Last fall, as we traveled in Europe, we had an opportunity to attend church in the far flung reaches of the kingdom. The spirit was sweet in a small branch in Southern Hungary. A fresh faced young missionary from South Jordon, Utah sat with us and translated sacrament meeting. According to this elder Hungarian is one of the most difficult languages, but he created a spirit and a message for us after only a little over a year in the country. Most of the women were in slacks, perhaps the only wardrobe piece available. No one seemed to mind.
Later in Malaga Spain we attended an English speaking branch. Southern Spain has had an influx of Immigrants from England who have come to Malaga to get warm and experience sunshine. Malaga delivers both. During Sunday school a middle aged male investigator asked the question, “Does this church emphasize love? For me to be interested Love must be the driving force.” Do we, I wondered? Is it our main focus? Are we motivated in our service and devotion by love or do we press forward trying to be obedient without worrying about being loving. “To obey is better than sacrifice,” (1 Samual 15:22) but is it better than to love. Or is it that to love is the best obedience as we try to be like Christ?
Christ taught, “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” (John 13:35)
Does that mean we love everyone? Love is not always easy. How do I judge my day to day loving? Is avoiding people I don’t feel loving toward OK. Temple service, church assignments, visiting teaching, prayer—I try to do them out of love, but sometimes I know it is about obedience. Will God judge me ill on these days of mere obedience? I cannot answer all of these questions but I have given them a lot of thought. I desire to be a valiant disciple of Christ and have sought some answers in the scriptures.
43¶Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbor and hate thine enemy.
44 But I say unto you, love your enemies bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;
45 That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.
I have joy in the teachings of John Lund concerning verse 48 ”…be ye therefore perfect.” It is taken out of context most of the time. It belongs to the message of the paragraph of which it is the ending. Verse 43 has a paragraph sign so we know this is where Christ meant the thought to begin as he teaches us about love. Then he ends it with “…be ye therefore perfect.” Surely he meant perfect in loving—perfect in the concepts he just taught. Oh how difficult it is to be perfect in loving our enemies. But if we believe the promise that he will help us it may be possible.
1 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.
2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.
3 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.
4 Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,
8 Charity never failith: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.
11 When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.
12 For now we see through a glass darkly but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.
This list, of the characteristics of love, means a lot to me. Each concept is clear and by them I can judge my loving behavior. Many of them are difficult and not natural to most of us. It is not easy to suffer and be kind and not envy and not be puffed up. Sometimes it is hard to believe all things and bear all things. Oh, and it is so difficult to not be easily provoked. But verse 2 says, “and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. What about all the fast offerings and tithing I paid and meetings I attended, don’t they mean anything? It is clear isn’t it? We must learn to do all those difficult things on the list. But how? The Book of Mormon has such a beautiful answer to the how in Moroni 7:48. I cherish this scripture above all others because it gives me hope to the possibilities that I can be better at loving and maybe in time approach perfection in one area. This is a beautiful principle with a promise.
Moroni 7:48 Wherefore, my beloved brethren, pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ; that ye may become the sons of God; that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is; that we may have this hope; that we may be purified even as he is pure. Amen.
“…be ye therefore perfect.” “…we shall be like him.”
For me these words helped me to see that I need to pray every day to be “filled with …love.” I have tried hard to say every day in my prayers “help me to be filled with love.” This prayer has changed me. I find it easier to not envy and not to be easily provoked. But when I fail I know I can begin again. I am far from where I need or want to be in the charity list but I see improvement. With Christ it is not so much as where we are but what direction we are going. I believe that as I continue to pray for love with “energy of heart” that He will be with me. This prayer will be answered.
Is seeing “through the glass darkly,” not understanding the precepts of the gospel of love? I wonder.