RS/MP Lesson 2: ““Love Thy Neighbour as Thyself”” (George Albert Smith Manual)
Posted by kirkcaudle on January 6, 2012
The manual starts out with this, “George Albert Smith was well known for his capacity to love others. President J. Reuben Clark Jr., one of his counselors in the First Presidency, said of him: ‘His real name was Love. … He gave his love to everyone he met. He gave his love to all whom he did not meet.’”
Reading this made me think about what it means to love someone. Often young people will ask, “how will I know if I love someone enough to marry them?” This, of course, is a fair question. However, I do not think that the question needs to be confined to marriage. Perhaps we can ask, “how do I know if I love people in general?” And further, “how can I tell if my peers (ward, co-workers, friends, etc.) love me?” The easy answer to these questions is based upon actions.
Actions is exactly how the manual responses to this inquiry, “President Smith demonstrated his love for others through countless acts of compassion.” Now, of course I am not advocating that we not be compassionate. However, can I be sure that I love someone just because I home teacher them every month or give them Priesthood blessings? On the other hand, can I be sure that someone loves me if they are constantly showing compassion towards me? Again, I think the manual attempts to answer question such as these. It does this by the four subheadings:
1. All people are our brothers and sisters, children of our Heavenly Father
2. The gospel of Jesus Christ teaches us to love all of God’s children.
3. We exercise charity by reaching out to those who need help and encouragement.
4. True happiness comes from loving and serving others.
I have heard these four things for just about, if not all, of my life. I feel like I know them. I feel like I know the right answers. In fact, I feel like I do them pretty well. However, I still do not feel as if I “love” everyone that I am around. I am even pretty confident that I do not love everyone in my ward. I feel as if I serve people in the church more than I love people in the church. Perhaps that is because it is easy to do a calling well and get done what you need to get done, but it is hard to love all those people that you serve (especially with personality clashes).
In order to get some perspective on all of this I will turn to some of the scriptures listed in this lesson.
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. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets (Matthew 22:37–40).
There is an old saying that I think fits nicely here: You can’t love others until you love to love yourself. Although, according to Jesus, you can’t love yourself until you love God. Therefore, the stages of love move like this:
Sometimes it seems as though we try and do this backward when are having a hard time with our testimonies and a hard time forgiving ourselves for things that we have done wrong. In order to cure this, we might attempt serving others and in hopes of loving them. There is nothing wrong with this service. However, Jesus tell us to work on our relationship with God first. If we can be right with God we can be right with man.
Verse 39 is a quote from Lev. 19:18 which reads, “Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself: I am the Lord.” If this commandment goes for how we treat others, it must also go for how we treat ourselves. In order to properly love and serve others we need to stop holding grudges against ourselves. It is awful hard to serve those who you love “as thyself” if you are not happy with “thy self.”
See that ye love one another; cease to be covetous; learn to impart one to another as the gospel requires . . . And above all things, clothe yourselves with the bond of charity, as with a mantle, which is the bond of perfectness and peace (D&C 88:123, 125).
In order to love people we have to stop competing with them. It should not matter who is the best singer, speaker, smartest, richest, funniest, etc. If we truly love people we wish the best for all people. However, wishing the best for people is not just a thought, an action, or doing a calling. Rather, it is being clothed with “the bond of charity.” Reaching this form on charity must be quite a feat as it is synonymous with the phrase, “the bond of perfectness and peace.” This bond seems to be the exact opposite of covetous, which is also a bond.
Not only are we asked not to be covetous, but we are asked to give stuff away. We are asked to put the needs (and maybe even wants) of others before our own. If charity is taking, covetousness is only receiving.
If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? (1 John 4:20)
I think this verse nicely connects with the God, self, others, pattern in Matt 22. All love starts with God, not us. After all, we love God because he loved us first .
Also, “brother” in this verse comes from the Greek word adelfos/ αδελφος (excuse my transliteration) which can either mean literal brother or fellow believer. It often seems that those that we have the hardest time loving are those to whom we are the closest. Perhaps we have an easier time doing charity in the RS knitting hats in order to send them off to Africa, while we have a harder time inviting new members in the ward over for dinner. Love for the “other” at times seems easier to manage than love for the “brother.”
This all brings me back to the first line of this post, “George Albert Smith was well known for his capacity to love others.” Perhaps it is not that I need to work on my love for others. Rather, I need to work on my capacity to love others. I need to work on my relationship with God daily so that I can fully serve others daily. Therefore, it is not that I don’t love people enough; it is that I don’t love God enough. I believe that loving “the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind” is the great commandment because it is what gives us the capacity to love others. Without this capacity we are just left wishing that we held more love in our hearts.