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Thoughts on President Uchtdorf’s “You Are My Hands”

April 12, 2010
Dieter F. Uchtdorf

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf

Easter weekend, as I blogged about, was also the LDS General Conference. I already got to talk a little bit about some of conference because I was invited as a guest on the Mormon Expression podcast. I didn’t we too much at that time (or really, much at all), because I wanted to wait for the transcripts to post. Well…sometime this week, they did…so if you want, you can read, listen, or watch all of the talks (or just some) in their original glory.

What I’d like to do (and I did this before last year, if you’ll remember) is go over some of the talks from a nonbelieving perspective…maybe point out some of my concerns or fears, but also some of my appreciation. I’m certain that there is plenty of full criticism and there is plenty of full-hearted support to be found, but what about the happy medium?

The first talk I’d like to address is President Dieter F. Uchtdorf’s “You Are My Hands” from the Sunday morning session.

Preliminary responses from conference suggest great support and appreciation for this talk, and when I heard it, I was in agreement to that consensus.

Uchtdorf’s central message is in describing what things we can do to be Christlike — specifically, to have our hands be like Jesus’s hands.

…now, as you might expect, there are several ways this could go, depending on what scriptures you pick as the ideal representation of Jesus. (What would Jesus[‘s hands] do?)

What is so refreshing about this talk is that Uchtdorf decides to emphasize a more accepting Jesus. Straight from the talk:

I hope that we welcome and love all of God’s children, including those who might dress, look, speak, or just do things differently. It is not good to make others feel as though they are deficient. Let us lift those around us. Let us extend a welcoming hand. Let us bestow upon our brothers and sisters in the Church a special measure of humanity, compassion, and charity so that they feel, at long last, they have finally found home.

When we are tempted to judge, let us think of the Savior, who “loveth the world, even that he layeth down his own life that he may draw all men unto him. . . .

“[And] he saith: Come unto me all ye ends of the earth, . . . [for] all men are privileged the one like unto the other, and none are forbidden.”1

As I read the scriptures, it appears that those who receive the Savior’s strongest reproach are often those who hold themselves in high esteem because of their wealth, influence, or perceived righteousness.

I for one like such a suggestion, but wonder how far it will permeate into the membership. I mean, it still seems like there are certain spoken (or even unspoken) standards for many things in the LDS church. If someone doesn’t use the thees and thous honorifics in their prayers, will this slip by for long? If someone’s “Sunday best” isn’t as good, will that go unnoticed?

And of course, this could go further, but it won’t. After all, lots of people “do things differently”  with worse things (according to the church) than being of humble status. Whenever a church official talks about everyone being sinners (so we should accept the sinners, not the sin), I doubt that the church on the whole will ever be more accepting of certain “sinners” who still want to participate unhindered.

Uchtdorf continues to say:

I am not suggesting that we accept sin or overlook evil, in our personal life or in the world. Nevertheless, in our zeal, we sometimes confuse sin with sinner, and we condemn too quickly and with too little compassion. We know from modern revelation that “the worth of souls is great in the sight of God.”4…Every person we meet is a VIP to our Heavenly Father. Once we understand that, we can begin to understand how we should treat our fellowmen.

An optimistic message, possibly. But I wonder how many ways people could interpret understanding “how we should treat our fellowmen” (who sin in particular ways).

Ultimately, Uchtdorf presents an ambitious (I think) call for love, service, and charity. But will it stick? Even Uchtdorf recognizes the importance of action:

True love requires action. We can speak of love all day long—we can write notes or poems that proclaim it, sing songs that praise it, and preach sermons that encourage it—but until we manifest that love in action, our words are nothing but “sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.”11

Christ did not just speak about love; He showed it each day of His life. He did not remove Himself from the crowd. Being amidst the people, Jesus reached out to the one. He rescued the lost. He didn’t just teach a class about reaching out in love and then delegate the actual work to others. He not only taught but also showed us how to “succor the weak, lift up the hands which hang down, and strengthen the feeble knees.”12

This is one point where Uchtdorf’s title becomes especially valuable. If we are Christ’s hands, then we must act with them. Not just talk. Uchtdorf continues to emphasize that love is the point. In fact, without love, what is the church?

Without this love for God the Father and our fellowmen we are only the form of His Church—without the substance. What good is our teaching without love? What good is missionary, temple, or welfare work without love?

Unfortunately, what I am concerned about is…what will people consider to be the appropriate action to do out of “love”? After all, there’s tough love. There’s unrequited love. And so on. Regardless of all that could be misinterpreted or applied in a disastrous way, I feel like Uchtdorf’s talk represents a great change of tone that I would like to see more of.

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6 Comments
  1. Agreed. If this were truly the central LDS message, I would have far less concern for what my daughters learn on a Sunday.

  2. on the other hands, then things just wouldn’t seem very…Mormon…and nostalgia would kick in…

  3. Look, the man is clearly not from Utah and hence he is not yet with the program. Give the man some time to get acclimatized.

    On a more serious note, there are a lot of great people in Utah but, on average, the Church is more Utopian and idealistic in the mission field.

    In Utah, Mormonism very much about conformism. Who obeys all those rules the best is the best follower of the prophet.

    You cannot be a conformist and a Mormon in Germany. If you were a conformist in Germany, you would have remained a nominal member of the state church and slept in on Sunday.

  4. Do you think he will “get with the program,” or do you think he will remain the streak that says different things (which would, of course, be a fresh change to many)?

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

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