White Bar
Brigham Young University-Idaho Devotional

April 21, 2009 

  

 

 

Has There Been So Great Love in All the Land?

Elder Kim B. Clark

President of BYU-Idaho

 

  

President Clark

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

I am grateful to be with you at the beginning of a new semester.  I pray that the Holy Ghost will be with us today as I talk about something that is central to Heavenly Father's eternal plan: finding an eternal companion and creating an eternal family.  The most important thing any of us will ever do in all eternity is to create an eternal family and with them enjoy eternal life and exaltation with our Heavenly Father.   

 

Heavenly Father's great plan of happiness calls for us to accomplish three milestones in the creation of an eternal family:

 

  1. Find an eternal companion and marry in the holy temple, thereby securing the highest and most powerful blessings and promises our Father has prepared for His children.

  2. Create with that eternal companion an eternal marriage centered in the pure love of Christ and sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise. 

  3. Bring children into the world in the bonds of the everlasting covenant and build up a righteous posterity, sealed together into an eternal family.

 

These milestones define the great quest of our lives-to have eternal life in an eternal family with our Heavenly Father.  We know from the words of the prophets and through the whisperings of the Holy Spirit that these eternal blessings are worth every prayer, every preparation, every effort, every sacrifice, every delay, every tear, every heartache-literally everything. 

 

And yet, as the Lord said in the 52nd section of the Doctrine and Covenants, "Satan is abroad in the land, and he goeth forth deceiving the nations."1 These eternal milestones- marrying in the temple, creating an eternal marriage, and building up a righteous posterity-are under attack by the forces of evil.  Some of the attacks are blatant, while some are subtle and devious; but the effect is the same-rampant selfishness and immorality, marriage delayed, love neglected, covenants broken, fathers absent, mothers distracted, marriages torn apart, children postponed, children neglected, children spiritually and emotionally wounded, families destroyed.

 

You and I have been warned so that we can protect ourselves and our families against the fiery darts of the adversary.  
Again in the Doctrine and Covenants, section 52, verse 14, the Lord said:

"I will give unto you a pattern in all things, that ye may not be deceived."2

The pattern I want to share with you today comes from the story of the army of Helaman in the Book of Mormon.

 

Two Thousand Young Warriors

 

These two thousand young men went to war and fought with great faith and courage under the leadership of Helaman.  Keeping in mind the courage and faith of the sons, I want to ask this question: What were their parents like?  In the answer to that question lies the pattern that will help us prepare to reach all the eternal milestones on the great quest for eternal life in families.  Let's look first at the fathers.

 

The Fathers

 

When the sons were born, their fathers were Lamanite warriors.  In his account of the mission of the sons of Mosiah to the Lamanites, Mormon describes Lamanite society in these words:

. . . a wild and a hardened and a ferocious people; a people who delighted in murdering the Nephites, and robbing and plundering them; and their hearts were set upon riches . . . ; yet they sought to obtain these things by murdering and plundering . . . 3

But those fathers (and mothers) were converted by the preaching of the sons of Mosiah, and they experienced the redeeming power of Christ.  Inspired by the Holy Ghost, the gospel sunk deep into their hearts, and they repented of their sins.  Of this long and difficult process their king said,

 

It has been all that we could do, (as we were the most lost of all mankind) to repent of all our sins and the many murders which we have committed, and to get God to take them away from our hearts, for it was all we could do to repent sufficiently before God that he would take away our stain—4

 

Out of that process came a mighty change in their hearts and in their society.  These fierce warriors became men of God, so deeply changed that they entered into a covenant with God and buried their weapons of war deep in the earth as a testimony,

. . . that rather than shed the blood of their brethren they would give up their own lives; and rather than take away from a brother they would give unto him; and rather than spend their days in idleness they would labor abundantly . . . . 5

 

Anti-Nephi-Lehies burying swords

The fathers kept that covenant. They were righteous and obedient6men who "walk[ed] in the ways of the Lord"7 and loved their wives and their children.8  In Mormon's words, they were "distinguished for their zeal towards God . . . they were perfectly honest and upright in all things; they were firm in the faith of Christ,"9 and they "never did fall away."10

 

They were also men of great courage.  When the Lamanites attacked them, the fathers did not flee or cower, they "went out to meet [the Lamanites]" without weapons.11 Many of the fathers were killed (1,005) in that battle and in other attacks, but many of the Lamanites were so deeply touched by the courage and faith of the fathers that they abandoned their weapons and were converted to the gospel.

 

The Mothers

 

Like their husbands, the mothers of the army of Helaman experienced a marvelous conversion and change of heart.  Mormon has given us an account of the conversion of one of the Lamanite mothers, the queen of the people of Lamoni.  In her experience we can see the faith and spiritual power of these remarkable women.  Please turn with me to Alma, chapter 19, verses 9 and 10.

After Ammon had taught King Lamoni the gospel and after the Spirit had overcome the king so that he lay two days as though he were dead, the queen sought Ammon's counsel. Ammon assured her that the king was not dead, but "sleepeth in God."12  Then in verses 9 and 10, Ammon said to the queen:

. . . Believest thou this?  And she said unto him: I have had no witness save thy word, and the word of our servants; nevertheless I believe that it shall be according as thou hast said.

 

And Ammon said unto her: Blessed art thou because of thy exceeding faith; I say unto thee, woman, there has not been such great faith among all the people of the Nephites.13

Later, after the queen had heard her husband's powerful witness of the Savior, and after she had received a marvelous witness herself, she exclaimed:

. . . O blessed Jesus, who has saved me from an awful hell!  O blessed God, have mercy on this people!14

Blessed with exceeding great faith, these mothers loved their husbands and nurtured their children in the ways of the Lord.  They had tasted of the redeeming power of Christ, and they taught their sons to have faith in Him and to keep His commandments.  And they did so in the middle of dangerous and trying times.  While the mothers were rearing their children, the Lamanites attacked more than once and many of their husbands were killed.  Under the Lord's direction these women left their homeland, traveled with their families to the unfamiliar land of Jershon, and there made a new home for their children. 

 

When their sons volunteered to go off to battle, I believe the mothers obtained a witness of the Spirit that if their sons would be true and faithful, the Lord would preserve them.  These powerful women of faith taught their boys that if they did not doubt, God would deliver them.  These valiant young men reassured Helaman in a moment of great potential danger that:  "We do not doubt our mothers knew it."15

 

Farewell My Stripling Warriors

 

The Pattern

 

In the lives of these righteous mothers and fathers, there is a pattern for us.  

 

quilt pattern

 

It is a pattern of deep conversion to the gospel of Jesus Christ and enduring faith and trust in the grace and forgiveness of the Redeemer.  

 

quilt pieces: conversion, faith, trust

 

It is a pattern of mothers and fathers who loved each other and their children, who exercised leadership in their families and labored to provide abundantly. 

quilt pieces; love, labor, leadership

 

It is a pattern of courage in protecting their families, even with their own lives. 

 

quilt pieces: protection, courage

 

It is a pattern of teaching and nurturing children in the path of righteousness in a difficult and challenging time.

 

quilt pieces: teaching, nurturing

 

And it is a pattern of entrusting their precious children to the care of the Lord.

 

quilt piece: trust in the Lord

 

The theme woven all throughout this pattern is the pure love of Christ.  

 

quilt quilted heart design

 

Listen to the words of Ammon about these mothers and fathers:

Now behold, . . . we can witness of their sincerity, because of their love towards their brethren and also towards us.

 

For behold, they had rather sacrifice their lives than even to take the life of their enemy; and they have buried their weapons of war deep in the earth, because of their love towards their brethren.

 

And now behold I say unto you, has there been so great love in all the land?  Behold, I say unto you, Nay, there has not, even among the Nephites.16

That great love came because these mothers and fathers had humbled themselves17 and put their trust in the true and living God.18 The Atonement of Christ had wrought a mighty change in their hearts,19 and they had received a remission of their sins.  They became true followers of the Lord Jesus Christ, and He bestowed on them His pure and perfect love.20 Indeed, as they endured in obedience and were steadfast in meekness and humility, they were filled with the pure love of Christ.21

 

That love was manifest in their faith and hope and in their devotion to their children and to each other.  Paraphrasing the words of Mormon and Paul, these righteous mothers and fathers:

Suffered long, and were kind, envied not, were not puffed up, sought not their own, were not easily provoked, thought no evil, rejoiced not in iniquity, rejoiced in the truth, bore all things, believed all things, hoped all things, endured all things, and never fell away.22

This pattern of righteous mothers and fathers who love with the pure love of Christ is more than 2,000 years old.  Yet, the pattern is based on true principles that transcend cultures and geography and centuries of time.  

 

Today, I would like to focus on three of those principles: obedience, service, and sacrifice.  Applied with faith in God, these principles open our hearts to the pure love of Christ. They have, therefore, powerful implications for the three milestones in our quest for eternal life-finding an eternal companion; creating an eternal marriage; and building up a righteous posterity.

 

No matter what your circumstances are, whether you are single, engaged, married, married with kids, or married with grandchildren, I want you to ask yourself this simple question:  What should I do to apply these principles and this pattern in my life?

 

Principle #1: Obedience

 

Obedience to the commandments of the Lord is at the heart of Christ-like love.  All through His earthly ministry, the Savior taught the intimate, powerful connection between obedience and love.  Listen to His words at the Last Supper:

If ye love me, keep my commandments.23

 

A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.24

 

If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love.25

 

O righteous Father, ...

 

. . . I have declared unto them thy name, and will declare it: that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them.26

The Savior calls for the kind of whole-hearted, steadfast obedience He gave to His Father.  Whole-hearted obedience includes repentance, making and keeping sacred covenants, and opening our hearts to the Atonement of Christ and the sanctifying influence of the Spirit. Christ-like love is a fruit of the Atonement.  It is a gift from the Savior and comes to us through the power of the Holy Ghost.

 

Like the fathers and mothers of the army of Helaman, we all need to bury the instruments of destruction in our lives.  Some of those instruments may be physical-computers, video game machines, iPods, cell phones.  Some may be spiritual-pride, self-indulgence, pessimism, addiction.  Whatever they may be, we need to bury them and experience the mighty change of heart that only comes through the Atonement of Christ.

 

Obedience is critical to every milestone of our quest for eternal life, but I want to illustrate its power at milestone #1-finding an eternal companion.  The word "eternal" here means enjoying the kind of life or companionship that Heavenly Father enjoys, forever.  That means success at milestone #1 is not only about finding an everlasting companion, but also about becoming an eternal person.

The power of obedience and the Holy Ghost in this "finding and becoming" process lies in an eternal principle described in the 88th section of the Doctrine and Covenants:

For intelligence cleaveth unto intelligence; ... truth embraceth truth; virtue loveth virtue; light cleaveth unto light . . .27

If you want to marry someone who is happy, intelligent, and virtuous, whose countenance is full of light, and whose heart is open to the pure love of Christ, then be happy and optimistic yourself.  Learn as much as you can by study and by faith.  Be obedient, modest and chaste, and seek to have the Spirit with you always.  You will then attract and be attracted to those who are obedient and who have the Spirit with them.  And you will recognize those who aren't and who don't.

 

When I first met Sister Clark, I knew she was close to the Lord.  I recognized the light in her eyes and the virtue in her heart.  It was inspiring to be with her.  In those long ago days, I experienced exactly what President Benson once counseled:

One good yardstick as to whether a person might be the right one for you is this: in her [or his] presence, do you think your noblest thoughts, do you aspire to your finest deeds, do you wish you were better than you are?28

Kim and Sue Clark

 

I am so grateful that she loved me then and loves me now.  She is in every sense my eternal companion.

 

Principle #2: Service

 

The Savior's mortal ministry was relatively short, but He used almost every moment to serve others.  Everywhere He went, He healed, blessed, taught, and lifted people up.  His service was an expression of His pure and perfect love.  For the Savior, love was and is an active verb.  He loved perfectly by serving perfectly.  He has called us to be His true followers, to love as He loves, by serving as He serves:

 

               Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.29  

If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be: if any man serve me, him will my Father honour.30

Here, again, the mothers and fathers of the army of Helaman have set a pattern for us. They felt the Savior's redeeming love, and they felt His call to serve.  In the covenant they made, they sought to give to others as He had given to them-life, hope, strength, and support.

 

Becoming Christ-like in our service that we may be blessed with Christ-like love is essential to our quest for eternal life.  At milestone #2, for example, we create an eternal marriage by serving our eternal companion in just this way.

Of service in eternal marriage, the scriptures teach:

Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it;31

 

Thou shalt love thy wife with all thy heart, and shalt cleave unto her and none else.32

No matter whether it is helping with household tasks, or listening attentively, or giving a blessing, or expressing love, or supporting one another in a thousand different ways, Christ-like service disciplines, deepens, and strengthens the love of husband and wife.  They become one as they serve each other and are blessed to love as Christ loves.

 

Sue and I have been married almost 38 years.  In that time I have experienced the power of service in strengthening our love and our marriage.  I know that if I am attentive to her needs, the Lord will show me many ways to serve my sweetheart.  Now, some of those ways are pretty straight forward-helping with babies, changing diapers (in the days before disposables), washing dishes, running errands, and so forth.  

 

Kim Clark with toddler

 

But I have also learned that there are little things that bring her great joy.  One of them is taking the time and the thought to write a poem for her. 

 

I have written many poems for Sue, but I have one today that she has never heard before. This morning when I got up and came into the kitchen, Sue was fixing blueberry pancakes, which I love.  The light was streaming through the window in the kitchen, and it was glorious.  So I penned this little poem for her:

 

            Mountains glistening in the sun

            Daylight through the windows streaming,

            Blueberry pancakes on the griddle

            Sue loves me, and I'm not dreaming.

 

In these small and simple ways, I love and serve her.

 

There is an important spiritual dimension to love and service.  When we choose to serve one another in marriage, the Lord blesses us to listen better, observe more effectively, and come to know how to really help the one we love so much.  Service that is guided and blessed by the Holy Ghost binds husband and wife together in bonds of charity, the pure love of Christ.  They truly cleave unto each other and to none else-no other person, no other thing.  Their love becomes eternal, and they become one.

 

Principle #3: Sacrifice

 

The Lord Jesus Christ gave His life for us.  His atoning sacrifice is the fullest expression of His pure love for His Father and for us:

But . . . I love the Father; and as the Father gave me commandment, even so I do.33

 

This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.

 

Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.34

 

The fathers and mothers of the army of Helaman were blessed with that love.  Together they made a sacred covenant to never take up arms and to change their whole society.  They brought to the Lord a sacrifice of their broken hearts and their contrite spirits.  And then, because of their great love for the Savior, for each other, for their children, and for their brothers and sisters, they were willing to suffer and die rather than break that covenant.

 

True followers of Christ are followers who have been tried and tested, whose faith has been proved in sacrifice.  President Benson taught this principle:

Sacrifice is truly the crowning test of the gospel.  Men are tried and tested in this mortal probation to see if they will put first in their lives the kingdom of God. (See Matt. 6:33) To gain eternal life, they must be willing, if called upon, to sacrifice all things for the gospel.35

Sacrifice is thus critical to our quest for eternal life.  Nowhere is this more evident than at milestone #3: building up a righteous posterity.

 

There is great joy in being a mother and a father, but there is also sacrifice.  Think of what it takes to bring a child into the world. A mother who carries a child for nine months and then gives birth sacrifices her physical well-being, energy, participation in other activities, and much else to give that child life. 

 

Think what it takes to lead a family in righteousness.  A father who stands with his wife at the head of the family must focus time, energy, and attention on planning, organizing, and directing family prayer, scripture study, family home evening, family work projects, and family recreation activities.  That means he must sacrifice rewards from work, sports, hobbies, and friends that would draw him away from leading the family program.

 

Think about the many things mothers and fathers do when they nurture children: taking care of a baby in the middle of the night, giving baths, reading stories, teaching a little child how to work, setting boundaries, teaching a teenager how to drive, setting curfew, waiting for teenagers to come home, and much else.  Nurturing requires parents to sacrifice time, resources, and energy.

 

Here is an example from our own experience.  When our twins were born, they were children numbers six and seven. 

 

Kim Clark with twin daughters

 

We had hired a contractor to add bedrooms to our house.  The plan was for the bedrooms to be done before the twins were born.  Well, the twins arrived on time in September, but the new bedrooms weren't finished until the following February.  We lived in the middle of a construction project with two brand new babies.  We put the two baby girls in a tiny bedroom just big enough for two cribs and a place on the floor for Sue and me to sit while we fed the babies in the middle of every night.

 

house remodel

 

In that experience and many others, Sue and I learned that when parents bring to the Lord the sacrifice of a broken heart and a contrite spirit, He blesses them.

 family

 

When they act with faith in Christ to sacrifice for their children, the Lord blesses parents with strength and spiritual gifts, including His pure and perfect love. 

 

family in prayer

 

Because they sacrifice in faith, parents can teach, guide, and nurture their children with Christ-like love.  

 

father and child playing

 

The children are not only sealed to their parents forever, but those sacred bonds of love grow and strengthen because the Savior sanctifies the sacrifice of faithful parents.

family

 

Conclusion and Testimony

 

My dear brothers and sisters, I have talked today of three principles to guide you on your quest to find and become an eternal companion, create an eternal marriage, and build up a righteous posterity:

 

  1. Obedience: whole-hearted, steadfast obedience like the Savior gave His Father.
  2. Service: unselfish, heart-felt service that lifts, strengthens, and loves like the Savior gave everywhere He went.
  3. Sacrifice: the sacrifice of a broken heart and a contrite spirit and a willingness to give all that you have to your families, to the kingdom of God, indeed to Him who gave everything for us.

 

Now, I invite Sue to join me at the pulpit. 

 

Sister Clark and I stand before you today as living witnesses that these principles are true.  God our Father lives!  Jesus is the Christ, the promised Messiah.  In The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, restored through the Prophet Joseph Smith, there are holy temples and sealing power and the supernal blessings of eternal marriage and eternal families.  We know these things are true.  And we know there is nothing, not anything, more important than salvation and redemption and eternal life with our Heavenly Father through the mercy and grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

We leave you with our testimonies and this promise:  If you will come unto Christ and truly follow Him in these sacred principles, you will be filled with His pure and perfect love.  You will be a worthy eternal companion, a faithful husband or wife, a righteous mother or father in an eternal family, crowned with glory and power and exaltation in the celestial kingdom of God.  This is your promise.  This is your destiny.  In the sacred name of Jesus Christ, amen.

 


 

1.  D&C 52:14
2.  Ibid (emphasis added)
3.  Alma 17:14
4.  Alma 24:11
5.  Alma 24:18
6.  Alma 23:7; Alma 25:14-16
7.  Alma 25:14
8.  Alma 24:14
9.  Alma 27:27 And they were not distracted nor fooled by the sophistries of men or by appeals to the natural man (they threw Korihor out of their community)
10. Alma 23:6
11. Alma 24:21
12. Alma 19:8
13. Alma 19:9-10
14. Alma 19:29
15. Alma 56:48
16. Alma 26:31-33
17. Mosiah 4:11
18. Alma 5:13
19. Mosiah 3:19; Alma 5:12
20. Moroni 7:48
21. Moroni 8:26; Alma 13:28
22. Adapted from 1 Corinthians 13:4-8; and Moroni 7:45
23. John 14:15
24. John 13:34
25. John 15:10
26. John 17:25-26
27. D&C 88:40
28. Ezra Taft Benson, "To the Single Adult Brethren of the Church," Ensign, May 1988, 51
29. Matthew 25:40
30. John 12:26
31. Ephesians 5:25
32. D&C 42:22
33. John 14:31
34. John 15:12-13
35. Ezra Taft Benson, "Jesus Christ-Gifts and Expectations," Ensign, Dec 1988, 2

 

Image credits:
"Two Thousand Young Warriors," Arnold Friberg. � 2002 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved. Used with Permission.
"The Anti-Nephi-Lehies Burying Their Swords," Del Parson. � 2002 by Intellectual Reserve, Inc. All rights reserved. Used with Permission.
"Farewell My Stripling Warriors," details from painting by Del Parson. All Rights Reserved. Used with permission.