'Love thy neighbor'

One of the important lessons learned by the Apostle Paul in his remarkable conversion was brotherly love.

This great missionary and devoted advocate of the resurrected Jesus Christ went from persecutor to prophet, and from tormentor to teacher. Once he had hated the followers of Christ, but when he himself was enfolded in the pure love of Christ, that love became a central theme of his ministry.Consider a few of his teachings:

"Let brotherly love continue." (Heb. 13:1.)

"But as touching brotherly love ye need not that I write unto you: for ye yourselves are taught of God to love one another." (1 Thess. 4:9.)

To Philemon he wrote that the runaway slave Onesimus whom Paul had converted was "not now as a servant, but above a servant, a brother beloved." (Phil. 1:16.)

To those who were unaccepting of the gospel Paul told the Thessalonians: "Yet count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother." (2 Thess. 3:15.)

Just as Paul had to learn and then teach the importance of brotherly love, so do we in our day.

We live in a world where love is being overshadowed by hate, wars, revenge, bitterness, callousness, and in some cases utter disregard. Love must not be crowded out by the forces of evil, for it is probably the most needed quality in today's world. No good thing can happen without it.

As Paul learned, love begins with our accepting the love that our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ have for us. Once we understand and accept that love, we must choose to develop this attribute in our lives.

President Wilford Woodruff said of the love of others:

"It is vain to profess a love for God while speaking evil of or doing wrong to His children. The sacred covenants we have made with Him strictly impose upon us the duties we owe to one another; and the great office of religion is to teach us how to perform those duties so as to produce the greatest happiness for ourselves and for our fellow-beings. When the obligations of our religion are observed, no words are spoken or acts are committed that would injure a neighbor.

"If the Latter-day Saints live as they should do, there would be no feeling in any breast but that of brotherly and sisterly affection and love. Backbiting and evil-speaking would have no existence among us; but peace and love and good will would reign in all our hearts and habitations and settlements. We would be the happiest people on the face of the earth, and the blessings and peace of Heaven would rest upon us and upon all that belongs to us." (Messages of the First Presidency, vol. 3, p. 146.)

In this same spirit President Joseph F. Smith said:

"Charity, or love, is the greatest principle in existence. If we can lend a helping hand to the oppressed, if we can aid those who are despondent and in sorrow, if we can uplift and ameliorate the condition of mankind, it is our mission to do it, it is an essential part of our religion to do it." (Conference Report, April, 1918, p. 4.)

Truly, this is one of the hardest things we do in gospel living. There are many whom we do not feel deserve our love. We see them as derelicts on the streets. We see them as rebellious youth doing drugs, or as gang members. We observe them as sophisticated snobs with money and worldly power. We detest them as doers of evil deeds and despise their lifestyles. Unfortunately, we also sometimes neglect or ignore others - strangers and neighbors, including fellow-citizens in the Church - with whom we have less-serious disagreements or differences of opinion.

But they are all our eternal brothers and sisters, and our interactions with them will likely come forward at a time of evaluation by Him who is the source of pure love.

In his sweet yet direct way President Spencer W. Kimball said:

"We must remember that those mortals we meet in parking lots, offices, elevators, and elsewhere are that portion of mankind God has given us to love and to serve. It will do us little good to speak of the general brotherhood of mankind if we cannot regard those who are all around us as our brothers and sisters." (Teachings of Spencer W. Kimball, p. 483.)

Further, President Harold B. Lee said:

"A brotherhood that seeks to establish the common good is as `sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal,' except it be founded upon the divine principles of love of God and our neighbor as ourselves. One who says He loves God and is a follower of Jesus and yet hates his brother is false to himself and before the world, for no one can love God whom he has not seen and yet love not his brother whom he has seen." (Stand Ye in Holy Places, p. 225.)

And finally, again from Paul to the Galatians, we have this profound counsel:

"For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself." (Gal. 5:14.)

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