In Mosiah 18, Alma, now a former priest of King Noah, begins to meet privately with as many people as possible to preach and teach the words that the prophet Abinadi taught prior to his death. He finds that many are accepting of his teachings and are willing to change their lives to be people of God.
In a famous scene, Alma addresses a congregation gathered at a place called the Waters of Mormon and invites them to begin their new lives by entering the waters of baptism. Here is an excerpt of his address to them:
“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; 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…if this be the desire of your hearts, what have you against being baptized in the name of the Lord…that he may pour out his Spirit more abundantly upon you?” (Mosiah 18:8-10)
After this stirring exhortation, over 200 people come forward and enter the waters of baptism, beginning a version of The Church of Jesus Christ in that day. By so doing, the people start a new life in which they not only follow the commandments of God but also support other people — to bear one another’s burdens, mourn with those that mourn, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort.
As members of The Church of Jesus Christ today, we are also called to support other people. Many people going through difficult times turn to the church — to us — for comfort. Are we prepared to provide that comfort? We don’t necessarily need to preach to them or tell them what to do or even have anything profound to say. Often, people in these circumstances are just looking for someone who cares enough to listen and understand, someone who is willing to give of their time, someone who can just give a hug when it is needed.
The most obvious time to provide comfort is when someone suffers the death of a loved one — it’s a time to mourn with those who mourn. I often hear people say, “I don’t like funerals.” Well, if only the people who liked funerals went to them, there would be nobody there. Your attendance at a viewing or funeral means a lot to the people who are grieving.
Don’t worry about what to say. Just show that you care about the person who is grieving and that you can understand or imagine the pain that they are in. If you knew the person who passed away, then sharing pleasant memories is also helpful because it lets the grieving person know that their loved one was loved and valued by others, too.
When my parents passed away and I was on the receiving end of people’s well wishes, I learned what provided comfort and what didn’t.
My dad passed away very unexpectedly at the age of 66. When people told me that he was in a better place, it very honestly did not provide comfort to me at that particular time. I already knew he was in Paradise, which, of course, is a great comfort, but having people say that to me made it sound like my personal pain was unimportant to them. I was most comforted by those who shared in the pain with me and also by those who had good memories of my dad to share with me. What I learned then has influenced my approach to funerals since that time.
By the time my mom passed away, I was a seasoned minister, and I figured I had heard just about everything that a person could say at a funeral. Not so. Believe it or not, a brother came up to me as I stood by my mother’s coffin and said, “So, now you’re an orphan.” What did I learn from this? Just don’t be the one who says the most insensitive thing possible, and you’ll probably be doing OK.
Whether it’s for a death or any other painful circumstance, let’s allow ourselves to be used by God to provide comfort to other people. It’s part of our calling as the people of God. Don’t worry about what to say — if you let the Holy Ghost inspire your words, whatever you say will bring comfort. At the very least, it will bring more comfort than saying, “So, now you’re an orphan.”
This article has undergone ministry review and approval.