‘Lift up the hands that hang down’

All of us can share the pure love of Christ—and we all need to feel it from others.

Good morning, everyone. I’ve been asked to speak today about charity and service. One of my favorite scriptures is the one about charity, the one that’s in Corinthians [Note 1] and also in Moroni [2] that says “charity is the pure love of Christ.” [3] And that is the reason that we do service, because of love for those around us. But what I’ve been thinking about lately is that the service that most people need is just love itself. Really all we need is love. It’s not the physical service, the things we bring to each other, or doing somebody’s dishes—it’s just the love that we show each other.

Earlier this week at school, I was visiting a friend’s classroom and picked up one of the books that students read during their free reading time. It’s a book I have seen many times over the years, called A Child Called ‘It’, which some of you may have read. It’s incredibly popular among high-school students, and I honestly cannot understand why. I can never read this book because it is so sad. It’s autobiographical. It was written by a man who, when he was a little boy, was horribly, horribly abused by his mother. It eventually has a happy ending: it turns out there are three books in the series and, obviously, he grows up and he’s doing just fine now. But it’s so sad because this little boy grew up feeling like nobody loved him. And every once in a while I hear stories similar to that in the news about some awful thing that happened to somebody, whether it’s a little kid or a grownup. And every time I hear those stories, I wish I could be the one that could hold that little kid and be the one who loves that kid and let them know that there is somebody who loves them. I think that is the saddest thing in the world. There are lots of sad things in the world, but I think the saddest thing in the world is kids growing up and adults going through life feeling like nobody loves them—feeling alone and feeling unloved.

And the Savior said a few times, if you love me, feed my sheep. [4] In the past week as I’ve been thinking about this talk, I’ve started to realize a little more about that. The Savior wants us to serve each other because he loves the people that we serve. And he feels sad when he sees one of those people feeling sad. It’s not just because he’s taken all of our pains upon him. Yes, he feels sad because he feels our sadness, because he’s the Savior and he took all of our pains and sicknesses and everything upon himself in the Atonement. But he also feels his own sadness when we’re sad. It’s not just our sadness that he’s feeling; he feels sad, for himself.

I think about how sad I am about the idea of a kid who gets teased and doesn’t have any friends. Or, one of my greatest fears as I was growing up, when I was in high school especially, was that someday I would grow up and I would get a job and move to some city and where I didn’t know anybody and I would be all alone. And I thought about how sad it would be to spend my birthday by myself having nobody around to tell me happy birthday. And, thankfully, that has never happened. But it does happen to some people. And I think about how sad that is. Or, when somebody’s older and they’re retired and they live alone or they live in a care facility and there’s nobody who goes to visit them. And I know that Heavenly Father does not want that to happen to his children. He doesn’t want any of us to be alone.

We’re not alone, because the Holy Ghost can always be with us. And Heavenly Father loves all of his children. But sometimes we all need a person to be there to love us. I think about my own children and how I want to make sure that they never feel sad or alone. (They’ll feel sad sometimes—everybody feels sad sometimes. Fiona tripped on the way in to church today and skinned her knee. But she’s fine now.) But the feeling of loneliness, of having no one—I hope that never happens. And that’s why it means so much to me when I see other people around us showing their love for my children, because I want them to know that they’re loved, not just by us but by other people. I think that’s how Heavenly Father feels about his children: he wants all of us to feel loved by his other children. And everyone can do that. It doesn’t really take a lot of resources to love. You don’t need money. You don’t necessarily need to have time. You don’t need a lot of education or training or anything like that. You just have to be there for somebody. “Mourn with those that mourn … and comfort those that stand in need of comfort.” [5] All of us can do that. And all of us are in that position sometimes where we are the ones that are mourning or we are the ones that need to be comforted.

I have many stories, it turns out, that relate to this subject. One of them happened a long time ago. My older brother was in college. It must have been at least 20 years ago, I think. He came home at Christmastime from college and he had one of those little Game Boys, I guess. I don’t know—I was little enough that I didn’t know what it was called. But I guess it was a little Game Boy, which was kind of a big deal at the time because it was a long time ago. And my older sister said, “Wow, Martin, where’d you get that thing?!” And he said, “Oh, well, my friend so-and-so gave it to me for Christmas.” And my sister said—it was pretty unusual that a college student would’ve been able to buy this thing for another college student—so my sister said, “Really?! Why did he do that? Why would he give you that present?” So my brother told this story about this guy that was pretty awkward and didn’t have a lot of social skills and a lot of people made fun of him. (You would think that, by college, people would be over making fun of each other, but apparently they were not.) So they were making fun of this guy. And I remember vividly the tone in my brother’s voice when he said, “I just would never do that.” He was friends with this guy because he just would never treat somebody that way.

It’s really very simple to show love for people, I think. It’s not as complicated as we sometimes think that it is. And sometimes with home and visiting teaching we think it has to be this big thing. It doesn’t have to be a big thing. We’re just showing love for people. We’re just letting people know that we love them. And the thing about service—like going out and helping people—is, that lets people know you care about them. There are some kinds of service where you’re sort of disconnected from the person, like a big natural disaster—the earthquake in Haiti [6] or the earthquake in Japan [7] or the typhoon in the Philippines [8]—where we can’t physically go there to help, but maybe we can donate some money to help. And, in some cases, that’s all that we can really do to show that we care about those people. But in a lot of cases we do actual things: bringing a meal to somebody who’s sick or stressed out, or helping clean somebody’s house up after Hurricane Sandy, or washing dishes for somebody—anything that you can imagine, any little thing that somebody might need. We’re not just showing that we’re there for them to fill their physical or temporal needs—we’re not just there to take a meal, we’re not just there to clean up their house, we’re there to show that we actually care about that person, which doesn’t just fill the temporal need. It fills their emotional and social and spiritual needs by showing that we love them and by showing that Heavenly Father loves them also.

One scripture that has always stood out to me about love might not seem like a usual love scripture: it’s in Doctrine and Covenants 81:5. And it says: “Wherefore, be faithful; stand in the office which I have appointed unto you; succor the weak, lift up the hands which hang down, and strengthen the feeble knees.” When I was a missionary in Germany I was walking with my companion one day in some neighborhood that we had never been to and there was this statue. And it was interesting that my companion and I both thought of this scripture when we saw this statue. I don’t know what exactly the statue looked like—it was more a sculpture, I guess, it wasn’t any particular person. But this person had really long arms and their hands were hanging down and their shoulders were kind of slumped and it just looked like somebody who needed help, somebody who was weak and needed to be succored, somebody who needed their hands to be lifted up and their knees to be strengthened. And that, to me, is about love, because sometimes we just feel like we can’t go on.

A similar scripture is the one in Doctrine and Covenants 45 that talks about men’s hearts failing them in the latter-days—in the last days, men’s hearts will fail them. [9] To me, that means that you just feel like you can’t do it any more. You’re at the end of your rope and you can’t handle it any more and you have nothing left. You just can’t go on. And you’re not just physically worn out where you need a nap, but you’re emotionally and spiritually worn out where you need love.

A little while after I came home from my mission, I didn’t know what to do with my life. I had already taught for three years before my mission. And then I came home and I didn’t have an apartment to live in, and I didn’t have a job, and I wasn’t in school any more, so I couldn’t take a semester to try to figure things out, because I was the teacher. I was the one who was supposed to be teaching and earning money and supporting myself. And I didn’t know where to go. I lived with my parents for a little while, just a month or two. And then I found an apartment in Provo. (Which was a weird experience; it’s the only time I’ve ever lived in Provo. It was enough for me.) And I found a sort of temporary “filler” job that allowed me to get by in Provo for that summer. But that was not my plan. I wanted to be a high-school teacher again—I wanted to have, you know, a “real” job and an actual apartment. But I didn’t think I wanted it to be in Utah. And I knew I didn’t want to go back to Texas, which is where I had been before my mission. So I was sort of applying for teaching positions all over the country, which is not the way that you normally get teaching positions. And it was scary, because, if any of you have ever worked in a school district, you might be aware: teachers don’t get hired until August usually, because everybody wants to make sure that they have their next job lined up before they officially quit their last job, and that means their last job can’t be filled until their resignation is in, and that doesn’t happen until August, or sometimes September. So it’s really, really scary because you don’t know what you’re going to be doing. And I, in this case, was going to have to move to whatever city I ended up getting a job in, but I wasn’t going to know if I had a job until two weeks before school started. So it was really, really stressful, and I felt like I was going through all of this by myself. I was scared and alone, and making big decisions all by yourself without anybody to bounce ideas off of or anything like that was really overwhelming.

I went to the temple one day, and I was sitting in the celestial room and just crying because I just didn’t know what to do. It was really nice to be in the temple because it was a feeling of relief: at least in the temple I was safe, and maybe I would just never ever leave. This lady that I had never seen before came up and she said, “You know, I thought that you might need a hug.” I’m sure it was probably fairly obvious that I might have needed a hug, because I think there were tears streaming down my cheeks. I did not look good at all. And it really wasn’t just a hug that I needed. I needed to know that somebody cared and that I wasn’t alone. And this woman—I don’t think I ever even found out what her name was, and I never saw her again after I talked to her for about five minutes—it’s not like she was going to be the one who would be there to accompany me through this scary thing of trying to find a job and move and trying to figure out what to do with my life. I never saw her again, so she was not the one that was going to be there to make me not alone. But she was the one that let me know that Heavenly Father was there and that I wasn’t alone. And she was the one who, just by giving me a hug and listening to me, let me know that Heavenly Father was going to be there with me while I made all of those hard, scary decisions.

I know that our job or our calling as children of God seems overwhelming sometimes. Sometimes we feel like we can’t help and there’s just too much to do, and this person has too many needs and I just can’t do it, I can’t handle it. But our job is not to fix everybody’s problems. If we can fix them, great. But obviously this woman was not going to be able to fix my problems. If we can’t fix somebody’s problems, it doesn’t mean that we failed, and it doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t try, and it doesn’t mean that we can’t be of any help at all. Our calling is just to love people so that they know that they’re not alone in their problems, to make sure that nobody ever has to go through those difficult times wondering if anybody knows them or cares about them. Our job is to make sure that nobody ever has to wish that they had friends, because we’re their friend. Our job is to provide people with plenty of evidence, just in case they ever wonder on a dark night if they really are alone, we should be the ones giving them evidence that they’re not alone, that they’re never alone. And it seems hard and scary to be the person that has to love. But we can do it.

One last story, and then I’m going to wrap up. Before I left on my mission, I was living in a singles ward in Texas. Our Relief Society president was just about to age out of the singles ward and ”graduate”, as they say. So we knew that she was going to be getting released, because we knew that she was moving to a family ward. And one of my friends said to me, “Oh, Susan, I think I know who the next Relief Society president is going to be,” implying that it was going to be me. I said, “Oh, no, it can’t be me because I don’t love people enough.” As soon as those words came out of my mouth, I thought, Oh, no, that’s why you get callings. I’m definitely going to be the Relief Society president. And, sure enough, I was the next Relief Society president. I did learn in that calling that it’s hard and it’s a lot of work, but it’s not the love that’s a lot of work. Loving people doesn’t take that much work. It’s the meetings and the other things that are hard work.

But we can all love people. And that’s what people need most. And I say that in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.


  1. See 1 Corinthians 13
  2. See Moroni 7:44–48
  3. Moroni 7:47
  4. See John 21:15–17
  5. Mosiah 18:9
  6. A 7.0-magnitude earthquake that occurred on 12 January 2010, killed an estimated 100,000–160,000 people, and caused widespread destruction across the country, which is the poorest and least developed in the Western Hemisphere.
  7. A 9.0-magnitude earthquake that occurred off the coast of Japan on 11 March 2011 and caused a massive tsunami that was up to 133 feet (40.5 meters) high and traveled up to 6 miles (10 kilometers) inland. Almost 16,000 people were killed and over 1 million buildings were damaged or destroyed, including a nuclear power plant that had a meltdown.
  8. Typhoon Haiyan (or Yolanda), which struck the Philippines on 8 November 2013 and killed over 6,000 people while causing widespread damage.
  9. See Doctrine and Covenants 45:26

This is the transcript of a talk Susan gave in the sacrament meeting of the Bushwick 1st Branch on 9 March 2014.

This article appeared on pages 4–5 and 30 of Issue 14 | April 2014.

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