I Have a Question


Questions of general interest answered for guidance, not as official statements of Church policy

How is it possible, as D&C 121:45 counsels, to have charity for all people, including our enemies?

Mary Ellen Edmunds, former director of training at the Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah, and member of the Relief Society General Board.

During his mortal ministry, the Savior issued the call for us to love others, including our enemies, and he set the example for us to follow.

“With twelve legions of angels at his command, he would yield himself and his armed, courageous apostles by his side,” said President Spencer W. Kimball of the Savior’s arrest. “He would accept this manhandling and these humiliating indignities without retaliation. Had he not said, ‘Love your enemies’?” (The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, ed. Edward L. Kimball, Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1982, p. 167.)

The Savior said his disciples would be known by their love for each other and by their treatment of their enemies (see John 13:34–35; Matt. 5:44). President Brigham Young exemplified the attitude and actions that reflect a truly Christlike love—kind, charitable feelings that extend beyond our families and friends to include even our adversaries: “I feel at peace with all the inhabitants of the earth; I love my friends, and as for my enemies, I pray for them daily; and, if they do not believe I would do them good, let them call at my house, when they are hungry, and I will feed them; yea, I will do good to those who despitefully use and persecute me” (Discourses of Brigham Young, sel. John A. Widtsoe, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1978, p. 457).

As we remember in our prayers those who hurt or offend us, it becomes easier to overcome bad feelings toward them. The more we pray for those who mistreat us, the less likely we will continue to consider them our enemies.

We can acquire and develop the gift of charity by doing good for others, praying for them, and by filling our hearts first with pure love so that we instinctively respond to their needs. It is as much for our own good as for the good of our enemies that the Lord asks us to love them.

“Why does the Lord ask you to love your enemies and to return good for evil? That you might have the benefit of it. It does not injure him [your enemy] so much when you hate a person, especially if he is far removed and does not come in contact with you, but the hate and the bitterness canker your unforgiving heart,” said President Kimball (The Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, p. 103).

“We pray for our enemies,” he commented elsewhere. “This will soften our hearts, and perhaps theirs, and we may better seek good in them. And this prayer should not be confined to national enemies but should extend to neighbors, members of the family, and all with whom we have differences. This is also required of us by the Redeemer, who said:

“‘… 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;

“‘For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye?

“‘And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others?’ … (Matt. 5:44, 46–47.)” (Faith Precedes the Miracle, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1972, p. 203).

Developing this level of charity cannot happen without help from our Heavenly Father. That is why Mormon asks us to pray earnestly—so that we might be filled with charity, which he calls “the pure love of Christ” (Moro. 7:47).

“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” (Moro. 7:48).

Our Heavenly Father has given us commandments to help us become as he is. Being filled with charity and acting in a charitable way toward others help us reach our potential. Without charity, we are nothing (see Moro. 7:46).

When the Prophet Joseph Smith was a prisoner in Liberty Jail, he received important instructions on how Heavenly Father’s children are to treat each other: “Let thy bowels also be full of charity towards all” (D&C 121:45). The Prophet, who knew well the suffering that can come from the uncharitable acts of others, taught the Saints that love can become a powerful motivation: “Love is one of the chief characteristics of Deity, and ought to be manifested by those who aspire to be the sons of God. A man filled with the love of God, is not content with blessing his family alone, but ranges through the whole world, anxious to bless the whole human race” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 174).

Charity for others comes in the doing, the serving, and the praying. We can have charity for all because our Heavenly Father has given us, his children, the ability and because his Son has shown us the way.

[photo] Photo by Welden Andersen

Why didn’t Jews in Old Testament times believe Jerusalem could be destroyed?

Fred E. Woods, a religion instructor at Ricks College, and first counselor in the bishopric of the Rexburg Tenth Ward, Rexburg Idaho East Stake.

In the Book of Mormon, Nephi says Laman and Lemuel did not “believe that Jerusalem, that great city, could be destroyed according to the words of the prophets. And they were like unto the Jews who were at Jerusalem” (1 Ne. 2:13).

Three factors contributed to the Jews’ belief that Jerusalem would not be destroyed: first, historical tradition pertaining to “Jerusalem, that great city” (1 Ne. 2:13); second, the Jews’ misunderstanding of promises the Lord made to David; and third, the miraculous preservation of the Jews when the Assyrians besieged Jerusalem in the days of King Hezekiah.

Historical Tradition

Jerusalem is initially identified in the Old Testament as “Salem” (Gen. 14:18), from which the name Jerusalem (“City of Peace”) derives. Jerusalem was the holy city of the righteous high priest Melchizedek, who blessed Abraham (see Gen. 14:18–19). Under Melchizedek, the “people wrought righteousness, and obtained heaven, and sought for the city of Enoch which God had before taken” (JST, Gen. 14:34).

Misunderstanding the Promises of the Lord

When the children of Israel emerged from their captivity in Egypt, the Jebusites possessed the land and city of Jerusalem (see Judg. 1:21). Because the Israelites had broken their covenants with the Lord, they were unable to drive out the Jebusites following the death of Joshua (see Judg. 2:20–21). Israel did not regain possession of the city until King David and his men (see 2 Sam. 5:6–9) conquered the Jebusites after selecting Jerusalem as the capital.

Later, David desired to build a house “unto the name of the Lord,” but he was directed not to do so (see 1 Chr. 22:7–8). Instead, the Lord told David that his son, Solomon, would build the temple. The Lord made David this promise: “I will appoint a place for my people Israel, will plant them, that they may dwell in a place of their own, and move no more; neither shall the children of wickedness afflict them any more, as beforetime” (2 Sam. 7:10).

When construction of the temple began, the Lord, speaking to Solomon, clarified the conditions of this promise: “If thou wilt walk in my statutes, and execute my judgments, and keep all my commandments to walk in them; then will I perform my word with thee, which I spake unto David thy father:

“And I will dwell among the children of Israel, and will not forsake my people Israel” (1 Kgs. 6:12–13; emphasis added).

Israel, however, broke the covenant through disobedience. The kingdom was divided, and in 721 B.C. the Assyrians took the Israelites from the northern kingdom into captivity. Two decades later, the Assyrians, led by King Sennacherib, returned and took possession of much of the southern kingdom of Judah.

The Miraculous Preservation of the Jews

“Now in the fourteenth year of King Hezekiah did Sennacherib king of Assyria come up against all the fenced cities of Judah, and took them” (2 Kgs. 18:13). The Assyrian Prism Inscription of King Sennacherib sheds further light on this biblical account: “As for Hezekiah, the Judaean, who had not submitted to my yoke, I besieged forty-six of his fortified walled cities and surrounding small towns. … I conquered [them]. … Himself, I locked him up within Jerusalem, his royal city, like a bird in a cage” (Mordechai Cogan and Hayim Tadmor, “II Kings: A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary,” Anchor Bible, ed. W. F. Albright and D. N. Freedman, 44 vols., Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday & Co., 1984, 11:338).

The Bible says King Hezekiah, who had returned righteousness to Judah, went to the temple to plead with the Lord for protection. In answer to his prayer, the Lord told Hezekiah that his petition would be granted: “For I will defend this city, to save it, for mine own sake, and for my servant David’s sake.

“And it came to pass that night, that the angel of the Lord went out, and smote in the camp of the Assyrians an hundred fourscore and five thousand” (2 Kgs. 19:34–35).

This miraculous display of divine intervention had a tremendous impact on future generations, particularly on those who dwelt securely in Jerusalem from the time following this deliverance in 701 B.C. until the Babylonian captivity in 586 B.C. Jerusalem’s deliverance led to the erroneous belief that the holy city was impregnable. The Jews believed the city enjoyed divine protection, even if they did not abide the law of the covenant. Isaiah observed, “They call themselves of the holy city, but they do not stay themselves upon the God of Israel” (Isa. 48:2).

“There came many prophets, prophesying unto the people that they must repent, or the great city Jerusalem must be destroyed” (1 Ne. 1:4). Prophets like Lehi and Jeremiah were threatened with death when they spoke what many Jews considered to be blasphemous words against the holy city.

Priests and false prophets said of Jeremiah, “This man is worthy to die; for he hath prophesied against this city, as ye have heard with your ears” (Jer. 26:11). Jeremiah responded, “The Lord sent me to prophesy against this house and against this city. …

“Therefore now, amend your ways and your doings, and obey the voice of the Lord your God; and repent, and the Lord will turn away the evil that he hath pronounced against you” (JST, Jer. 26:12–13).

Judah did not repent. The great city and the holy temple were destroyed, and the Jews were exiled. The chosen people forgot that the Lord is bound only when they do what he says (see D&C 82:10). The peace that prevailed in Salem during Melchizedek’s day and the divine intervention Jerusalem enjoyed during the reign of Hezekiah were conditioned only on obedience to the covenants.

[illustration] Painting by Robert A. McKay