The Savior is supposed to be our example in ALL things. Yet he meekly endured terrible abuse by others prior to His crucifixion to the nth degree. The 13th Article of Faith says we hope to be able to endure all things. So at what point should we break from the Savior’s example, and no longer meekly tolerate terrible abuse inflicted by others?
Heavenly Father does not want us to be subjected to abusive behavior. The Savior suffered what He did because that was part of His unique mission. For examples of how the Lord would have us respond to abuse, it is helpful to look to other scripture stories and counsel from our modern-day leaders.
The first example that comes to my mind is Joseph of Egypt. His brothers sold him into slavery. Many years later when their paths cross again, Joseph recognizes them immediately, but they don’t recognize him. He chose not to reveal himself right away. Instead he called them spies, and commenced testing them to see if they had changed. When Benjamin was falsely accused, and they refused to leave him, saying it would kill their father, Joseph saw that they had changed and only then did he reveal himself to them. It’s notable here, that Joseph did not use this opportunity for revenge, but neither did he immediately open his heart to them. (Genesis 42-45)
Another example of family abuse is Nephi, Laman and Lemuel. Laman and Lemuel assaulted Nephi, bound him with cords, and eventually plotted not only his death, but their father’s also. What did Heavenly Father instruct Nephi to do? In the end, he told Nephi to take all those that followed him and flee. Nephi was not asked to remain in an abusive situation. (2 Nephi 5)
On LDS.org under the topic of abuse we are counseled: Victims of abuse should seek help immediately, normally from their bishop or branch president. His first responsibility is to help those who have been abused and to protect those who may be vulnerable to future abuse. Victims of abuse should be assured that they are not to blame for the harmful behavior of others. They do not need to feel guilt. If they have been a victim of rape or other sexual abuse, whether they have been abused by an acquaintance, a stranger, or even a family member, victims of sexual abuse are not guilty of sexual sin.
We can also find examples in the scriptures where the Lord directs His children to defend themselves. One such is found in Alma 43:46-47:
46 And they were doing that which they felt was the duty which they owed to their God; for the Lord had said unto them, and also unto their fathers, that: Inasmuch as ye are not guilty of the first offense, neither the second, ye shall not suffer yourselves to be slain by the hands of your enemies.
47 And again, the Lord has said that: Ye shall defend your families even unto bloodshed. Therefore for this cause were the Nephites contending with the Lamanites, to defend themselves, and their families, and their lands, their country, and their rights, and their religion.
Another example can be found in Doctrine and Covenants 134:11:
11 We believe that men should appeal to the civil law for redress of all wrongs and grievances, where personal abuse is inflicted or the right of property or character infringed, where such laws exist as will protect the same; but we believe that all men are justified in defending themselves, their friends, and property, and the government, from the unlawful assaults and encroachments of all persons in times of exigency, where immediate appeal cannot be made to the laws, and relief afforded.
So what does it mean to follow Christ’s example then?
On this Pres. Howard W. Hunter said:
The invitation [is] for all members of the Church to live with ever more attention to the life and example of the Lord Jesus Christ, emulating the love and hope and compassion he displayed.
We [are] asked to treat each other with more kindness, more courtesy, more humility and patience and forgiveness. We do have high expectations of one another, and all can improve. Our world cries out for more disciplined living of the commandments of God. But the way we are to encourage that, as the Lord told the Prophet Joseph in the wintry depths of Liberty Jail, is “by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned; … without hypocrisy, and without guile” (D&C 121:41–42). He Invites Us to Follow Him