Good morning brothers and sisters,
I am so grateful for this opportunity to share my thoughts and feelings with you today. I love that in our church we have these opportunities to grow and develop spiritually, that we don't have just one paid preacher or pastor, but that all are given opportunities to serve and contribute that we all might be strengthened and share and learn.
D&C: Let one speak at a time and all listen unto his sayings, that when all have spoken that all may be edified of all, and that every man may have an equal privilege.” Just another testimony that the Lord is the head of this church, and is no respecter of persons, but loves all his children and wants us all to develop and grow. I just love that about the gospel, and I'm grateful for this opportunity to speak today.
I pray that the spirit of the Lord, who is the true teacher, will be here as I share these thoughts with you my brothers and sisters.
The talk I was assigned is from the most recent conference by Elder Hales, entitled, "Being a more Chrsitian Christian."
I'd like to begin with a question: "How can you tell if someone is truly converted to Jesus Christ?"
Marvin J. Ashton asked this same question at a fireside, and for forty-five minutes people gave thoughtful answers which he wrote on the board. He then erased them all, and proceeded to teach this important principle... that the best indicator that we are progressing spiritually and coming unto Christ is the WAY WE TREAT OTHER PEOPLE. Love that! Really simple, but profound.
The defining, crowning characteristic of a true Christian is CHARITY.
What is charity? In the scriptures we learn that Charity is the Pure love of Christ, it's the greatest gift of God, and it endureth forever! And I love the description Moroni gives: " And charity suffereth long, and is kind, and envieth not, and is not puffed up, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, and rejoiceth not in iniquity but rejoiceth in the truth, beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.”
“Perhaps the greatest charity comes when we are kind to each other, when we don’t judge or categorize someone else, when we simply give each other the benefit of the doubt or remain quiet. Charity is accepting someone’s differences, weaknesses, and shortcomings; having patience with someone who has let us down; or resisting the impulse to become offended when someone doesn’t handle something the way we might have hoped. Charity is refusing to take advantage of another’s weakness and being willing to forgive someone who has hurt us. Charity is expecting the best of each other”
― Marvin J. Ashton
― Marvin J. Ashton
Clearly, this principle matters A LOT to Heavenly Father. 2nd Nephi 26:30: “Wherefore, the Lord God hath given a commandment that all men should have charity, which charity is love. And except they should have charity they are nothing." And I LOVE this scripture in 1 Corinithians 13:2. “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.” And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profiteth me nothing.
REALLY? Could that really be true? So if I have faith to move mountains, give my body to be burned, I am NOTHING without Charity? That's EXACTLY what it says. Just shows how important this principle is to Heavenly Father. Without charity, we CANNOT be saved in the kingdom of God.
But the problem is- unfortunately, Charity does not come naturally to any of us!!! Or as Sheri Dew says, "Our charity sometimes faileth." Charity never faileth... but OUR charity does! This is a fallen world and we have a carnal nature. "For the natural man is an enemy to God." But even so, we are called upon to even love our enemies. It's easy to love someone who is loveable, is it not?! The REAL test is to love those who offend or annoy or test our patience in some way. That is when our true character is revealed.
Personal experience I'd like to share: I’d love to say that our home is perfectly peaceful all the time, but um, that’s not the truth. It’s something we struggle with sometimes- we’re working on it. We have a joke when we sing “there is beauty all around when there’s LOVE at HOME, we switch the words to “when there’s no one home” haha! Our kids are all strong willed. They'll be leaders for sure. If I had only known what contention did to a mother, I would have been a much better child.
We know that “contention cometh from the devil, who stirreth up the hearts of the children of men with anger one toward another.” All I want is Peace and Harmony in the home!! Every Christmas, that is what I ask for… peace and harmony. So this issue matters so much to me, that I decided to take it to the Lord. I learned once that when we go to the temple, we should go with a question or concern. The temple is truly a house of revelation. So my question was, HOW can we have peace in our home and in our family? In the temple, I said a prayer and felt prompted to open the scriptures, and turned to 4th Nephi, looked down at the page, and this is what I read: “And it came to pass in the thirty and sixth year, the people were all converted unto the Lord, upon all the face of the land, both Nephites and Lamanites, and there were no contentions and disputations among them, and every man did deal justly one with another.”
I said to myself- WHOA. This is my answer!! Read on!! I wanted to know how these people managed to have NO contentions and disputations? So I kept reading, and again, the answer was revealed: “And it came to pass that there was no contention in the land, because of the love of God which did dwell in the hearts of the people. 16 And there were no envyings, nor strifes, nor tumults, nor whoredoms, nor lyings, nor murders, nor any manner of lasciviousness; and surely there could not be a happier people among all the people who had been created by the hand of God.”
So that was my answer! That experience taught me- that first of all, the Lord hears and answers our prayers. And that we need to instill the LOVE of God in their hearts., through testimony, through teaching gospel principles so the spirit can speak to them and help change their natures. And mostly, through example- modeling this love.
SO again, we must have Charity and without it we are NOTHING. And the problem is- the natural man is an enemy to God. I'm really big on goal setting- Set a goal, make a commitment, follow through and make it happen! Not going to get angry in traffic, not going to be impatient with my children, not going to be selfish, covetous, or discouraged. Has anyone else tried to go it alone- on your own strength and willpower? How'd that work for you? Didn’t work well for me either!! It's demoralizing isn't it?! The truth is, when it comes to charity, our willpower simply is not enough!
So what can we do?? The Answer is found in the scriptures AGAIN. :) Mormon exhorts us to " 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." Looks like our goal setting, our simple willpower will not be enough to change our natures. We must rely upon the strength of the Lord for this GIFT. Again, GIFT! Not something we can aquire on our own!! Given to us by our request. Mormon also admonishes us to "cleave unto charity." In this context "cleave" means to bind one's self to, or be united with, unwaveringly. I testify that as we do so, our natures truly can be changed! He WILL make "weak things become strong unto us" as we put our trust in Him.
I've always loved Stephen R. Covey's analogy of the airplane. Did you know that an Airplane is off course 90% of the time? The pilots have a flight plan... they know exactly where they are going, but during the course of the flight, a variety of factors like... wind, rain, turbulance, air traffic, etc. cause them to slightly deviate from the plan. But they almost always reach their final destination. How can this be? During the flight the pilots receive constant feedback. Based on that feedback, they make adjustments and corrections so that time and time again, they keep returning to the flight plan. The hope lies in the vision- the plan and ability to get back on track. I love that analogy and think it applies here- that when we make mistakes... when our charity faileth, we too can continually repent, make corrections and our vision- as we look to the Savior, we WILL arrive at our final desitation. There is truly HOPE for us through the atonement of Jesus Christ.
Another characteristic of a true Christian is the willingness to "feed his sheep" and to bring others unto Him. And I think the best way we can do that is by developing this kind of LOVE. The Lord said, "As I have loved you, love one another. By this shall men know, ye are my disciples." As we seek to put off the natural man- others will be drawn to us. They will see the joy the gospel brings into our lives, and they will want to experience that joy themselves. Others will notice this change of heart, and those who are searching for Him will see his image engraven upon our countenances as we take upon ourselves His holy name and stand as a witness of Him.
I'd like to end by revisiting my original question... "Have we have truly been converted to Jesus Christ?" Have we experienced this mighty change of heart? Does the way we treat others reflect that? I invite us all to pray to the Father individually and as families for this spiritual gift, that we might more fully converted unto Christ. That we might discover the kind of joy and unity those true Christians felt in 4th Nephi. That we might glorify Him through the way we treat His children.
I’m so grateful for our Savior Jesus Christ- who gave us the ultimate example of Charity- when He gave his life for us. “Truly greater love hath no man than this, than he layeth down his life for his friends”. I testify of Him and of His love in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.