I was asked to speak in my home ward on charity. Specifically President Monson’s address during the Priesthood Session of this last General Conference. Here is the text of my talk, with the exception of quotations read from Preach My Gospel's section on Charity. (Which can be read here)
He didn’t speak for very long, so there wasn’t a lot of material from him to go off of. But somehow, the words he did speak seemed to have double the meaning packed into them, the way that prophets and apostles seem to be able to do really well. And fortunately, the topic of “charity” is a pretty vast concept. And an important one, too! Most of President Monson’s talk focuses on defining charity, and describing just how important it is.
To define Charity, he quotes Moroni 7:44-47:
- "Charity sufferereth long, and is kind, and envieth not, and is not puffed up, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked... / Wherefore, my beloved brethren, if ye have not charity, ye are nothing, for charity never faileth. Wherefore, cleave unto charity, which is the greatest of all, for all things must fail--but 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."
This definition includes the bold statement that “if ye have not charity, ye are nothing.”
President Monson, in his own words added: “brethren, we do not honor the priesthood of God if we are not kind to others.”
Those are pretty blunt. Between scripture and a living prophet, it’s clear that having Charity is important.
President Monson expands on the definition by quoting Elder Joseph B Wirthlin: "kindness is the essence of a celestial life. Kindness is how a Christlike person treats others. Kindness should permeate all of our words and actions at work, at school, at church, and especially in our homes. Jesus, our savior, was the epitome of kindness and compassion.”
Preach My Gospel has a chapter dedicated to Christlike attributes—what they are, how we can demonstrate and develop them, and how each one can bless lives.
P1 – This section also starts off by illustrating the importance of this principle.
P2 – “we are to seek to develop that kind of love”
2 commandments right there. 1) seek to develop it, and 2) develop not just charity for the people in our circles, or that we like, or that are easy to be charitable to. We’re to develop God’s “eternal love for all his children.”
P3 – “As you follow this counsel and strive to do righteous works…” promises, responsibilities, blessings… [a list of what changes]
We just read that Mormon said that we should “pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that [we] may be filled with this love.” So, to develop charity, we need to pray and do our best to develop it ourselves.
First and foremost, To understand and develop charity, we must (as usual) look to our perfect example of all things, Christ Himself.
Charity is "The pure love of Christ." ->>> We 'know' that Christ loves us. We’ve read how he loved the people of His time, and about the love He had for the Nephite children He visited in the Book of Mormon. And we know that he loves us so much that he suffered and died for us. But feeling His love for ourselves is so much different from knowing of it. When we have felt the love He so freely gives to us, it helps us realize how much He loves every single one of us, and how we should feel the same for everyone around us.
I testify that He does love you. And your Heavenly Father loves you. And if you haven’t experienced this for yourself, it truly is as simple as asking. Our Heavenly Father is a perfect father, who loves us so much. And when any of his children humbly, and meekly kneels to know whether or not their Eternal Father loves them... He's going to show them as best as He can just how much He loves them. As I prepare to serve and teach the people of the Arkansas Little Rock Mission, one of the experiences I look forward to having the most is being able to witness people feeling Heavenly Father's love directly from Him like I have as they pray to Him and ask if He loves them for maybe the first time in their lives.
This love is powerful, and humbling, and when I feel it directed at me, I want to be better and to share that love. It helps me realize why Heavenly Father organized the plan of happiness, and how exactly the Savior could fulfill His redeeming role by way of His atoning sacrifice.
Within our religion, the Book of Mormon is often called the “keystone” of our religion. It’s metaphorically the center brick of an arch, upon which everything else is leaning. If the Book of Mormon is true, then Joseph Smith was a prophet. If Joseph Smith was a prophet, we have a living prophet today, and so on. A lot is leaning on the Book of Mormon. To further this analogy, I think the love of our Heavenly Father is the mortar that holds all of these bricks together.
Because He loves us, He provided prophets in ancient and modern days to teach us the plan that He created so that we could return to live with Him. He loves all of His children, so He didn’t limit the spread of the gospel to one continent of people, but made it available to everyone—living and dead, Nephite or Israelite. Through our charity, love, and kindness, we can be Heavenly Father’s hands as He reaches out in love to bless all of His children. We can do this within our families, our communities, or while serving a mission!
That’s quite the calling, especially considering Charity is a perfect thing—the essence of a Christlike attribute. It’s far from the natural man—long-suffering, not selfish, and so on.
We are imperfect people, and frequently give in to the natural man. We do what's easy and comfortable. We have to strive to become Christlike because we are imperfect. There are a lot of improvements that I need to make, but I came up with a short list of some of these as they relate to charity, that we can all work on together.
1. 1. Not judging. When we see how Christ treated people, and look at people through a Christlike lens, we don't see what they're wearing, or their past mistakes, or their current struggles, or what they lack. We see their potential, and love the person that they are right now, regardless of anything else. (1 Samuel 16:7 – look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart.)
a. This goes back to understanding the love that our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ have for us. When we know how much they love us despite our faults and mistakes, we can recognize the value they see in others.
2. 2. Not doing nothing. Charity, like faith, invites us to act.
a. "Never suppress a generous thought"
i. Tell people you love them, that they look nice. Commend them on accomplishments. What good is keeping those nice thoughts to yourself?
b. Serve (PMG – You will develop charity as you look for opportunities to serve others and give of yourself)
i. Jesus spent so much of his ministry serving others. Serving others out of the love we feel for them is a powerful thing. (PMG – As you… strive to do righteous works….)
ii. We develop charity as we practice charity.
c. This goes along with service, but the final thing is to Be Kind. Stand up and do something kind. Go out of your way to just be nice. Be generous. Put others before yourself.
3. 3. Ultimately, the goal as we strive to be more charitable is to change our mindset.
a. To serve and love people regardless of xyz, not because we have to, or we’re taught to, and not even because it’s just the right thing to do. When we become more Christlike and charitable, we do so because we genuinely love the people around us, and want to serve them.
These all sound like fairly simple things, but quite honestly can be really challenging. These are things we may be striving to improve for the rest of our lives. And that’s okay, as long as we’re trying. Because while we may not attain a perfectly Christlike-amount of Charity in our lives, I would say that our love, and our charity (as imperfect as it might be) has a similar ability to change lives, and to point others to our Heavenly Father.
We don't have to be perfect in loving other people for them to feel loved. We don't have to be perfect teachers or leaders in order to help others feel the spirit, feel closer to God, or feel inspired to change. We’re pretty lucky that’s the case!
Anyway, I think that’s the main point I’ve been trying to get to. Even though we may not be an exhibit model for charity like Christ was, whatever efforts we do put forward will have immense power in improving others’ lives, and in reaching out to them on behalf of our loving Heavenly Father.
As a soon-to-be missionary, everything about this is comforting! I can become better, I can become more Christlike. And as I try my best to do so, my efforts will be magnified to have powerful results. PMG teaches us that as we develop charity, we obey God’s commandments and do all that we ca to serve others and to help them receive the restored gospel.
I’ll close with this call to action and promise from President Monson.
"Let us examine our lives and determine to follow the Savior's example by being kind, loving, and charitable." -> "as we do so, we will be in a better position to call down the powers of heaven for ourselves, for our families, and for our fellow travelers in this sometimes difficult journey back to our heavenly home."
Those are tremendous blessings promised to us by a prophet of God. I know that as we do our best to develop charity, these blessings and so much more will be ours, and that generations of our brothers and sisters stand to benefit from our charity. I look forward to realizing these and many other blessings on my mission. I know that charity is a powerful principle that is capable of blessing every life it touches. I know that this church is true. I know that President Monson is a prophet, and that Jesus Christ leads this church. I know that Joseph Smith was a prophet, and that the Book of Mormon is the word of God. I pray that I may be able to continue growing up in Christ, and that I can be an instrument in His hands.
Serving A Mission!
What's all this about? As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, it is expected of me that I will serve a two-year mission. (And yeah, the "riding bikes and wearing nametags and knocking on doors" kind of mission.) But this isn't something I'm doing because it's expected of me... I'm doing this because the Restored Gospel of Jesus Christ has blessed my life SO much, in SO many ways. I can't think of a greater honor or responsibility than being able to play a part in someone's story of finding and enjoying these blessings, too.
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(After June 20, 2017)
Elder Oliver Wrigley Dahl
Arkansas Little Rock Mission
905 Kierre Dr
North Little Rock AR 72116