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.
On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets. (Matt. 22:37-40.)
As the embodiment of love, Jesus Christ was supremely qualified to issue the two great commandments, which He did while serving as the perfect exemplar of both.
From His boyhood, the Savior witnessed His absolute love and devotion to God the Father in word and deed, exemplifying the first great commandment to love God with all one's heart, soul and mind.
As a youth, Jesus declared that he "must be about my Father's business," (Luke 2:49.), and later that He "can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do." (John 5:19.) He declared His oneness with the Father (John 10:30.), yet humbly deferred to His Father as indicated in His succinct comment to His disciples that "my Father is greater than I." (John 14:28.)
Throughout His life, the Savior manifested a perfect love of His Father through absolute obedience, "that the world may know that I love the Father; and as the Father gave me commandment, even so I do. . . ." (John 14:31.)
That obedience and love culminated in Gethsemane, wherein during His moments of atoning agony Jesus prayed: "O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt." (Matt. 26:39.)
This love Jesus demonstrated for His Father was consistent with the Savior's perfect love for others, manifest in His life of service and through the supreme sacrifice of laying "down his life for his friends." (John 15:13.)
Jesus spent His life ministering to others' needs. He taught through word and deed that "he that is greatest among you shall be your servant." (Matt. 23:11.)
His good deeds - teaching the gospel, healing the sick and infirmed, comforting the lonely, reproving evil, raising the dead - were each a demonstration of love, often administered to "the one" and with the admonition to "tell no man." (Matt. 8:4.)
These acts were of such number and magnificence that "if they should be written every one, . . . even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written." (John 21:25.) Yet even with that acclaim He served and loved in perfect purity, enjoining his disciples to "let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth." (Matt. 6:3-4.)
The Apostle Paul and the prophet Mormon defined such a purity of love as charity and encouraged its acquisition as the loftiest of virtues.
Mormon's definition of charity, as given in the writings of his son, Moroni, is a precise description of the attributes of love the Savior manifest toward His Father and all mankind: "And charity suffereth long, and is kind, and envieth not, and is not puffed up, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, and rejoiceth not in iniquity but rejoiceth in the truth, beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. . . .
"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." (Mor. 7:45, 47.)
Moroni further emphasized the absolute need to acquire charity in order to return to Heavenly Father's presence: "And except ye have charity ye can in nowise be saved in the kingdom of God." (Mor. 10:21.)
Mormon provided a key to obtaining this purity of love: "Wherefore, my beloved brethren, pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ; . . . that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is." (Mor. 7:48.)
Paul taught that love, or charity, encompasses all of the commandments and is the "fulfilling of the law"; that all commandments are "briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself." (Rom. 13:8-10.)
An explicit definition of one's "neighbor" was given by the Savior immediately on the heels of His declaration of the two great commandments. When asked by a certain lawyer, "And who is my neighbour?" Jesus then responded with the parable of the good Samaritan.
In the story, several phrases are used to describe the charitable acts of the Samaritan toward his stripped and wounded Jewish neighbor who had fallen among thieves. In spite of the long-held animosity between the people of Samaria and the Jews, the Samaritan "had compassion on him,
"And went to him, and bound up his wounds, . . . and took care of him." The charitable Samaritan then charged the wounded man's care to an innkeeper, paid for his services and promised to return to repay any additional charges. "Take care of him," the Samaritan told the inn's host. (Luke 10:30-35.)
At the parable's conclusion, Jesus directly counseled the lawyer to "Go, and do thou likewise." (Luke 10:37.)
Doing "likewise" is the ultimate demonstration of a person's love for God and others. One's treatment of others is a true manifestation of his or her love of God. John taught: "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?
"And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also." (1 John 4:20-21.)
Again, Jesus was the master teacher and exemplar of this principle. In the parable of the sheep and the goats he described those on the right hand of God being called forth and rewarded at the day of judgment:
"Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:
"For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:
"Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.
"Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?
"When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?
"Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?
"And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me." (Matt. 25:35-40.)
Conversely, he taught that those who fail to perform such acts of charity "shall go away into everlasting punishment." (Matt. 25:41-46.)
Because of God's perfect love for all of His children, He feels of the pain and the joy they experience at the hands of others. Doing unto others - for good or ill - is the same as doing it unto God. Thus the two great commandments are tied intrinsically together, interwoven in the ultimate law of love.
This marriage of the two great commandments was summed up by President N. Eldon Tanner, then second counselor in the First Presidency, who spoke of the two in singular fashion: "Let us never forget that the Lord gave us this commandment to love God and to love one another and apply the Golden Rule. We cannot love God without loving our neighbor, and we cannot truly love our neighbor without loving God." (Conference Report, April 1967, p. 105.)
The gospel is encompassed in the law of love, for God is Love. (1 John 3:8.)