Remember the worth of souls

While recently checking my Facebook account, I noticed an invitation from an old friend to participate in an application called “OWNED!”

Own Your Friends! Give Human Gifts! Put yourself on the market and find out how much you’re worth!

A novel idea, I thought, so I signed-up for the application and quickly discovered my value, or lack thereof, on Facebook.

While we may assign worth and value to the souls of others, our Heavenly Father places a high value on the worth of our souls.

10 Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God;

D&C 18:10

I am familiar with the missionary application of this and the remaining scriptures in this section of the Doctrine and Covenants, but I want to focus on the broader application I believe applies to this scripture–the way we treat and value our fellow human being.

A friend of mine recently announced to his family, friends, ward members and community that he was choosing to live a life that is not in harmony with the teachings of the Church.

When I learned of my friend’s revelation, I admit that I was stunned and did not know how to react.

After the initial shock wore off, I pondered and prayed about what I should do and how I should approach my friend. The answer that came to me was to treat him exactly the same way the Savior would–with love!

Although I do not embrace or approve of my friend’s decision to live contrary to the teachings of the Church, I realized that if I did not have charity toward my friend, I could not remain a true friend.

19 And if you have not faith, hope, and charity, you can do nothing.

D&C 18:19

I was saddened when my friend forwarded an email to me from someone he knew that was less than charitable.

The tone of the email was preachy; the sender was judgmental and argumentative, using the scriptures as a weapon against my friend.

He asked me, “How do I respond to this?”

I was at a loss after reading the unkind and hurtful email, but replied, “Sometimes it is best not to reply and pray for the person.”

My friend shared with me other encounters he has had with old friends and acquaintances, many of them with the same hurtful and unkind words. With most of these chance meetings, my friend remarked that people don’t know how to talk to him and often stumble through the conversation.

While I can understand the initial reluctance or awkwardness that might accompany an initial conversation with my friend after his revelation, I cannot understand or abide the treatment my friend receives from people who claim to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ.

The Savior declared plainly:

  34 A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.

 35 By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.

John 13:34-35

In the myriad of scriptures we read, I can only hope–for the sake of my friend and others in his situation–that we all take the teachings of the Savior to heart, understand the true worth of souls, and embrace the commandment to love one another.

8 thoughts on “Remember the worth of souls

  1. An interesting issue you bring up.

    To me, it seems we Latter-day Saints are torn between two seemingly contradictory mandates: love all of Heavenly Father’s children, and speak out against sin.

    This hit home for me last year as I came to realize that a close family member had essentially ruined her life because of many unrighteous decisions she made. And despite this disaster, she had little desire to change. I struggled with uncharitable feelings and desires. But then the Holy Spirit reminded me that I am far from perfect myself. While her decisions were manifestly wrong, I could not hold myslef above her because I myself need improve. Everyone is imperfect, everyone needs improvement. And so I must work on myself first before trying to fix other people.

    This is part of the Lord’s plan to keep us humble: “And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them” (Ether 12:27).

    We must never tire to help the wandering sheep return to the fold. But the only way to do this is through love and the Holy Spirit.

    Consider how the Church calls its wayward members back. It does so through love and compassionate exhortation. I became active again partly because of President Monson’s most loving invitation — with arms stretched out — for us inactives to come back. It works. And it works far better than acrimony, contention, or other forms of ill will that drives the Spirit away. While we cannot affirm decisions that are unrighteous — President Monson never said he accepts our unrighteous decisions: the need to repent was tacit in his invitation — we cannot help the wayward sinner if we don’t show love.

    I think the best guidance — other than the examples of the prophets and apostles — is D&C 121:41-46:

    No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned;
    By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile—
    Reproving betimes with sharpness, when moved upon by the Holy Ghost; and then showing forth afterwards an increase of love toward him whom thou hast reproved, lest he esteem thee to be his enemy;
    That he may know that thy faithfulness is stronger than the cords of death.
    Let thy bowels also be full of charity towards all men, and to the household of faith, and let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly; then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God; and the doctrine of the priesthood shall distil upon thy soul as the dews from heaven.
    The Holy Ghost shall be thy constant companion, and thy scepter an unchanging scepter of righteousness and truth; and thy dominion shall be an everlasting dominion, and without compulsory means it shall flow unto thee forever and ever.

  2. Great comment, Muslihoon. Welcome back!

    I have taken the position that I am not my friend’s priesthood leader and my role should not be to judge or condemn. My friend has likely heard everything that he needed and didn’t want to hear from his Bishop and Stake President. Why should I pour salt into an open wound?

    When I went through a period of inactivity, I was taken back by all of the judgmental people I encountered. Or at least, people I presumed to be judgmental of me. I was definitely treated differently and not like I felt I should have been. It was until someone extended a hand of fellowship to me that I decided to come back.

    Anyhow, I appreciate your thoughts and enjoyed the scriptures you shared with me. Thank you.

  3. An excellent perspective, Brian!

    At stake conference this weekend, I remember someone mentioning “Concern for the One” by Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin during the Sunday morning session of the April 2008 General Conference. I remember, back when I was active, that the prophet and apostles (and, subsequently, other Church leaders) kept exhorting us to be active in fellowshipping. I never really understood why until I needed that fellowship when I became active again.

    Thanks for the perspective and remarks! Thought-provoking.

  4. Brian, I have had people close to me announce they are leaving the Church for one reason or another. I have seen some people react in uncharitable ways. This only makes the people who is leaving the Church feel even more justified. As my bishop says, “you have to love them back into the Church.” I try really, really hard to practice that.

  5. I don’t know if I forgot to hit “submit” or whether my previous comment is held in moderation.

    We need to remember, only a very small minority of active mormons, even those who show up every Sunday, really live according to “teachings of the church.”

    You’re not living “according to the teachings of the church” :

    – if you don’t do 100% home teaching or visiting teaching every month.
    – if you don’t have Family Home Evening every week.
    – if you aren’t reading the scriptures every day.
    (That’s now a requirement for baptism, see “Preach My Gospel”.)
    – if you don’t read the Priesthood/RS lesson for sunday.
    – if you don’t read at least the 1st pres message in the Ensign every month.
    – if you don’t have a Temple Recommend.
    – if you aren’t actively doing genealogy.
    – if you haven’t done ordinance work (or submitted names so others could do their work) for those ancestors whom you’ve already identified.
    – if you haven’t tried to shared the gospel with your neighbors who live right next door to you.

    Add to the list whatever else gets repeated over and over again by the Brethren every General conference. THOSE things are the “teachings of the church” or the “standards of the church.”

  6. (conclusion)

    So therefore, we don’t have any justification at pointing the finger at anyone who we think is not “living the teachings the church.”

  7. In Luke 5:31, Jesus says “The whole need not a physician, but they that are sick.” The fact that a person is an active LDS does not make them perfect. The theme is often repeated that we heard here: a member chooses openly to live against the standards of the Church, and active members show that they fall far short of Christ in their pettiness, judging, sermonizing, hypocrisy, etc. Instead of turning on these members, cannot we extend to them some mercy, realizing that they are just as much in need of Christ’s healing power to cleanse them of their sins? That maybe they are doing the best they can with their own understanding of the gospel?

    Brian wrote about another friend who wrote an unkind and hurtful email, to which Friend 1 did not reply. I think sometimes, the best thing that we can do is to more effectively apply charity and charitable motives to everyone–even this man who was so hurtful. A simple reply that thanked him for his concern, would have sown kindness for unkindness.

  8. Bookslinger, not to sound pious or self-righteous, but if that’s a definitive list, I’m laughing. I’m doing all those things. I have to admit, though, I mostly study the priesthood to have some concrete ideas in case I need to teach.

    Brian, great article. I think this principle is behind King Benjamin’s address in Mosiah 4.

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