I gave a talk today on Charity. It went pretty well. I had to cut some material out as it was 11 pages long! I had a lot of quotes. I don’t usually do that, but I felt impressed to use the material I chose. It’s a bit long but I think worth the read:
Good morning Brothers and Sisters! I have been asked to speak on developing and measuring personal charity. Charity is on of my favorite topics to study. I consider it the “all-encompassing attribute.” I hope you can catch a glimpse of the many wonderful things I have learned as I’ve studied for this talk and I pray The Holy Ghost will teach each of us the things we need to know and apply in our lives.
Let’s begin by defining charity. We begin in the Bible Dictionary which states that Charity is “The highest, noblest, strongest kind of love, not merely affection; the pure love of Christ. It is never used to denote alms or deeds of benevolence, although it may be a prompting motive.”
And of course, in our church, one of the most well-known scriptures regarding charity is found in Moroni 7:45-47. It reads:
45 And charity suffereth long, and is kind, and envieth not, and is not puffed up, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, and rejoiceth not in iniquity but rejoiceth in the truth, beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.
46 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—
47 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.
That is kind of an overwhelming list. I started really studying and trying to develop the attribute of charity as a missionary. It was overwhelming then. But now, with children in my life, it seems almost impossible! Suffereth long? Not easily provoked? I don’t know about you, but I have a lot of work to do!
OK, so we have an idea of what Charity is, but why do we want to develop this gift? Let’s go to the Doctrine and Covenants section 12 verse 8. It reads:
8 And no one can assist in this work except he shall be humble and full of love, having faith, hope, and charity, being temperate in all things, whatsoever shall be entrusted to his care.
So if we want to help build God’s kingdom, we need to have charity. But why else?
Let’s look at 1 Nephi 11: 21-23 This is the prophet Nephi speaking with and angel of the Lord regarding a vision Nephi’s father Lehi had. His father’s vision included a tree, and Nephi tells us about that tree here:
21 And the angel said unto me: Behold the Lamb of God, yea, even the Son of the Eternal Father! Knowest thou the meaning of the tree which thy father saw?
22 And I answered him, saying: Yea, it is the love of God, which sheddeth itself abroad in the hearts of the children of men; wherefore, it is the most desirable above all things.
23 And he spake unto me, saying: Yea, and the most joyous to the soul.
The phrase “most joyous to the soul” really stands out to me here. Who doesn’t want more joy in their lives? This isn’t something that brings temporary happiness. This is true, pure joy. The gospel of Jesus Christ is a gospel of joy! And this is how we receive that joy, we need to have charity in our hearts!
OK, one more “why” scripture. Let’s go to Matthew 25:31-46
31 ¶When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory:
32 And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats:
33 And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.
34 Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:
35 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:
36 Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.
37 Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?
38 When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?
39 Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?
40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.
41 Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:
42 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink:
43 I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not.
44 Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee?
45 Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me.
46 And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.
Eternal life. There it is. That’s really what this is all about. What is this life for? What is our ultimate goal? We want to return to our Heavenly Father someday. We want to be worthy to be in His presence again. How will we get there? By developing charity.
Now, we’ve defined it, we know why we want it, but how do we develop charity? Let me share with you some of the ways I have learned we can develop this most wonderful gift.
We begin with Forgiveness
Kathleen H. Huges, former 1st counselor in the general RS presidency, said “All of us long to possess Christ’s pure love, called charity, but our humanness—the “natural [man]” in us—gets in our way. We get angry, we become frustrated, we berate ourselves and others—and when we do, we cannot be the conduit of love we need to be if we are to become an instrument in Heavenly Father’s hands. Being willing to forgive ourselves and others becomes an integral part of our ability to have the love of the Lord in our lives and to do His work.”
And President Dieter F. Uchtdorf has said “Jesus taught: “Forgive one another; for he that forgiveth not … [stands] condemned before the Lord; for there remaineth in him the greater sin”3 and “Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.”4
Of course, these words seem perfectly reasonable—when applied to someone else. We can so clearly and easily see the harmful results that come when others judge and hold grudges. And we certainly don’t like it when people judge us.
But when it comes to our own prejudices and grievances, we too often justify our anger as righteous and our judgment as reliable and only appropriate. Though we cannot look into another’s heart, we assume that we know a bad motive or even a bad person when we see one. We make exceptions when it comes to our own bitterness because we feel that, in our case, we have all the information we need to hold someone else in contempt.
Our Savior has spoken so clearly on this subject that there is little room for private interpretation. “I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive,” but then He said, “… of you it is required to forgive all men.”7
May I add a footnote here? When the Lord requires that we forgive all men, that includes forgiving ourselves. Sometimes, of all the people in the world, the one who is the hardest to forgive—as well as perhaps the one who is most in need of our forgiveness—is the person looking back at us in the mirror.”
He continues, “Brothers and sisters, there is enough heartache and sorrow in this life without our adding to it through our own stubbornness, bitterness, and resentment.
We are not perfect.
The people around us are not perfect.19 People do things that annoy, disappoint, and anger. In this mortal life it will always be that way.
Nevertheless, we must let go of our grievances. Part of the purpose of mortality is to learn how to let go of such things. That is the Lord’s way.
Remember, heaven is filled with those who have this in common: They are forgiven. And they forgive.
Lay your burden at the Savior’s feet. Let go of judgment. Allow Christ’s Atonement to change and heal your heart. Love one another. Forgive one another.
The merciful will obtain mercy.”
Though often difficult to do, forgiveness is an integral part of developing charity. We can not have Christ’s perfect love for others and ourselves if we can’t let go of hurt.
We move on to Judgement
In the 2010 General RS meeting our Prophet, President Thomas S. Monson, shared a story which many will remember because it was also made into a Mormon Message.
“A young couple, Lisa and John, moved into a new neighborhood. One morning while they were eating breakfast, Lisa looked out the window and watched her next-door neighbor hanging out her wash.
“That laundry’s not clean!” Lisa exclaimed. “Our neighbor doesn’t know how to get clothes clean!”
John looked on but remained silent.
Every time her neighbor would hang her wash to dry, Lisa would make the same comments.
A few weeks later Lisa was surprised to glance out her window and see a nice, clean wash hanging in her neighbor’s yard. She said to her husband, “Look, John—she’s finally learned how to wash correctly! I wonder how she did it.”
John replied, “Well, dear, I have the answer for you. You’ll be interested to know that I got up early this morning and washed our windows!”
Tonight I’d like to share with you a few thoughts concerning how we view each other. Are we looking through a window which needs cleaning? Are we making judgments when we don’t have all the facts? What do we see when we look at others? What judgments do we make about them?
There is really no way we can know the heart, the intentions, or the circumstances of someone who might say or do something we find reason to criticize. Thus the commandment: ‘Judge not.’”
It is obvious when someone points it out that if you are casting judgement then your heart is not filled with charity. Yet in every day life it is often easy to justify our judgements, isn’t it? Like Lisa, let us not decide as we look through our own dirty windows that we have all the facts straight regarding the actions and intentions of others. This was beautifully summed up by the bumper sticker President Uchtdorf quoted which read, “Don’t judge me because I sin differently than you.” Judging others hinders our progress and denies us the ability to develop or even feel Christ’s love.
Now concerning judgement, consider this story related by our prophet:
A woman by the name of Mary Bartels had a home directly across the street from the entrance to a hospital clinic. Her family lived on the main floor and rented the upstairs rooms to outpatients at the clinic.
One evening a truly awful-looking old man came to the door asking if there was room for him to stay the night. He was stooped and shriveled, and his face was lopsided from swelling—red and raw. He said he’d been hunting for a room since noon but with no success. “I guess it’s my face,” he said. “I know it looks terrible, but my doctor says it could possibly improve after more treatments.” He indicated he’d be happy to sleep in the rocking chair on the porch. As she talked with him, Mary realized this little old man had an oversized heart crowded into that tiny body. Although her rooms were filled, she told him to wait in the chair and she’d find him a place to sleep.
At bedtime Mary’s husband set up a camp cot for the man. When she checked in the morning, the bed linens were neatly folded and he was out on the porch. He refused breakfast, but just before he left for his bus, he asked if he could return the next time he had a treatment. “I won’t put you out a bit,” he promised. “I can sleep fine in a chair.” Mary assured him he was welcome to come again.
In the several years he went for treatments and stayed in Mary’s home, the old man, who was a fisherman by trade, always had gifts of seafood or vegetables from his garden. Other times he sent packages in the mail.
When Mary received these thoughtful gifts, she often thought of a comment her next-door neighbor made after the disfigured, stooped old man had left Mary’s home that first morning. “Did you keep that awful-looking man last night? I turned him away. You can lose customers by putting up such people.”
Mary knew that maybe they had lost customers once or twice, but she thought, “Oh, if only they could have known him, perhaps their illnesses would have been easier to bear.”
I am certain that if you asked this humble man who was blessed by this woman’s charity he would say that he was. But if you were to ask Mary Bartels who was blessed, she would say that she was. As it is with all of us who embark in the service of our God. While there are times for us to humbly accept service from others, the times we give loving service provide an increase of the spirit in our lives and a heart more full of the love of God.
Serve and Welcome
OK, so we have forgiveness of others and self, and not judging others. How else can we develop this gift of Charity? Once again, Sister Hughes has some insight for us:
“How does it happen? One kindness, one expression of love, one thoughtful gesture, one willing hand at a time.” (We’ve all heard that old expression “How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time. So it is with charity)
She goes on: “To become consistently charitable is a lifelong quest, but each act of love changes us and those who offer it. Let me tell you the story of a young woman I met recently. Alicia, as a teenager, had drifted far from the Church, but later she felt stirrings to return. She often visited her grandfather in a retirement home on Sundays. On one of those days she decided to attend the Latter-day Saint meetings there. She opened the door and found a Relief Society meeting, but no empty seats. As she was about to leave, a woman motioned to her and scooted over to make room for her on her chair. Alicia said: “I wondered what the woman would think of me. I was covered with body piercings, and I smelled of smoke. But she didn’t seem to mind; she simply made a place for me at her side.”
Alicia, heartened by this woman’s charity, returned to activity. She has served a mission and is now sharing that same kind of love with other women. The elderly sister who shared her chair understood that there is a place for every woman in Relief Society. Sisters, we gather for strength, but we bring with us all our weaknesses and imperfections.
Alicia told me something I will never forget. She said: “I only do one thing for myself when I go to church: I take the sacrament for me. The rest of the time I watch for others who need me, and I try to help and nurture them.”
What a different world it would be if everyone thought like this. How easy it is to get wrapped up in our own problems, our own insecurities, our own issues, whatever they may be. But if you’re feeling down about your life or yourself, you can’t feel the love the Lord intends us to feel from Him or toward others. Sister Susan W. Tanner. former YW general president, told about a time in her life when she was a teenager and struggled with insecurities because she had a bad case of acne. After many visits to the dermatologist her skin was not showing any signs of improvement. She said:
“It was difficult for me at that time to fully appreciate this body which was giving me so much grief. But my good mother taught me a higher law. Over and over she said to me,“You must do everything you can to make your appearance pleasing, but the minute you walk out the door, forget yourself and start concentrating on others.”
There it was. She was teaching me the Christlike principle of selflessness. Charity, or the pure love of Christ, “envieth not, and is not puffed up, seeketh not her own” (Moro. 7:45). When we become other-oriented, or selfless, we develop an inner beauty of spirit that glows in our outward appearance. This is how we make ourselves in the Lord’s image rather than the world’s and receive His image in our countenances.”
We all struggle at different times with different insecurities and weaknesses. But the answer is always the same, “Forget yourself and go to work.” As we do this we will feel the Savior’s love for us and for those we serve increase drastically. There is no greater way to develop charity for others than to willingly serve them.
Concerning charity, the missionary guide Preach My Gospel says:
“Charity is “the pure love of Christ” (Moroni 7:47). It includes God’s eternal love for all His children. We are to seek to develop that kind of love. When you are filled with charity, you obey God’s commandments and do all you can to serve others and help them receive the restored gospel.
Charity is a gift from God. The prophet Mormon said that we should “pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that [we] may be filled with this love” (Moroni 7:48). As you follow this counsel and strive to do righteous works, your love for all people will increase, especially those among whom you labor. You will come to feel a sincere concern for the eternal welfare and happiness of other people. You will see them as children of God with the potential of becoming like our Heavenly Father, and you will labor in their behalf. You will avoid negative feelings such as anger, envy, lust, or covetousness. You will avoid judging others, criticizing them, or saying negative things about them. You will try to understand them and their points of view. You will be patient with them and try to help them when they are struggling or discouraged. Charity, like faith, leads to action. You will develop charity as you look for opportunities to serve others and give of yourself.”
Some notes I had in the margins of my copy from my mission: “Tell your companion why you love them. Thank a teacher or leader for something they taught that touched you. Compliment someone. Leave an anonymous uplifting note for someone. Pray for others specifically by name. Make a daily list of things you’re thankful for and then say thank you to Heavenly Father. Write down one thing you did well each day. Pray for your companion during companionship prayer. Give someone a hug. Pray for Charity. Be obedient. Polish someone’s shoes.” Again, one small act of kindness at a time. Do what you can each day to serve and increase in love for yourself, for others and for the Lord.
Care for Your Temple
This one may not seem so obvious but Sister Tanner said:
“The restored gospel teaches that there is an intimate link between body, mind, and spirit. In the Word of Wisdom, for example, the spiritual and physical are intertwined. When we follow the Lord’s law of health for our bodies, we are also promised wisdom to our spirits and knowledge to our minds (see D&C 89:19–21). The spiritual and physical truly are linked.
I remember an incident in my home growing up when my mother’s sensitive spirit was affected by a physical indulgence. She had experimented with a new sweet roll recipe. They were big and rich and yummy—and very filling. Even my teenage brothers couldn’t eat more than one. That night at family prayer my father called upon Mom to pray. She buried her head and didn’t respond. He gently prodded her, “Is something wrong?” Finally she said, “I don’t feel very spiritual tonight. I just ate three of those rich sweet rolls.” I suppose that many of us have similarly offended our spirits at times by physical indulgences. Especially substances forbidden in the Word of Wisdom have a harmful effect on our bodies and a numbing influence on our spiritual sensitivities. None of us can ignore this connection of our spirits and bodies.”
So things like eating well, exercising, and steering clear of any substance that can become addictive or is harmful to our bodies allows us to feel more fully the love of the Lord. Our charity increases as we care for this gift the Lord has graciously given us.
Be kind to others
Elder Marvin J. Ashton beautifully observed:
“Perhaps the greatest charity comes when we are kind to each other, when we don’t judge or categorize someone else, when we simply give each other the benefit of the doubt or remain quiet. Charity is accepting someone’s differences, weaknesses, and shortcomings; having patience with someone who has let us down; or resisting the impulse to become offended when someone doesn’t handle something the way we might have hoped. Charity is refusing to take advantage of another’s weakness and being willing to forgive someone who has hurt us. Charity is expecting the best of each other.” 14
President Monson shared a story about kindness, or unkindness I suppose, in October 2010 General Conference. He said:
“Forty-seven years ago this general conference, I was called to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. At the time, I had been serving on one of the general priesthood committees of the Church, and so before my name was presented, I sat with my fellow members of that priesthood committee, as was expected of me. My wife, however, had no idea where to go and no one with whom she could sit and, in fact, was unable to find a seat anywhere in the Tabernacle. A dear friend of ours, who was a member of one of the general auxiliary boards and who was sitting in the area designated for the board members, asked Sister Monson to sit with her. This woman knew nothing of my call—which would be announced shortly—but she spotted Sister Monson, recognized her consternation, and graciously offered her a seat. My dear wife was relieved and grateful for this kind gesture. Sitting down, however, she heard loud whispering behind her as one of the board members expressed her annoyance to those around her that one of her fellow board members would have the audacity to invite an “outsider” to sit in this area reserved only for them. There was no excuse for her unkind behavior, regardless of who might have been invited to sit there. However, I can only imagine how that woman felt when she learned that the “intruder” was the wife of the newest Apostle.”
And President Dieter F. Uchtdorf said in April 2012:
“In a world of accusations and unfriendliness, it is easy to gather and cast stones. But before we do so, let us remember the words of the One who is our Master and model: “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone.”12
Brothers and sisters, let us put down our stones.
Let us be kind.
Let us forgive.
Let us talk peacefully with each other.
Let the love of God fill our hearts.
“Let us do good unto all men.”13
The Savior promised: “Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over. … For with the same measure that [you use] it shall be measured to you again.”14
Shouldn’t this promise be enough to always focus our efforts on acts of kindness, forgiveness, and charity instead of on any negative behavior?”
Recognize His love
In order to feel the Lord’s love for us we need to recognize it. Elder Jean R. Cook of the 70 said:
“Recognize His love. “Pray … with all the energy of heart” 16 for this gift. Do so in meekness with a broken heart, and you will be filled with hope and love from the Holy Ghost Himself. He will reveal Christ to you. It is part of the gift of charity to be able to recognize the Lord’s hand and feel His love in all that surrounds us. At times it will not be easy to discover the Lord’s love for us in all that we experience, because He is a perfect, anonymous giver. You will search all your life to uncover His hand and the gifts He has bestowed upon you because of His intimate, modest, humble way of granting such wonderful gifts. Ponder with me a moment the following majestic gifts: the glories of all creation, the earth, the heavens; your feelings of love and joy; His responses of mercy, forgiveness, and innumerable answers to prayer; the gift of loved ones; and finally the greatest gift of all—the Father’s gift of His atoning Son, the perfect one in charity, even the God of love.”
As we come to recognize God’s love for us, we can then begin to share that love with others.
Now we come to the great question; how do we measure personal Charity? Let me offer some suggestions from others more experienced than I.
President Dieter F. Uchtdorf said:
My dear brothers and sisters, consider the following questions as a self-test:
Do you harbor a grudge against someone else?
Do you gossip, even when what you say may be true?
Do you exclude, push away, or punish others because of something they have done?
Do you secretly envy another?
Do you wish to cause harm to someone?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, you may want to apply the two-word sermon from earlier: stop it!
And we can also rate ourselves on these statements found in the Atribute Activity on page 126 of Preach My Gospel (it is best to use the response key that goes with this activity):
14. I feel a sincere desire for the eternal welfare and happiness of other people. (Mosiah 28:3)
15. When I pray, I ask for charity—the pure love of Christ. (Moroni 7:47–48)
16. I try to understand others’ feelings and see their point of view. (Jude 1:22)
17. I forgive others who have offended or wronged me. (Ephesians 4:32)
18. I try to help others when they are struggling or discouraged. (Mosiah 18:9)
19. When appropriate, I tell others that I love them and care about them. (Luke 7:12–15)
20. I look for opportunities to serve other people. (Mosiah 2:17)
21. I say positive things about others. (D&C 42:27)
22. I am kind and patient with others, even when they are hard to get along with. (Moroni 7:45)
23. I find joy in others’ achievements. (Alma 17:2–4)
Brothers and Sisters there is much more to be said about charity. I have not even shared a hundredth part of the information I studied, and there is much more studying to do! In closing may I sum it up this way. To develop charity is to become even like our Savior. He did everything He did for one purpose; to please His Father. If we keep the same motive in mind and act in ways that are pleasing to God we can not help but develop charity. Heavenly Father loves us, Jesus Christ loves us, and if we follow them we will develop a stronger, more perfect love for ourselves, for others, and for the Lord Himself.
I know Jesus Christ is our Savior and performed the greatest act of charity the world has ever known, for us because He loves us. I know this is His church and that we are guided by a living prophet today. I know the goal of developing charity can seem overwhelming. But we are God’s children. He wants us to succeed. We must pray for help to develop this gift, and then go to work with our whole heart and soul as if everything depends upon us. Don’t forget, this happens one kindness, one expression of love, one thoughtful gesture, one willing hand at a time. May the Lord bless each of us in our quest to develop this perfect love is my prayer, in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.
Words from our living prophet: (this is like “bonus” material the I didn’t get to)
Thomas S. Monson
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.
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.
Needed is the charity which refuses to find satisfaction in hearing or in repeating the reports of misfortunes that come to others, unless by so doing, the unfortunate one may be benefited. The American educator and politician Horace Mann once said, “To pity distress is but human; to relieve it is godlike.”11
Charity is having patience with someone who has let us down. It is resisting the impulse to become offended easily. 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 resisting the impulse to categorize others.
Charity, that pure love of Christ, is manifest when a group of young women from a singles ward travels hundreds of miles to attend the funeral services for the mother of one of their Relief Society sisters. Charity is shown when devoted visiting teachers return month after month, year after year to the same uninterested, somewhat critical sister. It is evident when an elderly widow is remembered and taken to ward functions and to Relief Society activities. It is felt when the sister sitting alone in Relief Society receives the invitation, “Come—sit by us.”
In a hundred small ways, all of you wear the mantle of charity. Life is perfect for none of us. Rather than being judgmental and critical of each other, may we have the pure love of Christ for our fellow travelers in this journey through life. May we recognize that each one is doing [their] best to deal with the challenges which come [their] way, and may we strive to do our best to help out.”