The pure love of Christ (Moroni 7:9). The Apostle Paul elevated charity (the pure love of Christ) to such high importance that salvation itself depends upon a person’s charity (see 1 Corinthians 1:51).1 It is through grace that one obtains charity. It is through charity that one can bless others. One cannot bless anyone or hold priesthood designed to bless, not curse, unless they have charity. This is never given unless the recipient is willing to do things he would rather not, thereby offering himself as a sacrifice to God. No one is trusted by God to hold this honor unless he will subordinate his will to the will of the Father.2 Charity cannot be manufactured, but only bestowed, and Moroni directs us to 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 (Moroni 7:9).
Charity is sometimes viewed as an emotional or deeply-felt connection that seems unattainable with a stranger but something that is capable to be done for your wife, husband, children, or your parents — someone with whom you are intimately connected. But it doesn’t appear, from the example of Christ, that His willingness to die on behalf of others meant that He had to feel emotionally connected with them in order to do so. He forgave the Romans that were nailing Him to the cross — this was not the traditional definition of love. Instead, it was a commitment — a determination — to do good despite the opposition or hindrance of anyone else. The very people He went into the temple and provoked with His Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees (Matthew 10) discourse (deliberately controlling the timing of their outrage so that He would be sacrificed at the appropriate time during the Passover), were the same people on whose behalf He also died. He was committed to giving His life to others as an act of charity, as an act of service, and as an act of kindness in a way that demonstrates what charity really is. Charity is a fixed determination to do something on the behalf of others. Whether they appreciate it, whether they love you in return or not, charity is simply doing what needs to be done. The mistreatment that Nephi received at the hands of his older brothers did not change whether or not he had charity towards his older brothers, even though he knew that (for the safety of his own wife, children, offspring, and compadres) he needed to separate from his brothers. Nephi only ever had charity for them.
Charity is a determination to live a certain way and to not allow oneself to be overcome by the jealousies, envies, and all the negative things that make it so easy to excuse giving kindness to others. In a very real sense, charity is trying to see others in the same way that the Father sees them — even if that generosity is not reciprocated; even if they despise and abuse; even if they speak all manner of evil against one falsely. Living the kind of life that has charity, the pure love of Christ — in it is a determination; a vigor; a resolution; a firm, fixed determination to abide a certain standard, being committed to the wellbeing of one’s fellow man — even if one’s fellow man is not committed at all in a reciprocal way. Do it for the sake of righteousness. Don’t do it for the sake of recognition. Recognition rarely comes, except maybe posthumously, to the truly charitable. It’s an approach and a value that one assigns to the lives of others that allows one to do good to them even if they refuse to do good back. It’s the only way that one can ever eradicate the kind of jealousies, envies, and strife that produce war, conflict, and injured feelings. The world is plagued by the absence of charity, and the best evidence of that is the presence of conflict, fighting, and hurt feelings.
“If I have charity towards someone who despises and abuses me, then their attitude towards me is irrelevant. Even if they want to spend time berating me, I don’t waste any time either considering or being motivated by that. I’m motivated by something else. Blessed are the peacemakers. Well, why are they peacemakers? Because they are willing to charitably proceed in a world that is riddled with conflict. There’s no room for envy in the charitable approach. It’s not puffed up; it’s not seeking its own. It’s really trying to please God and serve Him. And not to serve himself. It is the greatest, because if we had charity, we could live in peace with one another. Even if we have any number of unresolved issues that exist between one another, we can still live in peace with one another. Even if we absolutely disagree on a number of issues we think are fundamental, we could still live in peace with one another, if we had charity.
“Joseph Smith once remarked that the problem with councils and conferences is that we wouldn’t agree to hold our disagreements long enough in order to reach a proper resolution. We have to be willing to allow for differences as we search for the solution. Sometimes the solution requires years of differing opinions, differing viewpoints, differing ways of approaching things. That’s not evil. It’s only evil when we allow that to crowd our hearts in such a way that we begin to envy and be jealous and be resentful and be hateful and to have our pride injured. If we are charitable, then we look upon the things we think are the shortcomings of someone else in a way that is tolerant and kindly. We think Zion is going to be the great, peaceful community, and it surely will be. But that doesn’t mean that the residents aren’t going to have differing opinions.
“Art, literature, great thought, very often…music, all the creative impulses very often are stimulated by a conflict that the person who is doing the creating is grappling with. Zion may not be a place in which there is the absence of potential for conflict, but it will be a place where the potential for conflict is resisted because of the charitable impulse to abide peaceably with one another while we work on the things that separate us, that make us different. Our differences aren’t evil. Our differences are something to be considered, thought about, to be explored, to be understood. Because charity is the peaceful means of dealing with these diverse ways of understanding life, of understanding why we’re here, what we’re trying to do, of understanding how we can be kindly towards one another. Sometimes, the kindest thing is a rebuke. Sometimes the kindest thing, in turn, is to carefully consider the rebuke, to not open your mouth in return, to think deeply about what was said and why it was said and to allow the possibility that the person who expressed the rebuke did so out of love, out of kindness, out of their concern for you. Sometimes that rebuke is based on a wealth of misinformation and misunderstanding. So, instead of returning with another rebuke, telling the rebuker how stupid they are because they don’t understand things, think about why they have their understanding and what can be done to overcome the gap between you and someone else. Zion is going to be, above all other things, a place that necessarily demands that people be charitable towards one another and kindly disposed to dealing with the misunderstandings, the differences of opinion, the different educational backgrounds, the different life experience backgrounds that make for different opinions and different viewpoints. All of them are valuable, assuming you will charitably allow people to be where they are and to help you understand them in their context, while they are kind enough to try and understand you in your context.”3See also LOVE.
1 “Weightier Matters,” Oct. 4, 2012, blog post.
2 Preserving the Restoration, 361.
3 Restoration Archives recording, Nov. 24, 2018; See Podcast Episode 46: “Charity — Part 1,” Nov. 25, 2018.