President Thomas S. Monson: ‘Love — The essence of the gospel’

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Credit: Deseret News
Credit: Deseret News

Love is the very essence of the gospel of Jesus Christ, said President Thomas S. Monson.

“May we begin now, this very day, to express love to all of God’s children, whether they be our family members, our friends, mere acquaintances, or total strangers,” he said. “As we arise each morning, let us determine to respond with love and kindness to whatever might come our way.”

Speaking during the Sunday morning session of conference, President Monson said, "We cannot truly love God if we do not love our fellow travelers on this mortal journey. Likewise, we cannot love our fellow men if we do not love God, the Father of us all. … We are all spirit children of our Heavenly Father and, as such, are brothers and sisters. As we keep this truth in mind, loving all of God’s children will become easier.”

President Monson said Jesus Christ is the Exemplar of love. “His life was a legacy of love. The sick He healed, the downtrodden He lifted, the sinner He saved.”

There are many attributes which are manifestations of love, such as kindness, patience, selflessness, understanding and forgiveness, President Monson noted. “In all our associations, these and other such attributes will help make evident the love in our hearts.”

President Monson spoke of two women who worked as seamstresses at a clothing mill in 1933 during the Great Depression.

Although they were paid by the amount of work each did, one woman, Bernice Rock, put her work on hold to help a woman she did not know, Arlene Biesecker. The two became friends and Bernice introduced Arlene to the gospel. In 1960, Arlene and her husband and children were baptized members of the Church and were later sealed in the temple.

“As a result of the compassion shown by Bernice as she went out of her way to help one whom she didn’t know but who was in distress and needed assistance, countless individuals, both living and dead, now enjoy the saving ordinances of the gospel.

“Every day of our lives we are given opportunities to show love and kindness to those around us.”

Often opportunities to show love come unexpectedly, he said.

President Monson referred to a newspaper article he has kept in his files since 1981. It told of a flight carrying 150 passengers from Anchorage, Alaska, to Seattle, Wash., that was diverted to a remote Alaskan town in order to transport a gravely injured boy to a hospital in Seattle. However, when the flight touched down in the remote town medics informed the pilot that the boy could not survive the flight to Seattle. The decision was made to fly another 200 miles out of the way to Juneau, Alaska, the nearest city with a hospital.

“Not one passenger had complained, even though most of them would miss appointments and connecting flights. In fact, as the minutes and hours ticked by, they took up a collection, raising a considerable sum for the boy and his family,” said President Monson. “As the flight was about to land in Seattle, the passengers broke into a cheer when the pilot announced that the had received word by radio that the boy was going to be all right.”

President Monson said some of the greatest opportunities to demonstrate love will be in the home.

“Love should be the very heart of family life, and yet sometimes it is not. There can be too much impatience, too much arguing, too many fights, too many tears. … If we would keep the commandment to love one another, we must treat each other with kindness and respect.”

President Monson asked Church members to be considerate and sensitive to the thoughts and feelings and circumstances of those around them.

“Let us not demean or belittle. Rather, let us be compassionate and encouraging. We must be careful that we do not destroy another person’s confidence through careless words or actions.

“Forgiveness should go hand in hand with love. In our families, as well as with our friends, there can be hurt feelings and disagreements. Again, it doesn’t really matter how small the issue was. It cannot and should not be left to canker, to fester, and ultimately to destroy. Blame keeps wounds open. Only forgiveness heals.”

President Monson spoke of a lady who visited with him before she passed away. “She spoke of an incident which had taken place many years earlier and involved a neighboring farmer, once a good friend, but with whom she and her husband had disagreed on multiple occasions. One day the farmer asked if he could take a shortcut across her property to reach his own acreage.”

The woman told President Monson that she did not let the farmer on her property, which required him to take the long way around on foot to reach his property.

She said, “I was wrong and I regret it. He’s gone now, but oh, I wish I could say to him, ‘I’m so sorry.’ How I wish I had a second chance to be kind.”

President Monson said that as he listened to the woman, there came to him mind “the doleful observation of John Greenleaf Whittier: ‘Of all sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these: It might have been.’

“Brothers and sisters, as we treat others with love and kind consideration, we will avoid such regrets.”

President Monson said love is expressed in many recognizable ways — a smile, a wave, a kind comment, a compliment.

“Other expressions may be more subtle, such as showing interest in another’s activities, teaching a principle with kindness and patience, visiting one who is ill or homebound. These words and actions and many others, can communicate love.”

President Monson said the Love God has for His children is beyond comprehension.

“Because of this love, He sent His Son, who loved us enough to give His life for us, that we might have eternal life. As we come to understand this incomparable gift, our hearts will be filled with love for our Eternal Father, for our Savior and for all mankind.”

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