Tuesday, November 16, 2010

"Pure love of Christ"

One morning last week, I was reading through and studying Moroni, chapter seven, in the Book of Mormon.  In this chapter is a great address given by the prophet Mormon to the people.  There is so much contained in this address, there isn't a chance that I could discuss it all in one post.   Perhaps I will get to some of the rest of it at a later time, but something really stuck out to me that I wanted to write about today.

Mormon talks about the importance of faith, hope, and charity, and how one must possess all of these attributes to come closer to God and find true happiness.  Towards the end of his address, Mormon focuses on charity, and he said something very interesting.

"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."  (Moroni 7:46-47)

I've quoted these verses in an earlier post, but something I learned something very different this time.  The Book of Mormon has footnotes, with further explanations and cross references to verses in the Bible and Book of Mormon.  In verse 47, it has a footnote on the word "love", which directed me to the Old Testament, specifically Joshua 22:5, which reads:

"But take diligent heed to do the commandment and the law, which Moses the servant of the Lord charged you, to love the Lord your God, and to walk in all his ways, and to keep his commandments, and to cleave unto him, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul."

What I felt impressed with is that charity is not only the pure love that Christ has for all men, that we can be given, but also our love for our Savior, Jesus Christ.  As I thought about this concept, a flood of verses came to mind.

"Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." John 15:13

"Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men." 2 Nephi 31:20

"Inasmuch as ye have done it to one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me."  Matthew 25:40

"If ye love me, keep my commandments" John 14:15

If we truly and purely love Jesus Christ, then we will strive to lay down our lives for His sake, and we do this through service to others and keeping the commandments He has given us.  The more we come to love Him, the more His light will shine through us in lifting up those around us.  The rest of charity just falls into place when we have Jesus Christ as our example and focus.

I thought it was pretty neat, and it really helped open my eyes to the driving motivation behind true charity.  What do you think?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

"The worth of souls..."

In the book of Luke, chapter eight, is one of my favorite stories in all of scripture.  Jesus Christ is approached by a man named Jairus, whose daughter was dying.  Jairus pleaded with Christ to come and heal her, and the Master agreed.  He began to follow Jairus through the city, and as it states in verses 42 through 48:

"But as he went the people thronged him.

"And a woman having an issue of blood twelve years, which had spent all her living upon physicians, neither could be healed of any,
"Came behind him, and touched the border of his garment: and immediately her issue of blood stanched.

"And Jesus said, Who touched me? When all denied, Peter and they that were with him said, Master, the multitude throng thee and press thee, and sayest thou, Who touched me?     UAdd a Note 
"And Jesus said, Somebody hath touched me: for I perceive that virtue is gone out of me.
"And when the woman saw that she was not hid, she came trembling, and falling down before him, she declared unto him before all the people for what cause she had touched him, and how she was healed immediately.
"And he said unto her, Daughter, be of good comfort: thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace."

This story is so incredible to me, for many reasons, but the one that has really stood out to me lately is how personally Christ knew everyone, including this woman.

Each one of us truly is a son or a daughter of God, and He knows us perfectly.  He knows those things that we struggle with, along with the things we find joy in.  He knows what we stand in need of, and wants to bless us with everything that we need.

I have found, though, that not only am I a child of God, but so is everyone around me.  Often times, the way that God reaches out to His children is through others, already here on Earth.  As we focus our efforts on those around us, rather than ourselves, we can feel God's love for them, and have a greatly increased desire to help and assist them in any way possible.

The scriptures are full of many stories, and Elder Dennis B. Neuenschwander said, in April 2008,

"In reality these stories are not about crowds but individuals among those crowds. They are really about you and me. All of us are among the crowds of this world. Almost all of us are like the woman who, despite the crowd, comes to the Savior. We all have faith that just a touch will bring healing to our aching souls and relief to our innermost needs."

How often do we see someone around us who is struggling, and yet we do nothing to help ease their burden or lighten their day?  I struggle with that so often, that for whatever reason, I don't feel it is my place to step in.  Of course it is, though!  Jesus Christ, although He was always busy and about His Father's business, found time to reach out to the individual, to comfort them and address their needs.  I think that is largely because Our Father's business is entirely focused on the one, that everything He does is to help an individual, at times many individuals, to come closer to Him and make those changes in their lives that will allow them to receive more happiness.

The gospel of Jesus Christ is not a blanket statement, something that everyone has to conform themselves to in order to be happy.  Rather, it is a means for each individual to reach out to God, to have their questions answered, their concerns and burdens lifted, and to ultimately find true happiness.  There is a pattern set for us, but in the end, we all have to find our personal connection with God.

I know that God is there, and that He loves us.  I have felt His influence in my life, and I have seen how He has blessed me and others around me.  I know that each of us is a child of God, and that He knows us perfectly.  Part of what we are here to do is to learn to love as He loves.

"Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God."

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Seeking Spirituality

Last week, we were invited to do somewhat of a presentation at a local college for one of their religious groups, called "Seeking Spirituality".  I guess the group gets together a couple of times a month, and talks amongst themselves, or invites people from congregations in the community to give their thoughts and opinions.  They asked us how we, as member of our church and as individuals, sought spirituality.

Preparing for this opportunity, I thought a lot about what spirituality even meant.  I came to the conclusion, that for me, "spirituality" was having the Holy Ghost with me at all times.  As members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, when we are baptized and confirmed members, we are blessed with the gift of the Holy Ghost, which means that we have the opportunity to have the presence of the Holy Ghost with us at all times, as we live worthily.

This gift is truly immeasurable.  Before we are baptized, we can feel the influence and power of the Holy Ghost.  He helps us to come to the knowledge that Jesus Christ truly is the Savior of the world, that we have a Father in Heaven who loves us and wants the best of us, and the Holy Ghost testifies of truth to us.  But to have a member of the Godhead with us, always, is an amazing promise.  We cannot become converted without His influence.  Conversion is a lifelong process, one at which we must always be working.

Elder David A. Bednar, of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, taught in the last General Conference,

"We more readily receive and recognize the Spirit of the Lord as we appropriately invite Him into our lives. We cannot compel, coerce, or command the Holy Ghost. Rather, we should invite Him into our lives with the same gentleness and tenderness by which He entreats us (see D&C 42:14).

"Our invitations for the companionship of the Holy Ghost occur in many ways: through the making and keeping of covenants; by praying sincerely as individuals and families; by searching the scriptures diligently; through strengthening appropriate relationships with family members and friends; by seeking after virtuous thoughts, actions, and language; and by worshipping in our homes, in the holy temple, and at church. Conversely, casualness about or the breaking of covenants and commitments, failing to pray and study the scriptures, and inappropriate thoughts, actions, and language cause the Spirit to withdraw from or to avoid us altogether."

As we do things things, and invite the Holy Ghost into our lives, we can be blessed with His guidance and comfort.  I know this is true, because I've seen it in my own life.  During times when I have felt lost and confused, as I turn to God in prayer and scripture study, I have felt His love and the guidance of the Holy Ghost.

How has the Holy Ghost helped you in your conversion?

Monday, November 1, 2010

"Charity Suffereth Long"

Charity is one of the most frequently talked about attributes or personality traits that we should have.  And yet at the same time, it can be one of the most difficult traits to develop.

What exactly is charity?  Mormon, a prophet in ancient America, taught the people about charity when he said, "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." (Moroni 7:45-46)

The pure love of Christ.  As missionaries, we talk to many different people, and the topic of Jesus Christ's life often comes up.  I've noticed that the most common thing that people think about when they think of Our Savior's life is His love, His compassion, or the way that He treated all around Him.  And rightfully so.  No matter who came before Him, He found the perfect way to love them and serve them, and it changed the lives of those who were with Him.

The apostle Paul taught much about charity as well, one of his more famous teachings being found in 1 Corinthians 13.  There is so much from this chapter that could be discussed here, but I want to focus on just the first verse for now.

"Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal." (1 Corinthians 13:1)

Right now, I am serving as a leader over several missionaries.  Often I wonder how it is that I can best help these missionaries to be the best they can, and to do things the right way.  I think that all throughout our lives, we see people that we love dearly who are making choices that are leading them on a pathway that we can see will not lead to the best of results.  This is a hard thing to watch, and I always wonder how to help them see that there is an easier way.  I've been thinking a lot about that lately.

This morning, we had a leadership meeting, and a light turned on for me.  I could stand up and call people out all day, and probably never make very much of a difference, other than probably making them more resolute to not change.  If we merely tell people what they are doing wrong, that doesn't help at all.  No one likes being told that they are doing something wrong.  It makes us feel like we are being looked down upon, that the other person has a "holier than thou" view of us.  No fun.

Instead of calling people out, we should first explain to them why we are trying to help them.  We need to let them know that we care for them, and that we are simply trying to help.  As they understand that, those we are trying to help will begin to see our comments not as tearing criticism, but as positive and constructive feedback.  It's certainly not an easy thing to do, but I truly believe that as we let them know how much we love them, it will help to smooth things over.

In the year 1839, the prophet Joseph Smith was being held captive in Liberty Jail, Missouri.  He and those with him had been held for several months in brutal conditions, and Joseph cried unto the Lord, asking for His hand to be shown unto them in some form.  The Lord told them that their afflictions would be for a small moment, and that through our trials we can learn to trust God.  As part of this revelation, Joseph Smith received instructions pertaining to leadership, and how one can righteously serve and guide.  Part of this revelation is as follows:

"No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned;
"By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile—
"Reproving betimes with sharpness, when moved upon by the Holy Ghost; and then showing forth afterwards an increase of love toward him whom thou hast reproved, lest he esteem thee to be his enemy;
"That he may know that thy faithfulness is stronger than the cords of death."

Basically it's saying that we cannot force anything on anyone, but we need to serve in love and let people know we truly care about them.  The part I wanted to point out was there towards the end, that at times, we may need to be sharp and honest with people, but we need to afterwards let them know even more that we care about them, and just want them to be successful and safe.

My dad is one of the greatest examples of this to me.  He would often have to call me out on something that I was doing wrong, and that would frustrate me.  As I would be sitting there, wanting to be mad at him for pointing out my flaws, he would tell me he loved me, or say something totally goofy, or just whatever, and I would know that he wasn't mad at me, and he didn't want me to be mad at him either.  I still don't know fully how it worked, but somehow that action would always make it so that I couldn't be mad at him anymore, unless I tried really hard.  And trying really hard to be mad at someone isn't exactly the most productive way to spend time.

I guess what I'm getting at is that today, this really hit home with me.  As we show forth Christ-like charity, and truly love those around us, they will come to understand our reasoning for guiding them and trying to help them.  We need to pray for charity, and as we strive to show forth that love, we will be blessed with the ability to do so.  I'm definitely not perfect at it, but I am striving to live worthy of that blessing, and will make a greater effort from this time forward.

Mormon, the prophet, closed that same address quoted above with these words, which I close with.

"Wherefore, my beloved brethren, pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ; that ye may become the sons of God; that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is; that we may have this hope; that we may be purified even as he is pure. Amen."