Caring for Those in Need: Covenant of Compassion

Research Update

Brock James Dowdle

Caring for Those in Need: Covenant of Compassion

Brock James Dowdle

BROCK JAMES DOWDLE IS A MEDIA SPECIALIST AT THE RELIGIOUS STUDIES CENTER, MAJORING IN COMMUNICATIONS WITH AN EMPHASIS IN PUBLIC RELATIONS.

For years, the main mission of the Church included three themes: proclaim the gospel, perfect the Saints, and redeem the dead through vicarious saving ordinances.[1] In recent decades, the increase in worldwide membership has drawn attention to a variety of global social issues, such as extreme poverty, natural disaster relief, and the growing refugee crisis, among others. These challenges inspired the rewording of the previous purposes and inclusion of a fourth focus—caring for those in need.[2]

Echoing this directive, in October 2019 President Russell M. Nelson addressed the Church’s worldwide humanitarian efforts, declaring, “As members of the Church, we feel a kinship to those who suffer in any way. . . . We heed an Old Testament admonition: ‘Thou shalt open thine hand wide unto thy brother, to thy poor, and to thy needy’ (Deuteronomy 15:11).”[3]

The connection between this biblical teaching and President Nelson’s reemphasis on caring for the poor and needy encapsulates the inspiration for the 2021 Sidney B. Sperry Symposium. The theme, “Covenant of Compassion: Caring for the Marginalized and Disadvantaged in the Old Testament,” not only seeks to shed light on how prejudiced groups were perceived and treated but also highlights the continued relevancy of the Old Testament for confronting modern challenges.

In harmony with the symposium’s theme, editors Avram R. Shannon, George A. Pierce, Joshua M. Sears, and Gaye Strathearn compiled nineteen essays in Covenant of Compassion: Caring for the Marginalized and Disadvantaged in the Old Testament. This book, sharing its name with the conference, is a published collection of the religious scholarship from the symposium.

Arranged thematically, each section of the book is designed to illustrate different examples in the Old Testament of how assistance and care were given to the marginalized and disadvantaged. Contributors examine subjects including refugees, persons with disabilities, the impoverished, and women, and explore the relationship between these past social challenges to our modern-day issues. This edition celebrates the fiftieth year of the Sidney B. Sperry Symposium, which includes a special chapter by V. Wallace McCarlie Jr. and Andrew C. Skinner in commemoration of the event.

Caring for the poor and needy has been an ever-important ambition across time, and we hope that each contributor will inspire us to turn to the past to help address the challenges experienced by the marginalized and disadvantaged today.