I have a friend who is an internationally known body builder and health trainer. I once told him I was ready to get in shape, I was ready to lose some weight, and I asked him for some advice. He said I can tell you what to do, “it’s simple, but it’s not easy”.
Simple: Eat less, exercise correctly. Easy? No. It was tough to eat less, it was hard to do exercises that worked my body correctly. Though I tried to stay strong and focused I sabotaged myself. I made cookies, one cookie wouldn’t make a difference. Then, one cookie became 3 and then it was even harder to go back to simple and finally I lost sight of my goals, and then just stopped following his advice, because it wasn’t easy.
I’ve thought about what he said quite often “It’s simple, but it’s not easy”. Many important and life changing things are simple. But not very easy. Why? Because Easy doesn’t strengthen us, easy doesn’t encourage us, easy doesn’t build character … expecting something great while the way to get it is easy is one of Satan’s more well used and popular tools of deception.
God gives us straight-forward, seemingly simple, commandments; Love the Lord your God with all your heart, might, mind, and strength and the other is like unto it, Love your neighbor as yourself.
In our most fundamental doctrine we’ve been given the knowledge that we are children of a living God. The scriptures teach us this in many ways:
- Moses stood against Satan saying, “Who art thou? For behold, I am a son of God.”[i]
- The Psalmist said, “All of you are children of the most High.”[ii]
- Apostle Paul taught we are “offspring of God.”[iii]
- Joseph Smithand Sidney Rigdon received a vision in which they saw the Father and the Son, and a heavenly voice declared that the inhabitants of the worlds “are begotten sons and daughters unto God.”[iv]
So, I asked myself some questions … Do I believe I am a child of God? Do I act like I am a child of God? Do I treat everyone with kindness and compassion knowing they are children of God? Do I reach out to my neighbors without a goal to convert them? Am I afraid to reach out to my neighbor because I think they might try and convert me? Am I welcoming and loving to everyone I meet?
I thought, yes? That Yes has an attached question mark. Then I thought about the word all. We are all God’s children. Well, then I thought … What about the people around the corner with 27 old cars out front that I criticize every time I drive by? What about that screaming child kicking the back of my seat in the airplane? What about people who have different political opinions? How about those people that just rub me the wrong way? How about people that … well you get the idea. I didn’t like my answers … they weren’t a solid yes! My answers were ‘well’, ‘kinda’, ‘sorta I do’, ‘maybe’, ‘sometimes’ …
How do we forget this fundamental doctrine? Because it’s a simple truth. We know we are children of God, but it’s not easy to remember and act upon when we aren’t focused on it, because the natural man sees with the eyes not the heart.
Satan works very hard to keep us separate. He works to keep us focused inward on ME and to forget WE. Looking around on social media, listening to the news, even conversations within our own families we can see he’s been very successful in creating an environment of Us versus Them.
I want to focus on 3 ways or ‘weapons’ that Satan is using to blind us and stop us from seeing & treating God’s children as our brothers and sisters. Then I will share with you the Secret, Not-so-Secret weapon God has given us to defeat Satan in this on-going war.
The first weapon Satan is using is Contention. This is so blatant that the Lord gave us specific scriptural warning to beware:
“He that hath the spirit of contention is not of me [saith the Lord], but is of the devil, who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another”.[v]
Contention stops us from seeing everyone as a child of God by separating us into groups so we comfortably live our life in our own bubbles; contention breaks our personal peace and causes us to harden our hearts and blind our eyes to everyone not like us. Who look differently, live differently, believe differently.
President Russel M. Nelson taught us how to combat contention[vi]
He says, “…show compassionate concern for others. Control the tongue, the pen, and the keyboard. Whenever tempted to dispute, remember this proverb: “He that is void of wisdom despiseth his neighbour: but a man of understanding holdeth his peace.” (Prov. 11:12; see also Prov. 17:28.)
He goes on to say: Bridle the passion to speak or write contentiously for personal gain or glory. The Apostle Paul counseled the Philippians, “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.” (Philip. 2:3.)
But the ultimate step lies beyond beginning control of expression. Personal peace is reached when one, in humble submissiveness, truly loves God.”
He then directed us to Heed carefully this scripture:
“There was no contention in the land, because of the love of God which did dwell in the hearts of the people.”
A second tool Satan is using is Pride
I never thought of myself as prideful. But I was so excited when I bought the next best car to my dream car which is a 1963 corvette … my new car was a nice little silver blue Z3 … it looked like the old ‘vette. So, one day I’m driving down the road, feeling all, this is cool, when I realized I wasn’t feeling this is cool, it was I’m cool. I was comparing my car with those around me. It was like a punch in the stomach. I was like the Nephites!
Most of The Book of Mormon is seeing the rise of pride in the Nephites. We read about their Pride in their wealth, pride in their clothing, pride in their homes, and pride in their own strength… The pride which was their downfall.
First I tried to talk myself out of that thought, I’m not prideful! But after that day almost every time I got in my little car I remembered that feeling and those thoughts. Finally, the ultimate reason I sold my car was because of those feelings. I’m not saying driving a nice car makes a person prideful, but I was prideful when I drove that car. After that moment of knowing; I saw many other places I had let pride in; like being at work and thinking I can do this better, more efficiently than anyone here in this meeting … why do I have to listen to what they have to say?
The Guide to the Scriptures describes this hurtful Pride as:
A lack or absence of humility or teachableness.
It goes on to say: Pride sets people in opposition to each other and to God. A proud person sets himself above those around him and follows his own will rather than God’s will. Conceit, envy, hardheartedness, and haughtiness are also typical of a proud person.
In the New Testament, James (2:2) teaches us how pride separates us from one another and how to combat that pride within ourselves.
2 For if there come unto your assembly a man with a gold ring, in goodly apparel, and there come in also a poor man in vile raiment;
3 And ye have respect to him that weareth the gay clothing, and say unto him, Sit thou here in a good place; and say to the poor, Stand thou there, or sit here under my footstool:
4 Are ye not then partial in yourselves, and are become judges of evil thoughts?
8 If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, though shalt love thy neighbor as thyself, ye do well:
9 But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors.
Mormon also teaches us to combat pride through yielding our hearts unto God:
“Nevertheless they did fast and pray oft and did wax stronger and stronger in their humility, and firmer and firmer in the faith of Christ, unto the filling their souls with joy and consolation, yea, even to the purifying and the sanctification of their hearts, which sanctification cometh because of their yielding their hearts unto God”.[vii]
And another tool Satan is using to blind us from seeing and treating one another as brothers and sisters is Unrighteous Judgement.
President Thomas S. Monson in his 2010 General Conference talk Charity Never Faileth, told this story:
“A young couple, Lisa and John, moved into a new neighborhood. One morning while they were eating breakfast, Lisa looked out the window and watched her next-door neighbor hanging out her wash.
“‘That laundry’s not clean!’ Lisa exclaimed. ‘Our neighbor doesn’t know how to get clothes clean!’
“John looked on but remained silent.
“Every time her neighbor would hang her wash to dry, Lisa would make the same comments.
“A few weeks later Lisa was surprised to glance out her window and see a nice, clean wash hanging in her neighbor’s yard. She said to her husband, ‘Look, John—she’s finally learned how to wash correctly! I wonder how she did it.’
“John replied, ‘Well, dear, I got up early this morning and washed our windows!”
Although we are warned about judging un-righteously we do need to judge daily about many things and people.
From True to the Faith: A Gospel Reference we learn:
“Sometimes people feel that it is wrong to judge others in any way. While it is true that you should not condemn others or judge them unrighteously, you will need to make judgments of ideas, situations, and people throughout your life. The Lord has given many commandments that you cannot keep without making judgments…
Judgement is an important use of your agency and requires great care, especially when you make judgments about other people. All your judgments must be guided by righteous standards”.
Elder Lynn Robbins in his Oct 2016 General Conference talk The Righteous Judge taught us to follow Christ’s example of righteous judgement.
“In His mortal life, Jesus Christ was a loving judge, uncommonly wise and patient. He is known in the scriptures as “the righteous judge”, and His counsel to us is to also “judge righteous judgment” and to “put your trust in that Spirit which leadeth to do good … [and] to judge righteously”.[viii]
Heavenly Father commands us to love our neighbors as ourselves. He has given us the best tool or weapon to combat Contention, combat Pride, and combat Unrighteous Judgement. Really, it’s the tool to combat all that Satan throws at us.
It is God’s love. This is the Secret, not-Secret weapon God has given us to defeat Satan.
- We see he told us the weapon to use against contention is to “Fill our heart with God’s love”,
- the weapon against pride is to “pray and fast and yield our heart to God”, and
- then, to combat unrighteous judgement rely upon Him and “trust in the spirit”.
My family is a microcosm of the world … as its grown it has become truly diverse in every way. Even though they are adults with children of their own I have struggled, and do struggle with their choices; I struggle as to how to reconcile my beliefs and theirs, my lifestyle with theirs, my viewpoints and theirs.
At one point I gave in to anger, judgement, & frustration. I was angry with them, I was fearful for them, I often was ashamed of them. I would feel guilt, shame & more frustration. It was overwhelming and heart-breaking. I could hardly be with some of them, or even talk to them. There was little or no love in my heart or between us in our family.
On my knees praying for help, praying for forgiveness, asking for guidance … begging for God to help me understand them, and begging to know what I could do, what I should do … The Lord answered my prayer so profoundly that I am not the same.
He told me that it is not my job to judge them. He told me that he knows them, He knows their paths, he knows their plan, and He knows what they need. They are His, as am I. My job is only to Love them.
That answer to my prayers taught me and helps me remember to treat and love each one in my family circle as a precious son or daughter of God. I don’t always succeed, but God’s love helped me separate their actions from who they are, his children … and love has returned.
Over time, I’ve come to understand that His words apply to everyone I encounter. Heavenly Father wants us to remember that He knows everyone. He knows everyone’s paths, He knows everyone’s plan. We all are His. Our only job is to love one another. Everyone. Not just in church, not just those who like what we like, or do what we do, but everyone.
How has he taught us to love one another? How has he taught us to love our families? Love our neighbors? The stranger? The refugee? The prisoner? The homeless? The sick? Those of different religions, colors, creeds, tongues, lands and people?
35 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:
36 Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.
And he also taught us
43 Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.
44 But 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; …
46 For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye?
47 And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others?[ix]
God’s not so secret weapon is that we are to love and serve one another. We are to love with God’s love, and we know that God’s love is the pure love of Christ, which pure love is Charity. And we know that God’s Charity Never Faileth.
In the Book of Mormon, Another Testament of Jesus Christ, Moroni gave direction as to how to be filled with Charity …
Wherefore, my beloved brethren, 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; [x]
President John Taylor, the third president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, taught the importance of not only believing, but practicing the Savior’s plea to love our neighbor.
“Love one another, and work the works of righteousness, and look after the welfare of all, and seek to promote the happiness of all. That is what God is doing.”
“When you get the Spirit of God, you feel full of kindness, charity, long-suffering, and you are willing all the day long to accord to every man that which you want yourself. You feel disposed all the day long to do unto all men as you would wish them to do unto you.”[xi]
Going back to what my friend told me, “It’s simple, but it’s not easy” … Simple: treat everyone as a son or daughter of God. Love thy neighbor as thyself. But to remember and do that is often not easy because we are only men and women and are not perfect. I believe that as we follow Moroni’s guidance to pray with all the energy of [our] heart for the gift of Charity and the guidance of the Holy Ghost and if we follow Nephi’s counsel to press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men we will see everyone as they truly are, we will treat them and serve them as our brothers and sisters; as children of our Father in Heaven … As God knows and sees us.
May we always remember we are all our Father’s children. May we all desire and pray for the gift of Charity, and may God’s love enable us to overcome Satan whose only desire is to stop us from returning home to live in Celestial glory with our Heavenly Father & Jesus Christ.
I testify that we are, all of us, the sons and daughters of God; our Father in Heaven knows each of our names, each of our needs, and knows our heart’s greatest desires. He loves every one of us with His infinite love, no matter our circumstances, where we were born or live, our trials, our opportunities, or our choices. For the Father offered even his son, Jesus Christ, who lived a perfect life as an example to us. Our Savior, Jesus Christ, died and atoned for our sins, the sins of everyone, in every place, in every time, in every circumstance.
[xi] Teachings of the Presidents of the Church (of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints), President John Taylor, Chpt 3 Love Thy Neighbor as Thyself