I gave the following talk at ward conference today.
When we depart from this life, there will be only a few things we can take with us. For example, we can take our testimonies with us. We will also take our faith or lack of it with us. Unlike when we came into this life, we will be able to take our memories with us, both good and bad. We will also be able to take our relationships, some longed for during a time of separation, some rekindled in joyous reunion, others that will smart keenly because they are in need of mending.
There are few things more important than our relationships. The greatest blessings God has to offer us in the next life are only possible through marriage and family relationships, sealed by holy priesthood and by the Holy Spirit of promise (see D&C 132:19). These family relationships will come to all those who earnestly desire them.
How can any of us be saved in any degree without a relationship with another person—whether relationships between friends, between a husband and wife, between parents and children, between brothers and sisters, between us and our Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ.
You have probably heard many stories over the years about how a nonmember or less active member of the Church has been rescued by the love, long-suffering and persistence of a spouse, parent, home teacher, youth leader or friend. I want to explore how those kinds of associations make all the difference when it comes to finding ourselves lost on a trackless plain.
There is key factor in each of these stories. It is unconditional love, the kind of love that never goes away. This is what wins us all over eventually. It is a power so irresistible that only the most hardened soul can resist it, and few among those.
The latter part of Doctrine and Covenants section 121 is the Lord’s textbook on how we can show this love. This section has a specific application to the priesthood, but I will paraphrase it in order to apply to all of us. I quote verses 41 and 42:
No power or influence can or ought to be maintained [or upheld]…only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned; by kindness, and pure knowledge, without hypocrisy and without guile…”
While the worldly seek to “exercise control or dominion or compulsion” (D&C 121: 37) on others, God counsels us to use persuasion which is inspired by love rather than compulsion motivated by fear. Though parents have a right and obligation to guard the agency of children until they leave the home as adults, if we circumvent another’s agency, even if we think we are in the right, in order to get them to “do the right thing,” this shows a disrespect for agency and our influence cannot hold. To persuade rather than coerce takes time, and that’s why we need long-suffering or patience.
The virtues of kindness, gentleness and meekness instill trust because they uncover our true motivations. Anger and sharp words may garner us quicker results than kindness and gentleness, but not without breeding resentment and mistrust. Unchecked, that mistrust can extend over years until we lose almost all influence over another person, leaving a gulf of bitterness in it’s place.
To be meek means that we have the humility to endure “injury with patience and without resentment” (from Merriam-Webster’s Online Dictionary). A meek person does not need to be defensive, critical or always right. A meek person knows what is really worth bothering about and what is not.
Pure knowledge is light, the pure power of truth that can stand on it’s own without argument or embellishment. It is the power behind testimony. When we act on pure knowledge, we don’t hide behind the mask of hypocrisy or leave off part of a story through guile. It is honest, clean and innocent. It is a solid foundation that you can rely on.
Unfeigned love is honest, sincere, genuine love. Anyone who has been deceived by counterfeit or “artificially sweetened” love knows the difference between the two. Genuine love is real. It never goes away. It never dies. It only grows stronger and deeper over time. While it takes time for us to understand this love, it is this kind of love that changes our souls forever.
If you want to rescue someone, to lead them back to safety—whether it be a stubborn spouse, a wayward child, or a lost friend—there is only one way to do it: the Lord’s way. The Lord’s way takes time and patience, consistently kind words and actions, and steady doses of unrelenting, unconditional love.
While knowledge and memories are precious, nothing will be more valuable to us in this life or the next than our relationships, and there is no better insurance for those relationships than persuasion, long-suffering, gentleness, meekness, love unfeigned and pure knowledge. By these means we can rescue the individual, and save ourselves along the way.
In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.