Suffer with Him
John tells us that Jesus, seeing Mary's distress over the death of Lazarus, groaned within himself, and seeing the place of Lazarus's burial, he wept. Possible theodicies and rational explanations of suffering are irrelevant at a moment like that. The Son of God, Creator of the universe and the author of our redemption from both physical and spiritual death, weeps for us in our sorrow, and even he weeps at the death of one he loves. To be God is to suffer.
We see this more fully in another revelation to Joseph Smith, a revelation of a revelation of Moses:
And it came to pass that the God of heaven looked upon the residue of the people, and he wept; . . . . And Enoch said unto the Lord: How is it that thou canst weep, seeing thou art holy, and from all eternity to all eternity? . . . The Lord said unto Enoch: . . . unto thy brethren have I said, and also given commandment, that they should love one another, and that they should choose me, their Father; but behold, they are without affection, and they hate their own blood. (Moses 7:28-29, 32-33)
God weeps at our pain and our death. He also, and probably more so, weeps at our sinfulness.
Enoch's response to God's sorrow—the way in which he becomes like God—is to weep like God:
And it came to pass that the Lord spake unto Enoch, and told Enoch all the doings of the children of men; wherefore Enoch knew, and looked upon their wickedness, and their misery, and wept and stretched forth his arms, and his heart swelled wide as eternity; and his bowels yearned; and all eternity shook. (Moses 7:41)
To be like God is to suffer with him on the behalf of others. It is not to weep only with those who weep because they have been wounded (Mosiah 18:9), though that is essential. It also is to weep, as God does in Enoch's vision, for those who wound. It is to take responsibility for the sinner as well as the sinned-against.
On this view, then, what makes Jesus most divine? That in the garden and on the cross he gave up the powers that supposedly made him God. Having power enough to call on angels to destroy his accusers and killers, he refused that power and, instead, suffered, suffered for even those accusers and killers. He took responsibility for their sin, for their sins against him and against others, including themselves. He exemplified what it means to be God by opening himself up to pain, by refusing power over evil.
Divine power is the power to feel pain with and for others, the power to feel pain and sorrow. To be in the family of God is to accept suffering as Jesus did. It is to respond to God's suffering as Enoch did. We too must stretch forth our arms. Our hearts too must swell wide as eternity. Our bowels also must yearn until eternity shakes. Like Enoch, like God, we must weep for humankind.
Only if we stretch and swell and yearn and weep as God does can we do what those who suffer need. Our righteousness requires our suffering. The redemption of anyone or everyone, whether temporal or spiritual redemption, requires our weeping.
James Faulconer is a Richard L. Evans Professor of Religious Understanding at Brigham Young University, where he has taught philosophy since 1975.