The purpose of this lesson is to help us love and serve others.
Perfect love, called “charity,” is the pure love of Christ (see Moroni 7:47). Those who have felt of this love have difficulty describing it. Sister Erma Braack of the United States told of her husband’s experience with the love of God:
“He wanted desperately to know if there was a God. And if so, what was that God like?
“He began attending different churches and reading the Bible. The words in Matthew prompted him to ask for himself, and so, … with an intense desire to know the truth, he offered his first prayer: ‘If you are there, God, let me know and I will do what you want me to do.’ And as he knelt, he says, ‘A great peace engulfed me, my heart burned within me, and a joy such as I had never known flowed over me. I felt as if I were completely immersed in a great spiritual essence.’
“For three days this feeling remained with him, and during all that time, he says, ‘I hardly felt my feet touch the ground. The pure love of God seemed to completely encompass me, and it was wonderful. During this time I loved everything. I had never cared much for children, but now a great love flowed out from me toward them. I had cursed the rain; now, drenched in it, I loved every minute of it. If this is a small taste of the love of God that fills the celestial kingdom, no wonder the lamb and the lion can lie down together and there is nothing to hurt or make afraid.’” Bert Braack later joined the Church. (See “‘A Small Taste of Love,’” Ensign, Aug. 1976, 36.)
Have class members remember a time when they felt filled with love.
Why should we know that God loves us personally?
The Savior gave us the example of how to love. He was treated unjustly, yet He did not turn against His persecutors. He was hated, yet He returned love for hate. He was nailed to a wooden cross and left to die, yet He pleaded for the Roman soldiers, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). He had patience with His Apostles, some of whom did not fully comprehend His mission. He had a great love for children. A moving account of the Savior’s love is recorded in 3 Nephi 17.
Ask the assigned sister to read the verses she has chosen from 3 Nephi 17 that show the Savior’s love.
Just a few hours before His crucifixion, the Savior taught His disciples, “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another” (John 13:34).
He commanded us that in the same way He loved His fellowmen, we must love one another. He taught:
“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;
“That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 5:44–45).
Elder Marion D. Hanks told how one woman was taught in her childhood to develop Christlike love: “I think of a choice lady born with a severely handicapped body, … who … spoke of an incident of her childhood. Playmates had called her names that … caused her pain and tears. When she reached home her father held her in his lap in his big strong arms and wept with her as he explained that … [this experience] could make her life fruitful and happy. ‘Sweetheart,’ he said, … ‘you do have a hump on your back and some other serious problems. But that isn’t your fault. It isn’t your parents’ fault or Heavenly Father’s fault. … What the boys and girls said is true, but it wasn’t fair and it wasn’t kind. If all your life you will try to be more fair and more kind to others than some of them may sometimes be to you, then you will be happy, and your life will be full and useful’” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1976, 42; or Ensign, Nov. 1976, 32).
Have someone read 1 Corinthians 13:2–7. Ask class members to discuss the ideas in this scripture. Can a sister who has charity feel prejudice toward another race of people? Can she turn away the sick, the poor, or the hungry? Can she be jealous of the accomplishments of others? Can she gossip about or criticize others? Why must we strive to develop charity?
President Harold B. Lee said that one night he had what “must have been a vision,” in which he was told: “‘If you want to love God, you have to learn to love and serve the people. That is the way to show your love for God’” (Stand Ye in Holy Places , 189).
Through acts of service, large or small, we can learn to love more deeply. Sister Cora Hill Arnold of the United States told of how she learned to love through service, although she lived near a woman she felt she could not like:
“I found fault with everything she did. … I heard from others that she felt the same way about me. She seemed always to force herself … to show everyone how important she was. How I disliked to see her achieve.
“She was never very friendly to me, and I would pass her with a cool nod or a polite ‘hello.’ … I was miserable because to dislike a person does make one unhappy.
“And then one day I heard she was ill. So what? It was not my worry.
“But it was [my worry], and I couldn’t forget it. Because I have an active conscience I finally went into my kitchen and stirred up some applesauce cupcakes. …
“And I took them to her!
“Her face lighted up with surprise and pleasure, and a warm glow spread over my heart, washing away the angry prejudice at once. As I walked from her home to mine I was smiling and the day was bright and beautiful.
“Now she is one of my close friends. …
“Someone has said, ‘Hate is love gone wrong. We hate those whom we might have loved’” (“Shall I Deem Her My Enemy?” Relief Society Magazine, Aug. 1970, 595).
Ask a sister to tell of an experience she had in learning to love someone. How can we build a deeper relationship, even with members of our own family, through service?
When we were baptized, we covenanted with the Lord to “bear one another’s burdens; … mourn with those that mourn; … and comfort those that stand in need of comfort” (Mosiah 18:8–9). We have the responsibility to seek out those who are in need. Then we have the responsibility to help them, without being urged or commanded. (See D&C 58:26–29.)
We have covenanted to serve those who are in need, just as Christ served His fellowmen. Christlike service may not be requested. It may be needed by someone who is a stranger to us who can never repay us. It may be unpleasant and require much effort on our part. It may be needed at a time when it is difficult for us to give. We may receive no praise or recognition. But we serve because we love our Heavenly Father’s children and want to help them out of the pure desire of our hearts.
Emma Sommerville McConkie, Elder Bruce R. McConkie’s grandmother, was a widow from Moab, Utah. Elder McConkie’s father wrote in his journal of the following experience his mother had:
“‘Mother was president of the Moab Relief Society. J____ B____ [a nonmember who opposed the Church] had married a Mormon girl. They had several children; now they had a new baby. They were very poor and Mother was going day by day to care for the child and to take them baskets of food, etc. Mother herself was ill, and more than once was hardly able to get home after doing the work at the J____ B____ home.
“‘One day she returned home especially tired and weary. She slept in her chair. She dreamed she was bathing a baby which she discovered was the Christ Child. She thought, Oh, what a great honor to thus serve the very Christ! As she held the baby in her lap, she was all but overcome. She thought, who else has actually held the Christ Child? Unspeakable joy filled her whole being. She was aflame with the glory of the Lord. It seemed that the very marrow in her bones would melt. Her joy was so great it awakened her. As she awoke, these words were spoken to her, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me”’” (quoted by Bruce R. McConkie in “Charity Which Never Faileth,” Relief Society Magazine, Mar. 1970, 169).
President David O. McKay said:
“We have greater responsibilities than ever before to make our homes such as will radiate to our neighbors harmony, love, community duties, loyalty. Let our neighbors see it and hear it. …
“God help us as members … of the Church, to radiate … Love … , Charity, … and Service!” (“Radiation of the Individual,” Instructor, Oct. 1964, 374).
Choose a person you have difficulty loving, and try to build a good personal relationship with him or her. Become more aware of how you might be of service to this person and others.
Before presenting this lesson: