Be a Giver of Hugs

One Church calling taught me a lot about compassion and tenderness

hugging grandmother

An experience that changed my life happened last year at a Young Women camp after our testimony meeting. I was able to give each young woman a hug and tell them that I loved them. In each embrace, I could feel a glimpse into what our Heavenly Parents must feel for each of them. He sent Jesus Christ for them. He loves them, not because of anything they have done or anything they will do. Not because of the way they look or that they go to Church. They love them because they are Their children.

girls hiking

This year at camp the experience was similar except for now the young women knew I would be finding them for their hug, and it was as if they longed for it! What a true blessing to have been the giver of the hugs while serving as stake Young Women president.

The Savior’s abiding compassion

Elder Ulisses Soares, in his October 2021 general conference talk said, “The Savior acted compassionately toward all who would come unto Him—without distinction—and most especially toward those who most needed His help” (Ulisses Soares, “The Savior’s Abiding Compassion,” Liahona, November 2021).

Jesus helping peter from the water

Trying to follow the example of Jesus has meant that I too want to show great compassion. Elder Soares continued to say, “The scriptures have countless examples of how the Savior, moved by His deep and abiding compassion, interacted with people of His day and helped those who were suffering and those who had ‘fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd.’ He extended His merciful hand to those who needed relief from their burdens, both physically and spiritually” (Ulisses Soares, “The Savior’s Abiding Compassion,” Liahona, November 2021).

Jesus hugging young girl

Seeing and receiving the Savior’s compassion as I serve

Having recently been released as stake Young Women president, I’ve been reflecting on how serving in this calling has brought me closer to my Savior Jesus Christ. I’ve tried to serve as the Savior would and love the young women and Young Women leaders as He would. It was my honor to get to act in His name as a disciple.

I truly believe that the Savior was someone who showed His affection, caring, and sympathy in a physical way. After Peter climbed back into the boat on the Sea of Galilee, after his failed attempt to walk toward Jesus, it is almost impossible to think that the Savior wouldn’t have warmly grasped his hand, patted his back, or embraced him.

Jesus and Mary at the tomb

Then again, at the tomb Mary was told by the risen Savior to not touch Him, indicating that a tenderness with embraces was usual. Perhaps we could say that Jesus was a giver of hugs.

Having been called in 2020 during the heart of the COVID pandemic, some of the first hugs I remember were with my dear counselor, Sarah, and her daughters. We were so excited that although we had been serving together for about six months, we were finally able to see each other in person for the first time. The bonds of loving Jesus and being willing to serve in these callings had brought me, a woman from the United States, and Sarah, a woman from Kenya, together.

Thomas Monson camp

Other hugs that pierced my heart were at times when we felt the Spirit together. After a young woman, who was sick at camp, received a priesthood blessing, we sat and cried together as we embraced because we felt the Spirit so strongly and had faith in God’s power.

Sometimes a simple hug after a testimony meeting or Sunday lesson would allow me the opportunity to share with a young woman or a Young Women leader our unified belief in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

girls hiking

Each night at camp as we prayed, we stood in a circle with our arms entwined, we felt power together in our love of our Heavenly Father, gratitude for the day, and assurance as we prayed for the blessings we needed.

There have been hugs that I wish I could have given, such as when a young woman lost a friend by suicide, but we were in lockdown because of the pandemic. I would often see young women struggling with their mental and emotional health and have so often wished I could give them a consoling hug and somehow make hard things better.

Part of the beauty of being the giver of the hugs in the calling of stake Young Women president, was that I often received hugs. There were hugs that lifted me up, even when the giver had no idea that I needed it. My counselors and secretary have been the source of many hugs of understanding, love, support and strength. When we give, we truly do receive.

Mom hugging daughter

Compassion is a divine and essential Christian quality

I have learned as Elder Soares taught, “Compassion is a fundamental characteristic of those who strive for sanctification, and this divine quality intertwines with other Christian traits such as mourning with those who mourn and having empathy, mercy, and kindness. The expression of compassion for others is, in fact, the essence of the gospel of Jesus Christ and a marked evidence of our spiritual and emotional closeness to the Savior” (Ulisses Soares, “The Savior’s Abiding Compassion,” Liahona, November 2021).

Elder Soares
Elder Ulisses Soares

Serving and loving each other both in callings and informal opportunities, has the power to change lives. For me, in this busy and demanding calling, I saw my cup runneth over with blessings and experiences that I will always cherish as I had the true honor of trying to emulate compassion, like the Savior.