My dear brothers and sisters, I desire more than anything this hour to bear witness, a personal witness, of the love of God for me, for you, and for all mankind. What man is sufficiently adequate to be able to express the depth of his gratitude in recognition of the love of God? How blessed I have been for so many years to be with you and to have found the pure love of Christ emanating from you. I am deeply indebted to you and to God.
As difficult as charity is to describe, it is rather easily recognized in the lives of those who possess it.
An aged, crippled grandmother who subscribes to an afternoon newspaper, knowing it will bring her delivery-boy grandson to her home every day where, at her knee, she teaches him to pray.
A mother who, in hard economic times and scarcity of meat, seems to savor only chicken wings, to the puzzlement of all.
A man who suffers an undeserved public chastisement, but humbly receives it anyway.
Is not the common thread in these examples charity, a selflessness, a not seeking for anything in return? All of our divine attributes seem to flow from and be encompassed by this one.5 All men may have the gift of love, but charity is bestowed only upon those who are true followers of Christ.6
Yet there stands the devil, the destroyer of this love, replacing it with anger and hostility.10 My friend William felt that way: hostile. It seemed that whatever happened, it was the Lord’s fault—an illness, a death, a wayward child, a personal weakness, an “unanswered” prayer—all of which hardened his heart. His inner anger, which could flare up in but a moment, was directed toward God, his fellowman, and himself. From his heart emanated unbelief, stubbornness, pride, contention, and a loss of hope, love, and direction. He was miserable!
These destroyers of peace11 blinded William to God’s feelings for him. He could neither discover nor feel God’s love. He did not see, especially in those dark moments, that God was richly blessing him even still. Instead, he returned anger for love. Have we not all felt that at times? Even when we have merited love the least, He has loved us the most. Truly, He loves us first.12
Now, my Christlike friend Betty was just the opposite. She encountered many of the same difficulties as did William, but because she felt God’s love, she suffered tribulation in the Savior’s name,13 partook of His divine nature,14 and thus gained a deeper faith in and a love for God, along with the strength to handle whatever might come.
Her love for others increased. She seemed to even forgive others in advance. She learned how to cause them to feel her love. She learned that love shared is love multiplied.
Finally, she learned to love herself more, being more kind, gentle, and long-suffering. She stopped her struggle for self-esteem and started loving herself the way God loved her. Her image of herself became His image of her.
How, then, can we better “clothe [ourselves] with the bond of charity … of perfectness and peace”?15 May I share with you three suggestions.
1. 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.17
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,18 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.19
2. Receive His love in humility. Be grateful for the gift and especially for the giver of the gift.20 True gratitude is the ability to humbly see, feel, and even receive love.21 Gratitude is a form of returning love to God. Recognize His hand, tell Him so, express your love to Him.22 As you come to truly know the Lord, you will find an intimate, sacred relationship built on trust. You will come to know He understands your anguish23 and will, in compassion, always respond to you in love.
Receive it. Feel it. It is not enough just to know that God loves you. The gift is to be felt continually day by day.24 It will then be a divine motivator throughout your life. Repent. Remove any worldliness from your life,25 including anger. Receive a continual remission of your sins,26 and you will bridle all your passions and be filled with love.27
3. Convey His love. The Lord’s response to us is always filled with love. Should not our response to Him be in kind, with real feelings of love? He gives grace (or goodness) for grace, attribute for attribute. As our obedience increases, we receive more grace (or goodness) for the grace we return to Him.28 Offer Him the refinement of your attributes, so that when He does appear you will be like Him.29
As a man first immerses his thoughts in love and conveys those feelings to God, man, or self, a magnified portion of that attribute will surely follow from the Spirit. That is true of all godly attributes. Righteous feelings generated by a man seem to precede the increase of those feelings from the Spirit. Unless you are feeling love, you cannot convey true love to others. The Lord has told us to love one another as He loves us,30 so remember: to be loved, truly love.31
Brothers and sisters, as an especial witness of Christ, I bear testimony to you again of the overwhelming love of God for each of us personally. Magnifying that gift from God will bring a new heart, a pure heart, and ever-increasing love and peace. As we increasingly think and act like Him, the attributes of the natural man will slip away to be replaced by the heart and the mind of Christ.32 We will become like Him and then truly receive Him.33
The prophet of the Lord here before you loves you, as do all these, my Brethren. May the Lord bless us to always have “the affections of [our] heart … placed upon [Him] forever.”34 “That [our] burdens may be light, through the joy of his Son”35 is my prayer in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, amen.