'Behold, my bowels are filled with compassion towards you. Have ye any that are sick among you? Bring them hither. Have ye any that are lame, or blind, or halt, or maimed, or leprous, or that are withered, or that are deaf, or that are afflicted in any manner? Bring them hither and I will heal them…' 3 Nephi 17 : 6-7.
His bowels filled with compassion, he desired to heal those who were sick or afflicted. When we follow the Savior in His ministry, His compassion for those who suffered is regularly mentioned.
And Jesus went unto the towns and villages, teaching in the synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom and healing all sickness and any infirmity among the people. 36 'But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd.' Matthew 9:36—37.
So what is compassion?
When we look at the etymology of the word, we read: 'the etymology of compassion' is Latin, meaning 'suffer with,' implying more than simple empathy. Compassion gives birth to an active desire to ease the suffering (Wikipedia).
The ability to suffer with those who suffer, and to be motivated to help and save them, appears to be one of the great attributes of the Savior.
Often in the scriptures, we see compassion or mercy associated with the bowels.
We read: '9 Having ascended into heaven, having the bowels of mercy; being filled with compassion towards the children of men; standing betwixt them and justice; having broken the bands of death, taken upon himself their iniquity and their transgressions, having redeemed them, and satisfied the demands of justice.' Mosiah 15:9.
Overcome with compassion, the Lord holds himself between us and justice, and he suffers pain for us, to protect us from the consequences of justice, giving us the opportunity to escape it, on condition of sincere repentance and obedience to His laws. Knowing that we could not face these consequences and that we could not support them, He holds himself between justice and us, expresses his compassion, and suffers for us; not because of any justice on our part, but because he is overcome with compassion.
The Savior, having compassion on us comes and 'suffers with' and 'suffers for' us. It appears that the Atoning Sacrifice that saves us all, originates from compassion.
' 15 And thus he shall bring salvation to all those who shall believe on his name; this being the intent of this last sacrifice, to bring about the bowels of mercy, which overpowereth justice, and bringeth about means unto men that they may have faith unto repentance.' Alma 34:15
When I read that the Atonement of the Savior brings about the bowels of mercy, I ask myself how I really felt when I understood what the Lord would do for me and for us all. Were my bowels filled with compassion for Him? Was I ready to help save to ease the suffering that He would endure? Was I desirous to take upon me the charge of helping, the charge of saving those who would be in need, those for whom he would suffer, including myself? Also, was I pre-ordained to the priesthood because of my personal desire to 'suffer with' (through my compassion) when I would be on earth?
When I ponder on these thoughts, my bowels are filled with compassion and my desire to rise up, to save, and to magnify my responsibility in the priesthood grows.
Many are mired down in sin and because of this, merit the situations in which they find themselves. How can compassion help me?
The thought of their suffering because of the consequences of their actions must be unacceptable to me. Instead of thinking they deserve what happens to them, I must, like the sons of Mosiah, feel thus:
' 3 Now they were desirous that salvation should be declared to every creature, for they could not bear that any human soul should perish; yea, even the very thoughts that any soul should endure endless torment did cause them to quake and tremble.' Mosiah 28:3.
Their bowels were filled with compassion, and they were desirous to preach the gospel to their enemies, the Lamanites. The desired to go the second mile for their deliverance. They were ready to suffer with and for them.
We read that they were ready to go:
' 2 That perhaps they might bring them to the knowledge of the Lord their God, and convince them of the iniquity of their fathers; and that perhaps they might cure them of their hatred towards the Nephites, that they might also be brought to rejoice in the Lord their God, that they might become friendly to one another, and that there should be no more contentions in all the land which the Lord their God had given them.' Mosiah 28:2.
When I study the attribute of compassion, I see it as a powerful motivation that doesn't simply leave someone with a feeling of empathy, but which leads toward the action and desire to endure the sufferings of whoever is in need.
How can I, as a member, gain a better understanding of compassion?
It appears that compassion is at the very center of any priesthood service, as well as in the ordinance of baptism:
' 8 And it came to pass that he said unto them: Behold, here are the waters of Mormon (for thus were they called) and now, as ye are desirous to come into the fold of God, and to be called his people, and are willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light;
9 Yea, and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, and to stand as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places that ye may be in, even until death, that ye may be redeemed of God, and be numbered with those of the first resurrection, that ye may have eternal life.' Mosiah 18:8-9.
In the waters of baptism, I made a covenant to mourn with those who mourn, and to comfort those who stand in need of comfort.
What would happen if all our branch and ward councils were led by compassion for their members?
What would be the impact of increased compassion in the advancement of the work?
I leave you to ponder on these questions, and I pray that we have our bowels filled with compassion. And from this, like the Savior, we can bless the lives of others as we desire to suffer with them.