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Compassionate Service

by Hulda P. Young

The term "compassionate service" is used in the Church to refer to love-inspired assistance willingly given to meet physical, spiritual, and emotional needs. It requires a sensitivity that perceives human distress beyond spoken words (Luke 10:30-37; cf. 8:43-48), an eye that recognizes the good in people (Mosiah 4:16-18), and an understanding heart attuned to the Holy Spirit to discern what is appropriate to say and do (3 Ne. 17:5-8; John 19:25-27). A call to Christlike service undergirded the Prophet Joseph Smith's formal charge to the Female Relief Society organized in 1842. Aware of the dire needs of the Saints, he said that "the object of the society [is to search] after objects of charity and [administer] to their wants" (Minutes of the Female Relief Society of Nauvoo, p. 7). A Necessity Committee of sixteen sisters was appointed "to search out the poor and suffering, to call upon the rich for aid, and thus, as far as possible, relieve the wants of all" (History of Relief Society, p. 68). Since that time, not only Relief Society members but also other Church members have been involved in formal and informal acts of compassionate service.

Present-day Relief Society visiting teachers continue to carry out Joseph Smith's commission with regular visits to each LDS family, discerning needs and providing caring support. Ezra Taft Benson stated, "We urge you, particularly priesthood brethren and Relief Society sisters, to be sensitive to the needs of the poor, the sick, and the needy…[and] see that the widows and fatherless are assisted" (p. 7). Through appropriate channels of the priesthood and Relief Society, assistance is to be given to the poor, sick, bereaved, homeless, and members with special personal problems and burdens (Mosiah 18:8-9; D&C 52:40).

When compassionate service is clothed in the true spirit of charity—which the Book of Mormon defines as the pure love of Christ—it becomes an all-encompassing and rewarding experience for the giver as well as the receiver (1 Cor. 13:4-8; Moro. 7:6-8, 45-47).

[See also Go and Do Thou Likewise by Bishop H. David Burton; Visiting Teaching; Daily Living home page; Welfare and Humanitarian Assistance home page.]


A Centenary of Relief Society, 1842-1942. Salt Lake City, 1942.

Benson, Ezra Taft. "Council to the Saints." Ensign 14 (May 1984):6-8.

History of Relief Society, 1842-1966. Salt Lake City, 1966.

Minutes of the Female Relief Society of Nauvoo, March 17, 1842, p. 7.

Encyclopedia of Mormonism, Vol. 1, Conpassionate Service

Copyright 1992 by Macmillan Publishing Company

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