Sunday, April 17, 2016


A few months ago our wonderful daughter-in-law Christine wrote in her Face Book status about the importance of listening and having empathy for whomever and wherever those we encounter during the day might be.

As I thought about what a wonderful world it would be if we could all put this into practice I once again remembered some favorite lines by James Henry Leigh Hunt, which I used numerous times during my years as I taught about religious ideals.

Abou Ben Adhem (may his tribe increase!)
Awoke one night from a deep dream of peace,
And saw, within the moonlight in his room,
Making it rich, and like a lily in bloom,
An angel writing in a book of gold:—
Exceeding peace had made Ben Adhem bold,
And to the Presence in the room he said
"What writest thou?"—The vision raised its head,
And with a look made of all sweet accord,
Answered "The names of those who love the Lord."
"And is mine one?" said Abou. "Nay, not so,"
Replied the angel. Abou spoke more low,
But cheerily still, and said "I pray thee, then,
Write me as one that loves his fellow men."

The angel wrote, and vanished. The next night
It came again with a great wakening light,
And showed the names whom love of God had blessed,
And lo! Ben Adhem's name led all the rest.

I suspect if there is anything I have been desirous of making a permanent part of my being it would be to make the attribute of becoming a person who listened beyond the verbalized words, being able to understand the cause and feelings of the individual who spoke them. To become one of those who could be found somewhere on the list of those that love their fellowmen and whom the love of God has blessed.

The road to being a loving, caring, empathetic person has been for me, long, full of stumbling blocks, having periods of retracing and retreading, times when I doubted my personal capability of achieving such a goal and epochs when I accepted as a reality the improbability of living long enough to enjoy a society where such characteristics were predominant.

And it came to pass in the thirty and sixth year, the people were all converted unto the Lord, upon all the face of the land, both Nephites and Lamanites, and there were no contentions and disputations among them, and every man did deal justly one with another. And they had all things common among them; therefore there were not rich and poor, bond and free, but they were all made free, and partakers of the heavenly gift. And there were great and marvelous works wrought by the disciples of Jesus, insomuch that they did heal the sick, and raise the dead, and cause the lame to walk, and the blind to receive their sight, and the deaf to hear; and all manner of miracles did they work among the children of men; and in nothing did they work miracles save it were in the name of Jesus. And they did not walk any more after the performances and ordinances of the law of Moses; but they did walk after the commandments which they had received from their Lord and their God, continuing in fasting and prayer, and in meeting together oft both to pray and to hear the word of the Lord. And it came to pass that there was no contention among all the people, in all the land; but there were mighty miracles wrought among the disciples of Jesus. And it came to pass that there was no contention in the land, because of the love of God which did dwell in the hearts of the people. And there were no envyings, nor strifes, nor tumults, nor whoredoms, nor lyings, nor murders, nor any manner of lasciviousness; and surely there could not be a happier people among all the people who had been created by the hand of God. There were no robbers, nor murderers, neither were there Lamanites, nor any manner of -ites; but they were in one, the children of Christ, and heirs to the kingdom of God. (Book of Mormon – 4 Nephi 1: 2, 3, 5, 12, 13, 16, 17)

During those moments of my life when my loins seemed sufficiently girded and I was pressing forward I often found the words ‘what lack I more’ swimming around in the cells of my mind and the emotions of my heart.

In order to take advantage of those moments I kept a list of stimulating scriptures handy to help me take needed steps during these spaces of time which I knew would soon pass and I would once again have a progress stifling attack affect the determination with which I was momentarily being bombarded.

Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ; And having in a readiness to revenge all disobedience, when your obedience is fulfilled. Do ye look on things after the outward appearance? If any man trust to himself that he is Christ’s, let him of himself think this again, that, as he is Christ’s, even so are we Christ’s. For though I should boast somewhat more of our authority, which the Lord hath given us for edification, and not for your destruction, I should not be ashamed… (New Testament – 2 Corinthians 10: 5-8)

But ye have not so learned Christ; If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus: That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another. Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath… Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers… Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you. (New Testament – Ephesians 4: 20-32)

So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God. Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother’s way. I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing unclean of itself: but to him that esteemeth any thing to be unclean, to him it is unclean. But if thy brother be grieved with thy meat, now walkest thou not charitably. Destroy not him with thy meat, for whom Christ died. Let not then your good be evil spoken of: For the kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost. For he that in these things serveth Christ is acceptable to God, and approved of men. Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another. (New Testament – Romans 14: 12-19)

We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let every one of us please his neighbour for his good to edification.
(New Testament – Romans 15: 1, 2)

Because I have marked them with boldness, I suspect no one is left wondering what characteristics these verses remind me of ‘what I yet lack’ or at the very least where I still need to be more diligent in pressing forward in the development there of.

The record in 4th Nephi which testifies of a nation who were able to establish themselves on these characteristics and maintain these virtues for a few generations, fills me, perhaps all of us, with hope that there is a possibility that I, or even better we, through our diligence can step by step move closer to becoming what we were sent to become.

Maybe it is just as Christine indicated in her status on Face Book. It would be wonderful if we all tried to listen to know where our neighbor is today and then treat them with the appropriate edifying empathy. That wouldn’t be a bad place to begin our quest toward the characteristics which allowed the people in 4th Nephi to truly love one another.

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