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
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.