Since we have moved to Pennsylvania, I have become fascinated with the history of this area, as it is all new to me. On a recent trip to Philadelphia, we listened to a podcast on William Penn and the founding of Pennsylvania. I have recently learned quite a bit about William Penn. He was a Quaker, and as such, believed that all men are created equal and all are alike unto God. The founding of the city of Philadelphia, which means the city of brotherly love, was part of his vision for a place where all men could practice their religion in peace and without persecution. A place where toleration would lead to the building up of Zion. Understanding the history of Philadelphia makes the temple even more significant to me. Our Latter-day Saint temple is built in a city that was founded on principles of religious toleration and a desire to build a community based on love and respect for our fellow men.
In Matthew, we read about how our Savior counsels us to treat our neighbors.
Matt 5: 43-47
43 Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.
44 But I say unto you, 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;
45 That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.
46 For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?
47 And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so?
Jesus asks us to love our neighbor, which we know to be everyone. We are asked to overcome our prejudices and our intolerances and view every person as worthy of love. President Uchtdorf said the following, “We are created in the image of our heavenly parents; we are God’s spirit children. Therefore, we have a vast capacity for love—it is part of our spiritual heritage. What and how we love not only defines us as individuals; it also defines us as a church. Love is the defining characteristic of a disciple of Christ.”
We learn as young children that we are children of God. As youth, we learn more of our divine heritage and worth of our individual souls. As adults, we learn and understand the divine worth of others.
Jesus taught us to love others as God loves us. To appreciate the worth of the soul. In our interactions with our family, friends and neighbors, how we treat them, can reflect God’s love. What we teach in our homes helps our children to learn about how our Heavenly Father loves us.
I grew up in a home with wonderful parents. My parents are converts to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; they joined in California in the late 70s. They taught me how to love and respect other people, how to be kind and how to serve diligently in my church callings. From their example I have learned that following the gospel is the best way to feel God’s love and show love and compassion for our fellow man. For most of my life, I have felt this love so strongly, but there have been times of sorrow and struggle where it has been so hard to feel anything at all.
So, what about when we shall short of where we want to be? When we are not loving with God’s love, or are struggling to feel God’s love. Sometimes, we read the scriptures, we come to church, but life brings trials that numb us from feeling God’s love. We might even be angry at our Divine Creator. In one of my favorite children’s books, Anne of Green Gables, Anne is distraught when she dyes her hair green and tells Marilla that she is in the depths of despair. Marilla says that to despair is to turn your back on God. While Anne may be very upset, but she is not in despair.
In our deepest sorrows or anguish, we may feel alone and wonder where the love of God has gone and how we can feel it again. Our backs may not be turned in despair, but our heads might be turned the opposite direction from our Heavenly Father. My advice from personal experience is to be open to spiritual promptings. Begin with a desire to feel God’s love in your life again. Inspiration can come if you desire it, even at times that you may not expect it. In a class that I was in, not a church class even, our instructor counseled us to “let it go and give it to God.” I was reminded of the scripture:
“For God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.” John 3:16 Because our Father in Heaven loves us, he gave us a Savior, Jesus Christ. The burdens that we carry in life can be lifted if we remember “come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart; and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Secondly, realizing that kindness from others is also a testimony of our Heavenly Father’s love for us.
Remembering the kindness of my mother always inspires me to be a better person, even though I know I don’t measure up. My mom always said kind words about other people. Her love for people taught me how to be loving.
Moving to Pennsylvania was a hard move for us. We were very content in South Carolina. Things were good. And yet, we were given this opportunity to move here and we felt we should do it. It really broke my heart to move away from my home and my friends. Moving away from my Dad. Away from my mother’s grave. The blessing of moving here has been that I have felt the love of God in this move. I have received such kindness from those around me. From strangers, from people at the DMV, stores, the library, and especially here in the ward. I have felt love. We have been the recipients of a delicious welcome meal, invitations to dinner, visits, the gift of delicious cookies, people who have taken the time to talk with us and get to know us. We have been so grateful for the kindness in this area. There have been moments where I have looked at people around me, perfect strangers and felt such love for them that I feel I have been given a glimpse of what God feels for them. These moments are powerful and reduce me to tears.
Now, for those who feel the love of God–those whose testimonies burn bright with the love of their Heavenly Father, (and I realize that this world is full of people like this). Those who have walked through the trials of life and come out on the other side and say with conviction “I know He lives. I know that God who art in Heaven and I love Him!” What is the charge? What do we do? We learn once again from our Savior’s example.
“If ye love me, feed my lambs.”
“Go and do thou likewise.”
“If ye love me, keep my commandments.”
“I will make you fishers of men.”
“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.”
Dieter F. Uchtdorf said,
“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. 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.
Since the beginning of time, love has been the source of both the highest bliss and the heaviest burdens. At the heart of misery from the days of Adam until today, you will find the love of wrong things. And at the heart of joy, you will find the love of good things. And the greatest of all good things is God.”
I have a testimony that we have a Father in Heaven who loves us. We are His children. He wants us to be loving to each other and to help one another. We do this when we are kind and show to compassion to those around us, even those who we disagree with, and even those we don’t like.
Recently, Thomas S. Monson spoke about Christ-like love for our brethren. He said, “Rather than being judgmental and critical of each other, may we have the pure love of Christ for our fellow travelers in this journey through life. May we recognize that each one is doing their best to deal with the challenges which may come his or her way, and may we strive to do our best to help out.”