Life’s greatest joys and also its greatest sorrows come from the relationships we have with others. In fact, our existence is quite dependent upon this interaction with individuals and with groups of individuals.
Men usually strive for happiness by seeking pleasant physical surroundings and economic security, but if there is discord in human relations, these things do not bring happiness. And conversely, men may be happy in abject poverty and with physical stress if they have meaningful, pleasant relations with those around them.
If this is true, and certainly all of the evidence of human experience says it is, then should we not engage ourselves in building good relationships before we build earthly mansions? Should we not cultivate the deepest possible feelings for those within our circle before we aspire to status and security?
The teachings of the gospel are clear on this. We are told in plain and simple language that love of neighbor is second only in importance to love of God. We are further enjoined to pray for those who despitefully use us.
Despite the injunctions, many of us have difficulty in living with the faults and weaknesses of our wives, husbands, children, parents, brothers, or sisters—not to mention our bishops, teachers, neighbors, or fellow workers. Our tendency to demand perfection of others when we ourselves are less than perfect creates static in relationships where there should be harmony.
Although these ideas have universal application in our feelings and attitudes toward all of God’s children—who are our brothers and sisters—they might have more meaning if we spoke first of our association with each other in the Church of Christ.
Consider the finest relationship that you have ever had with any individual. To some degree it probably is or was marked by absolute honesty, open communication, acceptance of differing views without acrimony, little concern for pretenses and images, and an at-oneness that said you are or were kindred spirits. Hopefully, most of us have known the joy of that sort of relationship. It is a joy that is possible for all of us more frequently if we will but allow the pure love of Christ to permeate our lives and our associations with other people.
And nowhere should that be more possible than among those people who have identified themselves with the kingdom of God. How can we possibly justify the establishment of cliques and groups that exclude those who may be different? Will the Lord tolerate the petty differences that drive us apart? Who will be held responsible for the slights, and rudeness, and downright rejection perpetrated by children and adults on individuals who may or may not have given us cause for such rejection.
Criticism of children, of neighbors, of church leaders would be less frequent if more of us were walking in the shoes of those whom we criticize. This is not to say that our children, our neighbors, and even some of our church leaders do not make mistakes. They do. But mistakes are not corrected by spiteful faultfinding. People change their behavior when they are loved, when they are gently persuaded.
And persuasion usually cannot take place unless there is some sort of close, meaningful relationship between the two people involved. That is one of the messages of the gospel—the establishment of meaningful relationships, first with God and then with our spiritual brothers and sisters.
There are differences among us, certainly. Some of us are abrasive and unpleasant. We have cultural differences that are stumbling blocks. But the fact remains that the gospel is a universal; it is a binding thread that should knit heart to heart and soul to soul.
If we learn to look for the similarities instead of those things that set us apart, to live with the differences, and if we see the best in others rather than the worst, the result will be a spirit among the Saints that will bear solemn witness to the world that the Church of Jesus Christ is upon the earth.