I began my lesson by sharing a very short, simple picture book by Kadir Nelson If You Plant A Seed. It is very short, but I think the illustrations are really lovely and show that we reap what we sow...whether that is selfishness or kindness.
I asked the YW to close their eyes and picture someone they love very much. Think about their good qualities, about the reasons you love them. Now imagine you overheard someone saying something really unkind about them or criticizing them or refusing to forgive them for a small mistake or doing other mean things to that person. How would you feel?
Now picture someone that is hard for you to get along with. Someone that you feel treats you poorly or that is annoying or that says and does hurtful things. Perhaps someone that has betrayed you or gossiped about you or excluded you. It is so hard to be kind and loving when you feel you have been treated like that…but Heavenly Father feels about that person just as you feel about the first person I asked you to picture..the one that you love. In fact, He loves your enemy MORE than you love your family member or friend. He also loves you MORE than you can comprehend. And when we choose to treat any person with disrespect or to be unkind or to refuse to forgive, any time we choose not to love, I am certain that our Father in Heaven is deeply saddened. When I stop to remember (and I don’t always) that every person I interact with is a child of God, it truly changes my interactions with them.
I love this quote from C. S. Lewis in The Weight of Glory: “It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you can talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long, we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealing with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations—these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit—immortal horrors or everlasting splendours.”
**That is pretty profound and pretty accurate…there are no ordinary people…and the way we treat others can either help them become better or worse. Remembering that every person I meet is a child of God and is loved by Him, really helps me to treat others with more love, kindness and compassion.
I also shared this quote from President Eyring's talk in Conference. He quoted Joseph Smith who said, “A man filled with the love of God, is not content with blessing his family alone, but ranges through the whole world, anxious to bless the whole human race.”
We read D&C 121: 45 “Let thy bowels also be full of charity towards all men, and to the household of faith, and let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly; then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God; and the doctrine of the priesthood shall distil upon thy soul as the dews from heaven.”**Having virtue garnish thy thoughts seems directly connected to having charity. If you aren’t THINKING unkind things about yourself or others, then you are unlikely to speak or act in an unkind way. If you are thinking things that are virtuous, kind and loving, you are much more likely to be guided by the spirit and have the opportunity to be a blessing in someone’s life. And as you do this, your confidence before God will increase and blessings will be bestowed upon you.
I asked the YW to come prepared to share examples from the scriptures of a time Christ showed love to others. I asked them to share the story briefly but then after each example, I asked them to talk about how WE could show love to others in a similar way. I encouraged them all to participate...and most of them did. They shared stories about Christ healing the man blind from birth, Christ healing the woman taken in adultery, Christ forgiving Alma the Younger and wiping his sins away despite how he had gone around preaching against the church, Christ forgiving those who hung him on the cross, Christ feeding the 5,000 with one loaf of bread and two fishes and a few other stories. We talked about ways that we could also show love in similar ways, especially by withholding judgment and loving even those who are hard to love. I shared the story from Elder Palmer's April 2016 Conference talk about Christ and the rich young man, and Christ, beholding him, loved him. I loved that talk and paraphrased both the story and what it meant to Elder Palmer and what it means to me. I'd also planned/hoped to talk about when Lazarus dies and how the Savior wept with Mary and Martha...despite knowing that he could bring Lazarus back from the dead, he had compassion on them. But I didn't end up sharing that story.
As they shared, I had just a couple of quotes I wanted to share so I shared them as they fit in with stories they shared.
President Uchtdorf said, "We are not perfect. The people around us are not perfect.19 People do things that annoy, disappoint, and anger. In this mortal life it will always be that way. Nevertheless, we must let go of our grievances. Part of the purpose of mortality is to learn how to let go of such things. That is the Lord’s way. Remember, heaven is filled with those who have this in common: They are forgiven. And they forgive.”
Elder John Vandenburg, back in April 1971 said, “What is the seed of mother love? Is it not sacrifice? Such love is considered to be the deepest and most tender. Is this because a mother passes through the valley of the shadow of death to give birth to her child and is continually sacrificing for that child’s welfare?
Is this why Christ loves the world? Because he toiled to make it? Because he sacrificed his life for the world and its people?… We all love that for which we sacrifice.”
So perhaps rather than love leading to sacrifice, perhaps sacrificing for someone else leads us to love them. We can find ways to sacrifice for those around us in big and small ways.
Joseph B. Wirthlin said, ““Kindness is the essence of a celestial life. Kindness is how a Christlike person treats others. Kindness should permeate all of our words and actions at work, at school, at church, and especially in our homes. Jesus, our Savior, was the epitome of kindness and compassion.”
I shared information from this Deseret News article published on Friday. Kalani Sitake is the coach at BYU. Last week, BYU lost 40-24 to Utah State. Two former BYU football players are on Utah State’s team. It’s been a terrible season for BYU…one of the worst in many decades. But after the game, coach Sitake went over to two former players and congratulated them on their win and gave them each a hug. He told them he was proud of them. He praised and encouraged them. The father of one of the boys said this, “Some people might have said some of the words Kalani said, but the way he expressed what he felt about two players who were now “the enemy” so obviously came from his heart, from a place of feeling that most of us either can’t or won’t open up and let flow to others…was unforgettable. He gives of what is deep inside him-and he gives in good times and in bad. …After Kalani left we were stunned at the realization of what we had seen: he had chosen to give a deep expression of love to two ex-players, who had contributed to his pain in the very moment of his pain. I felt I had seen greatness. A greatness of spirit. Cougar or Ute or Aggie, I believe he represents the best of us. Those of us who were there marveled that a coach, after his most disappointing month of coaching, after undoubtedly one of his most discouraging losses, a man who had to be filled with so much pain, anger and frustration at falling short; in that moment he gave freely of himself.” **To me this is a great example of showing Christlike love. Rather than turning away from those who contributed to his pain, he turned toward them and gave love freely.
We then read 1 John 4: 10-11 and 3 Nephi 12: 39-48 (which is almost the same as Matthew 5 in the New Testament). I especially emphasized verse 45: "But behold I say unto you, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them who despitefully use you and persecute you;"
It's not enough to just avoid those who are unkind to you. It's not enough to refuse to be unkind back. We are asked to love our enemies, pray for them, do good to them. We talked a little bit about how to go about that. Our YW secretary read a little bit about grace and that through the Atonement, we can be enabled to do things we couldn't do on our own. We talked about Sister Marriott's story from Women's Conference about praying to feel God's love for a family member that she had had a disagreement with over politics. Through prayer and through Heavenly Father's help, we can learn to love our enemies...but it's probably going to take time to do it consistently, every time. Thankfully when we fall short, we can repent and use the Savior's Atonement to help us do/become better.
I also shared the following excerpts from Sister Neill F. Marriott's recent talk in Women's Conference, Abiding in God and Repairing the Breach:
"God wants us to change our selfishness into service, our fears into faith.”
“It is now, with our mortal limitations, that the Father asks us to love when loving is most difficult, to serve when serving is inconvenient, to forgive when forgiving is soul stretching. How? How will we do it? We earnestly reach for Heavenly Father’s help, in the name of His Son, and do things His way instead of pridefully asserting our own will.”
“Perhaps our life in a loving premortal world set up our yearning for true, lasting love here on earth. We are divinely designed to give love and be loved, and the deepest love comes when we are one with God. The Book of Mormon invites us to “be reconciled unto [God] through the atonement of Christ.”
“I had learned that Heavenly Father will help us love even those we may think are unlovable, if we plead for His aid. The Savior’s Atonement is a conduit for the constant flow of charity from our Father in Heaven. We must choose to abide in this love in order to have charity for all.
When we give our heart to the Father and the Son, we change our world—even if circumstances around us do not change.”
President Uchtdorf said, “God motivates through persuasion, long-suffering, gentleness, meekness, and love unfeigned.8 God is on our side. He loves us, and when we stumble, He wants us to rise up, try again, and become stronger.
He is our mentor.
He is our great and cherished hope.
He desires to stimulate us with faith.
He trusts us to learn from our missteps and make correct choices.This is the better way!”
We ended by watching this video, We Don't Need to Be the Same to Be One.