In the Book of Mormon, it is recorded that Jesus Christ said “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….. for I have compassion on them” (3 Nephi 17:7).
On the Disability Resources page at LDS.org I learned that 17 % of children are affected by a developmental disability, 22% of adults report some type of physical disability, and 46% of adults will suffer from a diagnosable form of mental disorder in their lifetime. These statistics concur with my own experiences in ward life as a member of The Church of Jesus Chris of Latter Day Saints. For the most part I have seen Church members respond to the needs of their fellow parishioners with compassion. For example:
-I love seeing my ward members move a large side chair from the foyer into the chapel every Sunday to help an elderly man with limited mobility be comfortable during sacrament meeting.
-I was impressed by a deacons quorum who included their friend with autism in all of their scouting and social adventures.
-I smiled when a nine-year-old girl with cognitive impairments in my congregation put her head under the bathroom stall to ask me, “Are you ever going to be done in there?”
-I was amazed at the Stake choral festival when a neighboring ward had a young woman with turrets syndrome singing with their choir.
-I want to pattern my life after my fellow Relief Society sisters who for 25 years have planned weekly events to enrich the life of a mentally impaired woman in our ward.
-I was humbled when I had to explain to my Gospel Doctrine [Sunday School] class that, due to a chronic illness, there would be Sundays where I would have to teach sitting down or would need help writing on the dry erase board.
But there have also been times when I cried in frustration with a friend who felt ostracized because of her child’s disabilities. I have flown to the rescue of a several children who were being bullied for being different, (Aspergers) overweight or a slow reader. In all cases I alerted the parents of the bullies as well as my local Church leadership.
As a nation and a Church we are doing better about being educated about the challenges individuals and families face with various disabilities. But I think we can do better. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has developed a resource page for members to learn how to assist people and families with disabilities.
At the Disabilities Resource page at lds.org suggestions are given in how to accommodate members with various challenges:
Hearing Loss and Deafness
Speech and Language Disorders
Vision Loss and Blindness
Six Myths About Members With Disabilities
As I read through this resource page I had some flashes of ideas of how to help members in my congregation feel more supported and loved. These scriptures are great motivators for me:
“A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall men know that ye are my disciples” (John 13:34-35).
“The body (of the church) hath need of every member, that all may be edified together” (D&C 84:110).
“Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God” (D&C 18:10).
But what stuck out most in my mind from the material was Jesus’ charge to “bring them hither.” Another way for me to follow that direction is to say “come with me, and together we’ll find Him.”