An Expression of Care

Happy Easter!

March 31, 2024

A few years ago President Nelson addressed us at Easter time and asked us to do whatever we could to end conflict in our relationships. I'd like to share a similar message with you today. It's an election year in this wonderful country, while I've always loved this country, and felt great swells with gratitude and patriotism, I do not relish the tendency of many people at a time like this to become contentious. The book of Mormon captures a serious contention amongst the Nephites during the second year of the rain and the judges:

Alma 1:22

22 Nevertheless, there were many among them who began to be proud, and began to contend warmly with their adversaries, even unto blows; yea, they would smite one another with their fists.

Just 6 chapters later, Alma taught the following as he visited different Nephite cities:

Alma 7:23

23 And now I would that ye should be humble, and be submissive and gentle; easy to be entreated; full of patience and long-suffering; being temperate in all things; being diligent in keeping the commandments of God at all times; asking for whatsoever things ye stand in need, both spiritual and temporal; always returning thanks unto God for whatsoever things ye do receive.

Isn't that a beautiful response to the contention they were experiencing? Do you know someone that fits that description? Someone who is temperate in all things? Someone you feel you can express your deepest feelings and thoughts to because they are so easy to be entreated? What can we do to become more like that person?

The Resurrected Savior, when he visited the Americas in 34 A.D. taught:

3 Nephi 11:28-30

28 And according as I have commanded you thus shall ye baptize. And there shall be no disputations among you, as there have hitherto been; neither shall there be disputations among you concerning the points of my doctrine, as there have hitherto been.
29 For verily, verily I say unto you, he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another.
30 Behold, this is not my doctrine, to stir up the hearts of men with anger, one against another; but this is my doctrine, that such things should be done away.

Just because we are commanded to have no disputations doesn't mean it won't happen that way. Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ know that. Over the course of human history we have found just about every way to break the commandments, and we break the mold in just about every way conceivable. For better or for worse, this is all part of the plan. It's all OK, or rather, it's going to be because God sent Jesus Christ, or as Nephi said, he sent my Jesus. We don't often say it that way. We don't often refer to our savior so personally, but perhaps we should.

2 Nephi 33:6

6 I glory in plainness; I glory in truth; I glory in my Jesus, for he hath redeemed my soul from hell.

We can exercise faith in him, humbly repent (which is simple, but not easy), and he will forgive us. Over time, with enough faith repentance, forgiveness, and grace we will slowly become more and more at home in holy places and more and more capable as his disciples.

One of the disciples of my Jesus I can't wait to meet someday on the other side of eternity is Fred Rogers, the host of Mister Rogers Neighborhood, a children's program that aired on in the United States from 1968 to 2001. Early on in that 33-year run, the television network airing the show was low on funding, so Mister Rogers went before the US Senate Subcommittee on Communications to advocate for funding. Here's an excerpt of his conversation with the Senators that day, who granted the needed funding:

"We made 100 [episodes] for the eastern educational net work, and then when the money ran out people in Boston and Chicago all came to the four and said we've got to have more of this neighborhood expression of care. This is what I give an expression of care every day to each child to help [them] realize that [they're] unique. I end the program by saying: "You've made this day a special day by just you being you. There's no person in the whole world like you and I like you just the way you are." ...I feel that if we can only make it clear, that feelings are mentionable and manageable we will have done a great service for mental health. I think that it's much more dramatic [or exciting] that two people could be working out their feelings of anger, much more [exciting] than something of gunfire [or violence or special effects]. I'm constantly concerned about what our children are seeing I have tried to present what I feel is a meaningful expression of care." About Fred Rogers

Doesn't that sound like ministering in the Savior's way? A meaningful expression of care! Let's do that.

Taking the sacrament is important. It's part of the faith-repentance-forgiveness-grace process I mentioned earlier. If you're wondering whether you're worthy to take the sacrament, let's talk. The general handbook of the church gives clear instructions that of all the restrictions that could be employed by a church leader to help someone repent, "partaking of the sacrament should not be the first restriction given to a repentant person who has a broken heart and contrite spirit." -General Handbook, 32.8.3

It's an ordinance that the Savior himself instituted before his death at what we now refer to as the last supper. After his resurrection during his visit to the Americas as recorded in The Book of Mormon, he instituted the sacrament there as well. He makes mention during that visit of other tribes in the house of Israel which he needed to visit, and it wouldn't surprise me if he also instituted the sacrament in those other places with those Saints.

It seems that the ordinance of the sacrament is a very mortal kind of experience, as we are required to eat and drink. Perhaps this is another reason this mortal experience is so important: our physical body amplifies our worship in meaningful ways.

How fortunate for us that we live in a time and place where we know that Jesus came to save us and that he's alive today! Despite all the different groups and causes with which we affiliate ourselves (such as sports teams, colleges, hobbies, political parties, etc.) it's most important that we all decide we belong to God's family (our most important affiliation). Let's love our parents and all our siblings with everything we have, then, let's go and see how many others we can help discover their part in this big, beautiful family, and that our big brother, our Jesus saved them too.

-Michael Whatcott