Current events have me tied in knots. The looming election, the fires, the hurricanes, the pandemic, the economic uncertainty, and the endless tangle of controversial issues that seem to multiply by the day, swirl in my mind creating chaos and lack of focus. Perhaps many of you are feeling the same. I have pondered and prayed to know what to do and how best to help my nation in her hour of need. I feel as inadequate as the widow surely did as she dropped her penny at the temple in the Savior’s time. Still, the Savior recognized it as her sacrifice of everything she had. So I give to you, everything I have. Just a blog post, a small penny that I pray God may multiply as he did the loaves and fishes that it may sustain and comfort you, my friends. I usually post only to a select group of trusted friends, but today I enlarge that group to include everyone on my Facebook friend list. I ask you to please be kind and respectful as I’ve put myself at your mercy.
I grew up in rural Idaho to devout members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I was baptised two weeks after my eighth birthday. I attended seminary. I went to church every week with my family. I went to Ricks College and took religion classes. Later, I attended institute. My parents have served in many callings in the church over the years. Their parents were perhaps a little less faithful, but not by much. My grandpa swore quite a bit and there was a time when he didn’t go to church, I’ve been told. My grandma and grandpa on the other side of my family fell out of church activity later in life because of health problems primarily. Still, I’ve always considered myself and my family to be very “churchy.” In spite of that, I don’t feel a lot of love in my family.
My family of origin is fractured and estranged. My parents have rejected me and my sister on a very basic level and although it isn’t all that surprising if you know them well, it does lead to all kinds of questions. If the church is true, why didn’t my parents learn to love me unconditionally? Isn’t that what a community of disciples of Christ are supposed to teach one another? If we have the ordinances of salvation and we have the priesthood, but we don’t have charity, what good do they do us? Isn’t it all just sounding brass?
Then I think of how rare charity seems to be. Is it reasonable to expect people to have it? Is it reasonable even to expect leaders in the church, community, and nation to have it? Isn’t that a high bar? The thing about charity is that it’s contagious. If someone taps into the pure love of Christ, it becomes a wellspring of love that feeds many. Those who are fed are able to give it to others. It has to start somewhere though. The lack of charity is catastrophic to civilization. It is the lifeblood of healthy human interaction. Perhaps it is unreasonable to expect others to have it, but when we see a systematic decrease of charity in our society, we are right to be concerned.
How is charity developed? Biologically, parenthood gives us an advantage in the growth of charity. It is easier to love our children unconditionally because we are biologically predisposed to do it. Society also fosters and demands a level of care for our children. That further invests us in their wellbeing. As I’ve observed my parenting of my children as they get older, I’ve noticed that as they become more independent I have to be more proactive in my charity. They are less likely as they get older to ask for things, or if they do, they often ask for them in indirect and problematic ways. Basically, it takes a little more effort to foster charity with an older child. I imagine that as my children get more independent, they may grow away from me as I have with my parents. It may be even more difficult to keep that charity alive.
So what happens, as has happened with my parents, when the parents decide that the child is not worthy of love anymore? They no longer foster that charity that seeks to understand, repent, and love unconditionally? In their defense, such charity is painful, especially when the object of your love is in pain or inflicts pain on you intentionally or not. On the reverse side, what of the parent who continues to love unconditionally even when it is extremely painful and troublesome? What if that parent engages in painful and difficult self-reflection and repentance to heal wounds and correct mistakes made however seemingly small? Is that love not stronger than the cords of death? Isn’t that love the powerful kind that will seal and connect the generations together, turning the hearts of the fathers to the children and the children to the fathers throughout all time and eternity? The entire plan of salvation is based in this love.
Basically, charity is ideally fostered and developed in the family and then out of abundance it flows to others. Those who are loved can love others more easily both within their family and without. I wonder sometimes if we lose sight of the importance of charity. It is, quite literally, the foundation of our entire civilization. What could be more vital than to encourage this virtue? What could possibly dissuade us from spreading this pure love of Christ to everyone? Do we care too much about our own image, our own prospects of failure? Perhaps rather than referring to “we” I should say more directly, “me.” Do I care so much about how others see me and the prospects of failure that I discount the more important virtues I possess that are badly needed even if they are not valued as they should be?
So how do I fit in a world that is increasingly uninterested in developing charity? A world that seems evermore cynical and combative? As I considered my interactions with others at my son’s school, the passing of other cars on the road, the give and take that must happen in society every day to make it all work; and I thought, civility is everything. The willingness to hold a door, to forgive a mistake, to offer a smile of encouragement or a word of praise; these things make it all work. They are the small and simple things that bring to pass that which is great.
As social media disrobes us all, it is more difficult to have charity. How can I love a Trump supporter, an anti-vaxxer, a climate denier, an elite snob, a MSM watching sheep, a liberal, a Trump hater? How can we love those we really know? How can we extend the hand of fellowship to those whose beliefs we find abhorrent and dangerous? I don’t have the answers to these questions except to say that our modern world is inviting us to have more love, more compassion, and more civility. If we don’t accept this invitation to develop more, I fear we will lose even that which we have. If we continue on a path of trying to force others to be something they aren’t or do what they don’t want to do rather than use understanding and persuasion we will pay the price.
The good news is, that the light of charity shines even brighter in dark times. When love is needed most, it is appreciated most. Jesus Christ stands ever willing and able to give us that love that will save us. It takes humility, it takes repentance, it takes faith and hope, but it is there.
To those Trump supporters who feel marginalized and out of step with a politically correct world of shifting values, I love you. To the closetted Democrat member of my church who cringes when the conversation shifts to how evil Hillary Clinton is, I love you. To those who have heaps of degrees and honors of men who look down on others who have been less fortunate, I love you. To those who have hatred and malice in their hearts and desire to burn and destroy and subject others, I love you. To those who feel they don’t fit and don’t belong and will never be accepted for who they are, I love you. To those who have rejected, hurt, and judged me, I love you. To those who sin, no matter what your sins are, I love you. I don’t love you perfectly. I don’t love you always. I’m not perfect either, but I promise you, I will love you like I love my own children. I will never give up on you. When I get cynical and discouraged, when I become weary in well-doing, when I indulge in self-pity or pride, I promise to repent and partake again of that living water that the Savior provides in endless supply. Our world needs charity. More than we need votes. More than we need truthful and trusted news sources. More than we need healthcare and education. More than we need guns. More than we need the right supreme court justices. More than we need solutions for climate change. We need charity.
I am grateful to my Savior who sustains me when I am unable to go on. He loves me when I am unlovable and forgives my fallen weakness. When my soul cries out, he is there to comfort me. Blessed be the name of the Master I serve. In Him will I place my trust forever. His love will never fail.