Do We Love the Lord Enough to Serve Him Diligently?
By Elder Larry C. Harlacher
|Elder Larry C. Harlacher|
On Sunday morning, February 14, 2010, I was assigned to bring the spoken word at the Glendale [Restoration] Branch in Independence, Missouri, where I attend. I prayed and meditated about what message I should bring, and the following thought was vividly placed in my mind: "Do we love the Lord enough to serve Him diligently?" As I began to study and make preparations based on this thought, I was led to the following scriptures upon which to base my sermon.
Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift 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, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing. Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. Charity never faileth. (1 Corinthians 13:1–8)
Wherefore, if a man have faith, he must needs have hope; for without faith there can not be any hope. And again, behold I say unto you, that he can not have faith and hope, save he shall be meek and lowly of heart; if so, his faith and hope are vain, for none is acceptable before God, save the meek and lowly of heart; and if a man be meek and lowly in heart, and confesses by the power of the Holy Ghost, that Jesus is the Christ, he must needs have charity; for if he have not charity, he is nothing; wherefore he must needs have charity. And charity suffereth long, and is kind, and envieth not, and is not puffed up, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, and rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth, beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things; wherefore, my beloved brethren, if ye have not charity, ye are nothing, for charity never faileth. Wherefore, cleave unto charity, which is the greatest of all, for all things must fail; but charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth for ever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with them. 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 Jesus Christ, that ye may become the sons of God, that when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is, that we may have this hope, that we may be purified even as he is pure. (Moroni 7:48–53)
Now, as you have asked, behold, I say unto you, Keep my commandments, and seek to bring forth and establish the cause of Zion. Behold, I speak unto you, and also to all those who have desires to bring forth and establish this work; and no one can assist in this work, except he shall be humble and full of love, having faith, hope, and charity, being temperate in all things whatsoever shall be entrusted to his care. (Doctrine and Covenants 11 :3a–4b)
As I broadened my study I found several additional scriptures from which I selected the following excerpts:
- "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. Love worketh no ill to his neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law" (Romans 13:9–10).
- "Let all your things be done with charity" (1 Corinthians 16:14).
- "Put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness" (Colossians 3:14).
- "Now the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart" (1 Timothy 1:5).
- "Follow righteousness, faith, charity, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart" (2 Timothy 2:22).
- "Above all things have fervent charity among your selves; for charity preventeth a multitude of sins" (1 Peter 4:8).
- "The Lord God hath given a commandment, that all men should have charity, which charity is love. And except they should have charity, they were nothing" (2 Nephi 11:107–108).
- "See that ye have faith, hope, and charity, and then ye will always abound in good works" (Alma 5:41).
With these scriptures about love and charity as a solid foundation, I knew what I wanted to explore with the members of the branch during the remainder of the hour, and I decided to divide my topic into four sections as follows:
- Examples of Love and Charity—Early Saints in Christ's Day.
- Examples of Love and Charity—Early Pioneer Saints in Joseph's Day.
- Love and Charity—What About You and Me Today?
- Two More Questions—A Scriptural Answer.
Examples of Love and Charity—Early Saints in Christ's Day
We find that there are many examples of the early Saints (called Christians by their Roman persecutors) exhibiting love and charity for one another. This was for several reasons, including the following:
- They were willing to sacrifice and share what they had with others.
- They were willing to sacrifice even their very lives for what they believed, even in the face of possible stoning, crucifixion, or being thrown to the lions.
This dedication formed the sturdy foundation of the early Church. They received much needed counsel from the early apostles in the form of epistles (or letters) as well as visits. Today we have the benefit of a number of these epistles (especially the letters of Paul), which give us insight into the early Church, as well as sound advice upon which to build our devotion to the Lord and actions today.
Examples of Love and Charity—Early Pioneer Saints in Joseph's Day
In looking at the love and charity exhibited by the Saints in Joseph the Martyr's day, we can again find numerous reasons for their dedication and diligence. A few are as follows:
- They believed in Jesus Christ and His teachings.
- They believed in Joseph and were attracted to him and his many good qualities.
- They believed with all their hearts in the message of the Restored Gospel and were willing to sacrifice, if need be, for it.
- Most importantly, they wanted to put into practice (or in other words—live) what they believed.
For this reason they wanted to be a part of the establishment of Zion.
Why were they willing to suffer persecution even unto death? They were like the early Christian Saints in that they totally believed in the principles and teachings contained in the Restored Gospel and they were willing to suffer all for Jesus Christ.
Why were they so committed to trying to establish Zion? They understood its significance through the study of the scriptures. Though many Saints did not have access to all the scriptures that we have today, they sought to be taught by Joseph and the others of the priesthood, and they treasured those books of scripture they did have. Most had access to a King James Bible, and many had a copy of the Book of Mormon. Eventually some were able to obtain copies of those revelations from God as contained in the Doctrine and Covenants. Many men in the priesthood were able to learn more about the Lord's plan for Zion as they studied in the Kirtland Temple and prepared for the expected endowment.
Love and Charity—What About You and Me Today?
You and I do not suffer in the same sense as did the early Christians or pioneer Saints. My wife, in thinking about this one day, was given the words, "The early Saints suffered. They had broken backs. Today we suffer in a different way. We have broken hearts." This is not to say that the early Saints did not suffer from broken hearts. Surely they did, both at the loss of property and at the loss of loved ones, or in seeing them suffer physical abuse. However, today we do not suffer the physical abuse, even unto death, as they did. In one case we are told that one man received many lashes on his back because he would not deny his belief in the Restored Gospel.
But this persecution came primarily from outside the Church, and it is well documented. Today it seems as if as much persecution comes from within the Church as from without. Many of us have suffered separation from loved ones and friends with whom we used to worship in the same congregations, or at least who, along with us, embraced the same beliefs. Instead many today have been forced out of their former houses of worship and recently have even been denied the right to publicly display the name of the Church on their buildings or in any other way—this even though many are still baptized members of that Church, the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. For many this has been cause for hearthache and suffering.
Who knows what the future will bring, or what else the Saints may be forced to suffer? Though we now suffer from broken and scarred hearts the question remains, have we suffered all? No, I believe we have not, for we are living in drastic times. As David H. Smith penned in one of his hymns, "We are walking down time's vista; We are very near the end; Let us pray that God, the Father, will his guiding Spirit send. Now the foe becomes more daring, Knowing well the latter day, 'Tis the strength of his despairing; For each other let us pray." Yes, the time may soon come when we will also have to endure physical suffering due to more open persecution. The scriptures tell us that Satan has declared spiritual warfare upon the Saints of God. The Apostle Paul gave the following advice to the Ephesian Saints—advice which you and I need to heed.
Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; and your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints. (Ephesians 6:10–18)
Since today we do not have a Prophet to lead us, what can you and I do in our daily lives? You and I need to:
- Study the scriptures diligently.
- Pray and fast often for each other and for the Kingdom.
- Meet together as often as we can and support one another in every way we can.
- Seek to warn our friends and neighbors or anyone else who will listen.
But you and I have to ask ourselves this question: Do we have the same love and passion for the Restored Gospel as did the early Christian or pioneer Saints? Each one has to answer this question for himself. I cannot answer for you, and you cannot answer for me. And if we find ourselves lacking in any way then we had better see that we rekindle the fire. We must not be lukewarm! For in Revelation 3: 15–16 we are told the following: "I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot; I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew thee out of my mouth." Surely this is not the judgment you or I wish to receive from our Lord when we stand before the judgment bar.
How dedicated are we to this Restored Gospel? What sacrifices are we willing to make for this Gospel? This is a soul-searching question. The sacrifices you and I are willing to make depend exactly on how much each one of us believes that it is the key to our individual salvation. It is the true measure of our love for the Lord and His Gospel—a measure of how much each one of us really cares. It goes way beyond lip service! One can give lip service and quote all the correct scriptures and all the right reasons, but it is what resides deeply within our individual hearts that really determines whether you and I would be willing to make that sacrifice. It is the true measure of our love for the Lord and His Restored Gospel.
Along with this, the following must be asked: How committed are we to the establishment of Zion and the Holy City of God? Again this is a question that each of us needs to study out carefully for ourselves in great depth, for the answer to that question in large measure determines where you and I are in our spiritual growth as a citizen of the Kingdom.
Two More Questions—A Scriptural Answer
As I explored the answer to the question, "Do we love the Lord enough to serve Him diligently?", I opened with three scriptures:
- Paul to the Corinthian Saints
- Mormon teaching the people in the synagogue, as found in Moroni, in the Book of Mormon
- A message given through Joseph Smith to Joseph Knight as recorded in the Doctrine and Covenants
Combined, these scriptures strongly advise that to properly demonstrate one's love of the Lord, he or she must exhibit charity, which is the pure love of Christ, in every aspect of his or her life. This is how we serve Him diligently.
Finally, as you and I strive to apply charity within our daily lives, let us consider two more questions and what I believe is the scriptural answer:
- Did the early Christians and the Pioneer Saints die in vain, or will you and I step up and accept the challenge and seek to so order our lives that we would not hesitate to give our all for the Kingdom—even unto death?
- When we stand before His judgment bar, will you and I hear Him say (as recorded in Matthew 25:21), "Well done, good and faithful servant... enter thou into the joy of thy lord"?
In considering these two questions I was led to the fifty-ninth section of the Doctrine and Covenants. This was a very important revelation given through Joseph Smith to the Saints in Jackson County on August 7, 1831, just a few days after the dedication of the land of Zion (August 2) and the dedication of the spot for the Temple (August 3). Though the Lord was speaking to the Saints of that day, I believe it applies to the Saints today, and thus becomes the answer to the two questions just posed.
Behold, blessed, saith the Lord, are they who have come up unto this land with an eye single to my glory, according to my commandments; for them that live shall inherit the earth, and them that die shall rest from all their labors, and their works shall follow them, and they shall receive a crown in the mansions of my Father, which I have prepared for them. . . . Wherefore I give unto them a commandment, saying thus: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God, with all thy heart, with all thy might, mind, and strength; and in the name of Jesus Christ thou shalt serve him. Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. (Doctrine and Covenants 59:la, 2a–b)
The remainder of this revelation was devoted to instructing the Saints in living a righteous life and ended with this sound advice both to them and to us today: "Learn that he who doeth the works of righteousness, shall receive his reward, even peace in this world, and eternal life in the world to come" (ibid., 5c). I believe the Lord is saying that if you and I will seek to do works of righteousness throughout our lives we will be demonstrating that we love the Lord enough to serve Him diligently. If this becomes the deep desire of our hearts, the Lord assures us that the result will be that you and I will receive a just reward, "even peace in this world, and eternal life in the world to come."