Member of the Fifth Quorum of the Seventy and President of BYU-Idaho
Brothers and sisters, I am grateful to be with you on another great day at BYU-Idaho. I pray that the Holy Ghost will be with us today, that our faith might increase, that our love for God and for each other might grow.
It has been a little over five years since Sister Clark and I set foot on this campus for the first time. This has been a marvelous time in our lives. The Lord has blessed us with great experiences. We love this university, we love you, and we love your children and your grandchildren. I treasure our associations and the sweet gifts of the Spirit I have felt in your midst.
I would like to talk today about a pattern in our lives that plays a central role in building the kingdom and establishing Zion. Over the past two years we have heard this pattern in the words of the living prophet. President Monson has called us to reach out to our brothers and sisters who are less active, or struggling, or spiritually wounded, or not yet part of the kingdom and say to them:
“Come back. We reach out to you in the pure love of Christ and express our desire to assist you and to welcome you into full fellowship. To those who are wounded in spirit or who are struggling and fearful, we say, Let us lift you and cheer you and calm your fears.” 1
This is a call to action. It is a call to act in faith to love—to love our brothers and sisters and to love the Lord—even when love is hard. The pattern I want to talk about today, the pattern we so clearly need to fulfill the call of the prophet, is love by faith.
Let me share with you a modern parable about love by faith. As I tell the story, please listen for the lessons of the parable about acting in faith, about the Savior, and about His pure and perfect love. This is a parable based on a true story.
The Call to the Nursery
There once was a good sister who received a call from her bishop to serve in the nursery. The good sister was concerned about the call. She had many children, and she enjoyed serving in the Relief Society presidency in her ward. The good sister was not looking forward to serving in the nursery.
Although she wondered what in the world the bishop had in mind, she accepted the call. In fact, she decided to make the nursery a showcase. She had studied child development in college, and she had files of materials and many ideas for activities and crafts the children could make.
On the good sister’s first Sunday, it seemed like every single child fussed and cried. Nothing she tried worked very well. The children were ornery and upset. That first Sunday established a pattern for the next few weeks: she would prepare what she thought was a great plan; the children would fuss and cry; the good sister would get frustrated and upset; and then she would go home and cry.
After many weeks, the good sister was discouraged. Nursery was a burden. She dreaded facing the little children each week. She said to herself: “I have done my best, but nothing has worked. What more can I do?” She decided to pray to Heavenly Father about the nursery and about her frustration. She told Him of her hopes and her disappointment. She asked Him for His help and guidance. Heavenly Father answered her prayer. This is the message she received: the lesson plans are mostly about you; focus instead on the children; learn to know them and love them.
It was a good message, but hard to hear. The good sister had to repent. She had to change her attitude and her behavior. She prayed some more and went to work.
The next Sunday she went to nursery with a very simple plan. She met the children at the door and greeted them by name. She talked to them about their families, their favorite food, and much else. She brought a snack and had singing time. She read them stories and helped them find toys. Some of the children were still ornery, and some fussed; but there was a different feeling in the nursery that week. And when it was over, the good sister did not cry when she got home. She was exhausted, but not tearful.
Little by little as the good sister got to know the children better, her feelings about them changed. She looked forward to Sundays. She was excited and happy to be with her nursery kids.
And, inspiration came. One week she took a camera to nursery and took each child’s picture. She prepared a picture board, mounted each child’s picture on the board, and took the board to nursery every week. The board was a big hit. The children loved seeing themselves on the board. They not only felt important, they felt loved.
The good sister found many ways to teach the children gospel principles. They sang songs and learned about Heavenly Father and His love for them. She taught them about Jesus and shared with the children her love of the Lord. She invited them to be good and to help each other so that everyone could be happy.
There was a lot of love in that nursery. The children loved it so much they would run to nursery after sacrament meeting. They would seek out the good sister before sacrament meeting to say hi to her. They would often visit the good sister at home to bring her a flower or a note. The children loved being in the nursery, and the good sister loved them.
She came to see them and love them as the Savior loves them. She loved those children with the pure love of Christ. She loved them so much that when the bishop came to her after she had served for a year and proposed that she be released, the good sister pleaded with him to let her stay. She served in the nursery for three wonderful years.
The Lessons of the Parable and the Call of the Prophet
There is much to learn in this parable about love by faith and much we can apply to President Monson’s call to reach out and rescue those who have wandered, who are struggling, who are spiritually wounded, or who don’t know the way home. Those who need you may be your own children. They may be your neighbors. They may be in your ward. They may be people at your work. They may be people you do not know well. Whoever they are, the Lord will put them in your path if you are prepared to act in faith to help them and to love them.
The Lord placed small children who needed love and good teaching in the path of the good sister. She learned from her experience in the nursery three powerful lessons about love by faith: 1) like faith, love is a principle of action; 2) the pure love of Christ is a gift bestowed on His true followers; and 3) the love of Christ is like divine light; it comes little by little, but it comes with great power.
When we act in faith to put these lessons into practice, the Lord will bless us with His love as we reach out to lost and wandering souls.
Love is a Principle of Action
The first lesson the good sister learned is that like faith, love is a principle of action. Love is not only something we feel, love is something we do. When we love by faith, our faith and hope in the Savior moves us to the actions and words of love—a visit, an invitation, a word of testimony, a helping hand.
Acting in faith and love to rescue a lost soul may not come easily. Remember, the shepherd had to go into the wilderness to find the lost sheep. The people who need rescuing may be very different from us and their circumstances may seem to us, and probably to them, like a wilderness. Sometimes we hesitate or miss an opportunity because of fear of rejection or failure, a worry about awkwardness, or the burden we might have to carry. That is why extending the hand of fellowship to rescue is always an act of faith.
Elder David A. Bednar has given us a framework for understanding faith as a principle of action and power:
“Faith in Christ is inextricably tied to and results in hope in Christ for our redemption and exaltation. And assurance and hope make it possible for us to walk to the edge of the light and take a few steps into the darkness—expecting and trusting the light to move and illuminate the way (see Boyd K. Packer, “The Candle of the Lord,” Ensign, Jan. 1983, 54). The combination of assurance and hope initiates action in the present.”2
When we act in faith to visit a less-active member or invite a neighbor to come to Church, we act with assurance of and hope for help from Heaven. Indeed, our actions invite the Holy Ghost to help us love as Christ loves. As Elder Russell M. Nelson has taught, such love is possible, but only on conditions of faith and obedience:
“Jesus asked us to love one another as He has loved us. Is that possible? Can our love for others really approach divine love? Yes it can! The pure love of Christ is granted to all who seek and qualify for it. Such love includes service and requires obedience.”3
The Pure Love of Christ is a Gift
Here is the second lesson the good sister learned: “the pure love of Christ is a gift; as Mormon taught, it is bestowed on the true followers of Christ.” 4
The good sister learned that she had to repent before she could obtain heavenly power to love with the pure love of Christ. The love she sought began to come as the Atonement of the Savior began to change her heart. She did not wait to act until she was filled with Christ’s pure and perfect love for the children. She acted in faith to pray, to repent, and to move forward on the new path; and the Lord blessed her.
Elder Dallin H. Oaks has taught that revelation “comes most often when we are on the move.”5 I believe that the same is true of love. Love comes most often when we are on the move. If the good sister in this parable had waited to serve the nursery children until her heart was full of love for them, she would never have served or developed that love. She trusted in the Savior and began to move, and the love followed. She came to love by faith.
The gifts of the Spirit come after we act in faith. We must not wait passively for the gift of Christ’s love to come. In fact, if we wait, it will not come. That is because to love with the love of Christ, we must become more and more like Him. It is, after all, His love. We only receive that supernal gift if His atonement works in us to change our hearts through repentance and sustained righteous action.
Thus, as Elder Dallin H. Oaks taught us, charity, or the pure love of Christ, is something we become:
“The reason charity never fails and the reason charity is greater than even the most significant acts of goodness he cited is that charity, “the pure love of Christ” (Moro. 7:47), is not an act but a condition or state of being. Charity is attained through a succession of acts that result in a conversion. Charity is something one becomes."6
The Pure Love of Christ is Like Divine Light
This principle of becoming is closely related to the third lesson the good sister learned: the pure love of Christ is like divine light, and it has great power. That light comes to us according to our faith and obedience, but it usually does not come all at once. We have the promise of a fullness of light, but we receive that fullness only as the light grows within us:
“That which is of God is light; and he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day.”7
To become filled with such light and love, the good sister had to change her focus. She came to worry less about showcasing her talents and more about serving the children. What John the Baptist said about the transition from his ministry to the Savior’s can teach all of us something about focus in our service: “He must increase, but I must decrease.” 8
As our concerns about ourselves decrease, our focus on the Savior increases. The Savior made this wonderful promise about what happens when we exercise faith in Him in a completely focused way:
“And if your eye be single to my glory, your whole bodies shall be filled with light, and there shall be no darkness in you; and that body which is filled with light comprehendeth all things.”9
I believe that principle applies to love as well. As we focus less on ourselves and act in faith to rescue those who are suffering or lost, Christ blesses us with an increasing measure of His love. As we become more and more like Him, that love can grow in us until we are filled with His love. This is the sweet promise described by the Apostle Paul in his letter to the Ephesians:
“That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man;”
“That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love,”
“May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height;”
“And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.”10
The good sister was “strengthened in the inner [woman]” through the power of the Spirit. Through her faith and prayers she was “rooted and grounded in love.” Because she continued week in and week out to act in faith, the love of Christ grew in her and the children in her nursery could feel it.
The good sister saw the power of Christ’s love: it was so strong that it could move a two- year-old to choose to cooperate and behave. I do not use this example lightly. I believe it is useful to see in that nursery a little microcosm of the work of rescue. If you had been there, especially before the good sister began to know them, you would have seen some little children who were sad and lonely. You would have seen some who were afraid and some who were discouraged. You would have seen some who acted out and some who did not want to cooperate or participate.
But over time you would have seen the power of Christ’s pure and perfect love. That love is the redeeming love of Christ. It is the love that heals, sanctifies, soothes, comforts, lifts, and strengthens. It is powerful. It healed the heart of the good sister and those little hearts in the nursery. It can heal the wounded souls the Lord sends us to rescue.
The Gifts of Love
The power of Christ’s pure love is manifest in three very specific gifts that come to us when we apply the lessons of love by faith to rescue a struggling soul: 1) we are blessed to feel what the Savior feels for those who are struggling; 2) our words and actions are carried by the Spirit to the heart of a struggling soul so that they are just what is needed in that moment; and 3) we are blessed to see the struggling person feel the Lord’s love for them.
The good sister experienced these gifts in her work in the nursery. For just a moment I invite you to recall your own experiences in this great work of rescuing God’s children. Perhaps you will remember experiences with your own children, or on a mission, or in your calling in the Primary, or in your work as a home or visiting teacher. Whatever the memories are, please let them run through your mind for a moment as I share with you these three gifts that come to us as we reach out in faith to love God’s children.
Feeling as the Savior Feels
First, the Lord blesses us to see His children the way He sees them. He blesses us to feel about them as He feels about them. It may be just a glimpse, just a faint impression that comes, but this gift of divine vision and feeling creates in us empathy and understanding. It motivates us to action, strengthens our faith, and guides our efforts.
Saying Just What They Need to Hear
Second, as we act in faith to reach out to His children under the guidance of the Holy Ghost, the Lord blesses us to say just what they need to hear. He blesses us to do what is just right for them in that moment. Christ’s love is perfect. Jesus always says the perfect thing, and He always takes the perfect action to bring people to Him. When we act in faith in Him to do His work, He goes with us. If we have “treasure[d] up in [our] minds continually the words of life . . . ,” 11 He “justifies all [our] words” 12 and gives to us “in the very hour that portion that shall be meted unto every man.” 13
Now, I know and you know that what we actually say and actually do may feel a little awkward or not very polished. It may not feel very perfect to us. But the Savior takes our words and our actions and He carries them through His spirit unto the hearts of the people. He takes our sincere but imperfect effort and turns it into something that is just right, indeed, into something that is perfect. God’s children must choose to act on what the Savior gives them, but we may act in confidence that He will bless what we do.
Seeing the Lord Work Through Us
Third, the Lord blesses us to see Him working through us. We see His children feel His love in what we do and what we say. As we act in faith, we receive a confirming witness of the Holy Ghost that the Lord loves His children and that He loves us. We feel His love for us, and we feel His love growing in us.
President Henry B. Eyring taught the power of these gifts in words of encouragement and counsel to mission presidents about their missionaries:
“The missionaries and you will feel His love as the Atonement works to change our hearts. Our love for Him will increase. We come to know the Master as we serve with Him. As we know Him better, we love Him even more. That will be true for your missionaries.”
“They will grow steadily in their capacity to help all they meet feel His love for them. Those they speak to and teach feel the Lord’s love for them through your missionaries. They will feel that love not only from what the missionaries do and say but by the power of the Holy Ghost. It is the Holy Ghost that testifies of the reality of God and allows us to feel the joy of His love.”14
I saw these three gifts and the power of love by faith in the recent experience of a bishop and his wife and a less active family. One night the mother and father in this family had a heated argument. They had been struggling in their marriage, and this argument scared the mother so much that she went into the bedroom and knelt down and prayed. This was her third marriage and her husband’s second. They had seven children between them, and she did not want to lose her marriage. And so she poured out her heart to Heavenly Father for help. It had been many years since she and her husband had been in Church. It had been a long time since she had prayed that hard for anything. But she prayed then, and she prayed hard.
Not far away at the very moment that sister knelt in prayer, her bishop got a very strong impression to go visit that family—right then. He told his wife who said, “That is very interesting because I have just had a strong impression that I should go visit them too.” And so they got right in the car and went over. They knocked on the door just moments after the sister had completed her prayer. Here was her answer: the Lord sent His trusted servants who heeded the promptings of the Spirit and acted in faith to love her family.
The bishop and his wife ministered to that family that night with the pure love of Christ. They felt the Savior’s love for the family. They shared testimony, invited them to come back, and promised them the blessings of the Lord. They acted in faith to love that little family back into the warmth and light of the gospel of Christ. What that husband and wife heard and felt that night came from Heaven. It came from Christ. It was the pure love of Christ that touched their hearts carried there by the Holy Spirit through the words and the actions of that good bishop and his faithful wife.
That family is now active in the Church, preparing to be sealed in the temple, and on their way to the happiness and joy their Heavenly Father has prepared for them through the mercy, grace, and pure love of His Beloved Son. And the bishop and his wife know the “love of Christ, which passeth knowledge.” 15 They know that God loves that family, and they know that God loves them.
These supernal gifts and blessings are available to each of us as we heed the call of the prophet to love by faith and rescue God’s children. It is not complicated. There is no complex formula to learn, no intricate steps to follow. It is very, very simple. The basic message of love by faith is this: be good and go. Be a good boy. Be a good girl. Then act in faith and go. Do your home and visiting teaching. Magnify your callings. Strengthen your family. Share the gospel with people the Lord puts in your path. Act on the impressions that come, and go.
I bear witness to you brothers and sisters, that if you will follow the prophet and love by faith, if you will be good and go to the lost souls, those who wander or do not know the way home, the Lord Jesus Christ will go with you. He will prepare the way before you. His Spirit will guide you and bless you. And you will know the joy and the power of His redeeming love. I so testify, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
1 Thomas S. Monson, “Looking Back and Moving Forward,” Ensign, May 2008, 87–90
2 David A. Bednar, “Seek Learning by Faith,” Address to CES Religious Educators, Jordan Institute of Religion,
3 Russell M. Nelson, “Divine Love,” Ensign, Feb 2003, 20
4 Moroni 7:48
5 Dallin H. Oaks, “Sharing the Gospel,” Ensign, Nov 2001, 7
6 Dallin H. Oaks, “The Challenge to Become,” Ensign, Nov 2000, 32–34
7 D&C 50:24
8 John 3:30
9 D&C 88:67
10 Ephesians 3:16-19
11 D&C 84:85
12 Moses 6:34
13 D&C 84:85
14 Henry B. Eyring, “The Love of God in Missionary Work,” Seminar for New Mission Presidents, June 2009.