Sunday, January 18, 2015

January Lesson Notes

Relief Society January Lesson
Love the Lord

My Notes

One way I really feel loved is when people have time for me.  While I was growing up, my mother stayed home, and I could talk with her while she cleaned or made dinner or did other things.  My first few years at college I could call her during the day and she would be home.  Then my dad got sick and couldn’t work, and my mom went back to work as a school teacher.  

Suddenly, the person who understood me best was unavailable during the day at work and was busy at night taking care of all the chores of life that my dad couldn’t do.  Suddenly, there wasn’t the time for me I was used to.  I was living in Wisconsin with a new baby and a student husband far from family.  And my mom no longer had much time for me.  I knew she loved me.  I knew she was doing important things that had to be done.  And I was still lonely and hurt.  Have you ever had a time when somebody loved you but didn’t show it in a way that you could feel?

Last week, Valynn presented our theme for this year in Relief Society.  We will be focusing on “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength.”  

This commandment is given in the Old Testament, in the New Testament, in the Book of Mormon, and in the Doctrine and Covenants.  It is the first and most important signpost God has given us on our pathway back to him.

Ezra Taft Benson spoke about this commandment in conference in April of 1988.  He shared:

“To love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength is all-consuming and all-encompassing.  It is no lukewarm endeavor.  It is total commitment of our very being--physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually--to a love of the Lord.

The breadth, depth, and height of this love of God extend into every facet of one’s life.  Our desires, be they spiritual or temporal, should be rooted in a love of the Lord.  Our thoughts and affections should be centered on the Lord.  “Let all thy thoughts be directed unto the Lord,” said Alma, “yea, let the affections of thy heart be placed upon the Lord forever” (Alma 37:36).

One idea Valynn shared last week was that if we want to like somebody better, we need to do something for them.  If we want to feel love for God, we need to serve him and sacrifice for him.  My question this afternoon is what does God want from us?  What makes him feel like we love him?  (Are we loving him but not showing it in a way he appreciates like my mother had to for a while?)

Luckily, we have a Father who tells us what matters most to him.

In 1 John 5:3 we read: “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments.”  And again in D&C 42:29, “If thou lovest me thou shalt serve me and keep all of my commandments."

What is God’s purpose in all of this?  (Moses 1:39) To bring to pass our immortality and eternal life.  So if that is what he is after, why is the first commandment to love him?

Ezra Taft Benson:

Why did God put the first commandment first?  Because He knew that if we truly loved Him we would want to keep all of His other commandments.


When we put God first, all other things fall into their proper place or drop out of our lives.  Our love of the Lord will govern the claims for our affection, the demands on our time, the interests we pursue, and the order of our priorities.

Now, there is another thing that Heavenly Father asks of those who love him.  

Matthew 22: 36-40

Master, which is the great commandment in the law?
Jesus said unto him, 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 neighbour as thyself.
On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

Heavenly Father wants us to love him first and also to love his children.  I would have a hard time believing somebody loved me who treated my children badly.

Again, in Matthew 25:37-40, Jesus taught:

Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?
When saw we thee a stranger and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?
Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?
And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

And from King Benjamin’s great address in Mosiah 2:17:

And behold, I tell you these things that ye may learn wisdom; that ye may learn that when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God.

We have two commandments, love God and love each other.  How do we deal with the tension that sometimes seems to exist between them?

One year at college I lived with roommates whose choices made our apartment’s atmosphere difficult for me.  They bent the rules and watched movies that made me uncomfortable.  They left magazines all over the floor with covers that embarrassed me when people would come over.  One morning I got up to find my roommate’s boyfriend sleeping on the couch.  How could I both love them and have an environment conducive to the spirit?

Ezra Taft Benson again:

We should put God ahead of everyone else in our lives.


One of the most difficult tests of all is when you have to choose between pleasing God or pleasing someone you love or respect--particularly a family member.

As I puzzled over how to do this during the last week, especially among my family and my in-laws, I found a scripture that helped in Alma 1:25.  At this time, the church was dealing with lots of persecution and losing many members.

Now this was a great trial to those who did stand fast in the faith; nevertheless, they were steadfast and immovable in keeping the commandments of God and bore with patience the persecution which was heaped upon them.

Their solution sounds an awfully lot like Alma the Elder and his people’s answer to mistreatment they suffered at the hands of the priests of King Noah.  (Mosiah 24:15)  Remember, they were in bondage to the wicked priests and the Lamanites.  They cried to the Lord and their captors told them to stop praying.  They continued to pray in their hearts and were blessed by the Lord.

And now it came to pass that the burdens which were laid upon Alma and his brethren were made light; yea, the Lord did strengthen them that they could bear up their burdens with ease, and they did submit cheerfully and with patience to all the will of the Lord.

It seems that God means it when he says put him first.  He wants us to be steadfast and immovable regardless of the opinions of others.  But he also wants us to be patient and kind with our enemies (and our neighbors, and our friends, and even our families) and with their weaknesses and sins and the pain they cause us.  And, like the people of Alma, if we turn to the Lord, He will help us do it.

With my roommates, I learned to flip the magazines over if I had people coming over.  And with kindness and patience, we built relationships that, while not close, were filled with respect.  They would turn the volume down so I didn’t have to hear what they were watching or listening to if I was in the other room.  My roommates knew my standards because I lived them, not because I told them they were wrong.

You will notice that in each of those last two scriptures, first the people kept the commandments and then God blessed them.  This is the way it always works, even when we can’t see it.

In Romans 8:28

And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are called according to his purpose.

It often doesn’t feel like our hard experiences can possibly be for our good.  Especially when we are suffering from the wickedness of others, but that is one of the miracles of the Atonement.  It is powerful enough to overcome whatever Satan and this fallen world and those around us do.

Ezra Taft Benson addresses this:

God loves us; the devil hates us. God wants us to have a fulness of joy as He has. The devil wants us to be miserable as he is. God gives us commandments to bless us. The devil would have us break these commandments to curse us.
Daily, constantly, we choose by our desires, our thoughts, and our actions whether we want to be blessed or cursed, happy or miserable. One of the trials of life is that we do not usually receive immediately the full blessing for righteousness or the full cursing for wickedness. That it will come is certain, but ofttimes there is a waiting period that occurs, as was the case with Job and Joseph (of Egypt).
In the meantime the wicked think they are getting away with something. The Book of Mormon teaches that the wicked “have joy in their works for a season, [but] by and by the end cometh, and they are hewn down and cast into the fire, from whence there is no return” (3 Nephi 27:11).
During this testing time the righteous must continue to love God, trust in His promises, be patient, and be assured, as the poet said, that “who does God’s work will get God’s pay.” …
I testify to you that God’s pay is the best pay that this world or any other world knows anything about. And it comes in full abundance only to those who love the Lord and put Him first.

What is God’s pay?

Men and women who turn their lives over to God will discover that He can make a lot more out of their lives than they can. He will deepen their joys, expand their vision, quicken their minds, strengthen their muscles, lift their spirits, multiply their blessings, increase their opportunities, comfort their souls, raise up friends, and pour out peace. Whoever will lose his life in the service of God will find eternal life.

This is difficult to believe as we struggle through depression, grief, sickness, and more.  But, as we trust and serve God, one day we will have the happiness and joy we desire.

1 Corinthians 2:9

Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.


One of my favorite ideas that others brought up during the discussion was how much difference it makes that we are commanded to love God, not just worship or serve Him, and how happy He is when we choose to do good things.

It is a lot like my marriage (or any other relationship I have).  When my husband wants me to do something I’d rather not (like leave olives out of pasta salad or less trivial things, marriage is full of them), my motivation really affects my attitude.  If I am doing it to avoid confrontation or because it makes logical sense but I still don’t want to, my attitude is usually cranky and upset.  But if I am doing it because I love my husband, then I’m excited to make him happy and to do things that he likes to have done.  I think keeping the commandments is very similar.

Yet another way that if we love God first, everything else works out and we are happier.

Matthew 11:28-30

Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

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