Bringing Mercy Home
by Becky Watson
The bishop’s talk hit me hard.
He shared a very personal story that has forever helped me understand the meaning of mercy and charity.
He spoke of his father’s family - a good family, a large family – that nevertheless was not active in the our church. One brother in particular had strayed far from the straight and narrow. Other siblings’ testimonies waxed and waned over the years, and the parents had not made it to the temple by the time they passed away.
After years of prayers and fasting – and significant hard work – all five siblings were worthy to go to the temple and be eternally sealed as a family. I imagine how their hearts must have swelled to be together in the Lord’s house.
Before the sealing ordinance was performed, the sealer turned to the aforementioned man who had spent almost his whole life far from the church. I’m sure his stomach turned at being singled out.
With a piercing gaze the sealer asked: “Brother. Do you really think it fair that you should receive the same blessings as your brother next to you, who has filled his whole life with service and has never strayed?”
I can picture a shocked room. How judgmental! How rude! How completely uncalled for! I’m sure they all held their breath as they awaited this poor man’s response.
The prodigal son hung his head in shame and answered, “no. No I don’t deserve the same blessings at all.”
Then this wise sealer turned to the always faithful, always true brother. “And you? Are you willing to allow your brother to be privileged with all the same blessings as you, despite years spent astray?”
With all the love he could muster, and I’m sure with tears in his eyes, he resoundingly conceded: “with all my heart.”
That is what mercy is all about. It is not a flouting of justice, but a natural result of love. It reminds me of a talk by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland in which he commented, “surely the thing God enjoys most about being God is the thrill of being merciful, especially to those who don’t expect it and often feel they don’t deserve it.” (“The Laborers in the Vineyard.” Ensign, May 2012.)
One of the most common complaints in my houseful of children is “it isn’t fair!” (Enough that this phrase was actually banned at one point.) Children seem to be justice bloodhounds, ruthlessly sniffing out opportunities to whine that things are not EXACTLY THE EXACT SAME for everyone.
But as Elder Holland says, why should we be jealous if God chooses to be kind?
The brother in the bishop’s story was overjoyed to share in the fullness of God’s offerings. And why? Love. The pure love of Christ.
We call it charity.
Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up. Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. Charity never faileth. (1 Corinthians 13:4)
I want to teach my children to so love each other that they celebrate every success, cheer each other during failures, and seek one another’s happiness. And as with all things, children learn by example. I thank the bishop and his family for showing me the way.