O Love That Glorifies the Son

Seated with His disciples shortly before the end of His mortal ministry, Jesus charged, “[L]ove one another; as I have loved you,” saying, “By this shall man know that ye are my disciples” (John 13:34-35). Christ’s life was an unparalleled demonstration of transcendent love. His love defined Him during His mortal life, and it continues to define Him and all that He does. In the end, He expects that same love to define each of us as we take steps to follow His example and teachings. In my own continuing efforts to develop and to feel that Christlike love, I have often found that I have more success at some times than at others; nevertheless, I’ve often kept the words of Lorin F. Wheelwright’s hymn, “O Love That Glorifies the Son,” in mind as I strive to understand and develop that love which the Apostle Paul called “a more excellent way” (I Corinthians 12:31).

O love that glorifies the Son, O love that says, “Thy will be done!”

The Book of Mormon prophet Alma explained that, in order for the Savior to accomplish His saving mission, He suffered “pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind” (Alma 7:11). The prophet Isaiah taught, “[H]e was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5). While He went about healing and lifting, teaching and blessing, Jesus confronted those who rather injured and depressed, deceived and condemned. He was prosecuted and persecuted by religious officials who challenged His authority to teach and His right to heal. They denied His claim to divinity and charged Him with blasphemy, ultimately taking Him to Calvary’s cross. At one point, pressed by the awful weight of the sorrows and sins of all creation, Christ called out, “Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me.” Without a moment’s hesitation, though, He added, “[N]evertheless not my will, but thine, be done” (Luke 22:42).

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In such agony that His “sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground” (Luke 22:44), Christ endured the horrors of His suffering willingly out of the infinite love that He has for each and all of us. He uttered that sublime nevertheless because He knew that He had come into the world so “that the world through Him might be saved” (John 3:17). He loved us enough to suffer whatever was necessary so that we could one day have a place at His side in His Father’s “many mansions” (John 14:2). Surely, greater love hath no man than this (John 15:13)!

O love that binds our family…Pure love that lasts eternally…

In 1995, the First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints issued a statement entitled “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” in which they explained that “the family is central to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children.”  Even—or especially—in family life, the Savior’s incomparable love is central to harmony and happiness. Jesus’ life was given to teaching all who would hear the truths and principles that ensure peace and joy for the individual as well as for the family, which is central to the Creator’s plan. The Proclamation explains: “Happiness in family life is most likely to be achieved when founded upon the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ. Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work, and wholesome recreational activities.” When each member of a family strives to develop Christlike love for others and seeks to be near to the Lord, all the members of that family cannot help but grow closer to one another. Because of the great blessings made possible through Christ’s loving sacrifice, “The divine plan of happiness enables family relationships to be perpetuated beyond the grave,” allowing the love we begin to develop now to continue and to grow forever in God’s presence.

O love that overcomes defeat, O love that turns the bitter sweet…

Of course, to say that Christ’s love has paved the way for our salvation is not to say that we will not encounter bumps and upsets along the way, whether they come as a result of our own foolish actions or the actions of others. However, Christ’s love is the power whereby we can overcome frustrations and defeats, the power whereby our most exquisite and bitter pains can be replaced with sweet, exquisite joy (Alma 36:21). In few places is this truth more readily apparent than in the Biblical account of Jesus’ treatment of a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery by the religious authorities of the day. The priests and scribes stood before the Savior and said of the woman, “Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou?” (John 8:5). With the terrified woman and the terrible authorities before Him, Jesus said simply, “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her” (John 8:7). Like frost beneath the morning sun, the authorities left the scene of their supposed justice. Then, Jesus approached the woman:

[H]e said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? Hath no man condemned thee? She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more. (John 8:10-11)

Because His love allowed Him to see the worth of the woman beneath the tarnish of her sin, the Savior was able to defuse the deadly self-righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees and to give the woman a second chance—a chance to go and to sin no more.

"Go and sin no more" (lds.org).

“Go, and sin no more” (lds.org).

Speaking of such love, Thomas S. Monson, God’s prophet on the earth today, said:

I consider charity—or “the pure love of Christ”—to be the opposite of criticism and judging. In speaking of charity, I do not at this moment have in mind the relief of the suffering through the giving of our substance. That, of course, is necessary and proper. Tonight, however, I have in mind the charity that manifests itself when we are tolerant of others and lenient toward their actions, the kind of charity that forgives, the kind of charity that is patient.

I have in mind the charity that impels us to be sympathetic, compassionate, and merciful, not only in times of sickness and affliction and distress but also in times of weakness or error on the part of others.

How encouraging it is to know that the Lord will, rather than condemn us for our mistakes, help us to overcome them and to become better! What a serious responsibility it is, too, to treat others with that same care and tolerance. True charity, President Monson explained, “is having patience with someone who has let us down…. It is accepting weaknesses and shortcomings. It is accepting people as they truly are. It is looking beyond physical appearances to attributes that will not dim through time.” It is the love that sees a person’s potential and not their current weakness, the love that  motivates us to encourage others to be their best selves because we know what they can be. It is the love by which Christ shows us who we truly are.

O Lord, give me the will to mend…O Lord, change me from foe to friend…

Ultimately, Christ sacrificed His life in love not just for the right to comfort us when we’re blue, but to make it possible for us to change and to become holier beings. He paid the price of our sins so that we could overcome them and become qualified to return to dwell in heaven forever. It is that love which makes forgiveness possible and which makes it sweet. To illustrate, the Book of Mormon tells of a people that was characterized by violence and war. When they were acquainted with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, they felt the love of God and recognized the ennobling truths of the gospel, and they did all they could to abandon their earlier tendencies to violence. After they embraced the gospel and the missionaries who had brought it to them, their king stood before the people and said:

I also thank my God, yea, my great God, that he hath granted unto us that we might repent of these things, and also that he hath forgiven us of those our many sins and murders which we have committed, and taken away the guilt from our hearts through the merits of his Son…. Oh, how merciful is our God! And now behold, since it has been as much as we could do to get our stains taken away from us, and our swords are made bright, let us hide them away that they may be kept bright, as a testimony to our God at the last day…that we have not stained our swords in the blood of our brethren since he imparted his word unto us and has made us clean thereby. (Alma 24:10, 15)

By embracing the gospel, they opened themselves to the love of Christ, and it changed them, purging from them their warlike nature and filling them with an unyielding desire to do good continually. Their change was so great that they became close friends and allies as much to the enemies they had once fought in war as to the God they had once rejected and ignored. As a result, they enjoyed the love and mercy of the Lord as unfailing blessings for the rest of their days.

Come, fill my soul today; Come, fill my soul today.

Thus knowing of the eternal blessings, comfort, and transformation that can come about when we seek and emulate the love of Christ in our lives, it falls to us to do everything we can to act on what we know. President Monson taught, “There is a serious need for the charity that gives attention to those who are unnoticed, hope to those who are discouraged, aid to those who are afflicted. True charity is love in action. The need for charity is everywhere.” Without confirming action, our love is so much empty feeling, but, when we act on the love we feel, it becomes a power for good as much in our lives as in the lives of those we love. As the late President Howard W. Hunter taught:

The Savior has commanded us to love one another as he has loved us; to clothe ourselves “with the bond of charity,” as he so clothed himself. We are called upon to purify our inner feelings, to change our hearts, to make our outward actions and appearance conform to what we say we believe and feel inside. We are to be true disciples of Christ…. We need to extend the hand of friendship. We need to be kinder, more gentle, more forgiving, and slower to anger. We need to love one another with the pure love of Christ.

I know that Jesus Christ’s love for us is real, and I know that He expects us to learn to love as He loves. Through His infinite love, He saved the world from sin and death; through our efforts to emulate His infinite love, we can surely save our worlds from sorrow and despair. As we strive to love and to demonstrate that love in selfless acts of service, we will know that we are loved. We will know that we can succeed. “Charity,” the Apostle Paul taught, “never faileth” (I Corinthians 13:8); thus, we, possessed of charity, can be confident that we will, ultimately, triumph in Christ over all our failures. That is the great promise of Christ’s enduring love.

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The Parable of the Talents

While serving in Brazil as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I often read the stories of the Apostle Paul and the accounts of the great Book of Mormon missionaries Ammon and Aaron. I studied the way that Paul shamelessly declared the Gospel of Christ, which he called, “the power of God unto salvation” (Romans 1:16), and I wondered at the way Aaron brought a hostile king to his knees in prayer by saying, “[I]f thou wilt repent of all thy sins, and wilt bow down before God, and call on his name in faith…then shalt thou receive the hope which thou desirest” (Alma 22:16). Reading about their courage and boldness filled me with the desire to, like Paul, stand on the Areopagus and preach repentance as with the voice of thunder. For all of that desire, though, I often found that my reticence kept me from talking to people in the streets with the Pauline zeal I yearned for. When I thought about the Corinthians, Ephesians, and Romans and the faith in Christ that Paul had instilled in them, I sometimes let myself think that the Lord expected the very same thing from me. When I realized that even my best and most concerted efforts would never make any lasting impression on the nations of the world, I worried that maybe I had, as a consequence of my reserved nature, put my light under a bushel instead of on a candlestick (Matthew 5:15).

The work of Peter, Paul, and the other early missionaries brought thousands into the Church of Christ. (lds.org)

The work of Peter, Paul, and the other early missionaries brought thousands into the Church of Christ. (lds.org)

At one point during my two years as a missionary, though, I read the Savior’s teaching about a man who had left different sums of money with three of his servants, giving them five, two, and one talent, respectively. When the man returned from his journeys, he demanded an account of what his servants had done with their shares.

As I read, feeling overwhelmed by my inability to be the type of missionary that Paul had been, my attention fixated on the servant who had been given two talents. Like the servant who had been given five talents, the one who had been given two had doubled the initial investment, ending up with four. While his bottom line was not, maybe, as impressive as the one who had ended up with ten talents, their lord made no distinction between the two men. To each, the master said, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of the Lord” (Matthew 25:21, 23). I began then to understand that the Lord doesn’t expect a two-talent person to end up with ten talents—and that the Lord doesn’t see the two-talent person’s end result of four as coming up short. Once I understood that, I stopped worrying about finding ways to get my two talents to add up to Paul’s ten, and I started looking for ways to use the gifts I did have in abundance in order to help bring others to the joy of the gospel.

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf taught the same principal I learned when he said:

I want to tell you something that I hope you will take in the right way: God is fully aware that you and I are not perfect.

Let me add: God is also fully aware that the people you think are perfect are not.

And yet we spend so much time and energy comparing ourselves to others—usually comparing our weaknesses to their strengths. This drives us to create expectations for ourselves that are impossible to meet. As a result, we never celebrate our good efforts because they seem to be less than what someone else does.

The fact that we don’t all start out with five talents doesn’t bother God. It shouldn’t bother us either, then, to realize that, in some aspects of our lives, we’ve started out with some built-in weaknesses. I made the mistake of thinking that I had to be every bit the missionary that Paul was. Some who are new to their faith may think that they need to know every bit as much as those who have known the gospel their entire lives. Others may have a gift for artistic expression and yet envy what seems to them to be the more apparent and worthwhile success of gifted mechanical engineers. We miss something, though—the chance to leave our own mark for good in the world—when we fret over the gifts we don’t have. Surely, our time would be better spent developing and sharpening the gifts that we do have.

The Book of Mormon teaches that “all…things [should be] done in wisdom and order; for it is not requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength. And again, it is expedient that he should be diligent, that thereby he might win the prize; therefore, all things must be done in wisdom and order” (Mosiah 4:27). When I was pursuing Paul’s potential instead of my own, I wasn’t accomplishing much good at all. In fact, I was only succeeding at exhausting and discouraging myself. Once I stopped trying to turn my two talents into ten, however, I started to make more meaningful—albeit fewer—contacts with people who were sincerely seeking the truth. Once I stopped trying to impact the nations of the world, I started to see how the Lord was able to use my talents—not Paul’s—to impact individual lives. As a result, I began to see the workings of God as the workings of a loving Father who is invested in the individual success of each of His children, whether they start out with five talents, two, or even one.

Of course, even as I say that focusing on our gifts rather than worrying about our weaknesses is often, if not always, the best way to live, I do not mean to give myself or anyone else an excuse to slack off. Let’s remember that, while the lord was well pleased with the two servants who doubled their allotments, the one who did nothing to increase his portion was cast “into outer darkness” (Matthew 25:30). Just because the lord in the parable was satisfied with the second servant’s four talents doesn’t mean that he would have been pleased if the first servant had come back with the same five he had received in the beginning. The Lord wants us to improve the gifts and talents He has given us, so, while it may not matter as much to Him how much we have to show at the end, it willl matter very much to Him how much we have improved since the beginning. Cautioning against the attitude that prevents us from improving the gifts we start out with, the late James E. Faust taught:

Some of us are too content with what we may already be doing…. We miss opportunities to build up the kingdom of God because we have the passive notion that someone else will take care of it. Some of the most rewarding times of our lives are those “extra mile” hours given in service when the body says it wants to relax, but our better self emerges and says, “Here am I; send me.”

Just as I know that overreaching can be disastrous, I know that we can only grow when we stretch. Finding the right balance can be difficult: it’s a challenge for me to work out a proper balance sometimes in the changing circumstances of my life. However, I know that when I’ve reached without overreaching, I’ve found success in place of stagnation or discouragement. I also know that, as I’ve focused on improving what I have rather than languising in despair over what I lack, I’ve felt the strength and support of the Lord at work, helping me to walk that extra mile, helping me to stand a little straighter and to be a little better. I’ve come to trust more fully that He really is the “author and finisher of [my] faith” and of every other good thing that I might hope to accomplish (Hebrews 12:2).