In 1918, at Father Flanagan’s Home for Boys in Omaha, Nebraska, a young boy by the name of Howard Loomis was abandoned by his mother. Howard was stricken with polio and needed to use heavy leg braces to get around. Walking was difficult enough but stairs were almost impossible. It wasn’t long before the others boys at the home were carrying Howard up and down the stairs. One day, Father Flanagan asked one of the older boys, Reuben Granger, if carrying Howard was hard. Reuben replied, “He ain’t heavy, Father… he’s m’ brother” (Boystown.org/blog/the-story-behind-he-aint-heavy).
Latter-day Saints are asked to perform many acts of unselfish service to emulate Jesus Christ. Sometimes this service comes at great sacrifice to individuals and families. Sometimes giving service can be extremely challenging. What is it that separates those who give service with a smile and those who give service begrudgingly? What must a person possess to give from the heart without regret or desire for recompense?
“Because love is the great commandment, it ought to be at the center of all and everything we do in our own family, in our Church callings, and in our livelihood,” said President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, second counselor in the First Presidency in the 2009 October general conference. “Love is the healing balm that repairs rifts in personal and family relationships. It is the bond that unites families, communities and nations. Love is the power that initiates friendship, tolerance, civility and respect. It is the source that overcomes divisiveness and hate. Love is the fire that warms our lives with unparalleled joy and divine hope. Love should be our walk and our talk.
“When we truly understand what it means to love as Jesus Christ loves us, the confusion clears and our priorities align. Our walk as disciples of Christ becomes more joyful. Our lives take on new meaning. Our relationship with our Heavenly Father becomes more profound. Obedience becomes a joy rather than a burden.”
Joseph Smith said, “If we would secure and cultivate the love of others, we must love others, even our enemies as well as friends. ... [People] ask, ‘Why is it this babbler gains so many followers, and retains them?’ I answer, It is because I possess the principle of love. All I can offer the world is a good heart and a good hand” (History of the Church, 5:498; paragraph divisions altered.)
The prophet Moroni gave clues about how Christlike love is the only thing that has the power to endure forever. “Wherefore, my beloved brethren, if ye have not charity, ye are nothing, for charity never faileth. Wherefore, cleave unto charity, which is the greatest of all, for all things must fail — But charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him” (Moroni 7:46-47).
Father Lehi’s miraculous vision of the Tree of Life describes something the whole human race desires. He saw by a fountain of living waters a tree “whose fruit was desirable to make one happy” (1 Nephi 8:10). The tree represented “the love of God” (1 Nephi 11:25).
Alma chapter 32 is best known as a source of missionary scriptures for planting a seed and growing a testimony of the gospel. It’s interesting to note that Alma goes on to describe what the seed eventually develops into: “And because of your diligence and your faith and your patience with the word in nourishing it, that it may take root in you, behold, by and by ye shall pluck the fruit thereof, which is most precious, which is sweet above all that is white, yea, and pure above all that is pure; and ye shall feast upon this fruit even until ye are filled, that ye hunger not, neither shall ye thirst” (Alma 32:42).
To develop Christlike love takes diligence and patience and the constant nourishment of the seed. When the fruit is ripe, it can be eaten so that it fills the soul with God’s love. As we love like God, we experience the love of God, a love that can fill our souls with happiness.
“The nearer we get to our Heavenly Father,” the prophet Joseph Smith told the Relief Society sisters, “the more we are disposed to look with compassion on perishing souls; we feel that we want to take them upon our shoulders, and cast their sins behind our backs” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith, Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1977, p. 241).
As reported in the International Business Times in 2011, a 16-year old boy in Hebei, China, Lui Shi Ching, had carried his friend to school daily for the previous eight years. His friend Lu Shao had a congenital disorder that made it difficult to walk. Lui Shi Ching, smaller than Lu Shao, decided to help carry him home one day when Lu Shao’s mother didn’t make it on time to pick him up. Since then, he carried Lu Shao to and from school and even to restrooms. Not one to brag, Lui Shi Ching didn’t tell his own parents for four years. When asked how he could carry such a heavy load, Lui Shi Ching said, “I was happy helping him out and it’s been eight years already.” Lu Shao mentioned in his personal diary that Lui Shi Ching’s help had lifted a dark cloud in his life and let sunshine in.
“Of all the blessings which I have had in my life, the greatest blessing I can share with you is that feeling which the Lord provides when you know that He, the Lord, has answered the prayer of another person through you,” said President Thomas S. Monson. “As you love the Lord, as you love your neighbor, you will discover that our Heavenly Father will answer the prayers of others through your ministry” (BYU Fourteen-Stake Fireside, October 11, 1981).