Kindness and Love

Recently I had to speak in church about Christlike love. I don't usually talk religious or spiritual things on my blog, but I thought I'd share what I spoke about because what better time to talk about having love for each other than at Christmas.

The world needs more kindness. How much better would the world be if we all had Christlike love? I’m on both Facebook and Twitter, and I often see so much hatred out there. Sometimes, it’s awful comments people make to each other, often anonymously. It’s so easy to be mean when no one knows you’re doing it. But not only this kind of hatred, but I’ve seen a lot of negativity when people don’t agree. When someone speaks out against popular opinion, or unpopular opinion, they get vilified. These days, it feels like people automatically go to a place of anger and hatred towards another who doesn’t share their beliefs or opinions. I don’t know how many times I’ve thought, “can’t we all just get along?”

Good happens on social media too- I wouldn’t be on it if there wasn’t. I remember someone posting on Facebook once a little phrase that has stuck with me ever since. “Just because I don’t agree with you, doesn’t mean I don’t love you.”
It’s so true. We can disagree, we can be different from each other, hold different beliefs and opinions, but that doesn’t mean we should lash out. I might not agree with you, but that doesn’t stop me from loving you. From being kind to you, from only hoping the best for you.
Sometimes people get up in church and say, “I love everyone.” I used to inwardly scoff at that- there’s no way you can love everyone. You don’t know everyone, so how can you love them? But I’ve come to realize that this kind of love is about having no ill-will towards our fellow man. It means having an open heart.
There’s an article in the 1983 Ensign by Ann N. Madsen called: Tolerance, the beginning of Christlike love. In it, she mentions a keynote address that Henry B. Eyring gave once entitled “The Rope.” She says, “In this address, he suggested a powerful metaphor: we are like mountain climbers, he said, bound to each other as children of God. As he spoke, I thought how Satan must laugh when we push each other down—by faultfinding, criticism, name-calling, and labeling—when part of our purpose in mortality is to learn to lift each other up.”

She also said, “If we can learn patience, allowing all men the privilege of seeing truth at their own pace, we will have moved measurably toward the compassion and love of the Savior, who saw no enemies among his crucifiers. His example stands for all time to teach us the tender path from tolerance to compassion and perfect love.”

My favorite scripture, ever since I was a teenager, is found in Moroni, chapter 8, the last line of verse 16: “for perfect love casteth out all fear.”
Fear causes us to hate. It causes us to be angry, to lash out, to get offended, to withdraw. We become afraid that we’ll get hurt again, so we put up defenses to avoid it. Then what happens to us? We carry it around, this anger or hatred of offendedness (which probably isn’t a word). We carry it around and it festers. It can consume us. We only end up hurting ourselves. When we fail to have Christlike love, despite what someone might have done to us, we are the ones who lose in the end. When we carry all that negativity around, how can we possibly love?

I found a quote from Jeffrey R. Holland that says, Pure Christlike love flowing from true righteousness can change the world.
I don’t know about you, but my goal has never been to change the world. But what about changing ourselves? Can you imagine how much better the world would be if we all strove individually to have Christlike love?

“Because love is the great commandment, it ought to be at the center of all and everything we do in our own family, in our Church callings, and in our livelihood,” said President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Second Counselor in the First Presidency. “Love is the healing balm that repairs rifts in personal and family relationships. It is the bond that unites families, communities, and nations. Love is the power that initiates friendship, tolerance, civility, and respect. It is the source that overcomes divisiveness and hate. Love is the fire that warms our lives with unparalleled joy and divine hope. Love should be our walk and our talk.”

President Monson gave a talk at a Christmas devotional called, “Christmas is Love.” He said, “true love is a reflection of the Savior’s love. In December of each year we call it the Christmas spirit. You can hear it. You can see it. You can feel it.”

He went on to tell this story which particularly touched me, since I’ve been called to Primary. He said,

Recently I thought back to an experience from my boyhood—an experience I have related on another occasion or two. I was just 11. Our Primary president, Melissa, was an older and loving gray-haired lady. One day at Primary, Melissa asked me to stay behind and visit with her. There the two of us sat in the otherwise empty chapel. She placed her arm about my shoulder and began to cry. Surprised, I asked her why she was crying.

She replied, “I can’t seem to get the Trail Builder boys to be reverent during the opening exercises of Primary. Would you be willing to help me, Tommy?”

I promised Melissa that I would. Strangely to me, but not to Melissa, that ended any problem of reverence in Primary. She had gone to the source of the problem—me. The solution was love.

The years flew by. Marvelous Melissa, now in her 90s, lived in a nursing facility in the northwest part of Salt Lake City. Just before Christmas, I determined to visit my beloved Primary president. Over the car radio I heard the song “Hark! The herald angels sing glory to the newborn King!”2 I reflected on the visit made by wise men those long years ago. They brought gifts of gold, of frankincense, and of myrrh. I brought only the gift of love and a desire to say thank you.

I found Melissa in the lunchroom. She was staring at her plate of food, teasing it with the fork she held in her aged hand. Not a bite did she eat. As I spoke to her, my words were met by a benign but blank stare. I took the fork in hand and began to feed Melissa, talking all the time I did so about her service to boys and girls as a Primary worker. There wasn’t so much as a glimmer of recognition, far less a spoken word. Two other residents of the nursing home gazed at me with puzzled expressions. At last one of them spoke, saying, “Don’t talk to her. She doesn’t know anyone—even her own family. She hasn’t said a word in all the time she’s been here.”

Luncheon ended. My one-sided conversation wound down. I stood to leave. I held her frail hand in mine, gazed into her wrinkled but beautiful countenance, and said, “God bless you, Melissa. Merry Christmas.” Without warning, she spoke the words, “I know you. You’re Tommy Monson, my Primary boy. How I love you.” She pressed my hand to her lips and bestowed on it a sweet kiss filled with love. Tears coursed down her cheeks and bathed our clasped hands. Those hands that day were hallowed by heaven and graced by God. The herald angels did sing.

Having Christlike love isn’t just a feeling, we have to show it too. We have to give of our time, and say Thank You, like President Monson did. Christlike love is charity. The pure love of Christ, known as charity, is the highest, noblest, and strongest kind of love and the most joyous to the soul. Christlike love is service. In Jesus Christ’s mortal ministry, He “went about doing good,” showing tender compassion for the poor, afflicted, and distressed. To develop Christlike love, we must seek it, pray for it, and follow the example of the Savior in our thoughts, words, and actions.
This is especially difficult for me. It’s easy for me to feel Christlike love. I don’t get easily offended, I don’t hold grudges, I genuinely feel no ill-will towards anyone. But showing Christlike love? Not my forte for sure. I have just as hard of a time expressing it with words as I do showing it through service.

In For the Strength of Youth it says about service, “There are many ways to serve others. Some of the most important service you can give will be within your own home. You can also serve in your Church assignments, school, and community. You can serve by doing temple and family history work. You can serve by sharing the gospel with others. Often the most meaningful service is expressed through simple, everyday acts of kindness.
Service isn’t my forte, but I say, play to your strengths. I’m not good at the big, noticeable acts of service, but that doesn’t mean I can’t serve. I like how it said, “often the most meaningful service is expressed through simple, everyday acts of kindness.”

Recently I had an opportunity for this. I was standing in line at Walmart. I had Avery with me, who’s five. The lady in front of me going though the check-out had a couple of kids as well, younger, and she was busy with them- something I can easily relate to. She ended up leaving two of her shopping bags behind. The check-out lady was the one to notice. She showed me the bags, said the lady left them behind. We both stood there craning our heads both ways to see if we could see her but she’d left.
What did I do? I hate to say that I hesitated. I stood there and didn’t know what to do, when it should have been obvious on the spot. Finally, I told Avery to stay put, grabbed the bags, and ran out of the store. I managed to catch the lady in the parking lot and give her her two bags.

Was this a big thing? No. It was a simple act of kindness. I hate to admit that I was pretty proud of myself for it because I easily could have just left it alone. In the past, I would have. Not because I’m mean or lazy, but it just wouldn’t have occurred to me to chase her down and give her the bags. I’ve had to teach myself to be more mindful of others needs. I’m still learning.
As we approach Christmas, Christlike love tends to be easier, doesn’t it? Not just for us in the church but for everyone. Like President Monson said, we identify it as the Christmas Spirit.

I’ve always been interested by history and especially war. One of my favorite Christmas stories is one you’ve probably all heard. It’s the story of the soldiers during World War One in the trenches. There’s a video on YouTube that you should watch. It’s a commercial for Sainsbury’s- I think it’s a British supermarket- and it re-enacts this event. I’ve watched it multiple times and cried every time.
December of 1914, when the war had only raged on about five months (I think), Pope Benedict the fifteenth suggested a temporary hiatus of the war for the celebration of Christmas. Neither side wanted to declare an official cease-fire, but the soldiers in the trenches did it on their own.

On Christmas Eve, the sounds of rifles firing and shells exploding faded in a number of places along the Western Front. Some of the German soldiers began singing carols. The Allies joined in. They sang carols together and the allies even reported hearing a brass band joining in from the German lines.
On Christmas Day, some German soldiers emerged from their trenches and approached the Allied lines across no-man’s land, calling out Merry Christmas! in English. At first, the allies thought it was a trick, but seeing the Germans unarmed, they climbed out of their trenches and shook hands with the enemy soldiers. They exchanged presents of food and cigarettes and sang Christmas carols together. There is even a documented case of soldiers from opposing lines playing soccer.

Can you imagine? I try to put myself in the place of one of those soldiers. I don’t feel a lot of hate for anyone now, but if I was in the middle of a war, on the front lines, if I had to kill people, see my friends and comrades killed beside me, what kind of hate would be in my heart? And would I be able to lay that aside? Could I shake hands? Could I share precious presents from home?
This story is often repeated because it’s amazing. They put aside war and killing and hate for one day of love.

On it says, “The so-called Christmas Truce of 1914 came only five months after the outbreak of war in Europe and was one of the last examples of the outdated notion of chivalry between enemies in warfare. It was never repeated—future attempts at holiday ceasefires were quashed by officers’ threats of disciplinary action—but it served as heartening proof, however brief, that beneath the brutal clash of weapons, the soldiers’ essential humanity endured.”
A Christmas truce never happened again. How sad is that? Having Christlike love isn’t just a Christmas thing. It’s forever. It’s something we need to strive for every day. Those soldiers put aside their weapons for one day, but can you imagine how amazing it would have been if they didn’t just put aside their weapons for one day, but for good?

I know that’s idealistic thinking, for the soldiers to refuse to fight. That doesn’t happen. War doesn’t work that way. But still, imagine it. If both sides decided they just wouldn’t fight anymore, not just for Christmas, but for good. Now THAT, truly would have been amazing.
In order to have Christlike love, we need to lay aside our weapons like those soldiers did, not just for one day, but for good. We need to lay aside intolerance, anger, offence, unkind thoughts, negativity, and hatred. We need to lay aside fear, and embrace love. Serve each other, have charity, reach out to others, love them, be kind. Feel it in our hearts and show it.

I pray that we can strive daily to have perfect love, Christlike love, in our thoughts, in our hearts, in our deeds, in our daily life and always.