One singular thing about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is that our clergy is not paid. All adult members are expected to help run the congregation by fulfilling assignments from teaching Sunday school to mopping the kitchen. Not only does this keep costs down, it also keeps commitment up. When I go to Sunday services, I am not just attending church; I am attending my church with my ward. The bishop presides over our sacrament meetings, but he normally doesn’t do much speaking; instead, members of the ward give “talks” on an assigned topic. Our services may not be as professional as some are, but they are personal and profound.
A few months ago a friend of mine, Julie Weaver, gave a talk that I found especially meaningful. I asked her if I could share it on my blog, and she said yes. Julie is one of the women who mentored me through adolescence. She’s a decade younger than my mom, a hairdresser and British, so she seemed very glamorous to me when I was a teen. I remember her cutting my hair, giving out motherly advice at girls’ camp and coming to my rescue when I called her in a panic over a service project—a few minutes later she was at my house, urging me to say a prayer before I continued to panic. She’s a remarkable woman and teacher.
A Talk on Love by Julie Weaver
Since I was last up on this stand to give a talk, I have had the mind-blowing experience of going back to school as a 50-year-old. I received my two-year degree from Cascadia, my Bachelors at the University of Washington, and I currently attend Antioch University in downtown Seattle in their masters program for clinical mental health counseling. I have watched my husband hold his breath as I attend classes in the most liberal of universities, to see if my faith of this beautiful gospel will remain steadfast in my heart as my intellect grows. In this program, critical thinking over culture, gender and religious belief is a high priority, and so when I read the words of Melissa Wei Tsing Inouye in the January 2013 Ensign, I wanted to share them with you:
“After graduating from high school, I attended Harvard University (Massachusetts, USA), where I made a wonderful discovery. Although my college classes placed a clear priority on critical thinking over religious belief, in the Latter-day Saint community that included university students, professors, and institute teachers from the Boston area, I met people who excelled in their academic work and still remained active, committed members of the Church.
“I looked up to these Latter-day Saints because they were sympathetic to my intellectual questions—many of them had grappled with similar questions themselves—and because of their cheerful faith. Their examples taught me that faith and intellect are not mutually exclusive. I began to realize that it was God who gave His children intelligence—described in Doctrine and Covenants 93:36 as “the glory of God”—and who instructed us to “seek … out of the best books words of wisdom” (D&C 88:118). . .
“T. S. Eliot wrote a poem, “Little Gidding,” that has had deep significance for my perspective on intellect, experience, and faith. At one point in “Little Gidding,” the poet describes a place where one might set aside rational, critical purposes and focus solely on the experience of the spiritual:
You are not here to verify,
Instruct yourself, or inform curiosity
Or carry report. You are here to kneel
Where prayer has been valid.1
In such a place, we lay aside the critical means by which we evaluate the things of the world and prepare to encounter God on His terms. In such a place, we base our ultimate trust not in reasoning but in experience.”
It is with this spirit that I prepared a talk about love, Christ-like love and love of our Heavenly Father.
The values which a child perceives to be most important to his parents may well become the values by which his own life will be guided. For example, a father who spends most of his time teaching his son to play ball without putting the same emphasis on spiritual and intellectual training will likely influence the child to adopt athletics as the supreme value in life. Parents who excessively stress the importance of wealth may find that the accumulation of money has become the highest value in a child’s life. A parent who is overly concerned with physical beauty and fashionable clothes may find their child to be a vain person whose highest value is to appear physically attractive. What do our children have as their highest value? What do we have as our highest value?
I read a book about the life of a man who at six years old heard his aunt and uncle (who were looking after him) talk about how creepy and ugly he was. He went through life with his head held down and was afraid when he met anyone that they would be scared of his ugliness. He reasoned out in his mind and felt he understood why his mother did not love him, and consequently he had an awful life and was greatly disturbed.
In my second graduate class, I was taught about the roots of the word psychopathology, which I had understood to mean illness of the mind. It actually translates into “distress of the soul.” The young man in the book I read could be diagnosed with several mental illnesses but I feel “distress of the soul,” from lack of warmth and love, is a better diagnosis.
It is no mistake that at the beginning of every treatment plan I have studied there have been strict instructions for the therapist to give unconditional positive regard, warmth and patience. In other words, the key to good counseling intellectually is to help a client feel accepted and safe—or as we would put it here at church, “loved.”
John Powell said that “most people believe we are personally the masters of our own fates and the captains of our own souls. The truth of the matter is that we are very largely shaped by others, who, in an almost frightening way, hold our destiny in their hands. We are, each of us, the product of those who have loved us . . . or who have refused to love us.”
This could be a depressing thought, but I reaped some hope from part of this statement, because I have known some pretty wonderful people that came from some horrible family situations and the common denominator amongst these people was that at some point in their life, early and later on, they found out that God lived and that they were a child of God and that he loved them. If we are a product of those that love us, then we can be a product of our Heavenly Father’s love, and this gives me great hope.
It is harder for a person to feel or recognize Heavenly Father’s love if they don’t experience some kind of love on this earth. Just as “distress of the soul” can be relieved by good counseling from an empathic therapist, it can also be relieved by kind words and actions of those around them. But before we can be practitioners of the highest, noblest, strongest kind of love, we have to understand it. It is the pure love of Christ – it is charity. Paul says in 1 Corinthians chapter 13:
“And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.”
So what this scripture is saying is that we can send our children to seminary, to Young Men’s and Young Women’s, to primary activities; we can take part in charitable activities, Eagle Scout projects; we can teach wonderful lessons every Sunday and prepare fabulous home teaching and visiting teaching visits; we can visit sick people until we are blue in the face; and we can help a million families move; we can donate all of our money to the mission fund and fast offering; and it is all worthless without the highest, noblest, strongest love called “charity” in our hearts.
So if we have this highest, noblest, strongest Christ-like love, we would always have patience with our loved ones, not just with those who don’t try our patience. We would be kind, never jealous, never selfish, never taking offense and always giving people the benefit of the doubt. Have you noticed, these are all things we feel in our hearts? It is easy to hide jealousy or harsh judgments, but we have the example of our Savior who truly gave every one the benefit of the doubt. When he was on the cross, he said, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”
Well, brothers and sisters, I personally feel there were plenty of people who know what they were doing, and when I think about them crucifying my Savior, I want to rip off their beards and slap them around a bit, but Christ with his purest, noblest love would and could not believe the worst. He gave them all the benefit of the doubt and asked his father to forgive them.
My mother once wrote a poem for me that said the oil to soothe any earthly woes could not be removed from its Heavenly place. It required my knees to bend and my head to bow. I believe that oil to sooth is the love of our Heavenly Father, the love that he sent his son to show us. It is a love we can forget we have if we do not humble ourselves for a few minutes on a regular basis to reap the strength it brings and relief it can be to our distressed souls through prayer.
I want to bear my testimony that this is truly Christ’s church. I believe this with all my heart and intellect. I am thankful for this testimony, and I pray that we can all bend our knees more often and dip into the oil that soothes us as we live in this harsh world. I promise that we will see things differently, feel things differently and love differently if we do this.