Sunday, September 4, 2011

Female Disciples: And Christ's Compassion to Them (Us)

“The greatest champion of woman and womanhood is Jesus Christ”  --James E. Talmage

I taught Relief Society today. In the opening prayer, the sister said "Bless that THY message will be taught."

I love preparing lessons, because I love the experience of having the Lord guide and lead you to what He wants said and focused on. It's almost like your finding, or uncovering the lesson more than preparing it.

I had had a few months to contemplate this lesson, and I was so grateful for how it "came off".
As I sat down to blog tonight I thought, why don't I just share my lesson, it's all typed out already.  So here it is.  


The last presidency decided that on fast Sunday’s they would teach attributes of the Savior.  As I contemplated what of the many qualities I wanted teach about today, I was drawn to the scriptures. Particularity the gospels and life of Christ.

I asked myself, what did Christ want to teach 
the woman He interacted with?
If I could find a common thread in the scriptural accounts of Him teaching women in His life, I thought, I’m sure it is something He would teach us today if He were here.

I found much:
Gentleness with ourselves and others
The message, not to judge

I thought long and hard and decide all these things could come together under the heading

I like looking up words and their origins.
 The prefix “com” means together or with
“passion” is a powerful or compelling emotion.
Compassion: a feeling of deep sympathy for another, accompanied by a strong desire to alleviate their suffering.

I found A visiting teaching message from April 1993 entitled

The scriptures record that, just before raising the dead son of a grief-stricken widow, Jesus “had compassion on her.” (Luke 7:13.) Compassion is an important aspect of Christlike love. It is the ability to feel what another is feeling—and then to help.

Paul described a congregation of compassionate Saints: “And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it.” (1 Cor. 12:26.)
When we have compassion, we open ourselves to feel with others their sorrows and joys. Sometimes what they say may be hard to hear, especially when they are feeling pain. And often we cannot do anything to make that pain go away. In such instances, just listening can be a form of genuine compassion.
Think of a time when someone really listened to you. How did it make you feel?
How do you feel toward that person?

Christ has shown us all compassion, through His infinite Atonement and individually through the tender mercies on our lives. My hope is as we think upon His compassion to us, our love for Him will grow.

Let’s look at some of these women whom Christ showed and taught compassion to
“Female disciples”
As we do I invite you to contemplate experiences you have had, compassion the Lord has shown you, or where you were either blessed by the compassion of someone or bless to feel and act in compassionate ways to someone else.

I also want you to realize as we briefly touch on all of these “female disciples” how different they all are, how much diversity is apparent in their situations and circumstances, and how Christ is able to understand all of them individually. 

 Elizabeth Jesus’ Aunt
Barren for years, beyond hope of ever being blessed with children. 
And then a miracle.
 Luke 1: 41 And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was afilled with the Holy Ghost: 42 And she spake out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed artthou among awomen, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. 43 And awhence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?
 44 For, lo, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in mine ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy. 45 And blessed is she that believed
 46 And Mary asaid, My soul doth bmagnify the Lord, 47 And my spirit hath arejoiced in God my bSaviour.
 48 For he hath regarded the low estate of his ahandmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me bblessed
 56 And Mary abode with her about three months... 

I love the biblical story of Mary's relationship with her cousin, Elisabeth, to whom she went to share, to talk, and to receive support. Because women can give so much to each other in relationships of never‐failing charity, one curse of the modern world is to isolate and alienate LDS women from one another—perhaps by making them more competitive, like men. Once more, I pray…for both genders, [to have] compassion, not competition. If the adversary can convince LDS women to criticize each other rather than connect with and support each other, he wins the day by driving wedges into natural, womanly relationships of strength. Some of these wedges come from rigid women, who are too narrow in the degree of personal choice and diversity they will tolerate in other LDS women. At the other extreme, some wedges come from LDS women who dangle one foot in Zion and the other foot in Babylon, not wanting to be thought weird by their non‐LDS friends. Women in these two groups can really have at each other, turning the power of relationships from peace to war. Can we love and support each other without judging each other harshly? So many of us are trying our hardest to live the commandments, often against great odds in our personal lives and unique family situations. Heaven knows, the world isn't giving us much support in these relationships. Let us support one another, even when—especially when—we differ on matters of personal choice and circumstance. Those are usually differences of preference, not principle.

How has the friendships & compassion of other woman, helped you feel the Lord’s love?

Mary, Jesus’ mother.

Began her marriage with may have been perceived as a scandal.
The serene images of her in the stable, surely she had moments of doubt, knowing the King of Israel would be delivered of her loins…in a barn?I think even as a baby Jesus taught her, the majesty of a lowly, humble circumstance.

Then we see Mary as a young mother: Trip to the temple. 
She looses Jesus. They went with family and everyone assumed he was with someone else. 3 days they search. If you’ve ever lost a child for even a few minutes you know what a harrowing experience that is.

Busy, worried Mary.
A wedding…who’s planned a wedding? Stressful. Running out of something? Very stressful. John 2:1-11 states that while Jesus was attending a wedding in Cana with his disciples the party ran out of wineJesus' mother went to Jesus, "They have no wine," and Jesus replied, "O Woman, what have I to do with you? My hour has not yet come." His mother then said to the servants, "Do whatever he tells you" (John 2:3-5). An example of trusting even during stressful situations.

How has the Savior showed you He cares about you in times of stress?

And then at the cross. Even as he was taking his last mortal breaths he was concerned that his aged mother be taken care of.

Another older woman the Lord showed compassion to was Anna.
Luke 2: 22 And when the days of [Mary’s] apurification were accomplished they brought [Jesus] to Jeruselum to present him to the Lord…
 there was one Anna, a aprophetess, …she was of a great age…
 37 And she was a widow of about fourscore and four years, which departed not from the temple, but served God with afastings and prayers night and day.
 38 And she coming in that instant gave thanks likewise unto the Lord, and spake of him to all them that looked for aredemption in Jerusalem.

After only seven years of marriage she was widowed 84 years! and spent those years serving in the temple. An eight day old Messiah, let her know that her hope was not in vain and that His promises are sure.

How has the Lord showed you compassion, by comforting you as you endure patiently, waiting on His promises?

The Woman at the well
 "She came to the well at midday, perhaps to avoid the gossipy women who usually gathered there each morning. Her life had not been easy. She already had five different husbands and was now living with a man who she never married. Whatever the reasons were for these failed relationships, she must have suffered a great deal of hardship. She may have longed for a different life but thought it was just too late or difficult to change. However, her life did transform that day. When a stranger, a man named Jesus saw her at the well and asked “Give me to drink?” Blog I quoted this from

When has the Lord proven to you that He knows your heart?

Woman with the issue of blood

"For twelve years she suffered from an issue of blood. Strictly speaking, she should have not even come that day. According to the laws of ritual purity, women who were experiencing their monthly cycle should stay at home. It was a time out for them, when they were relieved of their normal duties like drawing water from a well, going to the market place or serving dinner to their family. (see Leviticus 15:19-31). This worked for healthy women who were confined once a month but she was bleeding every day of her life! It was not acceptable for her to mix in public, worship at the temple or even to be held in the arms of her husband. According to the Mosaic Law, she was considered unclean, impure and untouchable.

In these years of shame and pain she had gone from physician to physician seeking help.

Each time new hope rising within her but in the end she had wasted all of her money and was physically worse off than before. Perhaps just as significantly, she was mentally spent. Her mind had been plagued with worry and despair. She was frustrated, disappointed and she could not be at peace when her future was so uncertain."  Again from this awesome blog

How has the Lord compassionately touched and healed you?

Mary and Martha

 Luke 10:39 And she had a sister called Mary, which also sat at Jesus’ feet, and heard his word.
 40 But Martha was cumbered about much serving, and came to him, and said, Lord, dost thou not care that my sister hath left me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me.
 41 And Jesus answered and said unto her, Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things:
 42 But one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.

Such an all-encompassing story for women.
BIG meal going on 
Martha didn’t pull aside Mary and say, “Um sweety, I really could use your help in the kitchen” nope, she went about banging pots resentfully until she couldn’t take the injustice anymore, went to Jesus to complain (description idea from this talk)
Christ says she “Choose the good part”’ but  (according to Michael Wilcox) that’s not good enough for us, we insert the word “better”
We are so trained to compare and rank and compete.

When has the Lord showed you your “Martha moments” and invited you to choose to sit at his feet instead?
Had some great discussion with this story. Just touches us all because we each have both within us. One sister shared about the goodness of having a sense of duty, but just that we need to be careful that we don't miss the message.  (I love Christ hand on Martha shoulder like He physically had to stop her..sometimes he will, but often we have to chose the good part to sit and be with the Savior, to take time for the message.)

Martha at Lazarus’ tomb
Martha was a faithfilled disciple, who ran to him
“if thou had been here…” John 11
Life and mortality happen. We know trials will come but somehow we’re quick to say “well if only..” if the Lord truly loved us wouldn’t he prevent bad things from happening.
And yet they teach us so much
Why did he wept with them. He knew he’d raise Lazerus in just a few minutes. "Jesus wept"                 He cried WITH them.
Felt their grief.
 When has your Savior shown you He grieves with you?

Mary of Bethany

 Mark 14:as he sat at meat, there came a woman having an alabaster box of ointment of spikenard very precious; and she brake the box, and poured it on his head.
 And there were some that had indignation within themselves, and said, Why was this awaste of the ointment made?
 For it might have been sold for more than three hundred pence, and have been given to the poor. And they murmured against her.
 And Jesus said, Let her alone; why trouble ye her? she hath wrought a good work on me.
 For ye have the apoor with you always, and whensoever ye will ye may do them good: but me ye have not always.
 She hath done what she couldashe is come aforehand to anoint my body to the burying.
 Verily I say unto you, Wheresoever this gospel shall be preached throughout the whole world, this also that ashe hath done shall be spoken of for a memorial of her.
Love that wording. "Let her alone". Sometimes we just have to assume that others are doing their best, doing what they can.

When has the Lord showed you compassion by accepting your efforts-- “what you could do”?

Widows mite 
 Mark 12:4¶And Jesus sat over against the treasury, and beheld how the people cast money into the treasury: and many that were rich cast in much.
 42 And there came a certain apoor widow, and she threw in twobmites, which make a farthing.
 43 And he called unto him his disciples, and saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That this apoor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury:
 44 For all they did cast in of their aabundance; but she of herbwant did ccast in dall that she had, even all her living.

Not judging someone else’s  “all”
My friend’s mom visit taught this one sister for 30 years. This sister came out to church once every few months. My friends mom described how at first she thought, okay my job is to get her fully “active”…
And now she says, I realize, after 30 years: she is doing the best she can.                               I realized as I searched a lot of different images of this story, in lots she was depicted with a child in her arms. And all the sudden this was not about money, her all was being there, doing what she knew she should, even when it was inconvenient and hard. I thought of my friend, three young boys like me and her husband just called into the Bishopric, "widowed" on that bench each Sunday, and I think there is her mite. And just like the Savior noticed, and pointed out this women to His disciples, He notices all our efforts. He sees.

 Woman taken in adultery
John 8:10 When Jesus had lifted up himself, and saw none but the woman, he said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? hath no man condemned thee?
 11 She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condmen thee: 

go, and sin no more.

Time, patience, inspiration and mercy VS angry, harshness, bent on immediate justice

How have you felt the Lord’s compassion in the forgiveness of your sins?

Mary Magdalene
This painting I added at the very last, and one sister ened up telling a beautiful story about being in the Temple seeing this picture. She bore a beautiful testimony of Christ making a place for His Daughters, which led to a brief discussion about making room for Him in our "everyday".

Perhaps the greatest charity comes when we are kind to each other, when we don’t judge or categorize someone else, when we simply give each other the benefit of the doubt or remain quiet. Charity is accepting someone’s differences, weaknesses, and shortcomings; having patience with someone who has let us down; or resisting the impulse to become offended when someone doesn’t handle something the way we might have hoped. Charity is refusing to take advantage of another’s weakness and being willing to forgive someone who has hurt us. Charity is expecting the best of each other.
Be one who nurtures and who builds. Be one who has an understanding and a forgiving heart, who looks for the best in people. Leave people better than you found them... Lend a hand to those who are frightened, lonely, or burdened.
If we could look into each other’s hearts and understand the unique challenges each of us faces, I think we would treat each other much more gently, with more love,
patience, tolerance, and care.
Marvin J. Ashton, “The Tongue Can Be a Sharp Sword,” Ensign, May 1992, 18

When  has someone given you the benefit of the doubt? When has someone should you compassion?

"Be kinder than necessary, for everyone you meet is fighting some kind of battle."

Final quote:  
"We need to be kinder with one another, more gentle and forgiving. We need to be slower to anger and more prompt to help. We need to extend the hand of friendship and resist the hand of retribution. In short, we need to love one another with the pure love of Christ, with genuine charity and compassion and, if necessary, shared suffering, for that is the way God loves us....

"We need to walk more resolutely and more charitably the path that Jesus has shown

We need to 'pause to help and lift another' and surely we will find 'strength beyond [our] own.'
 If we would do more to learn 'the healer's art,' there would be untold chances to use it, to touch the 'wounded and the weary' and show to all 'a gentle[r] heart'" 
(Howard W Hunter: A More excellent Way, Ensign, May 1992, 61).

My testimony to you today, is look at these woman [I had all these picture and more in a big collage at the front of the room]. What have you felt as we have told their stories today? Have you felt how much Christ wanted them to know they were important to Him, that they mattered, that He understood their desires, their worries, theirs fears, their pains, hopes and dreams?

Now, can you see, can you feel, can you believe that He loves you just as much.
That he is as aware of you as He was the female disciples who walked with him, sat at his feet, cooked his meals, and washed his feet with their tears.

In sacrament, I had this image come to me of that collage I'd made of these women from the scriptures, and then another image came...the faces of the woman in our Relief Society. I realized that I could just as well have taken their photos and made a collage and we could have told their stories, their experiences with the Savior and His compassion, His gentleness to them in their hardships, His patience and love,        His "being there" for them, and His tender mercies that have taught them He knows and He cares.

He loves each and everyone of us. And just as He tried to teach these woman to love each other, He desire to teach us that same gentle way. 
To love as He loved. To show compassion and understanding, to each and every sister.

This is my prayer.

In the name of Jesus Christ, our Example in all


Marie said...Best Blogger Tips

What an amazing lesson! Seriously wow. Thanks for sharing it.

Kathy said...Best Blogger Tips

Can you tell me who the artist of the last painting is, of Christ appearing to Mary after He is resurrected? I saw the painting in the temple and I've been searching for it since. Thanks for your help!!

Chelsea Belle said...Best Blogger Tips

Dear Kathy,
Christ and Mary at the Tomb, by Joseph Brickey
I love that painting!