I’ve noticed something in myself lately that I don’t like. I’ve noticed a lingering spirit of contention and cynicism. I wrote previously about this, and how it made me feel dark and dirty. I see no need to rehash the details – you can read them here if you wish. After writing that post and applying the principles espoused, I felt a sense of relief, but now I realize that the relief I felt didn’t necessarily mean that I was completely purged of the darkness; it only felt that way because the darkness had become so heavy. Now, a few weeks removed from that experience, I realize that there are still lingering effects. Fortunately, the Lord has been patient with me, and he hasn’t stopped teaching – mercifully and patiently. Fortunately, He helped me to recognize this pollution that I might repent. I haven’t conquered it yet, but with my sincere repentance and His help, I know I will soon be cleansed, and then I will be able to see more clearly the path that I am to follow.
So, if the Lord teaches, and I must learn…what have I learned? Well, I’ve learned that I need to love. I’m simply not made for contention – I’m made for loving. Some may be called to cry repentance to the world, but that’s not me. If I’m going to call someone to repentance, it will have to be by example, or by telling them so much and so often how good they are that they start to believe it. President Henry B. Eyring confirmed this spirit in his October, 2012 Conference talk “Help Them Aim High”:
“God knows our gifts. My challenge to you and to me is to pray to know the gifts we have been given, to know how to develop them, and to recognize the opportunities to serve others that God provides us. But most of all, I pray that you will be inspired to help others discover their special gifts from God to serve.”
I’ve learned then, that I will be most true to myself and to God by seeking how I can serve others according to their needs.
I’ve absorbed yet another lesson – one of many – about the poison of pride. I’ve learned that just by thinking that I know more about something than someone else, I am forgetting that it is only by the mercy of the Lord that I know anything at all. I am forgetting that it was only a few short years ago that I had no idea what the spirit felt like, or that there was any such thing as exaltation. I am forgetting that, without the atonement of Jesus Christ – without His infinite goodness and His infinite suffering – I would be doomed at best to an eternity of mediocrity, no matter how good I might think I’ve become, or even how obedient I might be.
I’ve learned that even with all the imperfection – evolving into evil in many cases – around us, only love will ultimately conquer. I can rave all I want about the government, the entertainment industry, and greedy corporate fat cats and bankers who conspire with Lucifer to induce us to surrender or sacred agency; I can shake my fist at those who want to take away my guns; I can even cry out in anguish at those who maliciously hurt innocents, but ultimately, the day will only be won by love. Fear only breeds fear, violence only begets violence. I quote from the first epistle of John, chapter 4, verse 8:
He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.
And from verses 17-18:
Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world.
There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.
I cannot feel love and harbor contention. Others might be able to, but I can’t. It’s just not who I am, and it’s not who the Lord wants me to be. Jesus Christ earned the right to govern our universe by sacrificing Himself, by loving us so much that “whosoever believeth in him shall not perish, but have everlasting life” (John, 3:16). I may not be able to achieve that level of love in this life, but in my mind, to fail to try is to disrespect the Lord and His sacrifice.
I’ve also learned:
- That I need to love people in the way they need to be loved – or it does neither of us any good. I need to teach people based on where they are in their learning, based on what they need to learn right now. The Lord loves and teaches in this way, why should I do less? This kind of teaching can only be done by the spirit. If we teach – if we love – by the spirit, we all will be edified.
- That the Lord seems to bless me according to the desires of my heart, not by the measure of perfection that I may or may not have achieved. Therefore, should I not seek to love and bless others by the same measure?
- That my peace is still quite fragile, which means that I have quite a bit more building to do upon the rock of salvation.
So, why am I sharing all of this? Well, I guess this experience kind of scared me, and it certainly humbled me. This is the time in my life when I am learning more about the gospel, and learning it faster, than ever before. The Lord is blessing me in ways I never understood to be possible, and yet even in the face of all of these blessings, I very nearly lost sight of the truth – the greatest and most important truth of all – that God is love. I want to share with you, perhaps even raise a warning, just how easily we can be distracted from our true goal on this earth, which is to become creatures of love, even as Christ Himself. I want to remind everyone who will listen that no matter how much knowledge and understanding we have, no matter how much we preach or even prophesy, if we have not charity we are “become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal” (1 Corinthians 13:1). I want to encourage you, my friends, to remember that Christ left the 99 and rescued the one; that He went to the one, and that there is no one on this earth, including ourselves, who is undeserving of His, and thus our, unconditional love
There was something about this learning and repentance experience that touched me deeply, and changed me forever. I find it difficult to relate the depth of the knowledge that I have been given. I know now, though, that if I am to truly learn all that the Lord would teach me, and if I am to truly become all that He wants me to be, even clay in the potter’s hands, I must remember brightly the simple humility that I had when I was a 45 year old child newly baptized. I must nurture and cherish the reverence that I know I will experience when I ultimately bow my knee before Him. I must remember that he has earned, by His love, every ounce of worshipful honor that I can render Him. In short, I must love…humbly and completely. It is by incorporating this lesson deep into my broken heart that I will truly glorify Him.
I testify that He lives, and that He loves; that the truth of His love overshadows all the evil and imperfections of this world. In his own words:
Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. (John 14:27)
Love is the Celestial Law that we must learn to obey if we are to live in His presence. It is perfect in its simplicity, it is stunningly beautiful, and it is the power by which even the universe itself was created. I pray that each of the readers of this message will recognize deep in their souls this truth, and adopt is as a guidepost on their individual path toward their ultimate exaltation.