Wednesday, January 7, 2015

TFOT - Love, the Essence of the Gospel

What a great lesson for Christmas-time.
Preparing for this lesson felt different than other TFOT lessons I have prepared. Usually I do a very thorough outline and prepare several questions to pose to the sisters. This time, I didn't. I just wanted to hear what they had to say.

A couple notes: I had word strips that I put on the board, but I didn't go in a particular order. My thought was to have the sisters steer conversation based on comments. It didn't really go that way so we kind of had rough transitions from one attribute to another. I recommend having an order you'd like to go in. It might be helpful to ask a few sisters ahead of time to come with stories prepared. I think when I put people on the spot, they all of a sudden couldn't 'think of an examples.

Love—the Essence of the Gospel

As Christ ministered, he was asked: “Master, which is the great commandment in the law?” What was his answer?

“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.”

Quote #1:  “We cannot truly love God if we do not love our fellow travelers on this mortal journey. Likewise, we cannot fully love our fellowmen if we do not love God, the Father of us all. The Apostle John tells us, “This commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also.” 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 goes on to say: “Actually, love is the very essence of the gospel, and Jesus Christ is our Exemplar. His life was a legacy of love. The sick He healed; the downtrodden He lifted; the sinner He saved. At the end the angry mob took His life. And yet there rings from Golgotha’s hill the words: “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” —a crowning expression in mortality of compassion and love.”

President Monson’s talk contains several moving examples of people loving their neighbors. This is the part where I encourage you to re-read this talk or re-listen if it’s been awhile because those examples are so great. But instead of reciting the examples he has given, I want us today to share examples from our own lives or examples that we have witnessed. At this time of year, I feel like I see and hear so many stories of people being extra kind and generous. Isn’t that one of the great things about Christmas-time? Just a couple days ago my sister-in-law was saying how she was waiting in line at the grocery store to check out and before she even knew what was happening, the woman in front of her paid for her groceries. A couple weeks ago we went to the Chuy’s Christmas Parade and I was blown away by how many toys they collected for needy families in Central Texas. I saw a news clip yesterday about a guy who paid off his parents’ mortgage for Christmas. And I feel like those are just a few of the wonderful things I have seen lately that have touched and inspired me. So today is about sharing your stories.

To help us organize our thoughts a little bit, I’d like to divide this topic into five sections, based on the five different attributes that Pres. Monson specifically mentions as characteristic of showing love to our fellow man:

  • Let’s talk about kindness to strangers. Do we find that it’s easier or harder to be kind to strangers? Why? 
  • What are some ways we can show kindness to strangers? Friends? Family? 
  • Quote #2: “Every day of our lives we are given opportunities to show love and kindness to those around us. Said President Spencer W. Kimball: “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.” 
  • Who do you find it hardest to be patient with? 
  • What helps you be more patient? 
  • Quote #3: “Brothers and sisters, some of our greatest opportunities to demonstrate our love will be within the walls of our own homes. 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. Lamented President Gordon B. Hinckley: “Why is it that the [ones] we love [most] become so frequently the targets of our harsh words? Why is it that [we] sometimes speak as if with daggers that cut to the quick?” The answers to these questions may be different for each of us, and yet the bottom line is that the reasons do not matter. If we would keep the commandment to love one another, we must treat each other with kindness and respect.” 
  • Think this would could also be labeled “service” 
  • “All important will be our ability to recognize someone’s need and then to respond.” 
  • I’m reminded of another conference talk from Ronald Rasband where he says “If you come upon a person who is drowning, would you ask if they need help—or would it be better to just jump in and save them from the deepening waters? The offer, while well meaning and often given, “Let me know if I can help” is really no help at all.” I try to remind myself of this quote often because I know I need to ACTIVELY look for ways to serve others instead of waiting to stumble upon it. 
  • How would you define this one? How does being understanding show love? 
  • Maybe another way we could to describe it would be “compassionate” 
  • Quote #4: “I would hope that we would strive always to be considerate and to be sensitive to the thoughts and feelings and circumstances of those around us. 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.” 
  • Quote #5: “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.” 
  • Forgiveness seems to me the ultimate way to emulate Christ. He has had mercy on each of us, forgiven us not just one, but ALL of our sins, and each time we forgive another for some way they have trespassed us, we become more like Christ. He has the ultimate capacity for forgiveness and that is how we should strive to be. 
  • Talking point: Forgiving big things versus small things; forgiving those who ask for it and those who don’t; forgiving strangers versus family members 
What are the common themes that we have seen among these five categories and through the examples that have been shared?

Quote #6: “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 concludes with these words on love: “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. As we arise each morning, let us determine to respond with love and kindness to whatever might come our way. Beyond comprehension, my brothers and sisters, is the love of God for us. 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.“

Here's how our board looked at the end of class:

We did run short on time so forgiveness got shorted a bit and we didn't get to talk about common themes. But some of the ideas that ended up on the board were not ones I had come prepared to talk on and we spent time exploring them together. Hopefully the same will happen to you. Good luck!

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