Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Charity—Who we are to Become

During His mortal ministry, Jesus Christ taught that the great commandment in the law is that “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself” (Matt 22:36-39).

When we speak of charity we often speak of actions and organizations. We donate to charities which help the poor, the needy, the sick, the homeless, the abused, etc. Service we perform on behalf of neighbors, friends, family members, and others is often considered charity.

However, prophet Mormon gave the true definition of charity when he taught that “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 7:47). Indeed, the scriptural definition of charity does not denote any sort of action at all although it may be a prompting motive (see Bible Dictionary, “Charity”). Paul wrote to the Corinthians:

And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.

Charity does not describe actions in the same way living the law of tithing doesn’t describe giving money to the Church or living the law of chastity doesn’t describe not committing adultery. Of course, living the law of tithing leads to the paying of tithes and living the law of chastity leads to not committing adultery but the actions are only a result of living the law, not the law itself. In the same way, what could be described as “charitable acts” such as bestowing all our goods to the poor are not charity at all, but the fruits of charity. Charity describes the intention and motive behind the action. Charity describes who we are inside.

In Moroni 7:45, Mormon lists attributes of charity (or charitable persons); Paul made a similar list found in 1 Corinthians 13. Wrote Mormon:

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.

One thing that we can learn from this list—and the subject of my focus—is the intent and inner desires of these attributes and actions.
  • Suffereth long. Mormon does not say “puts up with” or “waits out,” but suffereth. One only suffereth long if he truly loves and cares for the reason. We “put up with” or “wait out” something because of a promised reward and should the process of waiting or putting up with outweigh the reward, we quit. Not so when we are filled with charity—the process of suffering, dealing with, waiting, or enduring never outweighs the reward because we love like Christ does and have Christlike patience. The reward is becoming children of our Father (see Matt 5:44) and we suffer because we know that He did. (See Topical Guide, Forbearance; Suffering.)
  • Is kind. Mormon does not say “does nice things,” but is kind. He writes that charity is. Simply put, is is the present tense of the verb to be, signifying that one has become something and is that thing presently. Is kind; kindness is a part of us.
  • Envieth not. Envy can be hidden. Mormon does not say, “does not act envious” or “does not show that one is envious.” Charity does not even have envious thoughts. Charity is not envious even on the inside. Envieth not.
  • Is not puffed up. Mormon uses is again. Not, “doesn’t act proud or full of his self.” Pride, like envy, can be hidden—acting humble is not charity. Charity, inside, really is not puffed up. Charity is humble as Christ is humble.
  • Seeketh not her own. This attribute is near the heart of pure intentions. Do we serve for the approval and acknowledgement of others? Or because we hope to have the favor returned? Or do we serve because we love our neighbor as our self and we truly desire his well being? Christ taught that we should, “Take heed that ye do not your alms before men . . . That thy alms may be in secret:” (Matt 6:1, 4; see 1-4). Said Elder Christofferson, “service and sacrifice for the well-being and happiness of others in love are far superior to making one’s own comfort and possessions the highest priority” (“Moral Discipline,” Ensign, Nov 2009, 105–8).
  • Is not easily provoked. Charity is patient and endureth well. Charity turns the other cheek, gives both the coat and the cloke (see Matt 5:39-40). Charity responds to provocation as Christ did, with patience, understanding, and submission to His Father’s will. Charity knows that anger, malice, contention, or retaliation is not the answer to any situation. Charity does not even think or feel anger, malice, contention, or desire retaliation, which leads into the next attribute.
  • Thinketh no evil. When one suffers or experiences situations in which one could become envious, prideful, or provoked, charity does not hold everything in and merely think evil or desire to retaliate. When one has charity, one does not even think evil things; charity strives to gain an understanding of the situation and prays for the ability to forgive the offending party.
  • Rejoiceth not in iniquity but rejoiceth in truth. Rejoices, not “shows outward excitement.” Rejoicing comes from the heart, which is why charity cannot rejoice in iniquity and rejoices in truth.
  • Beareth all things. The scriptures often use “beareth all things” in reference to ability to understand the doctrine taught by Christ. However, I believe this reference to be similar to suffereth all things and endureth all things. We bear and do not give in to the suffering, situations in which our kindness is tested, and all other situations in which we are tempted with pride, envy, and provocation.
  • Believeth all things. Faith and Hope are inseparably connected.
  • Hopeth all things.
    • 1 Cor 13:13 And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.
    • Alma 7:24 And see that ye have faith, hope, and charity, and then ye will always abound in good works.
    • Ether 12:28 I will show unto them that faith, hope and charity bringeth unto me—the fountain of all righteousness.
    • D&C 18:19 And if you have not faith, hope, and charity, you can do nothing.
  • Endureth all things. All the previous attributes culminate into this last one. Suffering; kindness; and lack of internal envy, pride, self-gratification, anger, evil thoughts, and iniquity; enduring all things that come in this life and bearing them with the faith and hope that the Lord will both help and exalt.
Surely the Savior was referring to the development of charity when He commanded us to be perfect, even as He or our Father who is in heaven is perfect (see Matt 5:48; 3 Nephi 12:48), for on the great commandments of Love hang all the law and the prophets. Charity is the pure love of Christ. The pure love of Christ needs to be embodied in us. As we strive to develop this love inside our souls, our desires and intentions will be reflected in outward actions of kindness, service, humility, and rejoicing.

The Atonement of Jesus Christ makes all things possible. If we strive to develop the pure love of Christ, He will make up for our faults and shortcomings. He will show us an increased outpouring of love and show us how to become perfect. And whoso is found possessed of the pure love of Christ at the last day, it shall be well with him. Charity is who we are to become.


Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Great Commandment

A man once asked the Master, "which is the great commandment on the law?" To which Jesus replied, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and 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 neighbor as thyself" (Matt 22:36-39).

Since that profound yet simple statement, many apostles and prophets have expounded on this first and great commandment. In October 2007, Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin, apostle of the Lord, gave a talk entitled, "The Great Commandment." Said Elder Wirthlin:

"Love is the beginning, the middle, and the end of the pathway of discipleship. It comforts, counsels, cures, and consoles. It leads us through valleys of darkness and through the veil of death. In the end love leads us to the glory and grandeur of eternal life."

Indeed, on the great commandment of love hang all the law and teachings of the prophets. Everything we do in this life should be fueled and motivated by charity, by the pure love of Christ (see 1 Corinthians 13:1-3Moroni 7:47).

Later this week I will post about charity becoming who we are, not just what we do. Today, read this article. Elder Wirthlin offers many wonderful teachings about developing this Christlike love for our Heavenly Father and those around us.


Sunday, April 18, 2010

Stewardship—a Sacred Trust

"We live in perilous times when many believe we are not accountable to God and that we do not have a personal responsibility or stewardship for ourselves or others. Many in the world are focused on self-gratification, put themselves first, and love pleasure more than they love righteousness. They do not believe they are their brother's keeper."

This quote comes from a talk given by the apostle Elder Quentin L. Cook during the October 2009 General Conference. In his talk entitled, "Stewardship—a Sacred Trust," Elder Cook addressed the nature of our stewardship here on the earth as children of our Heavenly Father. He spoke a great deal about service to our fellow men both individually and in great humanitarian efforts: "In all of our stewardship efforts, we follow Jesus Christ. We try to emulate what He has asked us to do, both by His teachings and His example."

However, I wish to focus on another side of his talk, the side of agency and accountability. As stated above, many in the world today do not believe that they are accountable for any of their actions. The oft-heard phrase, "it's my life, who am I hurting," is used to justify actions not upheld by the Savior's teachings. In defense of tolerance and acceptance, personal morality—virtue and chastity—as defined by God and Jesus Christ is no longer respected.

A war in heaven was fought so that we would have the chance not only to come to earth and gain the blessings of having a physical body but also to be able to learn, progress, and grow towards gaining eternal life through the righteous use of our agency. Said Elder Cook, "we have our moral agency and the freedom to choose our course in this life. But we also are accountable for that agency."

The Atonement of Jesus Christ makes eternal life even possible. We are mortal, we make mistakes. We are free to choose and we aren't forced to choose the lifestyle taught by the Lord, but we must live with the consequences of our actions. Elder Cook reiterated the teachings of all the prophets, "Through the Savior's Atonement, all can repent and return . . . to a clean and pure state."

We are free to choose in this life. We are also accountable for the choices and decisions we make. Although our actions may not seem to have any lasting effect right now, we will be held accountable for our everything we do, including those actions that are contrary to God's will. The world may increasingly accept alternative, immoral, and destructive lifestyles and actions under the facade of tolerance and acceptance, but our Heavenly Father does not and will not tolerate any action contrary to His teachings. "I the Lord cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance." Yet, in His infinite mercy, the Lord also said, "Nevertheless, he that repents and does the commandments of the Lord shall be forgiven" (D&C 1:31-32).

"This feeling of accountability, which is encompassed by the first great commandment to love God, has been described by some as 'obedience to the unenforceable.' We try to do what is right because we love and want to please our Father in Heaven, not because someone is forcing us to obey."

We have a great power and responsibility concerning our agency. Agency is one of the greatest gifts God has given us. And if we use our agency properly, we shall be "crowned with glory, even with the presence of God the Father" (D&C 88:19). The sacrifice of the short-term gratification is worth the wait of eternal happiness together with our families and Father in Heaven.


Thursday, April 15, 2010

A Testimony of the Book of Mormon

Watch and listen to this clip and tell me you do not feel the Spirit.

Pay attention to how you feel, for I promise you that if you sincerely listen to the words of this apostle and prophet, God will tell you through the Holy Ghost that these words are indeed His own and that they are true.

This talk was an article of the week back in October of last year. I urge each of you to read or reread this talk. The words of Elder Holland are true and I challenge you again, read this talk and tell me that you do not feel the Spirit, that you do not feel inside of you that Elder Holland speaks the truth and the word of God. If you listen with sincere intent, you will feel something.

Do something about it.


Wednesday, April 14, 2010

He Is Risen!

Last Easter I had the opportunity to attend a Lutheran Easter service in the small town of Nordlingen, Germany. The experience was unique and caused me to contemplate a lot about priesthood authority.

This year I was once again in Germany but this time I had the opportunity of attending an English broadcast of General Conference in downtown Frankfurt with a good friend. I loved the experience; it reminded me of watching conference on my mission and I love that the Church feels the same no matter where in the world you are.

One of my favorite sessions of General Conference is the Sunday Morning session because the prophet traditionally speaks during this session. This most recent conference proved to be no different and President Thomas S. Monson gave a powerful Easter sermon on death and the Atonement entitled, "He Is Risen!" Here are the links to Windows Media Player and Quicktime player.

President Monson spoke about how death is our universal heritage and his statement of purpose was this:

"This glorious Easter morning I’d like to consider Job’s question—“If a man die, shall he live again?”—and provide the answer which comes not only from thoughtful consideration but also from the revealed word of God."

I love how he talked about the purpose and meaning of life and how he explained that 'in our hour of deepest sorrow, we can receive profound peace from the words of the angel that first Easter morning: “He is not here: for he is risen.” (Matt 28:6)' I learned a great deal from this talk and the testimony of President Monson can apply to all whether or not you are dealing with the death of a loved one.

Read this talk. Easter is more than a holiday for rabbits and chocolate. Easter is even more than a time to merely remember or think about the life of our Savior. Easter is a time to really focus on the Atonement of Jesus Christ and realize more fully how His life, Atonement, death, and resurrection can bless our lives and the lives of our families for eternity.