I appreciate that the stated intent of the lesson is to assert that the “gospel of Jesus Christ is a message of rescue.” When the Martin Handcart company was stuck, the prophet did not wait an extra day for the Sabbath to pass but immediately called on the Saints to organize a rescue mission. What I have learned from this story are three things:
1- Our faith is a faith of action.
Recently I was road tripping across the USA and found myself in Kearney, Nebraska on a Sunday. While we had been pulling long hard days with sick kids, I wanted to attend church but it took some oomph to make it. (This is NOT comparing myself to the efforts of the pioneers who did not have AC, vending machine rest stops, and a cooler of snacks.) The woman who spoke in the Sacrament Meeting was an amazing reward for my effort. She spoke about the youth going on trek and learning that faith is not a noun but a verb. We don’t need to have faith we need to LIVE faith. I love that. Beliefs are all well and good but we have to LIVE what we believe. A bishop in a Washington DC ward once called a special meeting to discuss the fate of two young women in need. As he said, “This is where religion hits the road. Today we decide if we act our faith.”
2- Action sets things in perspective.
Washington, DC was a place that potentially could have a very divisive ward. There were many super smart, super passionate, super political folks in our congregation. But the truth was, there were so many people in need we had no time to fuss about our differences. And isn’t that the truth everywhere? If we look around, there are people in need everywhere. Quit fussing and start helping. (I say this sternly as I am mostly talking to myself.) And I think the truth of service is that when we forget ourselves and live in service, then many others things seemingly just smooth out with this perspective change. And we ALL need the reminder! (President Hinckley tells the story of his father telling him, “Forget yourself and go to work.”— and he was the prophet!) So, next time I am bemoaning the rubs of my life, someone remind me.
3- Perspective leaves no room for judging.
When we have the perspective that we all have woes and we all could use kindness, there is no room left for judging. When hearing of the Martin Handcart company saints stranded along the trail, the SLC saints could have judged them harshly. Why didn’t they plan better? Why did they leave late? What did they blahblahblah? Truth is, we all get stuck at some point over some thing. What we need most at that moment is kindness. As a person who stands in need of saving from Christ (i.e. all if us), let us not judge those who need saving… in all forms.
There are people all over the world right now who need us. Who need real, temporal items like clothes and food. There are people who need a smile. There are people who need to be welcomed. Quite simply, we are all in need and all beggars before Christ. Our mission in life, as followers of the Lord Jesus Christ,” said President Gordon B. Hinckley, “must be a mission of saving.”