April: Matthew 18; Luke 10
After my mother’s car accident, she was walking along the beach near her home in California. She couldn’t walk very fast and soon a homeless man started following her and talking to her as if she were an old friend. Since she knew she could not outrun him, she decided to listen to him instead. Their conversation caused them both to laugh. She described the experience: “It was a wonderful, irresistible laugh, gentle and rueful, as though he had taken all the misery of his life and faced it, accepted it, and learned to appreciate both life’s absurdity and its joy. His good humor was so infectious that I laughed, too.”i My mother had experienced the joy of lifting another’s burden and finding a neighbor in a place she would not normally have looked for one.
But our neighbors do not need to be strangers. Sometimes, our neighbors can be those who are closest to us, such as brothers, sisters, grown children, or even our next-door neighbor whom we have not seen since Covid. Sister Bonnie Oscarson said: “What good does it do to save the world if we neglect the needs of those closest to us and those whom we love the most? How much value is there in fixing the world if the people around us are falling apart and we don’t notice? Heavenly Father may have placed those who need us closest to us, knowing that we are best suited to meet their needs.”ii
The Savior warned people not to offend “these little ones.” As parents and leaders of youth, we can be positive examples of lovingly encouraging our youth to pursue righteousness rather than offending them or bullying them to follow the Lord’s path. President Joseph F. Smith said:
You can’t force your boys, nor your girls into heaven. You may force them to hell, by using harsh means in the efforts to make them good, when you yourselves are not as good as you should be. The man that will be angry at his boy, and try to correct him while he is in anger, is in the greatest fault; he is more to be pitied and more to be condemned than the child who has done wrong. You can only correct your children by love, in kindness, by love unfeigned, by persuasion, and reason.iii
In our wards or branches, we can also befriend and be a neighbor to the children and young people who may our need additional support to stay strong in their faith and need our Christlike love. A dear friend of mine wrote notes every Sunday after a young person gave a talk in sacrament meeting complimenting them on their testimony and thoughtful words. Supporting the next generation of saints will strengthen the Church for generations to come.
As we try to find our neighbors in need, let’s look for people close to us who need our help and support. We may not need to look far. We can start in our homes, our neighborhoods, our wards, and the people we meet on the street.
iJaroldeen Asplund Edwards, Celebration, Salt Lake City, UT: Deseret Book, 1995, p. 2.
iiBonnie Oscarson, “The Needs Before Us,” Oct. GC 2017.
iiiTeachings of Pres. Joseph F. Smith