Part of me wishes to be a recluse; a hermit. Wouldn't it be nice to unplug and spend the remainder of our days on a private island, away from all the craziness? (On our private island there will be free ice cream for everyone.)
Well, whenever I turn off the nightly news and start looking at real estate listings in the Bahamas, I recall these words:
Teach ye diligently and my grace shall attend you, that you may be instructed . . . of things which have been, things which are, things which must shortly come to pass; things which are at home, and things which are abraod; the wars and perplexities of the nations.
It seems the Lord doesn't want us checking out just yet; I mean, how can we be "the salt of the earth" if we retire and ride into the sunset? We're sorta stuck here with the 3 Nephites for the time being.
Mormon died with a sword in his hand; John the Baptist with a sword on his neck; and the Savior with a sword piercing thru His heart.
So in the midst of troubles, when men's hearts are failing, we need to find a way to stay strong. We dare not go spiritually AWOL at a time like this, abandoning our brothers and sisters on the field of battle whilst the enemy advances. The Lord is calling us to stand together on the front lines, arms locked in love, bearing each other's burdens.
Which is all nice-and-dandy until we get burned out. Running errands for the Lord is wonderful until we begin to break, carrying the casaulties in our arms. Who will carry us?
Jesus will. The Lord promised:
The Lord [who?] shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; [whose wings?] they shall run, and not be weary; and shall walk, and not faint.
Have we been sprinting so long our spirits have cramps? Anyone (yes, I mean everyone) who is engaged in the work of the Lord will feel discouraged from time-to-time, particlarly when we question whether our efforts are doing any good.
This is not just physical exhaustion, but real spiritual fatigue. And so this Series, "Be Ye Kind One to Another," is intended to refresh our spirits.
Hope for the Weary
In Part 2, we saw that pure love flourishes in places (and hearts) where the Spirit is free to fly and spread its wings.
On the other hand, love perishes in environments where the Spirit's wings are clipped. I mean, think of a dormitory staffed only with hall monitors, principals, and lunch ladies.
It's a true principle that proud people cannot love purely, because genuine love grows out of meekness and humility (see Moroni 8:26).
The way we organize ourselves, then, directly impacts our ability to love.
For those of us who are tired of dodging fiery darts; who long to be healed of our leprosy and to rejoice, at last, with the daughters of Jerusalem upon Mount Zion; who wish to praise God through exercising His gifts of the Spirit ― the Lord has promised us:
I dwell on high in the holy place, and with him who is humble and lowly in spirit― refreshing the spirits of the lowly, reviving the hearts of the humble.
I love that verse. The Lord understands better than we do the burden of sorrow we carry, and how to make it light. He was intimately acquainted with grief, and yet, through tears of sadness, He could proclaim, "My joy is full" (3 Nephi 17:20-21).
How? Why was the Lord so resilient? Because perfect love means we're volunteering to "suffereth long"; Jesus showed us that charity is the power to "endureth all things" (Moroni 7:45).
Love rejuvenates more than it drains. Christ showed us the strength of His love as the Messenger of the New and Everlasting Covenant, which He sealed with a kiss, signed in love’s blood.
For this is the message that ye heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.
(1 John 3:11)
Isn't it wild how we send out missionaries to preach the gospel, as if that meant telling people about prophets and keys and the Word of Wisdom?
There is only one gospel, and it is Christ's love for the Father (and for us), which means there's only one way to preach His gospel, and it is to love God and one another.
Learn from the Master
What is the cause of our lack of charity?
There seems to be a blockage in our spiritual arteries that needs angioplasty.
I know this will sound crazy, but what if our churches were crafted as much to shield us from God's glory (love) as they are to reveal it?
What if we're not-so-different from the children of Israel who begged Moses to speak with the Lord for them ― as long as it was far in the distance, way over there (Exodus 20:18-19)?
This might explain why our chapels have become a bit chilly (bring a sweater), as we distance ourselves from God who makes the rain to fall on the wicked and the just, in favor of huddling out of the rain beneath the pavilion of the prophet.
Is there a cardiogram we could take? Yes, there's a simple test. Here it is: does a doctrine or practice cause us to turn to Christ with real intent, or does it create dependency upon the Church?
I've wondered if we've corrupted the Covenant Path as addicts searching for our next fix, seeking salvation from works and checklists; shooting up with the ecstasy of carnal security, making us feel like we're "good."
In the spiritual Nuclear Winter we find ourselves in today, vegetation can't grow; no wonder we have trouble producing fruit! Our meetings lack the Spirit and fire of the Holy Ghost because we serve the Handbook; ash in our lungs silences the word of God from being spoken; we are fed the fare of Mammon, queued in line at the soup kitchen, starving and grateful for a bit of watered-down, thin broth we call Come Follow Me.
Perhaps there's a simple reason our spiritual lives are so threadbare: is it because we are taught to look to our leaders and live?
Is it because ever since we were rosy-cheeked children sitting in primary we've had drilled into our heads the need to obey carnal commandments. For obedience is, don't forget, the First Law of Heaven.
And so, in a culture of obedience and perfectionism; in a community dedicated to self-improvement and raising statistics; is it any wonder love has gone by the wayside?
Smell the Roses
Shall we go back to the beginning? Because in the beginning we were drawn towards our Lord's love, as intelligences. His light attracted us. None of us would be here if we hadn't warmed ourselves beside His bosom in the beginning.
Love is the attribute of our Father we found so appealing, or what the scriptures call "most desirable."
This primal force we call love was the seed of our spiritual awakening and is the nexus of all divine creation.
In the beginning was the Word, And the Word was with God, and the Word was God, [and God was love and His Word was love].
Let me try to explain something by using an analogy, so we might better intuit what Paul calls "a mystery." I warn you, though, this will be the worst analogy you've ever heard.
Let's call it the Analogy of the Ontological Onion (see? even the name is bad).
Pretend I eat lots of onions; in fact, my diet consists primarily of onions. Through the process of digestion, the components of the onion are incorporated into my body. As a consequence, I smell like onions. Wherever I go, I put off the smell of onions.
But remember, I am not an onion (I can't believe I had to say that.) I smell like an onion because the onion has become part of me; now it is my signature-scent. Yes, that's right, I smell like eau de l'oignon.
When I stand at the podium in the chapel to give a talk, you can smell it in the pews. It is that strong. And when I walk past you in the hallway at church, the smell is even more potent.
And if I stop and give you a bear hug, the odor will be inescapable and so intense your eyes will water.
There. I warned you. Worst analogy ever.
God's love is like a fragrance (but in His case, it smells like roses).
Frankincense was one of the gifts given to our Lord because, remember, sweet-smelling spices were used in the temple as incense (Exodus 30:34). When the priests burned their sacrifices, people all around (including those who couldn't enter the temple) could smell it from afar.
But what happens when the sweet smell becomes foul; when we substitute the Lord's grace and love for the sweaty musk of human effort; the works of the arm of flesh?
Well, surprisingly this is how Isaiah begins his book:
Bring no more worthless offerings; they are as a loathsome incense to me.
How must it smell to the Lord when we substitute His sacfrice with our Handbook oblations? When we teach for doctrines the commandments of men rather than His gospel?
Amos said it best:
I despise your religious festivals; your assemblies are a stench to me.
(Amos 5:21, NIV)
Like frankincense, the Lord's love is shed abroad and can be felt by everyone, even those who choose not to come near Him (as a traveler goes the long way around the temple to avoid rush hour).
Love is His gift, given freely to all, that permeates the very air we breathe.
We cannot buy it, neither can we earn it; however, the scent becomes stronger as we approach Him. Only those who become "one" with Him (i.e. enter into His presence) enjoy a fulness of it.
Or, you know, we can go around wearing gas masks to block out the smell, which is what happens when we reduce the gospel of love to a set of rules and commandments (the Handbook).