I was MIA around here last week. Preparing a talk (or what some others call a sermon), I spent my devotional time last week. Also, my grandchildren were scheduled to arrive Sunday night but got here sans parents two days early with their dogs in tow. Add these to an already tightly scheduled weekend of service workers and there was no time to write. Anyway, I decided to record my talk here. Although it may not mean much to others, I learned a great deal and have made some new character goals.
When we die, we take only our character, talents, relationships, knowledge, and experiences. Will the Savior know us by these things or will He say, I never knew you depart from me?
If I had a dollar for every time I've heard there is no manual for character training or child rearing, I could build a beautiful orphanage with a state of the art school to educate and a lovely chapel to bless the inhabitants. However, this assumption about the lack of a manual isn't true. (Pick up scriptures.) Just look at this lesson manual. Look at its heft. If we want to know how to build character in ourselves and our children, these are the instructions, especially 1 Corinthians 13. They tell how to perform 1st and 2nd greatest commandments so we might gain the character of Christ and teach it to our children. "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind… Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself." Matthew 22:37-39. We have many neighbors including those that live in our homes. Perhaps the latter are our most important neighbors. After all one of the greatest missions of the church is to help build strong families.
Let's look at 1 Corinthians 13:
Charity sufferenth long...The dictionary tells us that long-suffering means patience, self-control, restraint, and tolerance. If someone knows you are trying to be patient, it isn’t patience; it’s self-righteous condescension. Instead of putting on our patience hats, we might instead try to look at the person as if they already act as a child of God. My grandmother is the epitome of a long-suffering, patient person without self-righteous martyrdom. At her 75th birthday party, her friends and family had not yet begun to die off. There were hundreds of people there that she counted as close personal friends and family. Asking her about this, I was told she made a choice at the age of nine to always ask herself, what would Jesus do before she reacted. She read a book, In His Steps, which changed her life. Since then she tries to see people as God sees them and treat them as Jesus would treat them. She always stops and thinks how Jesus might react before doing anything. So…everyone loves her. To me this demonstrates the principle that commandments are more for our benefit than anything else.
And is Kind...We all know what kindness means. A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger (Proverbs 15:1). Our little children are taught in Primary this very principle through song. "I want to be kind to everyone for that is right you see. So I say to myself remember this. Kindness begins with me." My favorite Christian theologian, CS Lewis said in his book Weight of Glory, "It is a serious thing, to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no 'ordinary' people. You have never talked to a mere mortal…our charity must be a real and costly love, with deep feeling for the sins in spite of which we love the sinner ..."
Envieth Not...Envy occurs when a person lacks another's superior quality, achievement, or possession and either desires it or wishes that the other lacked it. My dear friend from Kent, Sister Andersen was a wonderful teacher in Relief Society back in the days when we learned literature, art, and homemaking skills. Once she taught us to celebrate the accomplishments of others instead of our usual envy. We should stop the “Yes, but…” What is Yes, but? When someone is especially good at something, we are so prone to dismiss by saying, yes, but she doesn't do thus and such the way she should. None of us are perfect so let's not diminish the accomplishments of others. Let's celebrate every step forward.
Vaunteth Not itself...To vaunt is to proudly call attention to one's possessions, accomplishments, associations, or righteousness. Stuck up, boasting, bragging, name-dropping, self-righteousness, and other such behaviors are vaunting. It’s the content of the character that matters and not who my ancestors were or how much money I have or my clothes or cars or houses or the people I know or my child’s grades, athletic prowess, or musical genius. Have I done any good in the world today?
Doth not behave itself unseemly...Unseemly means indecent, rude, temper tantrums or immodesty—Laman, Lemuel, and sons of Ismael were chastised for rudeness on boat, when the Lord sent storm. When I was a little girl, I had terrible temper tantrums. My parents always blamed it on my bad temper, saying Ginger has a bad temper like ____. I thought this meant my character was inborn and written in stone. After I learned the gospel doctrine of free agency, I knew I had a choice to let temper rule me or not. Because I started changing this behavior late in adulthood, it's been a challenge. Immodesty is calling undue attention to oneself similar to vaunting with the body and attitudes instead of words. One can be fully dressed and still be immodest. Shirts as tight as sausage casings is one example. Another come from the mouth of God's prophet. President Hinkley instructed women that one pair of modest earrings is sufficient; chandeliers as I call them are not modest. He also said men shouldn't wear them at all. “...Whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same,” (D&C 1:38). When the prophet says something, it is as if God himself said it. Are we free to pick and choose which of God’s words we will obey?
Seeketh not her own...Means unselfish...on our mission we've learned a lot about unselfish service. My husband gives a brief talk or sermon to each group that comes about the life of the Savior. Because we believe one of our responsibilities here on earth is to adopt as far as possible the character of the Savior, what better way to do this than by learning to love helping others. The Savior's entire life pointed to the ultimate service He would perform for mankind. Try doing things for people with no expectation of reward or praise. Then note what it does for your love of others. Note how you are blessed for selfless service.
Not easily provoked...Elder Bednar instructed us in 2006 to refuse to be offended. His sermon was one of the greatest gifts anyone ever gave me. I'm not perfect but strive to incorporate that idea into my life. When we refuse to be offended, we refuse to let anger rule us. We speak gently. President Hinckley turned out pretty well; don’t you think. He said, “My father never laid a had on me except to bless me." Another time he said, "Parents do not spank your children, talk to them they will listen.” Yelling, belittling, demeaning, scolding, and violence are not listening or talking. Again when the prophet says something, it is as if God himself said it.
Thinketh no evil...Improper thoughts and unkind self talk are evil. Jesus said to love our neighbors as ourselves. We don't love ourselves when we demean, belittle, scold, neglect, or abuse our minds or bodies. We are literal sons and daughters of the Eternal Father in Heaven. The old saying in the 70s was God don't make no junk. Evil thoughts can also take the form of murmuring against righteousness. Lust and other broken commandments are also included here. We can choose to stop improper thoughts.
Speaketh no evil...Sometimes what we think boils out of our mouths. The tongue is the littlest member of the body but can kindle a great fire. Faultfinding, evil speaking, and backbiting are obviously unchristian. “Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you,” Eph. 4:31.
Beareth, believeth, hopeth, endureth… we can’t be these things if we choose the others. Those that age and die gracefully are those that know how to smile like Mona Lisa. They endure their trials well. They bear the pains of aging in such a way to soften their features instead of turing bitter. That's what I want. As I move into the downhill side of my life, I want faith and hope and the pure love of Christ to remove my last edges.
Put away childish things...This used to confuse me. Aren’t we supposed to become as little children. Yes, we are supposed to become meek and mild in spirit, not childish in our behavior. "...be not children in understanding: howbeit in malice be ye children, but in understanding be men," 1 Corinthians 14:20.
For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face...We cannot see the hearts of others the way our Father does. His vision is not dim or short-sighted like ours. Jesus said, He who is without sin cast first stone. We are all on different places along the path. We must allow God to judge, while we love our neighbors. And again as CS Lewis said, "There are no 'ordinary' people. You have never talked to a mere mortal…our charity must be a real and costly love, with deep feeling for the sins in spite of which we love the sinner..." Let's try to open our hearts in faith toward humanity so our Father can use us to perform mighty miracles in neighbors in our families and all around us. That is the way to peace on earth.
While part of charity might be sharing with the less fortunate, this isn’t the proper definition according to Moroni. “But charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him,” Moroni 7:47. Yes, we should help the poor, but as Paul said. "...though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing."
Striving to incorporate charity into our character, we learn how to live the greatest commandments to love God and love our neighbors as ourselves.