Our Savior’s Love

By Sister Susan L. Gong

The following is the text from an address Sister Susan L. Gong gave at the BYU Women’s Conference on May 4, 2018.


 

I wish we could talk to each of you to learn what you have felt, experienced, and discovered over the last two days. Wonderful things happen when righteous, faithful, open-to-the-Spirit women gather. Because of what we’ve learned here we will be different, better. We take away a surer sense of God’s love for us. That gives us strength to do what is most important and special—the small and simple ways we lift, serve, and minister to one another.

The change from “visiting teaching” to “ministering” invites us to think more deeply about the new commandment “As I have loved you, that ye also love one another.”1

I want to share three observations about what it might mean to love as Jesus loves.

Understand

First, Jesus knows the heart of every daughter or son of God.  In the New Testament we see that He understands the essential nature of every person He meets. He knows Nathaniel is a man without guile.2 He knows Nicodemus, the Pharisee who comes by night, is truly seeking to understand.3 And from the beginning He understands that Peter—impetuous, hopeful, vulnerable, two-steps-forward-one-step-back Peter—has it within him to lead the Church, else why would Christ bestow on him the name Cephus, meaning “the Rock”?4

Christ knows the heart of the Samaritan woman: “Well hast thou said, ‘I have no husband’ for thou hast had seven husbands, and he who thou hast now is not thy husband.”5 Those words must have been spoken with great tenderness. They evoke such a humble response, perhaps one full of wonder: “Sir, I see that thou art a prophet.”

He knows the hearts of His persecutors: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”6

There is healing, there is hope in just being understood.

Perhaps you instinctively know the hearts of those you minister to. Perhaps you have this incredible gift of discernment. I do not. So, if I am to love as Jesus loves so that I can minister more like He ministers, what can I do? I need to learn to listen.

When Elder Gong and I lived in Hong Kong, our apartment was located on one of the busiest streets in one of the world’s busiest cities. It was often hard to hear Gerrit unless we stood face-to-face. One day Gerrit said, “Sweetheart, when we’re next in Salt Lake City, would you please consider having your hearing checked?”

I obligingly visited an audiologist who, after testing my hearing, proclaimed, “Mrs. Gong, I have good news and bad news. The good news is your hearing is perfect. The bad news is, you may have a listening problem, and there’s not much I can do about that.”

I need to learn to listen—to put down my electronic devices, shut out distractions, and listen with my heart to truly understand not just what someone is saying but who it is that I’m talking to: a child of God. Listen for that. I’m discovering that this means not just listening to the person but listening to the Holy Ghost at the same time. The Holy Ghost helps us ask inspired questions that lead to greater understanding.

Feel compassion

A second observation is that compassion always accompanies Christ’s understanding of our hearts. He has compassion on the blind,7 on the widow of Nain who had lost her only son,8 on lepers,9 on the brother of Jared,10 on one possessed with a devil,11 “and, multiple times, on the multitude.”12 From the cross He has compassion for Mary, His mother.13 “Surely he hath born our grief.”14

Compassion is at the heart of Christ’s parables: the parable of the debtor,15 the good Samaritan,16 the father of the prodigal son.17

Can we really come to feel what others feel? In our spheres of ministering, can we feel what it means:

  • To wrangle adorable and demanding preschoolers day in and day out.
  • To be a divorced mom reentering the workforce after many years.
  • To be 90 and alone.
  • To be the returning prodigal.
  • To have been abandoned.
  • To to receive a diagnosis of cancer.
  • To to have been abused.
  • To have lost a child to illness.
  • To have lost a child to the world. 

As Christians we are called to feel the pain of others. In this we truly “bear one another’s burdens.”18 When we have compassion—empathy—we begin to know how to help.

Bless

This is my third observation about how Jesus loves us. Having felt our want, our fear, our loneliness, our hunger, our hurt, He responds to our specific need.

When Peter needs reassurance, Christ gives him a new name reflecting the disciple’s potential and Christ’s confidence in him. When Nicodemus seeks understanding, Jesus teaches him. Having compassion on the people of Nephi, He calls them forth one by one to heal and bless them.19

Like the good Samaritan, when Christ finds us suffering. He has compassion on us, comes to us, binds our wounds, brings us to the inn, and cares for us.20

In so many ways the Church is the inn where we, like the innkeeper, are called upon to minister to each other until the Master returns.

He feeds, heals, nurtures, teaches, and blesses us with a great love born of compassion. Christ sought to bless with His every breath.

Understand. Feel compassion. Bless. This is the Savior’s pattern of ministering, and it can be ours.

I recently lost a dear friend who lived in this pattern. At her funeral her daughter said, “My mother was good at everything important and special. She wanted everyone to have their story known. She paid notice to me in the most significant ways. How can you give up when your mom is this most profound person who sees you as you are and still believes in you?”

Another eulogy described this Christlike sister: “She was the giver of thoughtful gifts, the rescuer of stranded souls, a healer of broken hearts, a polisher of tarnished halos. She was the kind of person who always held the mirror at the most flattering angle, a woman of substance. She was observant of human need. Her response to suffering was to ease the burden. Hers was love unfeigned.”

As I hear the prophet’s call to a higher, holier form of ministry, I think of my friend. We are being asked to love as she loved—to be good at what is special and important.

But where do we get the patience, insight, imagination, courage, and strength to love like this?

In December I had the blessing of attending the Salt Lake Temple with a recently endowed friend, a sister I’ve known since elementary school. Life has presented her with many challenges, and her connection to the Church has sometimes been tenuous, though I believe she has always had the gospel in her heart. 

As we walked the corridors of that magnificent temple, she stopped at every painting of the Savior, reached toward it, then bowed her head, and touched her heart. In the celestial room she prayed fervently—having finally come to the house of the Lord, she was in no hurry to leave. On our way home we walked through Deseret Book, each of us browsing different sections.

“Susan, you've got to see this!” she said. “Someone has painted a picture of me!” We rounded a corner. She pointed to this beautiful image created by Brian Kershisnik.21 “That’s me!” She exclaimed. “That’s just how I feel!”

Loved.

Blessed.

Sisters, I testify that we are loved with a glorious, infinite love of our Father in Heaven and our Savior. We enjoy the “matchless bounty of the [Savior’s] love.”22 I testify that in Their love we can come to understand one another, have compassion for one another, and bless one another, to be good at everything important and special. The Holy Ghost will help us know how.

I testify that this glorious gospel is true. It is powerful. It is beautiful and it is important.

I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.


2 See John 1:47.

4 Peter, the Rock

5 John

6 Father forgive them

11 Mark 5:18–19.

13 Compassion for Mary

14 Isaiah,

15 parable of the debtor

16 Luke 10:33–34.

17 Luke 15:20.

18 Alma

20 Luke 10:33.

21 Brian Kershisnik, She Will Find That Which Is Lost.

22 Alma 26:15.