I have the wonderful opportunity of being a teacher for the Relief Society in my ward (that’s the women’s group in our congregation if you are not familiar with LDS lingo). I love preparing lessons and presenting them to the women and would like to share these thoughts with a bigger audience. I’m creating a category for my lessons. While these obviously are written primarily with an LDS audience in mind, I will do my best to make the points as generally accessible and understood as possible. They will also go much more in depth than what I present on Sundays.
The lessons I teach come from recent General Conference addresses. Our local leadership selects the talks that they feel are most important for us to focus on at a local level. A few months ago they selected Kindness, Charity, and Love by President Thomas S. Monson.
We believe that President Monson is a latter-day prophet. Essentially the same as Noah or Moses in ancient times. We believe that God has chosen him to be his mouthpiece to the world. If you have read this specific message you will notice that it is rather short, I printed it out and it fit on one page. These addresses are typically longer, but as President Monson is growing old his physical stamina to deliver an extended message is waning. To me, that means, that anything he is using his limited energy to say must be pretty important for us to pay attention to and apply in our lives.
President Monson begins by quoting from the Book of Mormon Moroni 7:44-47:
“And if a man be meek and lowly in heart, and confesses by the power of the Holy Ghost that Jesus is the Christ, he must needs have charity; for if he have not charity he is nothing; wherefore he must needs have charity.
“And charity suffereth long, and is kind, and envieth not, and is not puffed up, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked. …
“Wherefore, my beloved brethren, if ye have not charity, ye are nothing, for charity never faileth. Wherefore, cleave unto charity, which is the greatest of all, for all things must fail—
“But charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him.”
I love these thoughts on charity. First that without it we are NOTHING. It doesn’t matter what else we aspire to or attain in this life, if we don’t develop charity, and if the things we attain aren’t products of our charity, then we have accomplished nothing.
Now consider that charity never fails and that it is the pure love of Christ. What exactly does the “pure love of Christ” mean? For those that come from a non-Christian background, please don’t feel like I’m forcing Jesus on you, but for the purposes of understanding how I define this word, consider the following.
We believe that Christ led a perfect life, that he was completely without sin or mistakes. At the end of his life we believe that he chose to die for all of us so that we could overcome our sins and mistakes. This entailed him feeling all of our guilt.
My little boy is 3 and starting to understand when he does something wrong or hurts somebody (sometimes at least). Recently he was playing at the children’s museum and ran straight into a girl and knocked her down and made her cry. I yelled out, “Be careful!” right as I saw the collision about to occur. She was not hurt badly, probably more shocked than anything, but she cried and ran to her mom. My little guy came to me trying to hold back tears feeling bad that he had hurt her. His poor little face was so sad because he’s still so innocent but felt the guilt of his actions. So imagine someone that has been completely innocent their whole life suddenly feeling EVERYONE’S guilt. And not just the little things like accidentally running into someone, the bad and ugly decisions of our lives, he suddenly felt them. And then it didn’t stop there. We learn in Alma 7:11-12 that he also took on ALL of our pain, afflictions, temptations, sicknesses, and infirmities. We talk about walking a mile in someone’s shoes. He walked more than a mile, he walked it all so he can truly love us. He knows our pain perfectly and therefore can love us perfectly. And then it didn’t stop there. He then allowed himself to be mocked, and whipped, and spat upon, falsely accused, and finally killed in the gruesome manner of crucifixion. He could have stopped it at anytime, but he chose to continue so he could overcome death for us. But, how, how could anyone do that. The answer is that charity never fails. If he had done it with any other motive than love he would not have been able to endure it all.
That’s what I mean then when I refer to charity, or the pure love of Christ, it’s love strong enough, tested enough, and understanding enough to be willing to sacrifice everything for others no matter what, no strings attached. It’s a feeling of love deep down inside us that must become a guiding force in our lives.
Once we can begin to develop that feeling for others, it manifests itself through our actions in kindness. President Monson quotes another apostle and his dear friend Elder Joseph B Wirthlin:
“Kindness is the essence of a celestial life. Kindness is how a Christlike person treats others. Kindness should permeate all of our words and actions at work, at school, at church, and especially in our homes.
“Jesus, our Savior, was the epitome of kindness and compassion.”
The scriptures are full of stories and examples of the kindness our Savior expressed to others from large things like weeping with his sisters and then raising Lazarus from the dead, showing compassion to the woman taken in adultery, to smaller acts like turning water into wine for the marriage feast. He went about doing good and being kind to everyone, regardless of their status, culture, or lifestyle, and no matter how complex or simple the need. We may not be able to solve every problem as miraculously as he did, but no matter what we CAN be kind.
Stay tuned- next post will deal with barriers we face that prevent us from feeling charity and expressing kindness