Thank you, so much, to the choir. Thank you for the prayer and for the testimony. I am grateful to be here brothers and sisters, as I have prepared and have looked forward to learning with you. I am grateful for each of you, the sacrifices you have made and continue to make as you receive an education here from LDS Business College. It is my prayer that we will feel the influence of the Spirit, that you will search your own heart and listen for the promptings from the Holy Ghost.
Brothers and sisters, what does love have to do with it?
How would you define “love?” The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language shows thirty-one different definitions of love. One of those definitions, the feelings of sincere devotion, concern, and affection from and for another, will serve today as our definition of love. You may have felt the love from within your family, through a friend, or a stranger who ministered to you as you were in need. The greatest example we have of God’s love for His children is in and through the infinite Atonement of Jesus Christ.
My grandmother, Eva Gannuscio, was a woman who had an infinite amount of love and compassion. At the age of 72-years old, she took in several of her grandchildren when her daughter, my mother, Mary, passed away. I was 12-years old at the time and remember being at the funeral service for my mother, Mary, and having my older sister, Linda, reach out to me and say with great tenderness, “Troy, it’s okay if you cry.” I didn’t have a desire to cry at the time and felt a deep, abiding peace and love that I had not felt before. I didn’t know at the time where the source of that love came from. You see, my parents did the best they knew how to raise my siblings and I, but there was no discussion of religion, or even mention of love in the home. Many years later, through a series of rich, spiritual experiences, I learned that it was a loving Heavenly Father who had blessed me with His peace and love.
President Nelson has taught, “Love does not focus on what someone cannot do. Real love focuses on what someone can do. Love highlights unique qualities that are part of the divine heritage of every son and daughter of God.” With the Christmas season underway, what does love mean to you? As a child, I remembered getting up in the middle of the night and observing the lights and decorations on the Christmas tree. It was always a treat to be mesmerized by the colorful lights. My parents had limited resources, so when the presents arrived on Christmas Eve, I would watch my mother’s heart break, and the tears flow from her eyes as she noticed the gifts in which we had mysteriously received. It was a constant struggle for my mother when she could not provide the essential means to sustain life. That struggle ended up consuming her life to the point that she lost the will to live and eventually passed away. Oh, how I wished she had the restored gospel of Jesus Christ in her life at that time.
In the Doctrine and Covenants, we learn to “… Be not partial towards them in love above many others, but let thy love be for them as for thyself, and let thy love abound unto all men …”i Such is the case with the following experience. “During the Civil War, a boy was fighting in the Union forces, 19 years old, and he went to sleep on guard duty. The opposition broke through and wiped out a whole flank of the army. Several hundred men were killed, including some of the best friends of this young man. But he survived. He was court-martialed and sentenced to die. He expected to die. He thought that it was only just that he died. President Lincoln was ready to sign his death warrant for his execution when a little mother appeared on the scene. She said, ‘President Lincoln when this war started, I had a husband and six sons. First, I lost my husband, and then one by one, I lost five of my sons. Now I only have one son left, and he is sentenced to be executed by a firing squad because he went to sleep on guard duty. He feels awfully sad because he lost some of his best friends, and he expects to die. President Lincoln, I’m not asking you to spare this boy’s life for his sake, but his mother’s sake. He is all I have left. For my sake, could you spare him?’ What would you do if you were in the shoes of President Abraham Lincoln? He responded, “For your sake, little mother, I will spare him.”ii
That mother did something for her son that he could not do for himself, she pleaded for his life, and because of her love and the compassion and love of President Lincoln, that young man’s life was spared. Indeed, we would want such an outcome in the event our life hangs in the balance of another.
My first invitation for you and me is that we will keep an eternal perspective as we make our way through this life, that as we deal with the trials, temptations, addictions, and every kind of affliction we may find ourselves in, that through those experiences, we can look up and draw upon the love of Jesus Christ. Remembering the loving words of the Savior, “My peace I give unto you; not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” Jesus Christ is the source of all the love in which we seek.
“We manifest our love for Heavenly Father by keeping His commandments and serving His children. Our expressions of love for others may include being kind to them, listening to them, mourning with them, comforting them, serving them, and praying for them. Our love for those around us increases when we remember that we are all children of God – that we are spirit brothers and sisters. The love that results from this realization has the power to transcend all boundaries of nation, creed, and color.”iii
In 1 John 4, we learn, “there is no fear in love, but perfect love casteth out fear.” One morning very early, I decided to take my dog, Buzz, our German Schnauzer, for a walk. We were walking at a reasonable pace through our long driveway, and he sensed or smelled a collection of quail on the other side of the fence that separated our driveway from the neighbor’s yard. His determination to see what was going on caused a very scared baby quail to make it through an opening of the fence and out into our driveway. My dog, Buzz, became extremely anxious. You see, quail communicate through high-pitched sounds, grunts, and cackles. These sounds that the quail make have beats and harmony. Well, now this baby quail, yes, I was feeling awful for what my dog had done, noticed my dog, starting cackling and running in the opposite direction. While this baby quail was moving, my concern for this quail heightened as my dog became more anxious and so I tightened down on the leash holding my dog in place. All the while, I could hear other quail, who I presume were the mother and father of this baby quail. When confronted with predators, quail will typically run and hide. Within moments, I started to hear more beats and a much greater harmony commence as I saw what appeared to be the mother of this baby quail fly over the six-foot fence and land in the driveway right in our path, blocking it. That mother quail stood her ground and did not move. At that moment, there was no fear in her, and her primary concern was for her baby. This particular species of quail has a topknot (also called a plume) that is on the top of their heads and look like a teardrop. That plume was moving back and forth and up and down as if to signal to my dog and I to not enter the territory that I had established here. Out of respect for this mother quail’s love for her baby quail, I decided Buzz and I would back up a few paces. Additional harmony commenced, and soon after that, the father quail was on the scene and had landed on a nearby bush to guide their baby quail to safety. All the while, the mother quail kept her place. My dog and this quail had what seemed to be a stare-down at high noon, or in my case, at 7 a.m. At this point, my dog realized that I was not going to let him after the quail and sat down next to my left leg to watch the spectacle unfold. More cackling commenced, and I saw seven additional baby quail appear out from the fence into the driveway and across the path of the mother quail to their father. The mother and the father created a very distinct harmony of cackling - all the while keeping their eyes on us. The baby quail hurried along, and then the entire family disappeared from our view. I was touched by this whole experience that lasted about seven minutes and taught me a great deal about our capacities to love. The following three insights have helped guide my life in a way that has increased my ability to love others.
The first insight I learned is that wherever we may find ourselves, lost, scared, full of doubt, uncertain of where to go, or what to do, that there are those out there in the world, angels in all their forms, that will come to our aid and show us their love if we exercise our agency through prayer and service. “Men are that they might have joy.” That joy is for all of us!
The second insight I learned is that in the moments of fear, that all-consuming uncertainty that “seizes upon us by some power which entirely overcomes us”; through our cacklings - very much like the baby quail cacklings - we can reach up to a loving Heavenly Father who hears and will provide His love and allow us to individually experience His peace in ways that a fallen world would not understand.
The third insight I learned is that as we show forth love to others, we can achieve a higher capacity to love that allows us to experience joy and happiness as we strive to honor sacred covenants and keep the commandments.
My capacity to show forth love to others stemmed from many angels in my life, but one in particular, Merrill Franklin, a loving home teacher who through my early childhood years was an example to me of what it meant to be selfless, caring, and always patient as he watched over and cared for me. Merrill became a father figure to me that to this day is still going strong. He has been ministering to me for the more significant part of my life. I didn’t always know and understood then the many acts of kindness and love Merrill had shown to me. Merrill is the perfect example to me of what Alma taught his people “...that every man should love his neighbor as himself …”.
A few years back, Colleen and I had a good friend who was beside himself, and his wife couldn’t do anything to calm or bring peace to her husband. Colleen happened to be at their home visiting one day and felt prompted to call me as our friends were in dire need of a priesthood blessing. Their seven children struggled with long-lasting grudges, anger, resentment, envy, and entitlement issues that stemmed from a perceived lack of caring at some point in their younger lives. As my work associate and I made our way to their home, I remembered saying a silent prayer for this couple, "Please Lord, let me communicate a blessing that they will feel thy love and understand that it is from Thee." After my work associate and I finished with the priesthood blessing, I will never forget what we felt and thought as the Spirit deeply impressed upon our hearts and minds the great love the Lord has for all his children.
Please consider for a moment Eliza R. Snow’s hymnal text found in on page 273 as timely counsel if we are struggling to love in a way that would be pleasing to God. The hymn, Truth Reflects Upon Our Senses. I invite you to consider as I now share two verses along with the chorus.
(v1) Truth reflects upon our senses;
Gospel light reveals to some.
If there still should be offenses,
Woe to them by whom they come!
Judge not, that ye be not judged,
Was the counsel Jesus gave;
Measure given, large or grudged,
Just the same you must receive.
Blessed Savior, thou wilt guide us,
Till we reach that blissful shore
Where the angels wait to join us
In thy praise forevermore.
(v2) Jesus said, “Be meek and lowly,”
For ‘tis high to be a judge;
If I would be pure and holy,
I must love without a grudge.
It requires a constant labor
All his precepts to obey.
If I truly love my neighbor,
I am in the narrow way.
Elder Soares of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught, “Jesus showed patience and love to all who came to Him seeking relief for their physical, emotional, or spiritual illnesses and who felt discouraged and downtrodden. To follow the Savior’s example, each one of us must look around and reach out to the sheep who are facing the same circumstances and lift them and encourage them to proceed on the journey towards eternal life.”
One late morning on a sunny, summer day, unbeknownst to me, I was going to be tested to see what I would do when presented with an opportunity to show mercy and love to another. I had finished up a meeting in downtown Salt Lake and was headed home for a quick bite to eat before I was needed back to the office. In the rush of getting out of the office, I made my way to my car and quickly called to let my wife, Colleen, know that I was on my way home and looked forward to joining her for a quick bite to eat for lunch. As I was driving home, I discovered that I left my house keys in my office. Not to worry, I told myself, she’ll be back and have lunch ready for the both of us. I was home in about 10 minutes, and as I attempted to enter the front door, I was unable to proceed as the door was locked! What will I ever do? Without my house keys, I started peering through a couple of windows to see if anyone was home. I noticed that the kitchen was empty, and from what I could see, she wasn’t back yet. Symptoms of hungriness, or “hangriness” set in – I admit, I became a bit irritable as a result of being hungry.
I hadn't eaten anything since the late afternoon the day before and attempted to reach Colleen on her mobile phone but to no avail. My time was very limited, and so I made my way to the closest sandwich shop around town. It happened to be Subway. I was looking forward to a hot sandwich with all the fixings. Within a few minutes, I had a lovely lunch bagged as I quickly made my way to my car. I had started in on a very, quick, and thoughtful prayer of gratitude for my meal. Before I could say amen in my mind, a gentleman who looked like life had overtaken him stood in front of me.
With all the energy he could muster, he asked me, “Sir, I haven’t eaten for three days, and I could sure use a hot meal. Can I have what you’re having?” You can imagine where my level of hungriness, or “hangriness” was at this time the man was speaking to me. I had what seemed like a very brief, internal debate between the natural and spiritual man. I paused as I stared into the eyes of the worn face of this humble man. I knew what I had to do; I extended my lunch to him, and he immediately sat down right in front of me in the parking lot and ate his first meal in three days. I was grateful I made the right decision to share what I had with another in need. My hunger as I observed him eat that lunch, vanished.
“For behold,” brothers and sisters, “are we not all beggars? Do we not all depend upon the same Being, even God, for all the substance which we have, for both food and raiment, and for gold, and silver, and for all the riches which we have of every kind?” And if ye judge the man who putteth up his petition to you for your substance that he perish not, and condemn him, how much more just will be your condemnation for withholding your substance, which doth not belong to you but to God, to whom also your life belongeth; and yet ye put up no petition …”
I pray that whatever our standing is in life, that we strive to do as found in 2 Corinthians 9:7, “Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver.”
I continue with Sis. Eliza R. Snow’s text in the hymn, Truth Reflects upon Our Senses:
(v5) Charity and love are healing;
These will give the clearest sight;
When I saw my brother’s failing,
I was not exactly right.
Now, I’ll take no further trouble;
Jesus’ love is all my theme;
Little motes are but a bubble when I think upon the beam.
Bless Savior, thou wilt guide us,
Till we reach that blissful shore
Where the angels wait to join us
In thy praise forevermore.
Brothers and sisters, there are many whose hearts need comforting this Christmas season. I’m sure that if we look around in this very setting, there are some of us in need of comfort and love.
Listen to President Monson’s words, “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 taught, “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. 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. In 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" – an ultimate expression in mortality of compassion and love.iv
We are two days into Light the World, the Church’s global effort to minister to others during the Christmas season. What opportunities lie ahead for each of us as we look forward to celebrating the Christ child? Listen again to President Monson’s words as he presents some opportunities for us to consider, “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.
Dear brothers and sisters, friends, I love you. I have cherished your presence here, as we have learned from the Spirit this day. I remind you of President Nelson’s counsel that was mentioned at the beginning of my remarks, “Love does not focus on what someone cannot do. Real love focuses on what someone can do. Love highlights unique qualities that are part of the divine heritage of every son and daughter of God.” I invite each of us this very day, to find ways to express love to all of Heavenly Father’s children, whether they be our family members, our friends, or even strangers. May we determine to respond with respect and kindness to whatever might come our way. The greatest example of God’s love for His children is found in and through the infinite Atonement of Jesus Christ.
As we realize God’s love for His children, brothers and sisters, may our hearts be filled with a greater love for our Eternal Father, for our Savior, Jesus Christ, and all humankind. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.