Comfort is a concept that holds pride of place in the gospel. We learn that an important part of our baptismal covenants is the promise to “comfort those that stand in need of comfort.” Elsewhere, we learn that one of the reasons for Christ’s suffering and atonement was so that he could “know how to succor his people.” This leads to the question: Why is comfort important?
The easy answer to this is psychological. People seem to desire and crave comfort and they feel better if they are comforted. However, there is a sense in which this answer is question begging.
Suppose that I am being battered by some tragedy in my life: I have been in a car accident and suffered a terrible injury, for example. My current distress is caused by a state of affairs in the world. What precisely does comfort do for me in this situation. I believe that it would be important. I imagine that facing terrible injuries without sympathy or support would be worse than facing them with sympathy or support. I am not entirely sure why this should be so, however. Afterall, the sympathy and emotion support doesn’t change any thing about the world. The state of affairs that gave rise to the tragedy — accident and injury — remains the same regardless of whether or not I am comforted. Why then is comfort so important and potentially powerful?