LDS Family Services workers are engaged in “the very heart of gospel service — bearing one another’s burdens that they may be light. You are ‘holding up the hands that hang down and strengthening the feeble knees,’ ” Elder Jeffrey R. Holland declared June 13 at a Family Services System-wide Seminar in the Joseph Smith Memorial Building in Salt Lake City.
“You are succoring the weak,” said Elder Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. “Those struggling with a mental and emotional disability and unable to function in society — and sometimes unable to function in their own families — they are the poor of the earth, the poor in spirit, and the Savior taught more about helping the poor than any group on earth.”
“So what you’re doing is very central to the work of the Church,” Elder Holland told the gathering of workers from many nations engaged in Church Family Services.
His comments came during the question-and-answer portion of his address in which he said current data suggest approximately one in five adults in the United States encounters mental illness every year.
“Pornography abounds,” he said. “One single website got over 23 billion visits in 2016.
“Two-parent households are in a precipitous decline in the United States as divorce, cohabitation, out-of-wedlock births are on the rise.”
Those numbers do not encompass every child or form of dysfunction that the workers counsel or encounter, “nor do they include the loved ones and the family members who are linked to and affected by each of these individual cases.”
An effort to help in such cases is “long, stressful, difficult work,” the apostle acknowledged. “The mountains you help them and their families climb are large and daunting.”
He spoke of some who are thus troubled.
He spoke anonymously of a man whose wife and three children all suffer from serious mental illness. The wife had experienced a psychotic break under the duress of dealing with the situation.
“If any additional development could make that grim and wrenching circumstance worse, it has happened,” Elder Holland said. “The wife of whom this brother speaks suddenly died. As you might imagine, the abandonment he felt before is now a feeling of complete, cosmic isolation as he tries to make a living and be the sole parent to his children.”
He said, “Day in and day out, you try to help these people. Armed with your superb training and calling upon your knowledge of and power in the gospel, you can bring divine evidence of hope and grace and mercy. You bring the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
He told the members of the audience they are symbolically aligning themselves with the Redeemer of the world. “You’re binding up the brokenhearted, proclaiming liberty to the captives and opening the prison of them that are bound. What professional careers allow us to do that more or less all day every day? God bless you for that service.”
Elder Holland said Christ vicariously experienced and bore the burden of the sins, sorrows, troubles and tears of all mankind from Adam and Eve to the end of the world.
“In this, He Himself did not actually sin,” Elder Holland explained, “but he felt the pain and consequence of those who did.”
Christ did not personally experience a broken marriage, rape, schizophrenia, cancer or the loss of a child, “but He felt the pain and consequence of those who do, and so on and so on and so on through the litany of life’s burdens and broken hearts,” Elder Holland added.
That suggests the only divine example the world has ever known of true empathy, he said.
“Thank you for engaging in careers that teach, encourage, promote and reward empathy, that which at least begins to help a person be a disciple of Christ,” he said.
One thing empathy gives to clients is the reassurance that “they are not suffering in solitude, they are not anguishing alone,” Elder Holland said.
Too many do feel alone in their suffering, he said, sharing a letter from a young man who expressed his testimony of the gospel, but then added that his heart breaks because he does not see any future or fulfillment of joy for him as a person with same-sex attraction.
“I face a lifetime of lonely nights and dreary mornings,” Elder Holland quoted from the letter. “I attend my YSA ward faithfully and each week leave church knowing I can never ever fit in. I will never teach my son to ride a bike. I will never feel my baby girl hold my finger as she learns to walk. I’ll never have grandchildren. I’ll come home to an empty house day after day, month after month, decade after decade until I’m gone, anchored only by my hope in Christ.”
Elder Holland remarked, “With so much pain and despondency, so much hopelessness, one thing we certainly ought to try to give such a person is the reassurance that he or she is not alone. We should be adamant in stressing that God is with him, angels are with him and we are with him. We may not be able to alter the journey, but we can make sure no one walks it alone.”
At the conclusion of his speech and the question-and-answer session, Elder Holland left an apostolic blessing upon his listeners, saying sometimes they need a blessing every bit as much as their clients.
“I will bless you and through you those you serve by the power of God and the holy priesthood, the power that keeps the planets in their orbit and nourishes flowers every spring, power that carries all the promise of life and pursues the purposes of eternity. I testify that power is your power in this Church, that God will make the portion of it available to you that you need. He will answer your prayers, and He will answer your clients’ prayers.
“We don’t have control over when He does that or how, but we do have confidence that He will. I have that confidence and give it to you as a promise that He will bless you and He will bless those you serve.”
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