Jesus Christ came into the world to ease our burdens. We might need relief from guilt, poverty, pain, illness, loneliness, or incessant problems—whatever encumbers our lives, He can allay, lessen, or even lift completely. Because we are here in mortality to learn how to be selfless as He is, He usually lightens the burdens of others through inspiring us to make the effort.
“Be faithful,” He says, “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” (D&C 81:5.
Our assignment is to “succor, lift, and strengthen” our brothers and sisters in whatever ways they require. The English word “succor” comes from the French secourir, which means to “run to the assistance of another person.” To succor someone is not just to help them; it means to answer a call for help immediately. When we hear of a need, too often we say, “Oh, they don’t need me, others are better equipped than I am,” or “I’ll look into it soon” but we never do. The fact is, we are all weak in some way and need the succor of others.
“Hands which hang down” are discouraged hands—our assignment is to lift up those who are downhearted or dispirited. “Feeble knees” symbolize physical disability because of age, trauma, or illness—our task is to strengthen the sufferer any way we can. When we make the effort, we become the conduit or “delivery system” of some of “the Lord’s tender mercies . . . the very personal and individualized blessings, strength, protection, assurances, guidance, loving-kindness, consolation, support, and spiritual gifts which we receive from and because of and through the Lord Jesus Christ” (David A. Bednar, “The Tender Mercies of the Lord,” Ensign, April 2005).
As a child, I was a comparative weakling. I was not athletic or strong and became a target for bullying. The neighbor boys, all members of the Church, took pleasure in tormenting me to the point where I was afraid all the time at school and Primary. I would run home, hoping not to get caught by some of the bigger kids who seemed to have it in for me.
But then the Lord blessed me with a tender mercy. There was a boy my age named Bill, the smartest, by far the best athlete, and the most popular boy in school. Everyone wanted to be his friend, to play on his team, to hang around with him. Like everyone else, I looked up to him. But then, unexplainably, he decided to be my friend. Not just a friend, but a best friend.
In junior high, Bill and I were inseparable. We spent hours together, playing music, going to parties, playing games—even going on each other’s vacations. Best of all, we were in priesthood quorums and Young Men together, and we blessed the sacrament as priests together. Sometimes we talked long into the night about the gospel and about the future. By the way, because they respected Bill too, the bullies left me alone.
Now, decades later, I realize that Bill’s friendship was a blessing from the Lord. Bill befriended me for no visible reason: Our interests and skills were virtually opposite. We had little in common except living in the same neighborhood. He could have gone happily on being the most popular kid in school and paid no attention at all to me. But it wasn’t like that. We became lifelong friends as close as brothers could be.
When Bill passed away recently, I reflected on what it means to “succor the weak, to lift up the hands which hang down, and strengthen the feeble knees.” Bill did these things for me at a time in my life when I was most vulnerable. He didn’t do it by assignment. I was not his “project.” We simply loved one another, and that is what the Lord means by a “tender mercy.”
“I, the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say; but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise” (D&C 85:10). We often cite this verse to show that the Lord can be trusted to keep His covenant with us if only we will keep our covenant with Him. This is a true principle, but there is a far more meaningful truth at work in the Lord’s declaration.
The Lord made this statement in the context of service to others, of “every man seeking the interest of his neighbor” (D&C 82:19). To “do what I say,” in the words of the Lord, is to “love one another as I have loved you” (John 13:34). On the “first and greatest” commandment to love God and our neighbor “hangs all the law and the prophets”—in other words, if we seek the interest of our neighbor, we are keeping the essence of all the commandments of God. My friend Bill loved his neighbor: as far as the Lord is concerned, Bill did “what I say.”
When have you felt weak in some way and someone’s service lifted or strengthened you? How has the Lord blessed you through someone else? When has the friendship of someone else literally transformed your life, as Bill’s friendship did for me?
Likewise, when have you lifted or strengthened someone who felt weak? How has the Lord used you to bless someone else? When has your friendship transformed the life of a brother or sister?
As members of the Church, we receive overwhelming blessings. To us “much is given.” As a result, “much is required” from us (D&C 82:3). But we should not see these “requirements” as obligations or burdens. They are opportunities to express to our brothers and sisters the pure love that Christ has given us. I never doubted that my friend Bill loved me, but I never knew why. Now I think I know. It was the spirit of the Lord in him.
Elder M. Russell Ballard has said, “In our discipleship, we have many demands, concerns, and assignments. However, some activities must always be at the heart of our Church membership. ‘Wherefore,’ the Lord commands, ‘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.’
“This is the Church in action! This is pure religion! This is the gospel in its true sense as we succor, lift, and strengthen those in spiritual and temporal need! Doing so requires us to visit them and to assist them that their testimonies of faith in Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ and His Atonement will be anchored in their hearts” (“Precious Gifts from God,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2018, 11).