Monday, March 29, 2010

The Atonement in My Life

With Easter week upon us, I find myself drawn to the remarkable circumstances surrounding the Atonement. It is ironic to me that sometimes among Mormon congregations Easter gets only a brief mention compared to the great significance given this holiday among other Christian denominations. (Another day perhaps I'll tell the story of the sacrament meeting I attended on Easter Sunday only to have a high councilor talk about food storage…)

But to be sure Latter-day Saints, like our other Christian friends, certainly hold dear the events surrounding Easter which are part of the all-encompassing atonement of Jesus Christ. The Savior began his suffering for our sins as he prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane, and that suffering continued on the cross where he was killed in an awful way. His sacrifice was as voluntary as it was complete.

His rising from the tomb on the third day, what we celebrate as Easter Sunday, signifies for all men and women the power to overcome death through a literal resurrection – a reuniting of body and spirit which overcomes the physical death introduced into the world when Adam and Eve were cast out of the Garden of Eden.

The Savior's suffering for our sins, indeed bearing all our pain, provides us the remarkable opportunity to change. Because of His grace in offering us His atoning sacrifice, we can not only overcome the finality of physical death, but we can also improve ourselves by following His example, and we can return to our Father in Heaven.

That opportunity to change is precious to me. Years ago, after a particularly difficult time with my then-young adult son, I sent him a long letter describing how the atonement could bless his life by allowing him to change for the better. I wrote it in my righteous indignation over mistakes I felt he had made, and I enumerated how, if he would be thoughtful and careful, he could take advantage of the opportunity to repent and find happiness.

The facts of my letter could have been spot on, but the tone was not. And it was not until two years later that I realized my error. A friend and I were discussing Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement. As we talked, I had come to my mind the original letter I had written (that I had in the meantime all but forgotten). I realized that while my son may have needed the atonement in his life, I needed it, too. And for me in that moment, my need was far greater than his.

I went home that night and wrote him another letter, also about the atonement, but also asking his forgiveness for my behavior two years earlier, recognizing (and admitting) the beam in my own eye instead of looking for the mote in his.

I was not perfect after I wrote that letter, but I was better. And I came to feel the blessing of the atonement in my own life as I sought to right wrongs for which I was responsible. My relationship with my son improved, not because he changed (though he did grow up over the years), but because I did.

I've had this same scene play over and over in my life as I have realized how much I need the atonement. We sing a hymn, "I Stand All Amazed," and I really am amazed at the love Jesus has shown me to allow me to change, to improve, to draw nearer to Him.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Debate

I have not wanted to use this space to discuss the recent health care debate in the United States, primarily because that conversation is outside the parameters of this blog. But comments on another blog (sorry I can't link to it; I've been unable to find it again) have pushed me over the edge, so here I am. The blog itself discussed questions of the present healthcare debate and the blogger offered his view. I had no issue with that, since that's what we bloggers do.

What got me more troubled was a comment from a reader who suggested those who favored any government involvement in healthcare reform must not be good members of the church. (She asked, "How can you call yourselves good Mormons?") Her argument suggested that government involvement limited our agency because it used tax dollars, "forcing" us to subsidize healthcare for others.

This commenter is not alone. I've read similar comments from other politically conservative church members. Now, I am not intending to discuss the pros and cons of the present health care plan approved by Congress, but rather the notion that there might be a political litmus test of faithfulness.

There is not.

Faithful church members periodically declare their worthiness to their ecclesiastical leaders. This happens as people prepare for specific ordinances, and in bi-annual temple recommend interviews. It's a chance for members to report to their direct ecclesiastical leader their own faithfulness in keeping the covenants they've made as members of the church. The temple recommend interview contains specific questions, and there is no political litmus test as a part of that interview.

Further, there are faithful Latter-day Saints all around the world (more outside the US than in these days), many of whom live happily and faithfully in countries that have some level of socialized medicine (far more socialized than what is presently under debate here). Their faithfulness is not compromised by their living in those countries, or supporting those governments.

If we have strong and opposing political views, that is fine. Let us debate those vigorously, openly and honestly. But let us not suggest that supporting one view or the other is a matter of worthiness in the church. Except for a few notable exceptions, the church remains politically neutral, and faithful church members are on both sides of the political aisle.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Church in Shanghai

I had the opportunity to spend eight of the last ten weeks in China on business (two trips, four weeks each). While there I attended the Shanghai Pudong Branch in the Shanghai China International District. And my last Sunday I was able to attend a district conference of the Shanghai China International District, as well.

The Chinese government allows for religious freedom, but places some restrictions on the church there. Like other denominations, expatriate branches of the church are open only to holders of foreign (non-Peoples Republic of China) passports, or the spouses of holders of such passports. Church members are not to disseminate church literature to Chinese nationals, nor are they to proselyte in any way. In the branch I attended, an announcement in the bulletin and also from the stand at the beginning of sacrament meeting made this policy clear.

Non-LDS friends in China also indicated that their experience is the same at their churches. (They attend different denominations in different languages: English, German, Spanish and Mandarin (Taiwanese).)

I'm impressed (but not surprised) that the church is so cautious. Until sometime last year, the church was recognized by the national government, but not by the local Shanghai government, so they could not rent a public space for meetings. With the official recognition in Shanghai, the church can now rent a beautiful conference center for Sunday services of the two Shanghai branches. There were two other branches represented at the district conference: Nanjing and Suzhou. I didn't count noses, but I'd estimate we had over 500 people there for the Sunday session of conference.

One of the things I noticed early on in my visits to the Pudong Branch was the absence of full time missionaries. When we lived in Taiwan, we met in a stake center next to the temple, and shared our building with five wards, and there were full time missionaries in the building throughout the day on Sunday. Not having missionaries in regular church meetings was strange to me. (The last time I attended a ward without missionaries was in Provo while I was at BYU.)

Of course, lessons and topics are common, though the population of these branches is more diverse than my suburban ward in Southeast Michigan. In the branch I attended, over the course of my visit I heard speakers from the US, Japan, Korea, Australia, the Philippines and Italy. Many (including Americans) have been in China for years. A young man of Korean birth spoke in district conference. He said his family had been in China for ten years which meant he's probably attended all his schooling in China. And others were from close to home. I sat next to someone from my home stake in Michigan during conference.

It's a rich blessing for the saints to be able to meet wherever they find themselves. I know I was glad to have the Pudong Branch to call my own for the weeks I was in Shanghai.

UPDATE:  Because this particular post generates a lot of traffic, I'm adding a link to my more recent post on the Church's website on the Church in China.  You can read the post here.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

To Life!

There is something about babies that just melts me. I'm the dad of seven. And in our extended family we have within the last few weeks had three more little ones join us, with another two on the way very shortly. Seeing photos of these little ones (all on FB; thanks very much techo-geeks who make all this possible) brings tears to my eyes. It's silly, really. These aren't my kids, or even my grandkids, but they are my niece and children of my nieces and nephews. And they are just amazing.

Over the years when my own children were born, we went from steel delivery tables to remarkable birthing suites. We watched with awe as the technology of disposable diapers moved from plastic-bag-with-padding-in-it to something that holds more liquid than a small camel. Our car seats evolved from the Bobby-Mac "barrel" design (I felt like I was strapping my child into a space craft) to five-point restraints in seats that doubled as strollers.

But in the end, it's the babies! All the fingers and toes and eyelashes and little pudgy knuckles and poofy hair that would rub off in the first few months. It was apgar scores and calling the help from "our friends in the neo-natal unit" when #2 wasn't breathing right (he did just fine after all) and bilirubin counts (and "the lights" for some). It was giving my wife space to nurse and then sitting with her when she nursed so she wouldn't feel alone. It was my son who didn't want anyone to touch him or my daughter who only wanted her mother to touch her, or others who didn't care who held them. It was anticipation fueled by the picture book A Child Is Born that couldn't even imagine the real thing, and it was the amazement every time that these babies are so small, so new, so fresh, so helpless.

When my first child was born, my mother said to me as she left after spending a week with us (my wife's mom had been there the first week), "Don't worry. You'll do fine. Just follow your instincts." I told her my instinct was to call her!

We stumbled as parents every step of the way. Our children taught us over time as much as we've taught them. And they continue to do so. They are still amazing in so many, many ways, continuing to surprise and delight us, even as many have entered adulthood, and some have chosen paths we would not have imagined for them.

But they all started – we all started – as these little tiny helpless bundles of new life. I consider myself fortunate to get to see it happen over and over again, and to remember what a blessing this life is, and what a blessing these little lives are in our world.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Do unto others?

An item appeared in yesterday's Detroit Free Press. Headline: "Atheist bus ads are desecrated." It's a story about how ads placed on city buses by a coalition of atheist and agnostic groups have been defaced. There are two things that strike me:

First is the misuse of the word "desecrate" in the headline. Since the whole point of the ads is to proclaim that God does not exist, how can the vandalism of the ads be counted as desecration, which is to make unholy something that is holy? This is not the first time I've been irked at newspaper writers who regularly misuse the English language, and it further reinforces for me the counsel I received from a high school English teacher (back when dirt was new) that if I continued my plan to study journalism, I should do it through an English department and not a communications department. (I ignored that advice and studied journalism in a communications department until I got bored; I eventually found my way to that English department after all).

But the second issue is far more important. Who is defacing the ads purchased by the coalition? One assumes, since they're being "modified" to read "believe in God?" instead of "Don't believe in God?" that it is a group of believers. Now of course maybe it's a group of kids just misbehaving. Or the conspiracy theorist in me might wonder if it's the atheists again, seeking yet another chance to get in the paper (first article was when these ads appeared). But in my gut I worry that it's believers who are taking it upon themselves to modify the message.

I hope it's not the believers. And here's why:

First, we do have freedom of speech and freedom of religion in this country (even the freedom to be absent religion). So trying to stop atheists from spreading their point of view is akin to preventing us from spreading ours. The ads on the buses are purchased. This is not about what happens in school or some government office. This is public discourse, and there should be a place for everyone in that discourse.

Second, religious folks should understand that we don't destroy private property. It's part of the common decency my parents taught me and I have tried to teach my kids. Aside from its being illegal, it's wrong. The Savior taught that we should do unto others as we would have them do unto us. Do we want someone else tearing down our property? Of course not. (Some might argue that others have vandalized our sacred places. The Savior had an answer for that, too: turn the other cheek.)

Finally, what influence would believers have doing such a thing? Is there reason to fear the non-believers among us? Surely the message of the ads comes as no surprise: there are many who do not believe in God. But that does not deter us from our belief, nor does it change the fact that God lives and He loves his children. There have always been non-believers, sometimes more vocal than others. That they exist will not change God, nor will it stop His work from progressing

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Branding the Church?

I've had a hard time with this piece, because I don't want to criticize someone's heartfelt testimony, but earlier this month in a ward I visited one of those bearing testimony suggested that the church had one of the best and most consistent brands.

I have to say that comparing the greatest gift to mankind, the Good News, the Atonement of Jesus Christ, the organization that embodies the priesthood of God and the ordinances that allow the power of God to be manifest to men and women to a marketing scheme was more than a little disturbing to me.

Yes, I get that we have a consistent message. Yes, I get that our missionaries look the same the world over. Yes, I get that particularly with the present policies of the church there is great homogeneity.

But think of those young missionary elders. Although in silhouette they all look alike (short hair, white shirts and ties), behind each is an individual testimony, and individual set of spiritual experiences that either have matured or are maturing into individual witnesses of the truth of the gospel.

And think of those correlated lessons taught the world over. Each teacher has the right to individual inspiration as she or he teaches those lessons, so Gospel Principles Lesson 5 will be different in each class just because the teachers and members of those classes are in different places in the world and in their eternal walk back to Heavenly Father.

To suggest otherwise cheapens for me the Plan of Salvation and the incredible sacrifice of our elder brother to allow it to happen.

I understand the desire sometimes to equate gospel things to things we know and understand. We liken the scriptures unto ourselves. We take the Savior's parables to heart and tell gospel stories with tools of our day. But to suggest that the Lord's church is somehow the ultimate incarnation of a man-made model misses the mark.

Aristotle suggested that all art imitates an ideal, that anything crafted is an imitation of the ideal. Let us, therefore, not assume the church or the gospel are like creations of men. If any comparison is to be made, it ought to go in the opposite direction.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Working Celestial Marriage

Mormons talk about "saving ordinances," meaning ordinances that we believe are required to return to our Father in Heaven's presence. The final of these is the sealing ordinance in which a man and woman can be sealed together in the temple for time and all eternity.

I agree that the ordinances are required. But the sealing alone is not what makes a marriage celestial. Elder Glenn Pace spoke recently at a BYU devotional. I haven't read his whole talk, but the following quotation from the Church News struck me: "It is the marriage ceremony in the temple where husband and wife receive the power to perfect their relationship and, thereby, obtain their exaltation" (emphasis mine).

It seems that the sealing ordinance is the just the start, just as baptism is the gate by which we enter a path back to God. The sealing ordinance is another gate, but it's the relationship, if I'm reading Elder Pace correctly, that matters. Said another way: a temple wedding does not by itself a celestial marriage make.

There's the sad joke about one spouse who wonders aloud whether he would want to spend eternity with his wife, and the wife's response wondering why she'd want to spend it with him.

As for me, I would be thrilled to spend forever with my wife. We're best friends and we have been since we met over three decades ago (when she supplanted my then-best friend who introduced us).

I believe that as spouses we have an opportunity to ennoble our significant others through service, devotion, loyalty, sacrifice, kindness and love. President Kimball taught the principle that a 50/50 marriage will struggle because each partner measures the 50% differently and so the two are likely not to meet in the middle. But a 100/100 marriage is one in which each spouse looks out for the other completely. In that circumstance, neither will want because one spouse will watch out for the other's needs.

Building such a marriage takes time and trust. And there are probably few that get to the 100/100 level. And there may be seasons where such an achievement is made difficult by the pressures of life. But my own experience is that it is a goal worth reaching for. The times when I remember to seek to understand my wife's point of view instead of defending my own, when I empathize instead of criticize, when I, after years of getting to know her, understand her concerns even before she expresses them are moments when I see a glimmer of what President Kimball spoke of. When my wife similarly reaches out to me, accurately articulates my point of view and demonstrates that she knows me and loves me, I feel safety and peace in our relationship.

Such a relationship is not without risk. If one partner offers 100% and the other takes it without offering anything in return, the relationship is not healthy, and may even be dangerous. But if couples can walk this path together, the results can be awesome.

I heard a bit of dialog in a movie on TV the other day that teaches one way this happens. This couple was getting ready to be married. The woman is upset about something and begins to share her feelings with her fiancĂ©, and he begins to respond with, "I don't think…" She holds up her hand to stop him and say, "I don't want you to take the other side. I don't want you to tell me what you think. I don't want you to fix it. I just want you to listen to me and let me say what I have to say." He agrees, and she starts again, and he interrupts her again, and she says again, "Just listen." He listens. She spills out her emotions. He touches her shoulder and then holds her, and says nothing.

Giving 100% to our spouses does not mean imposing ourselves or our solutions on them. It mean really listening, really working to understand their needs, and doing what we can to meet them (or to support our spouses in their efforts to meet them).

Here's to the 100% solution, and to the marriage relationships that will benefit from it.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Questions on Healing

In the chapters of scripture that catalog spiritual gifts, healing is among them. Paul and Moroni refer to the "gifts of healing" (1 Corinthians 12:9; Moroni 10:11). Section 46 of the Doctrine & Covenants indicates that some have the gift of faith to be healed and others have the gift to heal (vv. 19-20).

Indeed, as a people we Mormons do believe in miracles. Many of us have seen them in our own lives – physical, take-up-thy-bed-and-walk miracles. We seek them, usually through priesthood blessings in which we ask holders of the priesthood to anoint us with consecrated oil and bless us with health. Sometimes (but not always) these blessings result in miraculous healings.

Of course the Savior established the pattern of miraculous healing, often reminding the beneficiaries that their faith had made them whole. And sometimes a person did not need direct contact with the Savior: touching his robe was enough for the woman with the issue of blood. And in the case of the child of the nobleman, the Savior healed him from a distance.

So, we believe in miracles, but we also believe in going to the doctor, taking our medicine, and doing what it takes to get well. We allow for the possibility that God may heal us miraculously, but generally we don't count on it. I wonder why that is.

Recently, I posted the following comment on a discussion of depression and spirituality over at the By Common Consent blog:

"While repentance indeed brings remission of sins, and it may bring spiritual blessings, it is not a cure for mental illness, nor is it a substitute for competent medical care."

The discussion was around depression and there was some discussion about the role of spiritual healing as a part of coping with depression. I intended my comment (and it was received) as gentle rebuke to those who might suggest that one might "repent" his way to good mental health.

I stand by my comment, but I wonder why I was so quick to react to comments that were not actually claiming what I assumed they were. It's true: my own experience is that depression and other mental illness has as much to do with chemistry as anything else, and that a regimen of medication and therapy combined are the best help in such cases.

By why write off the possibility of spiritual intervention?

In my family we've known our share of sickness. My mother lived with a medical condition that I also have that made us both susceptible to serious infection, and in her case the infections were very painful and required the visit of the doctor to our home with a shot of penicillin. (I now travel to my doctor's office for shots of rocephin). I remember my father's wanting to give my mother a blessing at the time of one of her infections. Mom's view was she should do all she could to get well first, and if that failed, then a blessing was in order, while Dad felt it didn't hurt to involve a priesthood blessing early on.

I tend toward my father's view: I prefer to seek a blessing for myself (or offer one in the case of family members) early on, and continue seeking medical assistance. In fact, in some cases the blessing I have given directs the recipient to seek medical attention and to follow doctors' orders.

While I do know some members of the church who prefer vitamin therapies to drugs, or don't get their kids vaccinated, these are individual choices, not driven by doctrinal (or even church cultural) norms. There is ample evidence that the church advocates using competent medial care.

Posted at the same discussion of depression is the following quotation from a CES fireside given by Elder Uchtdorf:

“Allow me to be clear: severe depression and thoughts of suicide are not trivial matters and should be taken seriously. I urge those who suffer from depression or thoughts of suicide to seek help from trusted professionals and Church leaders. If you know someone who is thinking of suicide, be a true friend and make sure he or she gets help. Please know that we love you and want you to be successful and happy in life.”

Similarly, the brethren advocate for medical intervention for physical illness. Those of us who are old enough remember many stories around the medical intervention in the life of President Kimball, sought on the advice and counsel of his brethren in the Quorum of the Twelve.

Sometimes we see the medical and spiritual share the stage, as in Elder Nelson's great account in the April 2003 General Conference of how he was inspired to repair the heart of a faithful patriarch.

What lessons are there for us in this discussion? Here are some thoughts I have. Perhaps your experience will suggest others:

1. Part of our stewardship is to care for our own bodies. We do well to do that through diet and exercise, and through seeking appropriate medical treatment for physical and mental health issues.

2. It is appropriate for us to seek the Lord's blessings, including when we are sick. Those blessings may come to us in the form of help from a doctor or in a more (or less) miraculous way.

Apart from those lessons, I have some personal biases:

First, lack of healing is not necessarily the result of lack of faith. (But does my suggesting it mean I lack faith?) The Lord teaches clearly that He has a timetable for us, and sometimes we have lessons to learn. I remember well the lesson Elder Maxwell learned from his illness at the end of his life. In his biography it records that he received a clear admonition that he had Leukemia so that he might minister more authentically to others who are sick. I can't imagine many who would suggest Elder Maxwell lacked faith.

Second (and this just ought to go without saying), illness, like any other personal hardship, is not necessarily an indicator of personal worthiness. The rain falls on the just and the unjust alike. Many have taught that adversity comes into all our lives in different ways. (Similarly, freedom from illness is not necessarily a sign of righteousness, either.)

That said, where are you on the question of the relationship between reliance on the Lord and reliance on medical science?

Saturday, March 6, 2010

One Day at a Time

Twelve step programs like AA use the phrase "One Day at a Time" to remind their participants that change comes in small bits, and that when confronting addiction (or co-dependence, in the case of family support groups like Families Anonymous or Al Anon), a long time horizon is not a good thing.

Contrast that to our gospel perspective. So much of what we do in the church has a very long time horizon. "Eternity is a long time," my old stake president used to say. And yet, I think we have something to learn from One Day at a Time.

Repentance is the second principle of the gospel, right behind faith in the Lord Jesus Christ (without which repentance would be futile). I have asserted more than once on this blog that one of the great and awesome blessings of the atonement is the opportunity we have to change for the better. Not just to overcome grievous sin (some many never commit grievous sin, thank goodness), but just to improve from day to day.

For an addict or a co-dependent person, signing up for a lifetime of change may be overwhelming, even impossible. And so learning to recommit oneself each day to principles of change associated with overcoming those addictions makes a lot of sense. Even as I type this sentence, I think about our practice of recommitting ourselves weekly to our baptismal covenant via the sacrament. The weekly participation in the sacrament is there not only as a remind of our Savior's physical sacrifice (which is incredible), but also recommits us to live by the covenants we've made.

Twelve step programs rely on the strength of a Higher Power, "God as we understand him." The church's Addiction Recovery Program, with its 12 steps adapted from AA (with permission, but not with their review or approval, as AA does not endorse any outside program) are far more explicit about reliance on the Savior and on our Father in Heaven. The principles of the 12 Step program teach participants to admit their powerlessness over certain things, and to seek God's will for them through prayer.

That's frankly a great formula for everyone to follow in morning prayer each day. Elder Henry B. Eyring said, "A morning prayer and an early search in the scriptures to know what we should do for the Lord can set the course of a day. We can know which task, of all those we might choose, matters most to God and therefore to us. I have learned such a prayer is always answered if we ask and ponder with childlike submission, ready to act without delay to perform even the most humble service" (Liahona, May 2007).

Sometimes there is value in our stepping back from planning for our eternity, and planning instead just for today. What will I do today to serve someone else, to help myself, to learn and grow, to overcome a habit I'm trying to overcome, to better know the Lord? I suggest this not because I think our to-do lists are too short. Quite the contrary, I suggest it because I think our eternal to-do lists are too long! It can be overwhelming to bear the burden of perfection in all things forever. But there are things I can do today. And tomorrow, I can worry about tomorrow.

For me, a focus on each day (when I succeed) allows me to live more in the moment, with less worry about what might be, or what should have been. Instead, I can say, today I will… And at the end of the day I can say, today I did… And tomorrow is another day.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

How do we mourn with those that mourn?

When Mormons are baptized, we enter into a covenant with God to keep His commandments and to remember the Savior. Part of what that covenant means is captured in some verses from the Book of Mormon: we should be "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" (Mosiah 18:8-9).

So aside from the rather obvious feeling sad at funerals for families who have lost loved ones, what does this passage really mean? Especially in our often self-reliant attitude, how do we bear one another's burdens? How do we comfort those who stand in need of comfort?

These questions came to mind as I read the third part of an interesting series on clinical depression over at the By Common Consent blog. Some of the commentary there points out that sometimes we are better at mourning and offering comfort when the need for it is in the past tense, and I wondered why that is.

I have some ideas of my own, and would be interested in your experience.

Sometimes when we see someone else in an emotionally difficult place, we turn away because we do not want to embarrass the person who is hurting.

Sometimes we simply do not know what to say.

Sometimes we believe that we are respecting a person's privacy by not intruding.

It is interesting to me that it often easier for us to offer help when someone is physically ill than when there is emotional pain or mental illness. I wonder if this distinction is cultural (and broader than our Mormon culture). In any case, I believe it is often easier for us to drop off a casserole than to lend a listening ear. And why not? For the giver, the dropping off a tangible show of support is much less risky than an offer to listen. (The offer to listen might be rejected; if the casserole is tossed into the garbage, we'll never know.) Offering a shoulder to cry on or a listening ear is also a much larger investment of time and emotional energy, beyond the risk of rejection – we don't know how long the support will be required, and we often don't know what to say.

In my limited experience, however, I can say this: Often we don't need to say anything. Often we just need to listen. And while it may be difficult to get someone to talk (especially men), if we can engage the person who needs support in an activity that would allow for conversation on the side (weeding the garden, knitting booties, tying quilts), it might make the conversation less forced. Just listening without solving anything is hard to do, and it's a skill worth learning when trying to comfort those who stand in need of comfort.

I have a friend who sometimes stops me, looks me in the eye and says, "How are you?" I know he doesn't mean "how's it going today?" He really wants an answer. Now if every acquaintance did that to me, I might be a little freaked out, but having this friend ask me sincerely from time to time is touching. And I know if I'm having a rough time, I can tell him.

As I said above, I'd be interested in your experience. How have you mourned with those that mourn? How has someone comforted you when you stood in need?