Talk for University Young Adult Ward August 26, 2012
Elizabeth Willis Barrett
I like to know things precisely. For instance, when I go into a grocery store looking for the Worcestershire sauce, I want someone to tell me exactly where it is: Oh, that’s on aisle 7 on the right hand side half way down the aisle on the second shelf from the top. Better yet I want someone to take me right to it, so I won’t waste any time looking. What I don’t want the store employee to say is: “Worcestershire sauce? Let me see. I think it’s down Aisle 7. Aw, you can’t miss it.” Because I know I can miss it.
I feel like I have missed a few basics in my life in my desire to learn. I’m still not positive what a browser is or a URL or a PDF file verses a Jpeg. I’m still trying to figure out depth of field, aperture and shutter speed. But there are a lot of basics far more important than these that are easily missed. The one I’d like to discuss with you today is Charity. Charity is easily missed.
What I wish I could do right now is take you straight to the Charity aisle and show you exactly where it is so that you could put it into your basket of life. Charity is vital to your happiness, your well being and your eternal welfare. It is a basic that you must not miss.
Because “my beloved brethren and sisters, if ye have not charity, ye are nothing, for charity never faileth. Wherefore, cleave unto charity, which is the greatest of all, for all things must fail--
But charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him.”
We are commanded to love, even if we don’t feel like it. When asked what the first commandment of all was, Jesus answered, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment.
“And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these” (see Mark 12:28–31).
If we love God, we will strive to obey all of the commandments He has given. If we love others, we will treat them as the gospel teaches us to treat them, not as interruptions to our carefully laid plans.
Sophocles wrote: “One word frees us of all the weight and pain of life: That word is love.”15
Elder Bruce R. McConkie said in Mormon Doctrine: Above all the attributes of godliness and perfection, charity is the one most devoutly to be desired. Charity is more than love, far more; it is everlasting love, perfect love, the pure love of Christ which endureth forever. It is love so centered in righteousness that the possessor has no aim or desire except for the eternal welfare of his own soul and for the souls of those around him” (Mormon Doctrine, 121).
We might get away without doing our genealogy or even without playing on the Ward’s Softball team. But none of us is going to make it without becoming wholeheartedly and totally charitable.
Charity really matters. And like anything else that matters, there will be opposition to our attaining it.
So what gets in the way of putting charity into our basket so to speak?
One thing is envy. It’s hard to love someone with a Christlike love when we are jealous of their looks, their accomplishments, their wealth, their friends. There is always something to be jealous about.
Let me tell you about a concept I heard that has made a great difference to me . I wish I had heard it when I was as young as you are. That concept is this: As hard as we try we are never going to get 100% in this life. We weren’t put on this earth to “have it all.” We only get 80%. That person you envy doesn’t get 100% either. He or she only gets 80%. Let others enjoy their 80% while you enjoy yours. Be happy for their successes. Love them. Serve them. We are each on a different path to get where we need to be. We each have different things to learn while in this mortal condition.
Another quality that gets in the way of Charity is being judgmental.
The Apostle Paul said that those who pass judgment on others are “inexcusable.” The moment we judge someone else, he explained, we condemn ourselves, for none is without sin.5
Do you remember President Uchtdorf’s two word sermon, “Stop It!?”
He said: “This topic of judging others could actually be taught in a two-word sermon. When it comes to hating, gossiping, ignoring, ridiculing, holding grudges, or wanting to cause harm, please apply the following: Stop it!”
He continued: “It’s that simple. We simply have to stop judging others and replace judgmental thoughts and feelings with a heart full of love for God and His children.”
Another characteristic that gets in the way of Charity is our own self consciousness--our insecurity that keeps us from reaching out to others. When we let our thoughts be totally consumed with our own problems, our own deficiencies, our own awkwardness, we don’t leave room for love for others. Our self-ishness gets in the way.
We might think someone doesn’t like us so we back away and aren’t friendly which makes the other person back away and not be friendly. Which makes us say, “See, I told you she didn’t like me!”
In President Uctdorf’s words: “Stop it!” Assume everyone likes you and treat them that way. Make sure they know that you like them. Use their names. Did you know that you can go to the ward website and memorize everyone’s name and face? Taking time to do that would be very rewarding for all of us. Then when I ask you what someone’s name is because I’ve forgotten, you’d be able to tell me!
If you want to work on having charity, you’re going to have to forget yourself which I know is much easier said than done, especially when you’re totally ready for Church and someone is waiting to take you there and you dribble toothpaste onto your dark suit or your brand new vintage dress.
I think some come with more charitable tendencies than others. I know your Bishop does. He loves everyone. In Walmart he’ll often call me over to meet the Walmart greeter because he has stopped to talk to her and knows her whole life’s story. While standing in line at Circle K, he’ll find out all about someone’s tattoos and piercings. I just want to fill up my very infrequent 44 ouncer and get out without a word to anyone.
So if we need to have charity to make it to the Celestial Kingdom, how are those of us not so inclined going to get it? Here are some ideas:
#1: Change your thinking
Charitable acts start with charitable thoughts for as a man thinketh in his heart so is he. When an uncharitable thought enters your mind, you can delete it. And delete it quickly before it has time to grow. Exchange a judgmental, unkind thought with a compassionate one until it becomes second nature to think the best of those around you.
According to Joseph B. Wirthlin, “The more we allow the love of God to govern our minds and emotions and the more we allow our love for our Heavenly Father to swell within our hearts—the easier it is to love others with the pure love of Christ.”
Charity starts in your mind.
#2: Emulate the life of the Savior.
Since charity is the pure love of Christ, His life and example will teach us what we must do. Our ultimate goal in life should be to be more Christlike.
Service is a must if we want to grow in charity. As we serve others, we grow to love them. President Monson said, “True charity is love in action and the need for charity is everywhere.”
It takes practice to become charitable, the practice of Christlike service.
Charity can turn “have tos” into “want tos.”
“I have to go help George move” becomes “I want to go help George move.” It will take practice serving when it is inconvenient or unpleasant but the more you do it and as you let your heart fill with love while you serve, the better you will be at it and Christlike service will become joyful to you.
#4: Pray for it
I think the best thing we can do to be blessed with Charity is to pray for it.
The prophet Mormon admonished: Wherefore, … 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.....
Get on your knees and beg Heavenly Father to bless you with the gift of charity. Then get up off your knees and work to be worthy of it.
#5: Rely on the Atonement
The Atonement was Christ’s greatest act of charity. Where we fall short, the Savior will pick up the pieces. When we are mindful of His Atonement and put forth effort, the Savior will help us to master charity.
Charity won’t come all at once, but as you practice changing your thoughts, following the Savior, giving service, praying for charity, and relying on the Atonement, the pure love of Christ will start to permeate your soul. Those around you will become more precious and you will find a peace and joy in your life that perhaps has been missing.
Although I love the beautiful words of 1 Corinthians 13:1-7 and I hope you’ll read them, I’d like to relate that scripture in a different way:
Though I can prepare a talk and speak angelic words from the pulpit, if I don’t love the people I’m speaking to, I might as well have come up here and blown a blast on a trumpet or hit a cymbal.
And though I can prophecy about who will end up with whom, and understand all the mysteries of biochemistry and have all knowledge of pyschology and even though I have all faith to remove the Superstition Mountains and don’t care about the people I encounter at Target, I am nothing.
And though I pay a lot to fast offerings, and burn up my strength in service projects like Thanksgiving dinner at The Boys and Girls Club and don’t love those people I’m serving, I might as well have held onto my money and stayed home.
Charity calmly puts up with a lot from roommates and is kind to everyone--even old crotchety people; charity doesn’t envy the girl who gets the most text messages from the handsomest boys; charity doesn’t think he’s too cool to chat with those he considers beneath him, because he is not puffed up enough to think that anyone is beneath him.
Charity doesn’t behave in inappropriate ways like taking advantage of a girl by making her feel like she’s the one one day and dumping her the next, doesn’t seek to always get the biggest piece of pizza, is not easily irritated (although, goodness knows, who wouldn’t get irritated when McDonalds doesn’t get your order right?) and only thinks positive things about herself and others.
Charity rejoiceth in right choices and rejoiceth in the Gospel of Jesus Christ and in general, just rejoiceth because there is so much to rejoice about.
Charity knows he or she will be given strength to bear hard things, believes in the Plan of Salvation, hopes for a bright future and endureth many dates in order to find his or her Eternal Companion.
Our University Ward is a great laboratory for learning and practicing charity. We are all so different in age, experience, temperament, abilities and struggles. There are those in our Ward who are homesick, are grappling with addictions, are hanging onto their testimonies by their fingernails, are suffering from depression and anxiety. There are some who are going to try coming to Church just one more time. It might be your smile or your hello or your reaching out to them that will make an eternal difference in their lives and in the lives of their families.
I have seen your good works and am gratified by the charity that you already display. I would hope that this University Ward will be so full of charity that it will be palpable to those who spend their valuable time with us.
Charity--you can’t miss it. You must not miss it. I must not miss it. Our eternal welfare depends upon our possession of charity.