God is Love

Yesterday I spoke in Sacrament Meeting for the Ward (local congregation) that I attend of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. When I speak I like to write out my talk and then put some additional bullet points at the end of the talk, which I may or may not include. However, when I actually speak I do not usually actually read it word for word, other than quotes. While I was sitting in Church prior to speaking I went through and add some additional thoughts that are not included on this. After reading it, any feedback would be appreciated.

As most in this room likely are aware, today is February 12th. That means that Valentine’s Day is in just 2-days. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

On Valentine’s Day, we celebrate love. So today I want to speak with you about love.

1st John 3:1-2
1 Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not.
2 Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is.

Joseph Smith, in the King Follett discourse stated
“There are but a very few beings in the world who understand rightly the character of God…If men do not comprehend the character of God, they do not comprehend themselves.” (https://www.lds.org/ensign/1971/04/t…ermon?lang=eng)

We learn from John that the world doesn’t recognize the followers of Christ because they don’t know know. However as we have been adopted into the family of Christ and because the sons (and daughters) of God, we will recognize Christ, because we “shall be like him” and that we will “see him as he is”.

Bruce R. McConkie wrote “We shall be like Christ. We shall conform to his image and be glorified as he is. (Rom 8:29.) We shall have exaltation, for that is what he has; and he is like his Father. Thus we also shall be as the Father.” (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary)

Sadly many who have spent their whole live studying the life of Christ seem to miss this. The 26th and 27th verses of the Bible, Genesis 1:26-27, teaches us that God created men and women in His image. We are created in the image of God, yet we have trouble comprehending Him.

In the October 1969 General Conference, Hartman Rector, Jr, a man who played a part in my parents marriage, stated “the question of questions becomes: What is God like? I have often felt the reason we don’t understand God is because we are so unlike him. By that, I mean that even though man is like God physically, spiritually man is far from God. Fortunately, the Lord has given us specific direction and guidance to get us into condition so we grow closer to him spiritually also.”

1st John 4:7-11
7 Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.
8 He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.
9 In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him.
10 Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.
11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.

In the same October 1969 Conference address Elder Rector said “What is the distinguishing characteristic of our Heavenly Father? John gave us a clue when he said: “Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love”.

What does this mean “God is love”? John repeats this saying multiple times through out his Epistles.

During the General Conference held in April 1981, Elder Jack H Goaslind, Jr. of the Seventy related a story of a mother who was hurt and upset by a decision made by her adult daughter. This decision made the mother not want to see or talk with her daughter. A wise friend of hers, however said
“What kind of a mother are you that you only love her when she does what you want her to do? That is selfish, self-centered, qualified love. It’s easy to love our children when they are good; but when they make mistakes, they need our love even more. We should love and care for them no matter what they do. It doesn’t mean we condone or approve of the errors, but we help, not condemn; love, not hate; forgive, not judge. We build them up rather than tear them down; we lead them, not desert them. We love when they are the most unlovable, and if you can’t or won’t do that, you are a poor mother.”
This message was exactly what this mother needed to hear.

In the “Holman KJV Bible” commentary for 1st John 4:8, it states “God is love does not mean that love is God. Love is an attribute of God, like righteousness and goodness. Those who truly know Him share this attribute”

To be able to comprehend God and thus ourselves, we need to learn to love God.

1st John 4:19
“We love him, because he first loved us.”

God already loves us. Just like the moral of the story I shared a moment ago from Elder Goaslind, God loves us no matter what we do, no matter what mistakes we make.

The what is likely the most quoted scripture in all the Bible, John 3:16, the Lord said:
For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

Brothers and Sisters, God loves you. Each and every one of you. No matter where you are in your journey to return to live with Him. Those of you who, like me, have children, can you image how hard to give up one of your children to save another. But this is exactly what our Father in Heaven did for each of us. Because He loves us.

As I said a moment ago, to be able to comprehend God and thus ourselves, we need to learn to love God. How do we show our love for God? The Savior gave us the best answer

John 14:15
“If ye love me, keep my commandments.”

The LDS Scripture Citation Index has 109 General Conference references to this scripture. A lot has been said by the Latter-day Prophets of Jesus Christ on the importance of keeping the commandments of God, including at least two talks in the most recent October 2016 General Conference.

In that Conference Elder D. Todd Christofferson said ”
Will you not love Him who first loved you? Then keep His commandments. Will you not be a friend to Him who laid down His life for His friends? Then keep His commandments. Will you not abide in His love and receive all that He graciously offers you? Then keep His commandments.”

When He was asked what was the greatest command, the Savior said in Matthew 22:37-39
“37 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.”

So, we know that love in an attribute of God and that God loves us unconditionally. We also know that we should love God. By learning to love Him we begin to understand Him. The way that we show our love for Him is by keeping his commandments. But that is not enough. We need to love our neighbors, those around us, as we love ourself and, if I may interject here, as much of God loves them.

1st John 4:20-21
20 If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen?
21 And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also.

John teaches us that as Latter-day Saints, we must love God and love others, otherwise we are not true disciples of Christ.

In the April 1991 General Conference, Russell M. Nelson stated
“Scriptures recorded in all dispensations teach that we show our love of God as we hearken to His commandments and obey them.”

What is one way we can we know if we love God and love others?

1st John 5:2-3
“2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep his commandments.
3 For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous.”

Loving God is not separate from keeping his commandments. It is part of keeping His commandments!

Examples of God’s love for us
Creation of World
Establishment of the Abrahamic covenant
Pharaoh’s dream that Joseph interpreted to allow him to prepare for 7 year famine
Exodus of the Children of Israel from Egypt / crossing Red Sea and River Jordan on dry ground
Feeding Children of Israel manna for 40-years, bringing forth water from the rock
Leading Lehi and his family to promised land
Greatest example, of course, is Atonement of Christ (read John 15:12-14)

Ways we can show love to our fellow man:
Serve them (JustServe.org has many available service opportunities. Random acts of kindnesses, like taking your neighbor’s trash out, or put their trash can away after pick-up)
Invite neighbors over for dinner (Schultz invited my family over to their home when we first moved in)
someone is new in town, invite them to join your social / recreational plans.
When someone tells you they have an upcoming job interview, a test, or a doctor appointment, mark it on your calendar. Follow up on the big day with a note of encouragement to let them know you are praying for them, or ask them how it went afterward. Better yet, do both!
If you see someone moving in, bring them dinner, cookies, or basic supplies they might need before they unpack, like paper towels, toilet paper, and hand soap.

1st John 3:11, 23
11 For this is the message that ye heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.
23 And this is his commandment, That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment.

The scriptures are full of examples of God’s love of man. Let our lives be full of examples of our love for God and our fellow man is my humble prayer,

In the holy name of our perfect example of love, Jesus Christ,

Amen.

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