A Love Talk

One of my favorite General Conference talks is “Love–the Essence of the Gospel” by President Thomas S. Monson.I have studied this talk a lot, and I took the opportunity in this month of hearts and love to study it again. I had the opportunity this week to present a talk on the topic of love for our ward Relief Society meeting, and I am sharing it here. I learned a lot in studying and preparing–isn’t that the greatest thing about teaching/speaking? I learn so much in the process

The month of February always turns our minds and hearts to the theme of love. At our house we read love books, we read scriptures about love, and we write love notes. So I have been thinking a lot about the topic of love.

Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin gave a talk in October 1997 entitled, “The Great Commandment”. He taught:

“Love is the beginning, the middle, and the end of the pathway of discipleship.”

“Love is the greatest of all the commandments—all others hang upon it. It is our focus as followers of the living Christ. It is the one trait that, if developed, will most improve our lives.”

So, how do we go about developing the trait of love? We begin by understanding what love is. If we substitute charity as a synonym for love, then we can read all about it in Moroni 7:45:

“And charity suffereth long, and is kind, and envieth not, and is not puffed up, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, and rejoiceth not in iniquity but rejoiceth in the truth, beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.”

In a classic speech at BYU, titled after Elizabeth Barret Browning’s famous poem, “How Do I Love Thee?, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland taught:

“Real love is best shown in the “how”.

How do we show our love? We can begin first by saying “I love you”. We have an “I love you” tradition at our home that is centered on sneezing. When someone sneezes, the first response, as is typical, is to say “Bless you”. But sneezes tend to come in multiples, so after the second sneeze the response is “Oh, I love you.” Sneeze again and it is “Oh, I really love you!”.

This tradition started with my husband I when we were first married, and has now grown to include our children. The children usually continue the conversation with fake sneezes. I then respond: “Oh, so much love!” and “Lots of love!” and “Hugs and kisses!” and “Loving you forever!” This is just a silly little thing, but it gets us saying the words.

Elder Bednar in October 2009 taught:

“We can begin to become more diligent and concerned at home by telling the people we love that we love them. Such expressions do not need to be flowery or lengthy. We simply should sincerely and frequently express love.

… when was the last time you took your eternal companion in your arms and said, “I love you”? Parents, when was the last time you sincerely expressed love to your children? Children, when was the last time you told your parents that you love them?

Each of us already knows we should tell the people we love that we love them. But what we know is not always reflected in what we do. We may feel unsure, awkward, or even perhaps a bit embarrassed.

We should remember that saying “I love you” is only a beginning. We need to say it, we need to mean it, and most importantly we need consistently to show it. We need to both express and demonstrate love.”

How else do we show our love? Elder Wirthlin taught:

“the greatest manifestations of love are the simple acts of kindness and caring we extend to those we meet along the path of life.”

President Thomas S. Monson gave a great address in the April 2014 General Conference. The entire talk is worth further study but I just wanted to touch on a few highlights. He taught:

Love is the very essence of the gospel, and Jesus Christ is our Exemplar…We cannot truly love God if we do not love our fellow travelers on this mortal journey.”

He shared a poem that clearly demonstrates the value of love and kindness:

I have wept in the night

For the shortness of sight

That to somebody’s need made me blind;

But I never have yet

Felt a tinge of regret

For being a little too kind.

President Monson encourages love as a daily way of being. But, it is always our choice how we will act. He said:

“As we arise each morning, let us determine to respond with love and kindness to whatever might come our way.”

I loved that thought so much that it has been hanging in my bathroom for almost two years. I need that daily reminder of how to act!

Each of us longs to have fulfillment in loving relationships. Elder Wirthlin taught:

“True love blooms when we care more about another person than we care about ourselves.”

As I close, I would like to remind you that at the end of the day, if your Valentine’s Day or week of month or lifetime isn’t quite how you expected, remember what President Dieter F. Uchtdorf taught:

“You are loved. You are dear to your heavenly parents. The infinite and eternal Creator of light and life knows you! He is mindful of you. Yes, God loves you this very day and always…He knows everything about you. He sees you clearly—He knows you as you really are. And He loves you—today and always!…He loves you not only for who you are this very day but also for the person of glory and light you have the potential and the desire to become”.

Additional by H. Burke Peterson

“Some years ago in our ward fast and testimony meeting a young father proudly gave a name and a blessing to his first child. Afterwards the father stood to bear his testimony. He expressed thanks for this, his first son. He then said in a rather perplexed way that since the little fellow didn’t seem to understand anything they said, he wished he knew just how to communicate with him. “All we can do,” said he, “is hold him, cuddle him, gently squeeze him, kiss him, and whisper thoughts of love in his ear.”

After the meeting I went up to the new father and said that in his testimony he had given us a success pattern for raising healthy children. I hoped he would never forget it; even as his children grew to maturity I hoped he would continue the practice.”

“We must make an even clearer effort to communicate real love to a questioning child. The giving of love from a parent to a son or daughter must not be dependent on his or her performance. Ofttimes those we think deserve our love the least need it the most.”

“Two weeks ago President Kimball passed me as we were rushing to a meeting. He stopped, took my hand, looked me in the eye, put away all of his other cares, and said simply, “I’m sorry we’re sometimes so busy. I guess I haven’t told you lately how much I love you and appreciate you.”

I felt his spirit; I believed him; my spirit soared to a new height.

If it comes from the heart, it will work, brothers and sisters. It will bring peace and happiness to a troubled soul. Please try again … and again … and again.”

References for Further Study

Moroni 7:45-48

David A. Bednar, “More Diligent and Concerned at Home”. October 2009 General Conference.

Jeffrey R. Holland, “How Do I Love Thee?” BYU Speeches, February 15, 2000.

Thomas S. Monson, “Love—the Essence of the Gospel”. April 2014 General Conference.

H. Burke Peterson, “The Daily Portion of Love”. April 1997 General Conference.

Joseph B. Wirthlin, “The Great Commandment”. October 1997 General Conference.

Dieter F. Uchtdorf, “Living the Gospel Joyful”. October 2014 General Conference.

Messages on Love

Below are some timeless messages on love, messages that are worth studying repeatedly!

Thomas S. Monson, “Love-the Essence of the Gospel”. April 2014 General Conference.

“Love is the very essence of the gospel, and Jesus Christ is our Exemplar.”

“Our greatest opportunities to demonstrate our love will be within the walls of our own homes. Love should be the very heart of family life.”

“As we arise each morning, let us determine to respond with love and kindness to whatever might come our way.”

Joseph B. Wirthlin, “The Great Commandment”. October 2007 General Conference.

“The measure of our love is the measure of the greatness of our souls.”

“Love is the beginning, the middle, and the end of the pathway of discipleship.”

“Often, the greatest manifestations of love are the simple acts of kindness and caring we extend to those we meet along the path of life.”

“Love is the greatest of all the commandments—all others hang upon it. It is our focus as followers of the living Christ. It is the one trait that, if developed, will most improve our lives.”

Moroni 7:45-48

“And charity suffereth long, and is kind, and envieth not, and is not puffed up, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, and rejoiceth not in iniquity but rejoiceth in the truth, beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.

Wherefore, my beloved brethren, 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.

Wherefore, my beloved brethren, 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; that ye may become the sons of God; that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is; that we may have this hope; that we may be purified even as he is pure. Amen.”

Jeffrey R. Holland,”How Do I Love Thee?” BYU Speeches, Feb 15, 2000.

“Real love is best shown in the “how”.

“True love blooms when we care more about another person than we care about ourselves.”

Jeffrey R. Holland, “The First Great Commandment”. October 2012 General Conference.

“My beloved brothers and sisters, am not certain just what our experience will be on Judgment Day, but will be very surprised if at some point in that conversation, God does not ask us exactly what Christ asked Peter: “Did you love me?” think He will want to know if in our very mortal, very inadequate, and sometimes childish grasp of things, did we at least understand onecommandment, the first and greatest commandment of them all—“Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind.”13 And if at such moment we can stammer out, “Yea, Lord, thou knowest that love thee,” then He may remind us that the crowning characteristic of love is always loyalty.”

Richard G. Scott,”The Eternal Blessings of Marriage”. April 2011 General Conference.

“Pure love is an incomparable, potent power for good. Righteous love is the foundation of a successful marriage. It is the primary cause of contented, well-developed children.”

Loving God (FHE plans and quotes)

During the month of February, our Family Home Evening lessons are mostly focused on LOVE. Tonights lesson is on Loving God.

Jesus Christ taught  “If ye love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15). What are some commandments that we have been given? Brainstorm ideas, then talk about Moses and the Ten Commandments.

Basically the Ten Commandments can be summarized in two principles—love for the Lord and love for our fellow men:

“Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself” (Matt 22:37-39).

How do we show love for God? By being obedient to his commandments.

Mini-Reverence Reminder for Children: Reverence is love and respect for God. How should we act during sacrament meeting, or family prayer, or other reverent times?

Note: Use this printable to hang up as a reminder for our scripture memorization this week, Matt 22:37).

Additional Quotes

“Trying to please others before pleasing God is inverting the first and second great commandments. It is forgetting which way we face…When other demand approval in defiance of God’s commandments, may we always remember whose disciples we are, and which way we face” (Elder Lynn G. Robbins)

“To love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength is all-consuming and all-encompassing. It is no lukewarm endeavor. It is total commitment of our very being—physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually—to a love of the Lord.”

“When we put God first, all other things fall into their proper place or drop out of our lives. Our love of the Lord will govern the claims for our affection, the demands on our time, the interests we pursue, and the order of our priorities. We should put God ahead of everyone else in our lives.” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Ezra Taft Benson)

February traditions of love

February is a great month. Valentine’s Day provides an added incentive to show love to others, and in our family we make that our focus for the whole month. Here are the ways that we plan to show love this month.

Make valentines for classmates: we prefer simple and handmade (usually involving a printable found on Pinterest) and of the non-food variety. You can check out last years version here.

Simple decorations for our house, involving handmade hearts from the kids and love-themed printable found online.

Give the Family Heart Attack. “I love_________because__________”

Make and decorate sugar cookies (favorite recipe).

Leave love notes for each other, using our red mailbox.

Hearts on the Wall-read about our new tradition of dinner time scriptures and conversation starters here.

Family Home Evening lessons: This year we will focus on loving others, loving God (and how he loves us), loving ourselves, and loving our ancestors.

Play the Heart Healthy game.

Personal Study: Review this wonderful talk by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, “How Do I Love Thee?”

Plan a heart menu for February 14th. Perhaps use heart cookie cutters for pancakes, cheese slices, brownies?? Heart shaped pizza??

Gift giving: I like to give my children a little gift to open on Valentine’s Day. Usually it is a book. Last year I found some heart nightgowns on clearance that were perfect for the girls.

Reading books: You can find our Love booklist here.

Favorite Scriptures about LOVE and HEART (how many can we memorize this month??)

John 15:12 “This is my commandment, that ye love one another, as I have loved you”

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

Matthew 22:37 “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind”.

2 Nephi 4:15 “For my soul delighteth in the scriptures, and my heart pondereth them”

Alma 45:7 “Yea, I will keep thy commandments with all my heart”.

Loving Others (FHE plans and quotes)

During the month of February, our Family Home Evening lessons are mostly focused on LOVE. This year we will focus on loving others, loving God, loving ourselves, and loving our ancestors.

Tonights lesson is on Loving Others. I plan to share the following quotes/scriptures. Then for an activity we will “Heart Attack Our Family“: we will cut out hearts and then write “I love_________because_________” for each member of our family. Hang the hearts on the wall to help us feel loved all month long.

I will also bring out our Love Note mailbox, to inspire continued messages of love to each other.

Quotes/Scriptures about Loving Others

“This is my commandment, that ye love one another, as I have loved you” (John 15:12)

“Love is the very essence of the gospel, and Jesus Christ is our Exemplar. His life was a legacy of love” (President Thomas S. Monson).

“Husband and wife have a solemn responsibility to love and care for each other and for their children…Parents have a sacred duty to rear their children in love and righteousness, to provide for their physical and spiritual needs, and to teach them to love and serve one another…” (The Family: A Proclamation to the World, paragraph 6.)

“Charity begins at home. The single most important principle that should govern every home is to practice the Golden Rule—the Lord’s admonition that “all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them” (Matthew 7:12). Take a moment and imagine how you would feel if you were on the receiving end of thoughtless words or actions. By our example, let us teach our family members to have love one for another.” (M. Russell Ballard)

Elder Oaks gave an entire address on this topic at the most recent General Conference.

“We should all follow the gospel teachings to love our neighbor and avoid contention. Followers of Christ should be examples of civility. We should love all people, be good listeners, and show concern for their sincere beliefs. Though we may disagree, we should not be disagreeable. Our stands and communications on controversial topics should not be contentious. We should be wise in explaining and pursuing our positions and in exercising our influence. In doing so, we ask that others not be offended by our sincere religious beliefs and the free exercise of our religion. We encourage all of us to practice the Savior’s Golden Rule: “Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them” (Matthew 7:12).”

“The commandment to love one another surely includes love and respect across religious lines and also across racial, cultural, and economic lines. We challenge all youth to avoid bullying, insults, or language and practices that deliberately inflict pain on others. All of these violate the Savior’s command to love one another.” (Elder Dallin H. Oaks).