Love for God and His children is an enabling power, Sister Reyna I. Aburto, second counselor in the Relief Society general presidency, taught during a BYU-Idaho devotional on June 4.
“Our relationship with God and our righteous relationships with others are all divine, and they can help us become what we came to this earth to become,” she said. “They can help us to be the best self each of us can be and to fill the measure of our creation.”
The Lord has promised that those who keep His commandments will receive of the fulness of the Father, which includes eternal life. During His mortal ministry, Jesus Christ summarized the commandments, saying, “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 neighbor as thyself” (Matthew 22: 37-39).
This teaching demonstrates the importance of learning to love God and one’s neighbor.
So how does one cultivate these divine relationships? Sister Aburto gave five principles to consider.
Follow the example of Jesus Christ
“Jesus Christ is the perfect example of how to cultivate divine relationships,” Sister Aburto explained. He has a close relationship with His Father, shown by the way He respects and honors Him and always follows His Father’s will.
He also loves each one of God’s children, “manifest in the way He approached those who came close to Him during His ministry on this earth and in the way we can feel His influence in our life when we turn to Him.”
To love someone specific, one needs the desire to get to know him or her and spend time together, preferably face to face, Sister Aburto said. “Likewise, to love Heavenly Father and the Savior, we need to read the scriptures and the words of the prophets, who testify of Them; we need to pray with real intent; we need to fast; and we need to follow the commandments so our life can be aligned with God’s will.”
Repent and minister
Repenting and ministering work together because they fulfill the commandments to love God and love one’s neighbor. Repenting brings one closer to Heavenly Father, and ministering brings one closer to one’s neighbor, causing love to grow for each.
Additionally, she explained, “when we repent, our love for others grows, and when we minister to others, our love for God grows.”
Sister Aburto shared an experience she had soon after joining the Church at 26 years old. As a divorced single mother, finances were tight and she was unable to pay a full tithe for a few years.
One evening while with a group of friends, she felt impressed to express her desire to pay a full tithe.
“They listened to me intently and lovingly, and all of a sudden, the room was filled with the Spirit.”
One by one, her friends testified about the law of tithing, counseling her to pay her tithing before paying her other bills, and allowing Heavenly Father to open the windows of heaven and pour blessings on her and her family. Rather than judging her, pointing fingers at her, or being self-righteous, Sister Aburto’s friends had a genuine concern for their friend and wanted to help.
“They strengthened me and they gently invited me to come unto Christ,” she said. “They exemplified what it looks like to have pure, Christlike love.”
‘Get out of your shell’
Human beings tend to build a shell around themselves to be protected from harm. While it’s good to discern between good and evil, Sister Aburto said, “I wonder if we just go too far — to the point where we prefer to isolate ourselves instead of opening up for friendship and for love.”
Spending too much time and effort building that shell runs the risk of distancing oneself from the influence of God and others on one’s life. This goes against the nature of the gospel of Jesus Christ, she said.
“We did not come to this earth to be isolated.”
Sister Aburto counseled students to turn outward instead of inward. “We become stronger and we grow when we help others and also when we accept the help of others.”
Relationships need time to grow and to give fruit. She explained that many of her BFFs (best friends forever) didn’t seem to start with strong compatibility, and it took three years after meeting her husband, Brother Carlos Aburto, before they realized they could start a family together.
Be active participants in priesthood quorums and Relief Society
Sister Aburto testified that connecting oneself with a quorum or Relief Society “helps us be part of the most important work there is.”
“President Nelson has invited us to gather Israel on both sides of the veil,” she said. “If we are to accomplish ‘the greatest challenge, the greatest cause, and the greatest work on earth today,’ we need to labor together at the individual level; at the family level; as members of the divinely organized priesthood quorums and Relief Societies; interdependently as members of our wards, stakes and the Church as a whole; and under the direction of priesthood keys.”
Pray for love and be patient
Everyone is learning to love, to love better, and to love Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.
Cultivating relationships is a decision, Sister Aburto said. Everyone decides whom to put effort into and whom they won’t. “We can all use our agency to be more intentional in cultivating our divine relationships with God and our neighbor,” she said.
Sister Aburto asked the students to not give up on their faith, efforts to live the commandments and get closer to God, or on their efforts to develop love for others.
“Be patient with yourself and with the people around you.”
The Savior is always ready to “lift us up, every time we reach for Him,” Sister Aburto said. “His grasp is strong enough to sustain us and to give us the strength to endure.”