Charity is a divine gift in which individuals must seek and pray for, Sister Silvia H. Allred said during the General Relief Society Meeting held in the Conference Center on Sept 24.
"Charity is not a single act, or something we give away, but a state of being, a state of the heart, kind feelings that engender loving actions," said Sister Allred, first counselor in the Relief Society general presidency.
The Lord has asked individuals to "clothe ourselves with the bond of charity," Sister Allred said. To do so, they must develop the qualities that lead to charity.
First, individuals must have the desire to increase in charity and to be more Christ-like. Then, they must pray to be filled with love.
"Reading scriptures daily can bring our minds to the Savior and to desire to be more like Him," she said. "The Savior is the perfect example of how to extend charity. During His mortal ministry He showed compassion for the hungry, for the sinner, for the afflicted and for the sick. He ministered to the poor and to the rich; to women, children and men; to family, friends and strangers. He forgave His accusers, and He suffered and died for all mankind."
Other examples of charity include the Prophet Joseph Smith's constant kindness, concern and respect of others. President Thomas S. Monson is also a great example of charity, said Sister Allred.
"He wears the mantle of charity," she said. "He is kind, compassionate and generous; a true minister of the Lord Jesus Christ." It is through acts of charity to others that individuals are able to purify their hearts and become more like the Savior.
"When we have charity, we are willing to serve and help others when it is inconvenient and with no thought of recognition or reciprocation," she said. "We don't wait to be assigned to help because it becomes our very nature. As we choose to be kind, caring, generous, patient, accepting, forgiving, inclusive and selfless, we discover we are abounding in charity." Relief Society is one way individuals are able to provide countless ways of serving others. One of the most important ways of serving, Sister Allred said, is through visiting teaching.
"Through effective visiting teaching we have many opportunities to love, minister and serve others," she said. "Expressing charity, or love, purifies and sanctifies our souls, helping us become more like the Savior."
It is through the countless acts of charity performed daily by visiting teachers all over the world -- who are selflessly ministering to the needs of individual sisters and their families -- that individuals are able to follow the Savior and act as instruments in His hands. It is through providing service and extending charity towards others that individuals are able to overcome their own difficulties, making them seem less challenging, she said.
"Like in the early days in Nauvoo, where the sisters went about seeking and helping those in need, so it is today," Sister Allred said. "Sisters in the kingdom are great pillars of spiritual strength, compassionate service and devotion. Dedicated visiting teachers visit and care for one another. They follow the Savior's example and do as He did."
All women in Relief Society can be filled with love knowing that their small acts of charity have a healing power for others and for themselves, Sister Allred said. It is through charity that individuals can come to know with certainty that charity is the pure love of Christ and never faileth. Sister Allred invited all the women in the Church to plead for a desire to be filled with the gift of charity, the pure love of Christ.
"Use all your resources to do good, bringing relief and salvation to those around you, including your own family," she said. "The Lord will crown your efforts with success."