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There was a man who, ever since he was a child, was terrified thinking that there was â€“ let’s just say “something” â€“ under his bed. So he went to a psychiatrist. They had their sessions discussing whether his mother left dirty socks under his bed or whether his father was too lazy to vacuum under the bed.
Every time he’d come back for another session, the psychiatrist would ask whether he felt like he was making any progress. And he’d always say, “no.”
Well, one day, the man decided he’d spent enough with this psychiatrist without getting anywhere, so he decided to go to someone else. The next day, he dropped by his old psychiatrist’s office. When the psychiatrist saw him, again, he asked whether he was making any progress. But this time, the man replied, â€œyes, the fear is completely gone.â€
â€œFantastic!â€ the psychiatrist said. â€œWhat was it that you feel made the difference?â€
â€œWell,â€ the man said, â€œI went to another psychiatrist, and he cured me in one session.â€
â€œReally,â€ the psychiatrist exclaimed. â€œHow did he do that?â€
To which the man replied, â€œhe told me to chop the legs off my bed.â€
In real life, sometimes we can solve specific fears by making external changes, like getting rid of the space under our beds. But a more powerful cure for fears comes through inner changes â€“ through developing Christ-like love.
We live in trying times, when there’s a lot of fear in the world. The recession that started in December of 2007 officially ended in June of 2009. I’m not quite sure how that official date was calculated â€“ maybe that was when a contracting economy started to expand again. But unemployment is still around 10%. That’s a lot of people out of work. And for a lot of people, the prospects don’t seem to be getting much brighter. In fact, some people are predicting that the entire world economy is heading for a collapse. There seems to be plenty to fear.
But have you ever noticed how when the prophet and apostles speak, they’re always hopeful? Why do you think that is? Is it because they’re too far separated from the troubles everyone else is experiencing? I doubt it. They’re out among the people all the time, hearing about the challenges people face. And I’m sure they know what kinds of demands that are being made on the fast offering funds of the church. They warn us to prepare when we can so that we’ll be ready when time comes that we won’t be able to prepare anymore, because they know what’s going on in the world.
They’re concerned. And yet, they’re hopeful.
Shifting gears a little, in the last General Conference, Elder Perry spoke of another fear that some of us have â€“ the fear to stand up publicly and be counted as members of the Church. He said:
Next, speak up about the Church. In the course of our everyday lives, we are blessed with many opportunities to share our beliefs with others. When our professional and personal associates inquire about our religious beliefs, they are inviting us to share who we are and what we believe. They may or may not be interested in the Church, but they are interested in getting to know us at a deeper level.
My recommendation to you is to accept their invitations. Your associates are not inviting you to teach, preach, expound, or exhort. Engage them in a two-way conversationâ€”share something about your religious beliefs but also ask them about their beliefs. Gauge the level of interest by the questions they ask. If they are asking a lot of questions, focus the conversation on answering those questions. Always remember that it is better for them to ask than for you to tell.
Some members seem to want to keep their membership in the Church a secret. They have their reasons. For example, they may believe that it is not their place to share their beliefs. Perhaps they are fearful they might make a mistake or be asked a question they canâ€™t answer. If such thoughts ever run through your head, I have some advice for you. Simply remember the words of John:â€ â€“ and here, Elder Perry gets to the solution â€“ â€œ’There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear’. If we simply love God and love our neighbors, we are promised that we will overcome our fears.
In the case of fear of making our membership in the church known, it’s easy to see how perfect love casts out fear. If we have perfect love, which concerns us more â€“ what people might think of us if we share the gospel, or what might happen to them if we don’t?
But what about other fears? How can perfect love cast out fears about the economy, the evils in the world, and others?
To understand that, let’s talk about what charity â€“ or the pure love of Chirst â€“ is. Charity is often spoken of in the context of faith, hope, and charity. And there’s a good reason for that. The three are closely related.
The fourth article of faith teaches us that the first principle of the gospel is not simply faith, but faith in the Lord Jesus Christ â€“ belief that He is the Savior; that he atoned for the sins of the world; that through the atonement, all will be resurrected, and those who repent and follow him will be redeemed from their sins. That belief is the foundation, and on it, we build hope.
I think the scriptural meaning of the word â€œhopeâ€ is often misunderstood to mean a desire, as in â€œI believe in heaven and I hope, or I’d like to make it there.â€ I believe the correct meaning of the word is shown in Moroni chapter 7, verse 41, where Moroni quotes his father, Mormon, saying, â€œAnd what is it that ye shall hope for? Behold I say unto you that ye shall have hope through the atonement of Christ and the power of his resurrection, to be raised unto life eternal, and this because of your faith in him according to the promise.â€
From that verse, it sounds like the word â€œhopeâ€ refers to the confidence we have when we apply our faith in Christ to ourselves â€“ it’s the confidence that we, personally, will be saved through the power of the atonement. Moroni goes on to say in verse 42, â€œWherefore, if a man have faith he must needs have hope, for without faith, there cannot be any hope.â€ In other words, if there were no atonement to bring about the resurrection, how could we hope to live again? If there were no atonement to make it possible for us to repent and be forgiven of our since, how could we be made clean and able to live in the presence of God?
So the connection between faith and hope is pretty clear. But how are faith and hope connected to charity? I think that the way that pure love, or charity, casts out fear, is related to the connection between charity and faith and hope.
I’ve head people from time to time argue that there’s no such thing as as pure, unselfish love, or altruism â€“ that in fact love itself is selfish. The argument goes that when a person gives apparently without asking anything in return â€“ no reward, no return of that love â€“ that they’re doing it only because it makes them feel good, and that their real motivation is selfishly seeking for that good feeling.
I disagree, but I think it’s an easy mistake to make. First, because I’m sure sometimes people do act â€œcharitablyâ€ for selfish reasons. Anyone who does that themselves, may very think that everyone else is the same as them, but of course, that isn’t necessarily true.
Also, I think people confuse correlation with causation. In other words, they think because doing good causes good feelings, that seeking the good feelings for oneself must be the motivation for doing good. But just because altruism or charity and good feelings go together, that doesn’t necessarily mean that good feelings are always the reason why people act charitably. The good feelings are a natural result of doing good, but particularly for a person with faith and hope, there is another source for motivation to do good. And that’s a pure love that’s unselfishly interested in the well being of others.
Now, some people would be skeptical that a person could really have motivations that are detached from seeking their own benefit. But that comes from a scarcity mindset. If we live our lives believing that there’s not enough to go around, so that we’re always concerned about how we’re going to get enough for ourselves, worried about what’s in it for us, and whether our needs are going to be met, we may very well do good mostly because we expect a reward.
But what if we have an abundance mindset? What if the perspective that dominates our thoughts is one of hope through Christ? Couldn’t that free us from the need to always be worried about whether our needs are getting met? Would we need to expect a reward in order to do right and to act in love? Or would we be free to act based on motivations other than selfishness? When we’re freed from a scarcity mindset through faith and hope, we’re free to act based on other motives like conscience â€“ our God given sense of right and wrong â€“ and pure love â€“ concern for others without regard to ourselves. Faith and hope make perfect love possible.
When we’re set free by faith and hope, even if doing right and acting in love required us to sacrifice, we wouldn’t have to balance what we’re giving up against what we hope to gain. Because ultimately, if you have a firm hope of exaltation, what sacrifice is it to give up anything less than that to alleviate someone else’s suffering or help them receive that same blessing? When we have that hope, eternal perspective, and love for our fellow man, the sacrifices we’re called on to make shrink into insignificance.
Getting back to how perfect love casts out fear, when we have the eternal perspective that comes from a firm anchor of faith and hope â€“ and when we have charity, without which, as Mormon said, we are nothing and our faith and hope are in vain, what in this life is there to fear? There’s really nothing.
That doesn’t mean that we no longer care about anything that happens in this life. We still want to meet our temporal needs, and those of our families. We still want to relieve suffering, even though we know it’s temporary. We still, as the 13th article of faith says, seek after things that are â€œvirtuous, lovely, of good report, [and] praiseworthy.â€ An eternal perspective doesn’t prevent us from enjoying the present. But we don’t fear.
So next, the question is, how do we get charity? It’s an important question. In the thirteenth chapter of his first epistle to the Corinthians, Paul wrote:
Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as a sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the fift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor,â€ (which is what most of the world thinks of when they hear the word â€œcharityâ€), â€œand though I give my body to be burned, it profiteth me nothing.â€ And skipping to the end of the chapter, â€œAnd now abideth faith, hope, and charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.
In Moroni 10:30, Moroni says, â€œAnd again I would exhort you that ye would come unto Christ, and lay hold upon every good gift…â€ So how do we lay hold on this greatest gift of charity?
The discussion of faith, hope and charity in Moroni 7 suggests that the first two steps are to obtain faith and hope. So let’s talk a little about those.
There are a few scriptures that come to mind when I think about how we develop faith. The first is Alma chapter 32, where we read:
But behold, if ye will awake and arouse your faculties, even to an experiment upon my words, and exercise a particle of faith, even if ye can no more than desire to believe, let this desire work in your even until ye believe in a manner that ye can give place for a portion of my words.â€
So step one is to have the desire. Alma continues,
Now, we will compare the word unto a seed. Now, if ye give place, that a seed may be planted in your heard, behold, if it be a true seed, or a good seed, if ye do not cast it out by your unbelief, that ye will resist the Spirit of the Lord, behold, it will begin to swell within your breasts; and when you feel these swelling motions, ye will begin to say within yourselves â€“ It must needs be that this is a good see, or that the word is good, for it beginneth to enlighten my understanding, yea, it beginneth to be delicious to me. Now behold, would not this increase your faith?
So step two is essentially to try the gospel out and see what comes of it. If it’s true, good will grow from it. Which brings me to the second scripture that I always think of when thinking about developing faith: John 7:14-17, which reads:
Now about the midst of the feast Jesus went up into the temple, and taught. And the Jews marvelled saying, How knoweth this man letters, having never learned? Jesus answered them, and said, My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me. If any man will do his will, he shall known of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.
If we want to gain a testimony of the gospel, we won’t do it by learning without doing. We can’t say, â€œI’ll live that doctrine once I’ve gotten a testimony of it, but for now, I’m not sure whether it’s true.â€ Instead, we gain a testimony by living the doctrine. When Alma spoke of planting the word in our hearts and nourishing it, he didn’t mean just learning and thinking about it. He meant living it to see what fruit it would bear. And Jesus taught that living the doctrine is the way to gain a testimony of it.
Of course, we can’t live the gospel without first learning it. So study consistent study of the scriptures to deepen our understanding is important. And we won’t understand what we study correctly without having the spirit teach us its true meaning. D&C 42:14 tells us that â€œThe Spirit shall be given unto you by the prayer of faith…â€, so prayer is important. Other ways we can strengthen our faith through learning and living the gospel include attending our church meetings, magnifying our callings, and treating people as the Savior would. These things nourish the seed, and then we feel it grow, and we know that it’s good â€“ that the gospel is true.
Faith is a gift that’s given to us as we learn and live the gospel.
Next, how do we go from having faith in Christ to having hope that he’ll save us? In Lectures on Faith, we read:
Let us here observe, that thee things are necessary in order that any rational and intelligent being may exercise faith in God unto life and salvation> First, the idea that he actually exists. Secondly, a correct idea of his character, perfections, and attributes. Thirdly, an actual knowledge that the course of life which he is pursuing is according to his will.
…it is through the medium of the sacrifice of all earthly things that men do actually know that they are doing the things that are well pleasing in the sight of God. When a man has offered in sacrifice all that he has for the truth’s sake, not even withholding his life, and believing before God that he has been called to make this sacrifice because he seeks to do his will, he does know, most assuredly, that God does and will accept his sacrifice and offering, and the he has not, nor will not seek his face in vain.
Does that mean we have to give up everything? No â€“ at least usually not. But it needs that we need to be willing to, and that we need to consecrate our lives to doing the Lord’s will â€“ not just that we’ll do what’s asked of us, but that we seek to know what God would have us do, and that we do it. And we need to sacrifice any sins that we may be tempted to hold on to. Then, we’ll can have a certain knowledge that God accepts our sacrifice and our repentance, and have hope that through the atonement, we’ll be saved.
When our faith has become personalized and turned into hope, it becomes an anchor for our lives, anchoring us to righteousness, no matter what circumstances or hazards or fears we may face.
Now once we have faith and hope, does charity come automatically? The scriptures seem to suggest that with faith and hope, we’re prepared to receive charity, but that it’s a choice and it’s a gift. Moroni 7:48 reads:
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…
To lay hold on this gift, we have to desire it, follow Jesus, and ask for it.
When we have faith, hope and charity, we can say, as Job, when we face challenges, â€œAnd though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God.â€ Job wasn’t filled with the spirit of fear, even in the midst of his trials.
Perfect love casts out fear. If we have fears, perhaps the solution isn’t to chop the legs off our beds, so to speak, squeezing each of our fears out one-by-one. Perhaps what we need is to seek for greater love.
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