Gospel Principles 30: Charity
Guest Post by Vada
I actually think this lesson is pretty great as printed in the manual. I’ve added a few thoughts and ideas throughout the lesson, which are in italics. I’ve also added some quotes at the end that you could incorporate as you see fit.
What Is Charity?
* How would you define charity?
Charity is that pure love which our Savior Jesus Christ has. He has commanded us to love one another as He loves us. The scriptures tell us that charity comes from a pure heart (see 1 Timothy 1:5). We have pure love when, from the heart, we show genuine concern and compassion for all our brothers and sisters.
Charity Is the Greatest of All Virtues
The prophet Mormon tells us, “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 forever” (Moroni 7:46–47; see also 1 Corinthians 13; 2 Nephi 26:30; Moroni 7:44–45, 48).
The Savior gave us the example of His life to follow. He was the Son of God. He had perfect love, and He showed us how to love. By His example, He showed us that the spiritual and physical needs of our fellowmen are as important as our own. Before He gave His life for us, He said:
“This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.
“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:12–13).
Speaking to the Lord, Moroni said:
“I remember that thou hast said that thou hast loved the world, even unto the laying down of thy life for the world. …
“And now I know that this love which thou hast had for the children of men is charity; wherefore, except men shall have charity they cannot inherit that place which thou hast prepared in the mansions of thy Father” (Ether 12:33–34).
It may not be necessary for us to give our lives as the Savior did. But we can have charity if we make Him the center of our lives and follow His example and teachings. Like the Savior, we too can bless the lives of our brothers and sisters here on earth.
* Why is charity the greatest of all virtues?
(Charity is the pure love of Christ, and Christ said that the two greatest commandments were to love God and to love our fellow beings as ourselves.)
Charity Includes Giving to the Sick, Afflicted, and Poor
Jesus taught that we should give food to the hungry, shelter to those who have none, and clothes to the poor. When we visit the sick and those who are in prison, it is as if we were doing these things for Him instead. He promises that as we do these things, we will inherit His kingdom. (See Matthew 25:34–46.)
We should not try to decide whether someone really deserves our help or not (see Mosiah 4:16–24). I would have someone from the class read Mosiah 4:16-24. If we have taken care of our own family’s needs first, then we should help all who need help. In this way we will be like our Father in Heaven, who causes rain to fall on the just and on the unjust alike (see Matthew 5:44–45).
President Thomas S. Monson reminded us that there are those who need more than material goods:
“Let us ask ourselves the questions: ‘Have I done any good in the world today? Have I helped anyone in need?’ [Hymns, no. 223]. What a formula for happiness! What a prescription for contentment, for inner peace—to have inspired gratitude in another human being.
“Our opportunities to give of ourselves are indeed limitless, but they are also perishable. There are hearts to gladden. There are kind words to say. There are gifts to be given. There are deeds to be done. There are souls to be saved” (in Conference Report, Oct. 2001, 72; or Ensign, Nov. 2001, 60).
Charity Comes from the Heart
* How can we love people in spite of their sins and faults?
Even when we give to those in need, unless we feel compassion for them we do not have charity (see 1 John 3:16–17). (This does not mean that we shouldn’t serve just because we might harbor hard feelings. It just means that we aren’t showing charity in our service, and not only are we not following the Lord’s example like we should, we are also not getting the benefits and blessings from the act that we could be getting if we served with charity in our hearts.) The Apostle Paul taught that when we have charity we are filled with good feelings for all people. We are patient and kind. We are not boastful or proud, selfish or rude. When we have charity we do not remember or rejoice in the evil others have done. Neither do we do good things just because it is to our advantage. Instead, we share the joy of those who live by truth. When we have charity we are loyal, we believe the best of others, and we are kind to them. The scriptures teach that “charity never faileth.” (See 1 Corinthians 13:4–8.)
The Savior was our example of how to feel toward and treat others. He despised wickedness, but He loved sinners in spite of their sins. He had compassion for children, the elderly, the poor, and the needy. He had such great love that He could beg our Heavenly Father to forgive the soldiers who drove the nails into His hands and feet (see Luke 23:34). He taught us that if we do not forgive others, our Father in Heaven will not forgive us (see Matthew 18:33–35). He said: “I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you. … For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye?” (Matthew 5:44, 46). We must learn to feel toward others as Jesus did.
This is a place in the lesson where I think it’s extremely important to be sensitive to the feelings and experiences of your class members. There may be those in your class who have been severely abused by family members, had a child murdered, or had other similarly horrible experiences. It might be good to point out that forgiveness is a process and something we should be striving toward, but none of us are perfect and it’s okay if we’re not all the way there yet, as long as we’re trying our best. It also might be good to point out that forgiving someone for the things they’ve done wrong in the past does not necessarily mean you need to give them the opportunity to hurt you again in the future. Just because you’ve forgiven someone doesn’t mean they’ve necessarily repented or changed. If someone has hurt you severely you can and should pray about whether or not they should be a part of your life any more, and listen to the promptings of the Spirit.
Developing the Virtue of Charity
* How can we become more charitable?
For teachers: Under the heading “Developing the Virtue of Charity,” each of the first four paragraphs teaches one way we can become more charitable. If the setting allows for small group discussion, consider dividing class members or family members into groups of four. Assign one of the four paragraphs to each member of each group. Invite participants to study their assigned paragraphs individually. Ask them to think of examples, from the lives of people they know or people in the scriptures, that represent this way of becoming charitable. Then ask them to share their examples with each other in their groups.
I would definitely do this if it was possible in my class. I think it would give the sisters a great opportunity to all participate, and also to get to interact with each other on a more personal level.
One way we can become charitable is by studying the life of Jesus Christ and keeping His commandments. We can study what He did in certain situations and do the same things when we are in the same kinds of situations.
Second, when we have uncharitable feelings, we can pray to have greater charity. Mormon urges us, “Pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love [charity], which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ” (Moroni 7:48).
Third, we can learn to love ourselves, which means that we understand our true worth as children of our Heavenly Father. The Savior taught that we must love others as we love ourselves (see Matthew 22:39). To love ourselves, we must respect and trust ourselves. This means that we must be obedient to the principles of the gospel. We must repent of any wrongdoings. We must forgive ourselves when we have repented. We will come to love ourselves better when we can feel the deep, comforting assurance that the Savior truly loves us.
Fourth, we can avoid thinking we are better than other people. We can have patience with their faults. Joseph Smith said, “The nearer we get to our heavenly Father, the more we are disposed to look with compassion on perishing souls; we feel that we want to take them upon our shoulders, and cast their sins behind our backs” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith , 428–29).
In the Book of Mormon we read of Enos, a young man who wanted to know that his sins had been forgiven. He tells us:
“My soul hungered; and I kneeled down before my Maker, and I cried unto him in mighty prayer and supplication for mine own soul; and all the day long did I cry unto him; yea, and when the night came I did still raise my voice high that it reached the heavens.
“And there came a voice unto me, saying: Enos, thy sins are forgiven thee, and thou shalt be blessed” (Enos 1:4–5).
The Lord explained to Enos that because of his faith in Christ his sins had been forgiven. When Enos heard these words he no longer was concerned about himself. He knew the Lord loved him and would bless him. He began instead to feel concern for the welfare of his friends and relatives, the Nephites. He poured out his whole soul unto God for them. The Lord answered and said they would be blessed according to their faithfulness in keeping the commandments they had already been given. Enos’s love increased even further after these words, and he prayed with many long strugglings for the Lamanites, who were the enemies of the Nephites. The Lord granted his desires, and he spent the rest of his life trying to save the souls of the Nephites and the Lamanites. (See Enos 1:6–26.)
Enos was so grateful for the Lord’s love and forgiveness that he willingly spent the rest of his life helping others receive this same gift. Enos had become truly charitable. We too can do so. In fact, we must do so to inherit the place that has been prepared for us in our Father’s kingdom.
I would end by reading Moroni 7:47-48 and sharing my own testimony of charity.
Bonnie D. Parkin, “Choosing Charity: That Good Part”, Liahona, Nov. 2003, 104–6
This whole talk is wonderful. She starts out by talking about Mary and Martha, and while it’s a good story, I was a little confused how it related to charity. There are definitely other scripture stories I associate more readily with charity. She goes on to point out, however, that both Mary and Martha were showing their love for the Lord, just in different ways, and that perhaps the Lord’s admonition to Martha was not because she wasn’t doing as she ought, but because she was judging Mary for the (different) choice that she had made. She points out that if we are judging or comparing we cannot possess the pure love of Christ. I think it’s a great lesson, and a great reminder that Christ loves us all for who we are, and we need to not judge others for their choices or berate ourselves for not making the same choices they do. She shares the following quote:
“Elder Marvin J. Ashton beautifully observed: “Perhaps the greatest charity comes when we are kind to each other, when we don’t judge or categorize someone else, when we simply give each other the benefit of the doubt or remain quiet. Charity is accepting someone’s differences, weaknesses, and shortcomings; having patience with someone who has let us down; or resisting the impulse to become offended when someone doesn’t handle something the way we might have hoped. Charity is refusing to take advantage of another’s weakness and being willing to forgive someone who has hurt us. Charity is expecting the best of each other.” (“The Tongue Can Be a Sharp Sword,” Ensign, May 1992, 19.)”
Elaine L. Jack, “Strengthened in Charity”, Ensign, Nov. 1996, 91
Here are a few quotes I enjoyed from this talk:
The Savior said that “the great commandment in the law” is “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind” (Matt. 22:36–37). When we love the Lord with all our mind, soul, and heart, we love others. And charity abounds.
Alma emphasized the importance of “having the love of God always in your hearts” (Alma 13:29). Charity is that love. Charity is a gift of the Spirit, for “all things which are good cometh of God” (Moro. 7:12). And this gift is multiplied as it is used.
Both the giver and the receiver are blessed. For charity purifies and sanctifies all it touches, and “whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him” (Moro. 7:47).
I’ve thought about this: “To give of oneself is a holy gift.” “We should strive to give as he gave.” What wise counsel! When we give our time, our energy, our commitment, our testimony to others, we are giving of ourselves. We are sharing intangibles, not easily left on the doorstep but easily deposited in the heart.
So it is with kindness. Nothing will bring the Spirit of the Lord into your meetings, your homes, and your personal associations more quickly than showing kindness. “Charity … is kind” (1 Cor. 13:4). Kindness should be right at the top of everyone’s list of things to do. Write it down every day: “Be kind.” Kindness comes in many different packages. Be thoughtful to your neighbors. Be patient in a crowd. Be considerate of your children and your husband. Be honest with your sisters. Trust them and they will trust you. Go out and bring them into this grand circle of sisters we call Relief Society. As we increase our kindness, we add charity to our storehouse and we are strengthened.
Belle Spafford, former general Relief Society president, stated, “Relief Society is only on the threshold of its divine mission” (History of Relief Society , 140).
I echo that sentiment. Sisters, we are poised to stride across that threshold into a new era of spirituality and light. Can we, in our daily lives, draw others to Jesus Christ? Can our faith, hope, and charity be the critical forces of significant influence? Yes, a resounding yes…
To all the sisters in this Church, I ask that our love of God be reflected in our willingness to serve and be served. May we in our homes teach concern for others, sacrifice, and service. I earnestly pray that we may share our gifts from God whether they be our minds, our music, our athletic ability, our leadership, our compassion, our sense of humor, our peaceful countenance, or our resilience and rejoicing. With charitable hearts may we do remarkable work in these last days. And then we will merit the pronouncement from Jesus Christ, “For this is Zion—THE PURE IN HEART” (D&C 97:21).
Note: This lesson was originally written for the Relief Society audience in 2010-2011, when the Gospel Principles manual was temporarily used as curriculum for Relief Society, Elders Quorum and High Priest classes. The lesson may require adaptation for Gospel Principles classes, which are mixed gender and primarily serve new members and investigators of the church.