“Thou shalt live together in love,” said the Lord, “insomuch that thou shalt weep for the loss of them that die” (Doctrine and Covenants 42:45). And President Russell M. Nelson said, “The only way to take sorrow out of death is to take love out of life” (“Doors of Death,” General Conference, April 1992).
The word “bereaved” means deprived of a family member or a friend through death. When nine of Jacob’s sons returned from Egypt without their brother Simeon and requested to take their brother Benjamin back with them, Jacob was overcome by grief and fear:
Me have ye bereaved of my children: Joseph is not, and Simeon is not, and ye will take Benjamin away: all these things are against me.Genesis 42:36
The italicized words are not in the original Hebrew; they were added by the King James translators. The Hebrew word shakol (שָׁכֹל) means to be bereaved. The King James translators added the words “of my children,” to clarify the nature of Jacob’s loss.
After significant persuasion from Reuben and Judah, Jacob reluctantly allowed Benjamin to go. “If I be bereaved of my children,” he said, “I am bereaved” (Genesis 43:14). Again in this passage, the phrase “of my children” was added by the translators. Jacob’s sense of foreboding and resignation comes through more powerfully in the New International Version: “As for me, if I am bereaved, I am bereaved” (Genesis 43:14 on biblehub.com). In other words, “I know I have to take this risk. I may lose another son, but so be it.”
Jacob expressed poetically the pain he would feel if something happened to Benjamin: “If mischief befall him by the way in the which ye go, then shall ye bring down my gray hairs with sorrow to the grave” (Genesis 42:38). This imagery was so vivid that Judah shared it with the stern Egyptian ruler who turned out to be his brother Joseph:
It shall come to pass, when he seeth that the lad is not with us, that he will die: and thy servants shall bring down the gray hairs of thy servant our father with sorrow to the grave.Genesis 44:31
In the Book of Mormon, Nephi, who was familiar with the story of Joseph, borrowed this imagery to describe his parents’ distress when his older brothers bound him and abused him on the ship:
Because of their grief and much sorrow, and the iniquity of my brethren, they were brought near even to be carried out of this time to meet their God; yea, their grey hairs were about to be brought down to lie low in the dust; yea, even they were near to be cast with sorrow into a watery grave.1 Nephi 18:18
I’ve thought a lot this week about the words of Jacob: “If I am bereaved, I am bereaved.” Love and relationships bring an inherent risk of pain and sorrow. We can’t shield our loved ones from every possible danger, and we shouldn’t try. There are no guarantees of total safety. In fact, we are all guaranteed to experience discomfort, disappointment, and loss. A recognition of this fact is necessary if we are going to go on loving and living. Without accepting the possibility of negative outcomes, we would never take the chances which will allow us to experience joy.
Today, I will appreciate the people I love a little more. I will live wisely and teach my children to do the same, but I will not stifle their growth with excessive concern for their safety. I will love them and accept the risks that are part of that love.