Yesterday I cast my vote for Barack Obama for president on the first day of early voting in Huntsville, Texas, wishing I lived in a swing state. I see him as the candidate who is most in touch with real people, their needs, and who shares my sense of accountability toward one another and collective well-being. I value these traits largely because of my family upbringing, devout Mormon faith, and my training and life experience as a physician.
As members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints:
1) We read in the Book of Mormon (Mosiah 4:16-21):
“…ye yourselves will succor those that stand in need of your succor; ye will administer of your substance unto him that standeth in need; and ye will not suffer that the beggar putteth up his petition to you in vain, and turn him out to perish.
Perhaps thou shalt say: The man has brought upon himself his misery; therefore I will stay my hand, and will not give unto him of my food, nor impart unto him of my substance that he may not suffer, for his punishments are just—
But I say unto you, O man, whosoever doeth this the same hath great cause to repent; and except he repenteth of that which he hath done he perisheth forever, and hath no interest in the kingdom of God.
For behold, are we not all beggars? Do we not all depend upon the same Being, even God, for all the substance we have, for both food and raiment, and for gold, and for silver, and for all the riches which we have of every kind?
And behold, even at this time, ye have been calling on his name, and begging for a remission of your sins. And has he suffered that ye have begged in vain? Nay; he has poured out his Spirit upon you, and has caused that your hearts should be filled with joy, and has caused that your mouths should be stopped that ye could not find utterance, so exceedingly great was your joy.
And now, if God, who has created you, on whom you are dependent for your lives and for all that ye have and are, doth grant unto you whatsoever ye ask that is right, in faith, believing that ye shall receive, O then, how ye ought to impart of the substance that ye have one to another.”
2) We read in the Bible (Matthew 25:40):
“…Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these, my brethren [/sisters/fellow humanity], ye have done it unto me.”
3) We revere Joseph Smith as the prophet of the restoration of Christ’s church, who said that we are “to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked, to provide for the widow, to dry up the tear of the orphan, to comfort the afflicted, whether in this church, or in any other, or in no church at all…”
4) We follow a living prophet today, Thomas Monson, who said: “My brothers and sisters, we are surrounded by those in need of our attention, our encouragement, our support, our comfort, our kindness—be they family members, friends, acquaintances, or strangers. We are the Lord’s hands here upon the earth, with the mandate to serve and to lift His children. He is dependent upon each of us.”
While I recognize the value of individual service to those in need, I am painfully aware of the gross inadequacy of these gestures of kindness and generosity toward our brothers and sisters in distress. I believe for the collective good, our world will be a better place when our government and other governments the world over support the vulnerable with access to education, opportunity, health care, and basic needs.
I have seen too much heartache to think any other way. My faith and profession have opened my eyes to this reality. I have found opportunities to serve when our service at least partly solved a problem—preparing meals to families coping with serious illness, cleaning up the disaster of a burned mobile home, inviting a family displaced by a hurricane’s power outage to live with our family for 2 weeks. While we did not cure the illness or replace the home, we assisted with feeding a hungry, busy family, helped another at least clean up a huge mess, and provided temporary lodging with air-conditioning and safe water.
I have discovered other situations when our generous service would never be enough–visiting a young single mother who was out of money and baby formula, knowing an illegal immigrant family seeking a better future for their children, and treating a 65year old woman who had been recently diagnosed with and was now dying of metastatic colon cancer after she waited until turning 65 and Medicare-eligible to seek medical attention for rectal bleeding that started 18 months earlier because she had no health insurance. For these problems, all of our efforts to serve others as our Savior Jesus Christ has admonished us to do, would never be enough. We need a government that values the lives of the vulnerable, “the least of these” Christ spoke of, enough to create a safety net for them to survive the challenges of life.
We sing: “I would be my brother’s keeper, I would learn the healer’s art.
To the wounded and the weary, I would show a gentle heart.
I would be my brother’s keeper. Lord, I would follow thee.”