finding Joy through Loving Service,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2011, 48).

  • How has serving others helped you bear your own challenges and struggles?

  • What opportunities do you have to serve?

  • How does the Spirit guide you in your efforts to serve?


In order to change, they need hope for the future and reassurance that they are worth the required effort. Our role isn’t to recover for them but to encourage and love them as they work toward recovery.