Continue Ye in My Love

Amy LaBaugh

 

Brigham Young University–Idaho Devotional

February 27, 2007

 

 

I am thankful for the support of all those who are in attendance today. I pray that the Holy Spirit may attend us; that we may partake of his gifts. I pray that this devotional may allow us some time out of our busy day to be still and to know the Lord is our God.

 

President Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles spoke at a graduation convocation that I was ushering at this past December. A comment he made has stuck with me. He said that when people bear testimony that he is most impressed when they can say, “I know the Lord loves. Not lives but loves”. I pondered, “Why would this impress an apostle of the Lord?”

 

I thought of the scripture, “They draw near to me with their lips but their hearts are far from me” (Joseph Smith – History 1:19)

 

With my lips I can say “God loves.” That is easy, of course He does. However, what is the condition of my heart? “With my heart can I feel God’s love? Do I know His love is there for me, personally?”
 

We were blessed to hear from an apostle of the Lord at devotional last week. Through our weekly devotionals we have the privilege of hearing from many righteous men and women who are working to do good in the world. You can imagine the thoughts that raced through my mind when I was asked to speak. My life is far from perfect and I was hoping to comb through it and find that one principle, that one tiny part of the gospel, that I am living well and to share those lessons with you. That way I could stand before you with authority and experience. Instead, with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, I was lead to speak about a subject somewhat lacking in my life, a gift I haven’t fully embraced yet.

 

Sister Bonnie Parkin, the Relief Society General President, in her inaugural address said, “If I could have one thing happen for every woman in this Church, it would be that they would feel the love of the Lord in their lives daily.” For today’s conversation I would extend this to the men in the church as well.

 

Why does Sister Parkin wish this for us? What would it bring to our lives if we did feel the Lord’s love daily? As we explore the topic of God’s love today I would ask that you keep this question in your mind: Am I feeling the love of God—that He loves me, personally? Again, Am I feeling the love of God—that He loves me, personally?

 

Love is a big word. Love is a common word. It is so big and so common that sometimes it can almost mean nothing in everyday conversation. For today’s conversation though when I say love I am specifically speaking about our Savior’s love and that is a love which means everything.

 

By the end of devotional today we will have discussed:

What God’s love is

Why we want it in our lives

The blessings that come from His love

How to receive God’s love

Some immediate applications

And what our life will include when we receive this great gift

But first, before we begin, we need to check the condition of our hearts. My dear mother-in-law is undergoing heart tests today in Billings, MT. She is preparing for heart surgery later this week. My thoughts and prayers are with her. But this is a check-up we don’t need a medical test or surgery for. Instead, we can place our hand on our heart and make our own diagnosis. Sister Virginia A. Pearce in her book, A Heart Like His, helps us to place our heart in one of two categories:

 

Okay, ready? Place your hand over your heart.

 

First, Do you feel your heart close to the surface of your chest wall? Does it feel warm, soft, open, and enlarged?  If so, you can diagnose yourself with having the condition of an open heart.

 

Now check again. Does your heart feel like it is tucked away, deep inside a protective wall? Does it feel cold, hard, and possibly a bit small? If so, you can diagnose yourself with having the condition of a closed heart.

 

We probably all ebb and flow between these two conditions. You may have guessed that for our conversation to have real meaning for us today that we all need open hearts.

 

So regardless if we diagnosed ourselves with an open heart or a closed heart. Let’s all work to open them a bit more during this time we are together. Let’s all visualize our heart coming closer to the surface of our chests. Let’s picture, it warm and soft, receptive and open. Let’s offer a silent prayer, and pray with all the energy of our heart, as instructed in Moroni, that we may be filled with His love. Also, let’s take courage in the Lord’s words found in Ezekial:

A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.

How are our hearts? Do they feel ready? Then let’s begin. 

 

[Video montage of our Savior’s Love]

 

As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you; continue ye in my love (John 15:9)

 

What is this love that we are to continue in? Love is charity and charity is the pure love of Christ. The word love is often used in place of the word charity. And when we say love we don’t mean the watered-down, over-used word love but our Saviors love.

 

Let’s read the apostle Paul’s great declaration replacing the word charity with love”

  4 Love suffereth long, and is kind; love envieth not; love vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,

  5 Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;

  6 Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;

  7 Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.  

  13 And now abideth faith, hope, love these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Charity, or the pure love of Christ, then is not just a word. Rather, it is an internal condition that must be developed and experienced in order to be understood.1

 

Why do we want this type of love in our lives? Why do we want our Saviors love? Let’s look at five reasons why:

 

1.  Because it is a commandment to love God and our neighbor and we want to keep all of the commandments and this is the number one commandment.2

 

Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ is the first principle of the gospel. Repentance is the first doctrine of the kingdom. Obedience is the first law of heaven. And happiness is the object of our existence. But of all things in the gospel, in the scriptures, and in the plan of salvation, that which is most important is the love of God.3

 

In Matthew 25:34 we join the Savior as he is being questioned by a lawyer:

  35 Then one of them, which was a lawyer, asked him a question, tempting him, and saying,

  36 Master, which is the great commandment in the law?

  37 Jesus said unto him, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.

  38 This is the first and great commandment.

  39 And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.

2.  We want the Saviors love and the eternal love it produces because it is a test we are interested in passing.

 

We read in Deuteronomy 13:3 The Lord your God proveth you to know whether ye love the Lord your God with all your heart.

 

And in John 13:5 we learn that, By this shall men know ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.

 

The Lord is testing our discipleship. Elder David A. Bednar has called BYU–Idaho the DPC, or the Disciple Preparation Center, he said,

 

In this special and sacred and set apart place, you and I have access to unparalleled spiritual resources that can assist us in developing and deepening our devotion as disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ.4

 

What a wonderful time in your life to truly learn to love the Savior and to feel of His love for you.

 

3.  Because it is the best quality we could posses.

 

In first Nephi 11:22-23 we read:

The love of God. . .is the most desirable above all things. . .and the most joyous to the soul.

4.  Because it brings us the greatest happiness.

 

In fourth Nephi chapter one versus 15-16 we read about a time in history where there was no contention in the land; none because of the love of God. . .in the hearts of the people and surely there could not be a happier people.

 

And in Mosiah 2:41 we are asked to consider on the blessed and happy state of those that keep the commandments of God. For behold, they are blessed in all things, both temporal and spiritual; and if they hold out faithful to the end they are received into heaven, that thereby they may dwell with God in a state of never-ending happiness. O remember, remember that these things are true; for the Lord God hath spoken it.

 

Only as we feel God’s love and fill our hearts with His love can we be truly happy.5 Think about what we do, how we behave when we know someone loves us. We rise up. We act better, do better, and feel better in their presence. I like being around people who like me. I like who I am when I am with them. On the otherhand, I don’t like being around people who don’t like me. It is a drain. I feel depressed. I withdraw. One of the reason’s I haven’t been able to fully accept God’s love in my life is because somehow I believe a lie. A twist on God’s law. The lie is, “Of course God loves. But how could he love you.” When I listen to this line of thinking I believe I’m not worthy. My heart becomes hidden, cold, small. I withdraw. That is why Satan’s lie is so powerful. When we withdraw we cannot participate and love is a participation doctrine.

 

President Hinckley has said that the whole design of the gospel is to lead us onward and upward. I also appreciate Elder Dallin H. Oaks thoughts on this subject he says:

In contrast to the institutions of the world, which teach us to know something, the gospel of Jesus Christ challenges us to become something. . .The gospel of Jesus Christ is the plan by which we can become what children of God are supposed to become. . . Charity is something one becomes.6

5.  Because we cannot accomplish our purposes on earth without it, and we can not enter into heaven without it.

 

D&C 12:8 we read that - No one can assist in this work except he shall be humble and full of love.

 

There is our participation que again. What good are we to the Lord of we are withdrawn and unable to be open to His love?

 

And in Ether 12:34 - Except men shall have charity they can not inherit that place. . .prepared in the mansions of thy Father.

 

As Dr. Stephen R. Covey teaches it is always good to begin with the end in mind. So, with those thoughts of why we want the love of the Lord marinating in our minds let’s fast forward to the blessings that come from having God’s love in our life. These are good. Three big blessings waiting for us to claim7:

 

First, we are taught in (Romans 8:28) that all things work together for good to them that love God.

 

Second, unimaginable gifts, we read in Corinthians -  (1 Corinthians 2:9).

Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.

 

Third, sanctification. Ultimately, sanctification is received “. . .through the grace of our Lord. . .to all those who love and serve God (D&C 20:31).

 

How do we claim these blessings? How do we receive the love of God in our lives?

 

God’s love for us is unconditional. His love for us is constant. It is the same yesterday, today, and forever. However, our ability to feel His love is conditional on us. It is our ability to do what is necessary to feel His love that can be inconsistent.

 

Jesus, King Benjamin, Alma, and Moroni all give us clear instructions on the things we need to be consistently doing to feel the love of God in our life.

 

First from the Savior, we are told, “If ye love me keep my commandments (John 14:15) and keep the commandments of God, that [ye] might rejoice and be filled with love towards God and all men (Mosiah 2:4)

 

President Hinckley said of love, “It is not always easy. . .it requires discipline almost beyond the power of many to observe. I think it is the most difficult and also the most important of all commandments. But out of its observance comes a remarkable discipline  and a refining influence that are wonderful to experience. It savors of the sweet, all-encompassing love of Christ.”8

 

Second King Benjamin taught his people to love one another and [that means] to serve one another (Mosiah 4:15).

 

We cannot develop Christlike love except by practicing the process prescribed by the Master.9

 

“. . .Follow me, and do the things which ye have seen me do,”  we read in 2 Nephi 31:12.

 

The Savior’s life was a life of service. When we serve we learn to love as Jesus loves. We feel his love for us and for his children we are serving. Missionaries, Bishops and mothers often speak of the great love they have for the people or children, they serve. This type of service need not be isolated to missions, callings, or motherhood. It is available to us daily.

 

And we are promised in Alma 41:15- For that which ye do send out shall return unto you again,

 

Third Alma and Moroni advised of the necessity to secure the love of God through prayer:

 

Alma 13:28 Pray continually that ye may . . .[be] full of love

 

Moroni 7:48 Pray with all the energy of heart that ye may be filled with this love

 

Moroni also explained that the “comforter filleth with . . .perfect love, which love endureth by diligence unto prayer.”

 

To often my prayers are full of the immediate physical and temporal needs of the day. I seek answers and guidance to tasks at hand. What I have learned from studying God’s love is that I need to expand my vision. My thoughts are summed up well by Oswald Chambers, a prominent Christian minister in the 20th Century:

 

Prayers change us and then we can change things.

 

Of course it is good and right to pray to the Lord in all things and now I know that all things should include the condition of my heart and feeling His love daily.

 

And fourth Alma mentioned yet another requirement to qualify for this precious character trait; we must be virtuous:

 

We are taught in Alma- Bridle all your passions that ye may be filled with love. ( Alma 38:12)

 

There is a great quote from the play Camelot where King Arthur says to Guinevere, “We must not let our passions destroy our dreams.”

 

Last spring I dreamt of running the Teton Dam half-marathon. I dreamed of achieving this goal and thought it would be a nice gift to give my 30-year-old self. Unfortunately, I am passionate about sleeping-in and really good meals with really big messy desserts. If I would have given in to these passions my early morning runs would not have happened and by body would have been sluggish. Instead, I bridled my passions and kept my eye on my dream and completed the half-marathon.

 

Our Father offers us unimaginable gifts, sanctification, and eternal life. These things are obviously much bigger then my little run. But using that example, what passions in our own lives would prevent us from the dream gifts that our Father has in store?

 

Even doing all of these things love is not something we can work on, checking off each qualification on our checklist and then we get it because we earned it; it is a gift. And like Moroni explained it is a gift given by the Holy Ghost.

 

So how can we use this knowledge of the Savior’s love immediately in our lives today?

 

Let’s take a look fear and suffering, making major life decisions, and recognizing His love in our lives.

 

Do we live our lives in fear? Do we make decisions based on our fears? Some examples of this may be:

 

I really love art but am afraid that I’ll never make any money. I should probably do something else.

I’m prompted to share my testimony but I’m afraid I will be judged.

I’d love a temple marriage but my parents divorced. I’m afraid marriage won’t work out for me.

 

Think of your own examples. When we fear we withdraw. Love is participation doctrine. What love are we cutting out of our lives due to our fears?

 

In 1 John 4:18 we read There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear.

 

I always feel encouraged when I hear our prophet speak. Here are his thoughts on this topic:

 

He begins by quoting Paul in Timothy: God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. Be not thou ashamed of the testimony of our Lord (2 Timothy 1:7-8). He continues: I would that every member of this Church would put those words where you might see them every morning as you begin your day. They will give you courage to speak up, they will give you the faith to try, they will strengthen your conviction of the Lord Jesus Christ.

 

 There are many entries in the scriptures where the Savior keeps telling us; do not worry; do not be trouble; do not be afraid. We learn from these scriptures that by trusting him, we are supported and delivered out of all our troubles and fears. Alma gives the account of Helaman being taught this lesson in his youth.

 

(As we read this next scripture let’s liken it unto ourselves and replace Helaman’s name with our own.)

 

In Alma 36:3

And now, O my son/daughter __________, behold, thou art in thy youth, and therefore, I beseech of thee that thou wilt hear my words and learn of me; for I do know that whosoever shall put their trust in God shall be supported in their trials, and their troubles, and their afflictions, and shall be lifted up at the last day.

 

When we understand who God is, who we are, how He loves us, and what His plan is for us, fear evaporates.

 

Then what of pain and suffering? How does God’s love aid us with these? Truman Madsen teaches that love cannot obliterate pain. However, it can give it meaning and redeeming power.

 

Let us think on the Savior. Christ’s love for God and God’s love for his Son did not obliterate the pain of the Gesemane, the crown of thorns, the scourages, or the torments of the cross. But oh the meaning and redeeming power that came!

 

Let us think on Joseph Smith suffering at Liberty Jail and the great consolation that came to him in D&C 121:7-8

 

My son, peace be unto thy soul; thine adversity and thine afflictions shall be but a small moment;

And then, if thou endure it well, God shall exalt thee on high;

 

Lastly, let us think on Victor Frankel who endured the horrors of a Natzi concentration camp. He did not let his pain and suffering defeat him rather he found meaning and redemption in it. He said:

 

He knows the "why" for his existence, will be able to bear almost any "how."”

 

What way can feeling the Saviors love help us with making major life decisions?

 

Sister Clark was my teacher on this principle. She taught me the principle as I listened to her talk at devotional in September.  She said,

 

As you dig into this education OF YOU, try to forget yourself.  That might seem like a contradictory statement.  You might ask, “How can I get an education if I am not working on ‘me?’”

 

The first part of the answer is in this scripture:

 

. . . Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. 

 

This is the first and great commandment. 

 

And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.  (Matthew 22:37-39) 

 

She continues:

 

The second part of the answer is in these words of the Savior:

 

He that findeth his life shall lose it:  and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.  (Matthew 10:39)

 

Forgetting yourself does not mean that you truly forget “you.”  It means that you develop better when your main focus is on others.

 

She then gave us many wonderful examples in her talk of how to apply this council to our day-to-day lives.

 

A large part of my day as an advisor is devoted to working with students who are trying to decide what major and career would be best. We have online classes, traditional classes, assessment tests, and libraries full of information to help in this decision process. I teach my students to really focus on who they are; to discover what their interests, skills, abilities, dreams. Then, we work on relating these findings to appropriate majors and careers. When describing the career exploration class I have told my students, “It is a 1.0 class all about you.” Then I heard Sister Clark’s talk. There was something I was missing.

 

Part of the class covers decision making. We look at an Ensign article by Brother James E. Faust entitled “Choices.” Let’s look at an excerpt from his talk now:

 

How do we make correct choices? A choice involves making a conscious decision. To make an intelligent decision we need to evaluate all available facts on both sides of an issue. But that isn’t enough. Making correct decisions involves prayer and inspiration. The 9th section of the Doctrine and Covenants gives us the grand key. The Lord said to Oliver Cowdery:

 

“Behold, you have not understood; you have supposed that I would give it unto you, when you took no thought save it was to ask me.

 

But, behold, I say unto you, that you must study it out in your mind; then you must ask me if it be right, and if it is right I will cause that your bosom shall burn within you; therefore you shall fee that it is right.

 

But if it be not right you shall have no such feelings, but you shall have a stupor of thought that shall cause you to forget the thing which is wrong”

 

The missing part was to find our life by losing it. To take the emphasis off “I want” and to put it on “Thy Will.”

 

For example, what major would allow us to carry out His work in the best way? In what career would we have the greatest capacity for good in loving and serving God’s children? It is another inspired question we can bring to a loving father in heaven.

 

How can we learn to recognize the love of the Lord in our lives? What about those of us who have experienced flawed or imperfect love? How will we know what true love really is?

 

Again, from Sister Virginia A. Pearce, in her book, A Heart Like His, describes this feeling so well she says:

 

When I experience His love I feel:

Acknowledged, accepted

Validated, noticed

Cared for, supported

Encouraged, uplifted

Motivated, inspired

Comforted, healed

Nourished, nurtured

Changed, more confident, more able

This description of true love helps me in two ways. First, it gives me a model for my behavior. This is the way I want people to feel when they leave my presence. This is the way I want to approach my service to others. Second, it helps me to know when I am in the presence of true love.

 

Let’s go back to the question we were asking ourselves at the beginning of this talk, Am I feeling the love of God—that He loves me, personally?

 

The Savior gave us the invitation to continue in His love. How will we know if we are? What influences will his love have on our life? May I suggest 10 indicators that the Lord’s love has touched our lives:

1.  We are praying fervently everyday

2.  We are studying and treasuring up scriptures

3.  We are losing ourselves in the service of others

4.  We keep his commandments

5.  We are obedient

6.  We are happy

7.  We are constant “firm and steadfast”

8.  We can be trusted

9.  We do things for the right reasons

10.  We are becoming more and more like the Father and like his beloved Son

Please do not let this list overwhelm you. But let it be a mark that we are striving for. Accepting the love of the Lord in our lives daily to me means that we are accepting the great gift of the atonement. The atonement is not a gift for the perfect. Rather a gift for all men to be perfected through Christ.

 

Earlier we heard the beautiful melody to the hymn, Our Saviors Love, as played by Marvin Goldstein. In closing let’s visit the text of the hymn:

Our Savior’s love

Shines like the sun with perfect light,

As from above

It breaks thru clouds of strife.

Lighting our way, It leads us back into his sight,

Where we may stay

To share eternal life.

 

The Spirit, voice

Of goodness, whispers to our hearts

A better choice

Than evil’s anguished cries.

Loud may the sound

Of hope ring till all doubt departs,

And we are bound

To him by loving ties.

 

Our Father, God

Of all creation, hear us pray

In reverence, awed

By thy Son’s sacrifice.

Praises we sing.

We love they law; we will obey

Our heavenly King,

In thee our hearts rejoice.

I testify that not only does our Savior live but that He loves. His is a perfect love that is there for us constantly. May we have the courage and wisdom to do what is necessary to feel His love in our lives daily. May we continue in His love I pray.

 

In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.

 

1 Elder C. Max Caldwell, “Love of Christ,” Ensign, November 1992.

2 This series of numbered reasons why we want the love of Christ are found in the following reference: Verse by Verse, the Four Gospels, D. Kelly Ogden and Andrew C. Skinner (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2006), 571-572.

3 Verse by Verse, the Four Gospels, D. Kelly Ogden and Andrew C. Skinner (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2006).

4 David A. Bednar, “Brigham Young University-Idaho: A Disciple Preparation Center” Brigham Young University-Idaho Devotional, August 31, 2004.

5 Elder John H. Groberg, “The Power of God’s Love,” Ensign, November 2004.

6 Dallin H. Oaks, “The Challenge to Become,” Ensign, November 2000.

7 This series of numbered blessings that come from God’s love are found in the following reference: Verse by Verse, the Four Gospels, D. Kelly Ogden and Andrew C. Skinner (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book, 2006), 571-572.

8 President Gordon B. Hinckley, “Let Love Be the Lodestar of Your Life” Ensign, May 1989.

9 Elder C. Max Caldwell, “Love of Christ,” Ensign, November 1992.