Debra Oaks Coe
Caring for Each Other: More than Simply a Good Idea
Updated: Mar 20, 2022
By Debra Oaks Coe
When I was in the 2nd grade, we moved in the middle of the school year. I had trouble making new friends and was bullied almost every day at recess. One morning, soon after I got to school, there was a knock on our classroom door. It was my father. He had decided to take me out of school for the day. We went downtown to the nearest city and spent the day at the children’s museum – just the two of us. As the second oldest of six children at the time, this was quite a big deal to me.
My father had noticed how sad I was every day when I came home from school. He put himself in my shoes and realized that I needed to know how much he loved me. I remember being so surprised that he took the whole day focused on me. It is still one of my most meaningful memories.
He didn’t do anything directly to fix my situation; he knew I had to do that. His taking time to make sure I knew he loved and cared about me made all the difference. It helped me have more self-confidence, be less shy, and finally start to make new friends.
My first year of seminary we studied the Book of Mormon. I remember one scripture stood out to me. 2 Nephi 2:27 “Man is that he might have joy.” I thought about that scripture for weeks. I recalled experiences like that day with my father. I realized that loving relationships, especially when we desperately need to feel that love, are the key to joy.
This was the beginning of my understanding the significance of Christ’s commandment to “Love One Another.” Seeking each other’s happiness and finding ways to support and help them are more than just a good idea. These change lives for the better. The Apostle Paul summed up the entire law of Christ in five words: “Bear ye one another’s burdens.”[i]
A friend of mine had an adult daughter with an alcohol problem. After two DUI convictions, the parents were frantic. They knew one more DUI would mean their daughter would go to prison. They had been telling her for years to stop drinking. They doubled their efforts to get her to stop. Drinking was clearly the problem. Their daughter began avoiding as many family gatherings as possible.
Sure they were absolutely in the right, the parents continued to use every opportunity to address their daughter's alcohol addiction. The drinking only got worse.
Finally the mother realized that like the Pharisees of old, they were so busy being "right" that they were wrong in how they were treating their daughter. Looking to Christ's example and His teaching to "bear one another's burdens," they put themselves in their daughter's shoes and realized she needed help with transportation. She only drove to get to the store and to work so she could support her two children. Public transportation was not available to her. The parents stopped talking about the addiction and instead rearranged their busy schedules so they could provide the needed transportation. After six months of driving together, the daughter felt the love of her parents and how much they valued her. Finally she came to them and said, "I need your help." She had tried several times to stop drinking and couldn't on her own. Only after much love and helping bear their daughter's burdens did the situation change. Elder Ballard said, “If we are truly disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ, we will reach out with love and understanding to all of our neighbors at all times…. [Christ’s] deliberate use of Jews and Samaritans clearly teaches that we are all neighbors and that we should love, esteem, respect, and serve one another despite our deepest differences—including religious, political, and cultural differences.”[ii]
With these gospel principles in mind, my husband and I decided to reach out to the LGBTQ college students in our area to include those attending BYU. Every month for over five years, we invited them over for a “family dinner.” We wanted to make sure they knew they are loved. It has been one of the most rewarding experiences of our lives.
We have watched them make every effort to be a friend to others. They know what it feels like to be lonely and excluded. We have seen them truly bear one another’s burdens and help others have hope. We have learned from them what it means to be humble and walk forward in faith. My husband and I have truly gained the most and learned from our association with them.
We have felt in deep and unexpected ways the Savior’s love for all Heavenly Father’s children. The New Testament has come alive for us. We can see why Christ placed such an importance on looking past people’s ethnicity, race and circumstances. He set the example of reaching out to the poor, the burdened, the unpopular, and the outcasts of His society.
We have a better understanding of why the Savior was so critical of the Pharisees and the Sadducees who were so busy being “right” they failed to lift and help. We have learned that our most important calling is to love and include all people.
Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf said: “We can only have hope of Zion with ‘every man seeking the interest of his neighbor, and doing all things with an eye single to the glory of God.’ To put it simply, having charity and caring for one another is not simply a good idea. It is not simply one more item in a seemingly infinite list of things we ought to consider doing. It is at the core of the gospel—an indispensable, essential, foundational element. Without this transformational work of caring for our fellowmen, the Church is but a façade of the organization God intends for His people. Without charity and compassion, we are a mere shadow of who we are meant to be—both as individuals and as a Church. Without charity and compassion, we are neglecting our heritage and endangering our promise as children of God. No matter the outward appearance of our righteousness, if we look the other way when others are suffering, we cannot be justified.”[iii]
[i] Galatians 6:2
[ii] Elder M. Russell Ballard, “Doctrine of Inclusion” General Conference October 2001
[iii] Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf address to the Salt Lake City Inner City Mission, given December 4, 2015