Episode 4. February 21, 2016. This znukcast episode is about Charity. You can click on the audio below.
Of the topic of charity, Elder Ballard said in the April 2011 GC: “Brothers and sisters, may I reemphasize that the most important attribute of Heavenly Father and of His Beloved Son that we should desire and seek to possess within our lives is the gift of charity, “the pure love of Christ”.
I have come to know for myself over the last couple of years that it is far easier to talk about charity, than it is to develop the attribute. As we draw ever closer to the time of the Savior’s return, the urgency for the building of Zion increases. The prophet Joseph said: “Zion and Jerusalem must both be built up before the coming of Christ. “ Later he said, “We all look for the appearing of the great God, and our Savior Jesus Christ; but we shall look in vain, until Zion is built; for Zion is to be the dwelling place of our God when he comes.” It seems to me that the time for us to be prepared for the building of Zion is here. To build Zion we must possess charity. In the Oct 2008 GC, Elder Christopherson stated “In our families and in our stakes and districts, let us seek to build up Zion through unity, godliness, and charity, preparing for that great day when Zion, the New Jerusalem, will arise.”
When someone asks: What is Charity? Most are quick to respond with the definition found in Moroni 7:47 “…Charity is the pure love of Christ….”. There is an interesting link to the scripture defining Zion found in D&C 97:21 “For verily thus saith the Lord, let Zion rejoice, for this is Zion THE PURE IN HEART…”
I propose that we can only be pure in heart when we are filled with this pure love. Charity is not only the pure love of Christ, it is also the purifying love of Christ. It is this charity that will enable us to be purified, even as he is pure. (Moroni 7:48) Perhaps this is why there is no attribute more requisite for the building of Zion than that of Charity.
The word ‘Pure’ means “no traces of anything that is different, inferior or contaminating”. So what are the impurities that keep us from possessing this pure love? 1 Corinthians 13 and Moroni 7 help us to identify them:
- Envy (envieth not)
- Pride (not puffed up)
- Me Me Me self-interest (seeketh not her own)
- Impropriety in our behavior (does not behave unseemly)
- Bragging (vaunteth not itself)
- Breaking of commandments or covenants (rejoiceth not in iniquity)
- Anger (not easily provoked)
- Thinking bad thoughts (thinketh no evil)
I guess the next most natural question is how do we refine our lives to rid us of these impurities? Because I work for an oil company, I am familiar with the oil refining process. It takes extreme heat, pressure, chemical reactions and time to turn a barrel of crude oil into useable products. Should we expect anything comparably less in the process of refining our own lives?
I love this quote from Elder Neal A. Maxwell “How can you and I really expect to glide naively through life, as if to say, “Lord, give me experience, but not grief, not sorrow, not pain, not opposition, not betrayal, and certainly not to be forsaken. Keep from me, Lord, all those experiences which made Thee what Thou art! Then let me come and dwell with Thee and fully share Thy joy!”
He later said that the enlarging of the soul requires not only some remodeling, but some excavating as well – referring to the rooting out of these impurities.
Elder Loren C. Dunn said it quite succinctly when he stated: “I believe that only through trials and hardships can a person develop true charity. And I mean by charity the pure love of Christ.”
So I decided I wanted to develop greater charity so I began fervently praying to be filled with this love. As I did so, opportunities to practice came my way. I will share two of these experiences.
My first experience occurred about 18 months ago, my wife began having some discomfort in her left shoulder and arm. She visited a Chiropractor a couple of times and then to a massage therapist, but none of this seemed to help. On the morning of August 4, 2014 she woke up in severe pain. Because I work from home I was there watching this unfold as this pain became so acute that I knew we had to do something. I had a full day of work planned and balancing that with helping my wife was causing me some internal turmoil and stress. I then remembered my prayer and my desire to be filled with the pure love of Christ. After a silent prayer I cancelled some meetings, set work aside and focused on helping my wife. Immediately the Lord’s hand became evident as we were lead to a doctor that not only immediately knew what the problem was but within 10 days had performed the surgery to solve the problem. The month of August was anything but normal for me as my life was turned upside down and became filled with opportunities to develop the attribute of Charity within my own home. How grateful I am for that experience….. my wife maybe less so. (smile)
The second experience was also in 2014. In October of that year I attended a work meeting in the Hague with our new Vice President. It was the first time many of us had met him face to face. I think it would be fair to say that we all wanted to make good impressions. After our first day of meetings, I was again thinking about charity as I prepared to go to bed. As I knelt down that night and prayed how I could be more charitable in this business meeting setting, I began to think about how I viewed my peers. Some tough questions started coming to my mind and it caused me to get off my knees and grab my notebook and pen and write them down.
- Do I see them as friends?
- Do I see them as being better than me?
- Do I see them as being less than me?
- Do I see them as competitors?
As I continued to ponder on these questions, I did a self-evaluation on my feelings towards each of my coworkers. If I am honest, feelings for these people covered all four of these categories. I began to think about the impurities in my own character. I then began to consider how I might better practice charity the next day. As I did so, 5 additional questions came to my mind that I needed to ask myself before speaking. I have since found these 5 questions to be valuable in all my conversations.
- Does what I want to say even need to be said?
- Is what I am about to say just about me and making myself look better?
- Is what I am about to say edifying? Will it making others feel good about themselves?
- Is what I am about to say a response because I am feeling defensive?
- Is what I am about to say fact based truth or just a broad generalization that couldn’t be proven one way or the other?
That night as I continued with my prayers I could see more clearly the defects in my own character. This then drove me to the feet of the Savior to plead for the strengthening and enabling power of the atonement to make me whole. Make me more like Him. Fill my soul with the pure love of Christ. That experience with prayer ended up being the best part by far of my entire trip.
To really understand Charity, we need to learn from the Savior’s life. In one of the most beautiful chapters in all of scripture 3 Ne 17 we read the love that the Savior had for the Nephites – “I have compassion upon you; my bowels are filled with mercy”. Figuratively, the root of the word bowels has etymologically evolved to signify mercy. Thus we could perhaps read this as “I have compassion upon you; my mercy is filled with mercy!”
With this love deep within him, what did he do?
- He blessed and healed those who were afflicted in any (v.9)
- He prayed for them so powerfully that those who were there bore record that eye hath never seen, neither hath ear heard, before, so great and marvelous things as we saw and heard Jesus speak unto the Father. (vs. 16) insomuch that “no one could conceive of the joy which filled their souls” (vs. 17)
- He blessed their children and prayed to the Father for them insomuch that angels descended out of heaven and ministered unto them and encircled them with fire. (vs. 24)
- He administered the sacrament to them. (Chapter 18:3-4)
- He taught them about prayer (vs 15-23), about meeting together (vs. 22), about sharing the gospel (vs. 24), about rescuing others (vs. 25, 32) and the importance of standards (vs. 29-32).
So how can we be filled with this same powerful love for others that the Savior modeled so well? Mormon explains this in Moroni 7:44 “..none is acceptable before God, save the meek and lowly in heart; and if a man be meek and lowly in heart, and confesses by the power of the Holy Ghost that Jesus is the Christ, he must needs have charity” I read this to mean that if we are meek and lowly in heart and testify of Jesus by the Power of the Holy Ghost, WE WILL have charity, it will simply be the natural result.
Elder Maxwell explained this about being meek and lowly: “Moroni declared that being meek and lowly is vital because one simply cannot develop those other crucial virtues—faith, hope, and charity—without meekness. In the ecology of the eternal attributes these cardinal characteristics are inextricably bound up together. Among them, meekness is often the initiator, the facilitator, and the consolidator. It is meekness, therefore, that helps us to step gratefully forward to place on the altar the talents and time and self with which we are blessed—to be at God and His children’s disposal. The offering is of a gentled self, a self concerned with charity—not parity. (Meekly Drenched in Destiny a speech given at BYU on Sep 5, 1982)
How do we become meek and lowly in heart? The answer is found in Moroni 8 vs. 26:
And the remission of sins bringeth meekness, and lowliness of heart; and because of meekness and lowliness of heart cometh the visitation of the Holy Ghost, which Comforter filleth with hope and perfect love, which love endureth by diligence unto prayer, until the end shall come, when all the saints shall dwell with God.
Pretty simple really. Repentance (this is refinement repentance) brings the Holy Ghost, which fills us with perfect love. Then we continue to diligently pray. This is not the two-minute variety. This is diligent prayer. Prayer that when you get off your knees you know you have communed with God and have been strengthened by the Holy Ghost. This is prayer that requires all the energy of heart. Important to note that Mormon indicates that this process works for those who are the true followers of Jesus Christ.
One additional thought here. Elder Gene R. Cook gives us this promise: “If you think about Him long enough, you will begin to act like Him. If you act like Him long enough, you’ll truly become like Him.”
As I finish today, I want to refer to the motto of the Relief Society. Charity never Faileth. I have pondered and prayed over the meaning of this statement and would like to suggest three ways that charity never fails.
- It never fails to make others feel important, valued and loved.
- It never fails to bring great joy to those who possess it
- And lastly, it will never fail to exalt us
Without Charity we are nothing. Without Charity we cannot be saved in the Kingdom of God.
I hope that each of us can be found possessed of this great gift so that our homes and our communities will be better. This then will make us better prepared to build Zion as a place of refuge in preparation of the Lord’s return. I hope we will each have the courage to invite this refining process into our lives so that when he shall appear we shall be like him, that we may be purified, even as he is pure.