Having Charity for God

Last Sunday, I was blessed to speak in church with my sister and brother (the speakers called out sick with only 24 hours of notice) and our bishop (my sister’s husband) called in favors with the three people in the ward that he knew would be eager and able to speak at such short notice.  When our bishop introduced the change, he said that his other option was to call up random ward members.  I got a big “thank you!” mouthed from a friend in the congregation. 🙂  Amazingly enough, for those of you that know my family, we ended the meeting two minutes early.  But, the most wonderful part about it all, was that it was my Dad’s birthday (he would have been 69) and I wonder if he was able to be there.

I wanted to share my talk here (again, slightly altered due to the change of formats).  We were assigned faith, hope, and charity and I got to speak on charity.  Some of it ties together with the talk that I gave at my dad’s  funeral (which was on the previous post) and so I thought I’d continue the conversation here.

Charity quote

My dad had a rule at my house that we were supposed to park into our driveway backwards.  From the time that I began to drive at age 16, that family law really bugged me.  I would constantly disregard the regulation, and sometimes even needle him about it.  For example, as a young adult, I was traveling in Washington DC and found some parking stalls with a posted sign that read, “Do not back in.”  I took a a silly-faced picture with it and, of course, gave it to him.  Over the course of the next few years, I rarely ever backed into the driveway at all.

One day, in sheer exhaustion, Dad said to me, “Laryssa, don’t you respect me at all?”

It touched me.  I began to think of what a little thing it was for me to do, and what it would mean to my dad if I began to follow it.  Since then, to show my love for him, I have been regularly backing into the driveway (except for that odd occasion when I know I’m going to run in and go out again soon). 🙂 

With that story in mind, I decided to talk about a different aspect of charity, that is, having charity for Heavenly Father.  There is a story in the scriptures that always touches my heart with compassion.  It’s when the prophet Enoch is talking with God who has shown Enoch all of His creations, and then begins to weep.  Enoch can’t understand it.  He essentially says, “You are God, why would you cry? You have made all of these amazing creations, creations without number, why then, are you weeping since you are, and have, and do so much?”

“The Lord said unto Enoch: Behold these thy brethren; they are the workmanship of mine own hands, and I gave unto them their knowledge, in the day I created them; and in the Garden of Eden, gave I unto man his agency;

And unto thy brethren have I said, and also given commandment, that they should love one another, and that they should choose me, their Father; but behold, they are without affection, and they hate their own blood;” (Moses 7:32-33 emphasis added).

That idea just brings me to tears.

I am the primary chorister in our ward, and as I was trying to settle the kids down to sing the song, I am a Child of God, I told them that as a mommy, I go in every night to check on my babies.  I don’t want to wake them up, but I just love watching them sleep and thinking about how much I love them.  Then I asked the kids if they thought that maybe sometimes our Heavenly Father checked in on us from time to time, not wanting to disturb, but loving us.  Then I asked them to sing the song reverently.  A little Sunbeam (three-year-old) looked up and whispered, “Can we invite Him to come to our house tomorrow?”  That’s the faith and love of a child toward God.

But things happen as we grow into adults, which turn our hearts away and make us capable (and sometimes able) to sell God for silver and gold (see 3 Nephi 27:32).  A while ago, in a Relief Society lesson, the teacher said, “raise your hand if your life has turned out the way that you had planned.”  Not one hand went up.

So here we are, as adults, trying to deal with the plateful of mess – that combination of the consequences of our and other’s use of agency combined with the occasional “act of God” – that is our life.  In that state of disillusionment and unfulfilled dreams, we are asked to love our neighbor as ourselves and to have charity for all, as the Savior would.  When all we want to do is sit in a corner and lick our wounds, this challenge can seem daunting.

There is a way to do this (amazingly!) and it comes from something that Joseph Smith said, The nearer we get to our Heavenly Father, the more we are disposed to look with compassion on perishing souls; we feel that we want to take them upon our shoulders, and cast their sins behind our backs” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith [2007], 428–29, emphasis added).

When we go through these experiences, we learn a measure of compassion that we could have gained in no other way.  As we draw near to our Father in Heaven, humbly submitting to His will even as a child doth submit to his father (see Swallowed up in the Will of the Father) we can learn those things that give us charity, and at the same time, draw from the source of all Light and Truth. But submission requires obedience, and as Elder Shayne M Bowen stated, (when talking to his children) “I don’t want to answer ‘why,’ I just want you to do it because you love me.”

So, perhaps we should pick our “parking in backwards” item, the thing that we hold back from our Father in Heaven, and begin to submit in that area, simply because we love and respect Him.  Then, as we have charity for Him, we will be endowed with the ability to love our brothers and sisters.

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Virtue + Charity = Power – Trying to Be like Jesus in Deed and in Thought

I just got a new calling as a team teacher for the missionary prep class in our stake.  I taught my first lesson yesterday, and then saw this message today.   It’s so inspiring.  I am impressed today about the importance that virtue plays in doing the Lord’s work.

When the Savior was touched by the woman who was plagued with an “issue of blood”, the Lord knew that someone had touched Him because, as the scripture states,  he immediately [knew] in himself that virtue had gone out of him, Mark 5:25-34.  Virtue, or the power that flows freely from virtue was part of the Savior, because He was the perfect being, the Lamb without blemish, one without sin (see also Doctrine and Covenants 121:45-46 – note that virtue and love are so vital to this scripture, and I am speaking about Christlike love, not lust, here.).

If we want to be effective leaders, teachers, mentors, spouses, parents, friends, etc. then it behooves us to follow the Master’s example on this point.  To quote from the talk that the video was taken from (Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, We are all Enlisted, Gen. Conf. October 2011) –

Well, the Lord has drawn lines of worthiness for those called to labor with Him in this work. No missionary can be unrepentant of sexual transgression or profane language or pornographic indulgence and then expect to challenge others to repent of those very things! You can’t do that. The Spirit will not be with you, and the words will choke in your throat as you speak them. You cannot travel down what Lehi called “forbidden paths”5 and expect to guide others to the “strait and narrow”6 one—it can’t be done.

I also have a calling as the Primary Chorister.  This month, our song is I’m trying to be like Jesus.  I scoured the internet for ideas and found some great ones on Sugardoodle.  I quoted the scripture, Alma 5:14 –  Have ye received his image in your countenance.  We discussed what that meant, and I  took a mirror and a picture of the Savior and asked the children how their image was like the Savior’s (head, hair, eyes, etc.) and then we talked about the fact that as we spend time with people, we begin to behave and act, and sometimes look, like the people that we spend time with (I joked here about pegging my pants in High School – if you are reading this and went to school in the 90’s you’ll know what I’m talking about :). )

We began to discuss the scripture, 2 Nephi 9:9, which states that if we had not had a Savior, that we would have become like Satan, And our spirits must have become like unto him, and we become devils, angels to a devil, to be shut out from the presence of our God, and to remain with the father of lies, in misery, like unto himself; and then we talked about the song , line by line –

I’m trying to be like Jesus,
I’m following in His ways.
I’m trying to love as He did
In all that I do and say.
At times I am tempted
To make a wrong choice,
But I try to listen
As the still small voice whispers:

CHORUS  – Love one another as Jesus loves you.
Try to show kindness in all that you do.
Be gentle and loving in deed and in thought,
For these are the things Jesus taught.

I’m trying to love my neighbor.
I’m learning to serve my friends.
I watch for that day of gladness
When Jesus will come again.

I try to remember the lessons he taught,
And the holy spirit enters into my thoughts, saying:

CHORUS

Note that the whole song is about kindness, and gentleness, and being loving, and listening to the Holy Spirit.  I talked to the kids about a friend of mine, who, one day when his child had made a mistake, got angry and yelled, “WHAT WOULD JESUS DO?”  Well, for one thing, He probably wouldn’t have yelled.  He probably would have  taken the child aside to sit down and discuss the problem, and then, would have shown forth love and expressed faith that the child would make a better choice in the future.

Finally, we talked about Moroni 7:47-48, which talks about charity, the pure love of Christ, and that, if we ask, and are filled with this love, when he shall appear we shall be like him – what an amazing thought!  That by spending time with the Savior (through scripture study, worship, and following the Spirit), and by acting as He would act – acts of love and virtue,  we will become like Him.   If we become like Him, then we will have power to do His works (see John 15: 1-7 and John 14:12).  I can’t imagine that we would sit back and expect the Savior to “tow the line” and live virtuously, and then, conversely not expect  Him to have requirements for us to follow.  We use and appreciate the Grace that He provided through His infinite atonement, and then to not try to be virtuous and loving  in our daily walk – it just doesn’t make sense.

We just finished watching the London 2012 Olympics – how inspiring to watch those men and women who had worked for four years to become something great.  How wonderful is our Coach, who accepts us, yes, but then invites us to become something better.  Who sees our divine potential to become great, to do great things in this world, to be more than the man or woman sitting on the couch, eating doughnuts, and watching T.V.  He wants so much more for each of us, and the way that we start on the path is to begin to “try to be like Jesus.”