When the prophet Jacob called his people to repentance, he was keenly aware of the innocent people who would surely be emotionally wounded by this recitation of evil. “It grieveth me, ” he said, “that I must use so much boldness of speech concerning you, before your wives and your children, many of whose feelings are exceedingly tender and chaste and delicate before God, which thing is pleasing unto God” (Jacob 2:7).
Jacob felt empathy for the oppressed. Why is that? Perhaps it was because of his own tumultuous upbringing. He was born in the wilderness into a contentious family. His father’s final words to him began with an acknowledgement of these hardships:
Thou art my firstborn in the days of my tribulation in the wilderness. And behold, in thy childhood thou hast suffered afflictions and much sorrow, because of the rudeness of thy brethren.
(2 Nephi 2:1)
He had seen firsthand the pain caused by bullying and abuse. He sympathized with the victims, and he knew that God sympathized with them as well:
- “Do ye not suppose that such things are abominable unto him who created all flesh? And the one being is as precious in his sight as the other. And all flesh is of the dust” (Jacob 2:21).
- “I, the Lord, have seen the sorrow, and heard the mourning of the daughters of my people in the land of Jerusalem, yea, and in all the lands of my people, because of the wickedness and abominations of their husbands” (Jacob 2:31).
Jacob describes the feelings of the innocent using three adjectives:
- Tender – Sensitive, vulnerable, susceptible to being hurt; not hardened, calloused, or cynical
- Chaste – Pure, holy, childlike; not lewd, coarse, or obscene
- Delicate – Fragile, nuanced, refined; not crude, harsh, or violent
As Jacob tells his people, God is pleased when our feelings are tender, chaste, and delicate. On the other hand, He sorrows when we smother those feelings in our own hearts and lose the ability to recognize them in others.
Jacob’s message to his people is more expansive than the two sins he specifically calls out: pride and adultery. He is trying to train his people, particularly the most hardened among them, to pay attention to the feelings of the people around them and the effect of their actions on those feelings. Much of our sinful behavior is a result of cluelessness. If we could sense the vulnerability of others, we would treat them differently.
Today, I will strive to empathize with the people around me. I will particularly be aware of feelings which are “tender and chaste and delicate” and will speak and act with a consciousness of those feelings.