“Replace Fear and Despair with Hope and Joy”

Elder Renlund has fast become one of the Apostles I most look forward to from hearing in conference.  I love the great compassion he exudes as he speaks. He really seems to understand the mercy and compassion of loving Heavenly Father and a redemptive Savior.

Elder Renlund began his talk this past conference by speaking about glimpses of Heavenly Father’s character. God is characterized by “immense compassion” as is the Savior. They love us despite our great imperfections. And that “compassion in the face of our imperfections draws us toward Him and motivates us in our repeated struggles to repent and emulate Him. As we become more like Him, we learn to treat others as He does, regardless of any outward characteristic or behavior.”

I loved Elder Renlund’s use of Les Misérables to illustrate this principle.  Jean Jaljean is touched by the christ-like example of the Bishop and display of “mercy and empathy motivate Jean Valjean to change the course of his life.” It is not by avoiding sinners, but by serving them with love, that the Bishop changes hearts.

Likewise with the Savior. God cannot look upon sin with allowance, but he can look on us with great compassion even though we are sinners.  “As the Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ views disease in His sheep as a condition that needs treatment, care, and compassion. This shepherd, our Good Shepherd, finds joy in seeing His diseased sheep progress toward healing.”

For us, “in our lifelong quest to follow Jesus Christ, His example of kindness to those who sin is particularly instructive. We, who are sinners, must, like the Savior, reach out to others with compassion and love. Our role is also to help and bless, lift and edify, and replace fear and despair with hope and joy.” We must mirror fully his love by avoiding even subtle forms of cruelty or bigotry. We must be his hands to heal and bless.

Christlike service changes people because it helps them look upward.  “The Savior’s compassion, love, and mercy draw us toward Him. Through His Atonement, we are no longer satisfied with our sinful state.”  It is when we are touched by unexpected mercy, compassion, or goodness that we most fully begin to reexamine ourselves and transform. Of course, the greatest example of unexpected mercy is the atonement of Christ.  But as we follow that lofty example we will likewise be a source of comfort and transformation for others.

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