Love—the Essence of the Gospel

Love—the Essence of the Gospel

My beloved brothers and
sisters, when our Savior ministered among men, He was
asked by the inquiring lawyer, “Master, which is the great
commandment in the law?” Matthew records that
Jesus responded: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy
God with all thy heart, … with all thy soul,
and with all thy mind. This is the first and
great commandment. And the second is like unto it,
Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” Mark concludes the account
with the Savior’s statement, “There is none other
commandment greater than these.” We cannot truly love God if
we do not follow our fellow travelers on this
mortal journey. Likewise, we cannot fully love
our fellowmen if we do not love God, the Father of us all. The Apostle John tells us, “This
commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God
love his brother also.” We are all spirit children
of our Heavenly Father and, as such, are
brothers and sisters. As we keep this truth in mind,
loving all of God’s children will become easier. Actually, love is the very
essence of the gospel, and Jesus Christ
is our Exemplar. His life was a legacy of love. The sick He healed;
the downtrodden He lifted; the sinner He saved. At the end the angry
mob took His life. And yet there ring from
Golgotha’s hill the words: “Father, forgive them; for
they know not what they do”–a crowning expression in mortality
of compassion and love. There are many attributes which
are manifestations of love, such as kindness, patience,
selflessness, understanding, and forgiveness. In all of our associations,
these and other such attributes will help make evident
the love in our hearts. Usually our love will be shown
in our day-to-day interactions one with another. All-important will
be our ability to recognize someone’s
need and then to respond. I’ve always cherished
the sentiment expressed in the short poem:
“I have wept in the night for the shortness of sight
that to somebody’s need made me blind; but I never have
yet felt a tinge of regret for being a little too kind.” I recently was made aware
of a touching example of loving kindness, one
that had unforeseen results. The year was 1933, when because
of the Great Depression, employment opportunities
were scarce. The location was the eastern
part of the United States. Arlene Biesecker had just
graduated from high school. After a lengthy
search for employment, she was finally
able to obtain work at a clothing mill
as a seamstress. The mill workers were
paid only for each of the correctly
completed pieces they sewed together daily. The more pieces they produced,
they more they were paid. One day shortly after
starting at the mill, Arlene was faced
with a procedure that had her confused and frustrated. She sat at her
sewing machine there, trying to unpick her
unsuccessful attempt to complete the piece on
which she was working. There seemed to be
no one to help her, for all of the
other seamstresses were hurrying to complete as
many pieces as they could. Arlene felt helpless
and hopeless. Quietly she began to cry. Across from Arlene
sat Bernice Rock. She was older and more
experienced as a seamstress. Observing Arlene’s distress,
Bernice left her own work and went to Arlene’s
side, kindly giving her instruction and help. She stayed until Arlene
gained confidence and was able to successfully
complete the piece. Bernice then went back
to her own machine, having missed the opportunity
to complete as many pieces as she could have,
had she not helped. With one act of loving
kindness, Bernice and Arlene became lifelong friends. Each eventually married
and had children. Sometime in the 1950s, Bernice,
who was a member of the Church, gave Arlene and her family a
copy of the Book of Mormon. In 1960, Arlene and her
husband and children were baptized members
of the Church. Later they were sealed
in a holy temple of God. As a result of the
compassion shown by Bernice as she went out of her way to
help one whom she didn’t know, but who was in distress
and needed assistance, countless individuals,
both living and dead, now enjoy the saving
ordinances of the gospel. Every day of our lives we
are given opportunities to show love and kindness
to those around us. Said President
Spencer W. Kimball: “We must remember
that those mortals we meet in parking lots,
offices, elevators, and elsewhere are that
portion of mankind God has given us to
love and to serve. It will do us little good
to speak of the general brotherhood of mankind if we
cannot regard those who are all around us as our brothers
and sisters” (close quote). Often our opportunities to show
our love come unexpectedly. An example of such
an opportunity appeared in a newspaper
article in October of 1981. So impressed was I with the love
and compassion related therein that I have kept the clipping
in my files for over 30 years. The article indicates that an
Alaska Airlines nonstop flight from Anchorage,
Alaska, to Seattle, Washington–a flight carrying
150 passengers–was diverted to a remote Alaskan town in
order to transport a gravely injured child. The two-year-old boy had
severed an artery in his arm when he fell on a piece of glass
while playing near the home. The town was 450 miles
south of Anchorage and was certainly not
on the flight path. However, the medics at the scene
had sent out a frantic request for help, so the flight was
diverted to pick up the child and take him to
Seattle so that he could be treated in a hospital. When the flight touched
down near the remote town, medics informed the pilot that
the boy was bleeding so badly he could not survive
the flight to Seattle. A decision was made to
fly another 200 miles out of the way to Juneau,
Alaska, the nearest hospital in that city. After transporting
the boy to Juneau, the flight headed for Seattle,
now hours behind schedule. Not one passenger complained,
even though most of them would miss appointments
and connecting flights. In fact, as the minutes
and hours ticked by, they took up a collection,
raising a considerable sum for the boy and his family. As the flight was about
to land in Seattle, the passengers
broke into a cheer when the pilot announced
that he had received word by radio that the boy was
going to be all right. To my mind come the
words of the scripture: “Charity is the pure
love of Christ, … and whoso is found possessed
of it at the last day, it shall be well with him.” Brothers and sisters, some
of our greatest opportunities to demonstrate our love
will be within the walls of our own homes. Love should be the very
heart of family life, and yet sometimes it is not. There can be too much
impatience, too much arguing, too many fights, too many tears. Lamented President Gordon
B. Hinckley (and I quote): “Why is it that the [ones]
we love [most] become so frequently the targets
of our harsh words? Why is it that [we] sometimes
speak as if with daggers that cut to the quick?”
(Close quote.) The answers to
these questions may be different for each of
us, and yet the bottom line is that the reasons
do not matter. If we would keep the
commandment to love one another, we must treat each other
with kindness and respect. Of course there
will be times when discipline needs
to be meted out. Let us remember, however, the
counsel found in the Doctrine and Covenants–namely, when it
is necessary for us to reprove another, we afterward show
forth an increase of love. I would hope that we would
strive always to be considerate and to be sensitive
to the thoughts and feelings and circumstances
of those around us. Let us not demean or belittle. Rather, let us be
compassionate and encouraging. We must be careful that we do
not destroy another person’s confidence through
careless words and actions. Forgiveness should go
hand in hand with love. In our families as
well with our friends, there can be hurt feelings
and disagreements. Again, it doesn’t really
matter how small the issue was. It cannot and should not be
left to canker, to fester, and ultimately to destroy. Blame keeps wounds open. Only forgiveness heals. A lovely lady who
has since passed away visited with me one day
and unexpectedly recounted some regrets. She spoke of an incident
which had taken place many years earlier and involved
a neighboring farmer, once a good friend but with
whom she and her husband had disagreed on
multiple occasions. One day the farmer asked
if he could take a shortcut across her property to
reach his own acreage. At this point she paused
in her narrative to me and, with a tremor
in her voice, said, “Brother Monson, I didn’t let
him cross our property then or ever but required him
to take the long way around on foot to reach his property. I was wrong, and I regret it. He’s gone now, but oh, I
wish I could say to him, ‘I’m so sorry.’ How I wish I
had a second chance to be kind” (close quote). As I listened to her, there
came to my mind the doleful observation of John Greenleaf
Whittier (and I quote): “Of all sad words of tongue
or pen, the saddest are these: ‘It might have been!'” (Close
quote.) Brothers and sisters, as we treat others with
love and kind consideration, we will avoid such regrets. Love is expressed in
many recognizable ways: a smile, a wave, a kind
comment, a compliment. Other expressions
may be more subtle, such as showing interest
in another’s activities, teaching a principle with
kindness and patience, visiting one who is
ill or homebound. These words and actions and many
others can communicate love. Dale Carnegie, well-known
American author and lecturer, believed that each person
has within himself or herself the “power to increase
the sum total of [the] world’s happiness … by
giving a few words of sincere appreciation to someone who
is lonely or discouraged.” Said he, “Perhaps you
will forget tomorrow the kind words you say
today, but the recipient may cherish them over a
lifetime” (close quote). May we begin now, this
very day, to express love to all God’s children, whether
they be our family members, our friends, mere acquaintances,
or total strangers. As we rise each morning,
let us determine to respond with
love and kindness to whatever might come our way. Beyond comprehension,
my brothers and sisters, is the love of God for us. Because of this love,
He sent His Son, who loved us enough to give
His life for us, that we might have eternal life. As we come to understand
this incomparable gift, our hearts will be filled with
love for our Eternal Father, for our Savior, and
for all mankind. That such may be so
is my earnest prayer. Heavenly Father, I am glad that
You’re always here and there. In the sacred name of
Jesus Christ, amen.

3 Replies to “Love—the Essence of the Gospel”

  1. To love God with all my heart
    With all of my soul and my mind
    Is to be kind and impart
    His love to everyone I find

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