What Is Charity?
Once again there are tremendous resources for this lesson found in Teachings of the Presidents of the Church:... (the old Priesthood/Relief Society manuals). This includes Joseph Smith, Chapter 37, and Joseph F. Smith, Chapter 22. There also some wonderful gems in Joseph Smith, Chapter 39 (founding of the Relief Society). These can all be found by going to the new “lds.org” then click on “Go to Classic LDS.org” (lower left corner), then click on “Gospel Library” then “Lessons” then “Melchizedek Priesthood and Relief Society.” The manuals are found at the bottom of this page.
In this section we find, “He has commanded us to love one another as He loves us” (p. 173). President Heber J. Grant taught that charity is crucial for true Lattter-day Saints:
What kind of men and women should we be, as Latter-day Saints, in view of this wonderful knowledge that we possess, that God lives, that Jesus is the Christ, that Joseph Smith is a prophet of God? We should be the most honest, the most virtuous, the most charitable-minded, the best people upon the face of the earth.
Let us not forget the obligation which rests upon us to render allegiance and service to the Lord, and that acceptable service to Him cannot be rendered without service to our fellow man.
We earnestly implore all members of the Church to love their brethren and sisters, and all peoples whoever and wherever they are; to banish hate from their lives, to fill their hearts with charity, patience, long-suffering, and forgiveness (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Heber J. Grant, 141).
We are so fortunate to have as our current prophet one who exemplifies charity so powerfully. President Henry B. Eyring said of President Monson:
President Monson is an extraordinary example of a great shepherd. Everyone who has ever been associated with him seems to have become one of the sheep for whom he feels love and responsibility. Some people have a friend for a time; with President Monson, friends seem to be forever. He remembers people, their families and their lives with remarkable feelings of charity (Church News, Aug. 21, 2010
President Dieter F. Uchtdorf also added his testimony of President Monson’s charity and teaches us about our responsibilities as given by the Lord:
We all have heard stories of how President Monson visits and blesses the elderly and the sick, always attending to their needs and bringing them cheer, comfort, and love. President Monson has a natural way about him that makes people feel better about themselves. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if President Monson could visit and watch over every family in the Church?
It would. But, of course, he can’t—and he shouldn’t. The Lord has not asked him to do that. The Lord has asked us, as home teachers, to love and watch over our assigned families. The Lord has not asked President Monson to organize and conduct our family home evening. He wants us, as fathers, to do this (Ensign, Nov 2008, 53).
President Monson related the following act of charity by Joseph Smith:
One bright morning Joseph walked up to John E. Page and said, "Brother John, the Lord is calling you on a mission to Canada." John E. Page was rather astonished and said, "Why, Brother Joseph, I can't go on a mission to Canada. I don't even have a coat to wear." The Prophet Joseph took his own coat from his back, handed it to John Page, and said, "Here, John, wear this, and the Lord will bless you." Brother Page took the coat, went to Canada, and in two years walked five thousand miles and baptized six hundred souls, because he trusted in the words of a prophet of God (Ensign, June 1994, 5).
Here is another example in the history of Joseph Smith:
John L. Smith, the Prophet’s cousin, recalled the following incident that occurred in this same period of time: “The Prophet Joseph and cousin Hyrum, his brother, visited us. We were all sick but Mother with the fever and ague, and Father was out of his head the greatest part of the time. Joseph took the shoes from his feet when he saw our destitute condition and put them on Father’s feet, as he was barefoot, and rode home without any himself. He sent and took Father home to his house and saved his life and supplied us with many comforts so we recovered (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith, 430).
President Monson also shared the following about another prophet:
One who exemplified charity in his life was President George Albert Smith. Immediately following World War II, the Church had a drive to amass warm clothing to ship to suffering Saints in Europe. Elder Harold B. Lee and Elder Marion G. Romney took President George Albert Smith to Welfare Square in Salt Lake City to view the results. They were impressed by the generous response of the membership of the Church. They watched President Smith observing the workers as they packaged this great volume of donated clothing and shoes. They saw tears running down his face. After a few moments, President George Albert Smith removed his own new overcoat and said, “Please ship this also.”
The Brethren said to him, “No, President, no; don’t send that; it’s cold and you need your coat.”
But President Smith would not take it back; and so his coat, with all the others, was sent to Europe, where the nights were long and dark and food and clothing were scarce. Then the shipments arrived. Joy and thanksgiving were expressed aloud, as well as in secret prayer (Ensign, May 2000, 52).
In a talk at BYU President Monson also gave another illustration from this prophet:
A personal friend of mine told me of an example of such compassion. He said his uncle Junius Burt worked on the street department crew for Salt Lake City, and on a very cold day many years ago, he and others on the crew were chipping ice with shovels and hand implements from South Temple Street between State Street and Main Street. President George Albert Smith said to one of the workers who had no coat, “You should wear a coat today. It’s too cold to be out here in this very frigid weather working as you are working.”
The man, who did not know President Smith, replied, “I have no coat to wear.”
President Smith then removed his own coat, handed it to the man, and said, “Here, you take this coat and wear it. I work just across the street, and I can get there without a coat.”
Received by that worker that day was more than an overcoat. Received was a gesture of kindness which the recipient of the coat and his coworkers never forgot (BYU Speeches 15 September 2009).
If we are truly living the commandment to “love one another,” we would dread not responding to President Joseph F. Smith’s concerns when he said:
We fear that there are those who may suffer in silence for want of a helping hand. Your duty lies first to these in your locality (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith, 186).
Charity Is the Greatest of All Virtues
Here is a terrific quote to reinforce the title of this section:
Charity, or love, is the greatest principle in existence. If we can lend a helping hand to the oppressed, if we can aid those who are despondent and in sorrow, if we can uplift and ameliorate the condition of mankind, it is our mission to do it, it is an essential part of our religion to do it (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith, 194).
In the section “Charity Comes from the Heart” is found, “The scriptures teach that “charity never faileth.” (See 1 Corinthians 13:4-8) (p. 176). The Book of Mormon offers more clarity on this idea:
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 (Moroni 7:46-47).
Add to this the following from this section:
The prophet Mormon tells us, “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” (Moroni 7:46-47).
President Howard W. Hunter expanded on this:
This love that we should have for our brothers and sisters in the human family, and that Christ has for every one of us, is called charity or “the pure love of Christ” (Moro. 7:47). It is the love that prompted the suffering and sacrifice of Christ’s atonement. It is the highest pinnacle the human soul can reach and the deepest expression (Ensign, May 1992, 61).
Similar to the above is the heading to Chapter 37 in Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith:
Charity, the Pure Love of Christ
“Love is one of the chief characteristics of Deity,
and ought to be manifested by those
who aspire to be the sons of God.”
The second half of the above quote is also worth discussion:
A man filled with the love of God, is not content with blessing his family alone, but ranges through the whole world, anxious to bless the whole human race (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith, 426).
Joseph also added:
The nearer we get to our heavenly Father, 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 Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith, 428-9).
It is therefore important that we remember that it is the “love of Christ” not the “love for Christ” that “never faileth” - - in other words, man’s love often fails, but Christ’s love “never faileth.” Our goal should be, then, to emulate the Savior’s love or charity in our own lives.
D&C 8:2 reads:
Yea, behold, I will tell you in your mind and in your heart, by the Holy Ghost, which shall come upon you and which shall dwell in your heart.
Note that the Holy Ghost dwells in our heart. Joseph Smith explained that charity is crucial to our having the Spirit, which as the title of this section teaches, “comes from the heart” (p. 176):
The Holy Spirit … shall be poured out at all times upon your heads, when you are exercised with those principles of righteousness that are agreeable to the mind of God, and are properly affected one toward another, and are careful by all means to remember those who are in bondage, and in heaviness, and in deep affliction for your sakes. And if there are any among you who aspire after their own aggrandizement, and seek their own opulence, while their brethren are groaning in poverty, and are under sore trials and temptations, they cannot be benefited by the intercession of the Holy Spirit, which maketh intercession for us day and night with groanings that cannot be uttered [see Romans 8:26] (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith, 427).
Charity Includes Giving to the Sick, Afflicted, and Poor
The heading of this section includes taking care of the “sick.” A great example from Church History is that of Emma Smith and her husband Joseph:
Joseph and Emma moved into an old homestead house in the new city of Nauvoo. Emma immediately began caring for the sick Saints desolated by fevers and illness. The two-story log structure housed many more persons than Joseph and Emma and their four children; the homeless had a way of finding the Smiths’ door. Emma’s welcome made no distinction among family, friends, or strangers (Ensign, Sep 1979, 65).
Additional insights to the above incident are given in the following:
Joseph and Emma had the sick brought to their house and took care of them there. And they continued to have them brought as fast as they were taken down until their house, which consisted of four rooms, was so crowded that they were under the necessity of spreading a tent in the yard for the reception of that part of the family who were still on their feet. Joseph and Emma devoted their whole time and attention to the care of the sick during this time of distress (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith, 430).
The next example is powerful because of the prelude to this story. When Joseph and Emma Smith first arrived in Kirtland, they were befriended by Newell K. and Elizabeth Ann Whitney, who had them live in the second floor of their store.
Elizabeth Ann Whitney recalled: “Early in the Spring of 1840 we went up to Commerce, as the upper portion of the city of Nauvoo continued to be called. We rented a house belonging to Hiram Kimball. … Here we were all sick with ague, chills and fever, and were only just barely able to crawl around and wait upon each other. Under these trying circumstances my ninth child was born. Joseph, upon visiting us and seeing our change of circumstances, urged us at once to come and share his accommodations. We felt the climate, the water, and the privations we were enduring could not much longer be borne; therefore we availed ourselves of this proposal and went to live in the Prophet Joseph’s yard in a small cottage; we soon recruited in health, and the children became more like themselves. My husband was employed in a store Joseph had built and fitted up with such goods as the people were in actual need of.
“One day while coming out of the house into the yard the remembrance of a prophecy Joseph Smith had made to me, while living in our house in Kirtland, flashed through my mind like an electric shock; it was this: that even as we had done by him, in opening our doors to him and his family when he was without a home; even so should we in the future be received by him into his house” (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith, 430).
Finally, from Joseph’s life comes the next story. Note that Joseph would probably not be considered an astute businessman, since it is implied that he was more charitable than financially accountable:
On January 5, 1842, the Prophet wrote the following in a letter to Edward Hunter, who later served as Presiding Bishop: “Our assortment [at the Red Brick Store] is tolerably good—very good, considering the different purchases made by different individuals at different times, and under circumstances which controlled their choice to some extent; but I rejoice that we have been enabled to do as well as we have, for the hearts of many of the poor brethren and sisters will be made glad with those comforts which are now within their reach.
“The store has been filled to overflowing, and I have stood behind the counter all day, dealing out goods as steady as any clerk you ever saw, to oblige those who were compelled to go without their usual Christmas and New Year’s dinners, for the want of a little sugar, molasses, raisins, etc., etc.; and to please myself also, for I love to wait upon the Saints, and be a servant to all, hoping that I may be exalted in the due time of the Lord” (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith, 432).
In Chapter 28 of this blog, was a quote from President Kimball which is a great supplement to the parable of the good Samaritan, as taught in this section. Even if it was quoted in the lesson on Service, it is still worth repeating:
None of us should become so busy in our formal Church assignments that there is no room left for quiet Christian service to our neighbors (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Spencer W. Kimball, 82).
President Joseph F. Smith taught that charity is the path to greater blessings:
…there is perhaps no more potent or far reaching influence than well-directed charity, to win the confidence and love of our fellow creatures. And having won their confidence through simple deeds of mercy the door is opened to win and lead their souls to higher planes of faith and spiritual excellence; and, after all, the spiritual part is of greater worth than the mere temporal.
In the long run it is better to starve or even to perish for the want of temporal food than to be impoverished and perish for the lack of intellectual and spiritual knowledge which are essential to secure the gift of eternal life which is the greatest gift of God. To possess a knowledge of the principles of eternal truth is more to me than food or raiment. Yet we want both the temporal and the spiritual food and God has so ordained that both of these are within easy reach of all mankind, provided they will observe His laws and live consistent therewith (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith, 187).
President John Taylor also had some great insights on charity:
If good people are suffering for the common necessaries of life, the scriptures say, “If a man having this world’s goods see his brother in need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion, how dwelleth the love of God in him?” [See 1 John 3:17]. And in regard to those matters, we ought to look to the wants of everybody. … Do not let us make paupers of them; but let us treat them as brethren and sisters, as good, honorable men and women; let us see that they are provided for.
I have seen some people who would get down upon their knees and pray most heartily for God to feed the poor and clothe the naked. Now, I would never ask the Lord to do a thing that I would not do. If we have them among us, suppose we go at it and relieve them. … And if people sustain misfortune of any kind, look after them and bestow upon them those things necessary for their welfare and happiness. And God will bless us in so doing.
I would a great deal rather that you would take, say a sack of flour, some beef, … sugar, some butter and cheese, and clothing, and fuel, and such comforts and conveniences of life, and thus try to make people feel happy, than all the prayers you could offer up to the Lord about it; and he would rather see it too. That is the proper way to do things. In receiving blessings ourselves, try to distribute them, and God will bless and guide us in the ways of peace.
A man came to Jesus on one occasion and asked him, which was the greatest commandment. The Savior answered 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” [Matthew 22:37-39]. Can we do that? It is sometimes hard work, is it not? We too frequently feel we would rather put two dollars in our own pocket than one in our neighbor’s do we not? We would rather have two or three cows than that our neighbor should have one? (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: John Taylor, 24-25).
Some wonderful principles and laws governing true charity are outlined in a terrific way by President Harold B. Lee in Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Harold B. Lee, Chapter 28, where he discusses the welfare program of the Church. Here is some of what he taught:
In the 104th Section of the Doctrine and Covenants … we have as clearly defined in a few words the Welfare Program as anything I know. Now listen to what the Lord says:
“I, the Lord, stretched out the heavens, and built the earth, my very handiwork; and all things therein are mine. And it is my purpose to provide for my saints.”
… Did you hear what the Lord said?
“It is my purpose to provide for my saints, for all things are mine. But it must needs be done in mine own way.” …
“And behold this is the way that I, the Lord, have decreed to provide for my saints.”
Now, get the significance of this one statement:
“That the poor shall be exalted, in that the rich are made low.”
Now, that is the plan. … The Lord goes on to say:
“For the earth is full, and there is enough and to spare; yea, I prepared all things, and have given unto the children of men to be agents unto themselves. Therefore, if any man shall take of the abundance which I have made, and impart not his portion, according to the law of my gospel, unto the poor and the needy, he shall, with the wicked, lift up his eyes in hell, being in torment” [D&C 104:14-18].
.… Now, what does he mean by this phrase? His way is, “that the poor shall be exalted, in that the rich are made low.” …
“Exalt,” in the language of the dictionary, and the definition that I am sure the Lord is trying to convey means: “To lift up with pride and joy to success.” That is how we should lift the poor up, “with pride and joy to success,” and how are we to do it? By the rich being made low.
Now, do not mistake that word “rich.” That does not always mean a man who has a lot of money. That man may be poor in money, but he may be rich in skill. He may be rich in judgement. He may be rich in good example. He may be rich in splendid optimism, and in a lot of other qualities that are necessary. And when individual Priesthood quorum members unite themselves together, we usually find all those rare qualities necessary to lift up the needy and distressed with pride and joy to success in the accomplishment. There could not be a more perfect working of the Lord’s plan than that (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Harold B. Lee, 166-7).
So, the Lord has made an effort to teach us charity by sharing what He has with us. He than asks that we then share what we have with others that we may become like Him.
President Brigham Young made a powerful promise to members of the Church:
I will here say to the Latter-day Saints, if you will feed the poor with a willing heart and ready hand neither you nor your children will ever be found begging bread (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young, 132).
There may be concern about giving to beggars. Brigham Young had this council:
If the poor had all the surplus property of the rich many of them would waste it on the lusts of the flesh, and destroy themselves in using it. For this reason the Lord does not require the rich to give all their substance to the poor. It is true that when the young man came to Jesus to know what he must do to be saved, he told him, finally, “sell all that thou hast and distribute unto the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven, and come, follow me;” and a great many think that he told the young man to give away all that he had, but Jesus did not require any such thing, neither did he say so, but simply, “distribute to the poor” [see Luke 18:18-23] (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young, 239).
Similarly, President Joseph F. Smith had this to say:
have seen men go away from my door with good bread and butter in their hands (good enough for any king to eat, for my folks make good bread and good butter, as good as I ever ate on earth) and when out of the gate they have thrown it into the street. It was not food they wanted. They wanted money. For what? That they might go to some gambling [hall] or to some drinking saloon. Of course they are responsible for that. We can only judge by appearances and by the promptings of the good spirit within us; and it is better to give to a dozen that are unworthy than to turn away empty one worthy person (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith, 194).
A wonderful example of “charity” for those in need, which also follows the guidelines for the Church’s welfare program (for details, see Chapter 27 of this blog), comes from the life of Joseph Smith:
James Leach was an Englishman who had come to Nauvoo with his convert sister and her husband, Agnes and Henry Nightingale. After looking for work without success, James and Henry determined to ask the Prophet for help. James recalled:
“We … found [the Prophet] in a little store selling a lady some goods. This was the first time I had had an opportunity to be near him and get a good look at him. I felt there was a superior spirit in him. He was different to anyone I had ever met before; and I said in my heart, he is truly a Prophet of the most high God.
“As I was not a member of the Church I wanted Henry to ask him for work, but he did not do so, so I had to. I said, ‘Mr. Smith, if you please, have you any employment you could give us both, so we can get some provisions?’ He viewed us with a cheerful countenance, and with such a feeling of kindness, said, ‘Well, boys, what can you do?’ We told him what our employment was before we left our native land.
“Said he, ‘Can you make a ditch?’ I replied we would do the best we could at it. ‘That’s right, boys,’ and picking up a tape line, he said, ‘Come along with me.’
“He took us a few rods from the store, gave me the ring to hold, and stretched all the tape from the reel and marked a line for us to work by. ‘Now, boys,’ said he, ‘can you make a ditch three feet wide and two and a half feet deep along this line?’
“We said we would do our best, and he left us. We went to work, and when it was finished I went and told him it was done. He came and looked at it and said, ‘Boys, if I had done it myself it could not have been done better. Now come with me.’
“He led the way back to his store, and told us to pick the best ham or piece of pork for ourselves. Being rather bashful, I said we would rather he would give us some. So he picked two of the largest and best pieces of meat and a sack of flour for each of us, and asked us if that would do. We told him we would be willing to do more work for it, but he said, ‘If you are satisfied, boys, I am.’
“We thanked him kindly, and went on our way home rejoicing in the kindheartedness of the Prophet of our God.”
James Leach was baptized that same year and recorded that he “often had the privilege of seeing [the Prophet’s] noble face lit up by the Spirit and power of God” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith, 425).
Similarly, President Kimball cautions us concerning many “causes” from which we may choose:
May I counsel you that when you select causes for which you give your time and talents and treasure in service to others, be careful to select good causes. There are so many of these causes to which you can give yourself fully and freely and which will produce much joy and happiness for you and for those you serve. There are other causes, from time to time, which may seem more fashionable and which may produce the applause of the world, but these are usually more selfish in nature. These latter causes tend to arise out of what the scriptures call “the commandments of men” [Matthew 15:9] rather than the commandments of God. Such causes have some virtues and some usefulness, but they are not as important as those causes which grow out of keeping the commandments of God (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Spencer W. Kimball, 82\3-4).
In the wonderful quote from President Monson in this section, he states that if we have charity we can inspire, “gratitude in another human being” (p. 176). Here is a great example of this idea:
Joseph Smith was as tenderhearted as he was sociable, as one young man remembered: “I was at Joseph’s house; he was there, and several men were sitting on the fence. Joseph came out and spoke to us all. Pretty soon a man came up and said that a poor brother who lived out some distance from town had had his house burned down the night before. Nearly all of the men said they felt sorry for the man. Joseph put his hand in his pocket, took out five dollars and said, ‘I feel sorry for this brother to the amount of five dollars; how much do you all feel sorry?’” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith, 458).
Fasting and payment of fast offerings should be stressed in this lesson as an important way to give charity to the “Sick, Afflicted, and Poor” as the title of this section indicates. Here is what President Joseph F. Smith taught:
It is evident that the acceptable fast is that which carries with it the true spirit of love for God and man; and that the aim in fasting is to secure perfect purity of heart and simplicity of intention—a fasting unto God in the fullest and deepest sense—for such a fast would be a cure for every practical and intellectual error; vanity would disappear, love for our fellows would take its place, and we would gladly assist the poor and the needy (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith, 198).
President Monson elaborated on the welfare program of the Church:
The Church’s humanitarian efforts are reaching the hungry and homeless of many American cities. Throughout the state of Utah, among the border towns of Texas, Arizona, and California, and into the communities of Appalachia, food and clothing are donated through private voluntary organizations or directly to children’s homes, food banks, and soup kitchens. Much of this food starts its long journey on production projects managed by local agent stakes. Food is processed and packaged in Church canneries and distributed through storehouses, where Church welfare recipients and volunteers labor to assist their poor and needy neighbors within and outside the Church. Many could say with feeling, “I was an hungered, and ye gave me meat” (Matt. 25:35) (Ensign, May 1991, 47)
Charity Comes from the Heart
Elder Marvin J. Ashton gave a wonderful talk on charity where he taught about charity and the heart:
Charity is, perhaps, in many ways a misunderstood word. We often equate charity with visiting the sick, taking in casseroles to those in need, or sharing our excess with those who are less fortunate. But really, true charity is much, much more.
Real charity is not something you give away; it is something that you acquire and make a part of yourself. And when the virtue of charity becomes implanted in your heart, you are never the same again. It makes the thought of being a basher repulsive.
Perhaps the greatest charity comes when we are kind to each other, when we don’t judge or categorize someone else, when we simply give each other the benefit of the doubt or remain quiet. Charity is accepting someone’s differences, weaknesses, and shortcomings; having patience with someone who has let us down; or resisting the impulse to become offended when someone doesn’t handle something the way we might have hoped. Charity is refusing to take advantage of another’s weakness and being willing to forgive someone who has hurt us. Charity is expecting the best of each other.
During an informal fireside address held with a group of adult Latter-day Saints, the leader directing the discussion invited participation by asking the question: “How can you tell if someone is converted to Jesus Christ?” For forty-five minutes those in attendance made numerous suggestions in response to this question, and the leader carefully wrote down each answer on a large blackboard. All of the comments were thoughtful and appropriate. But after a time, this great teacher erased everything he had written. Then, acknowledging that all of the comments had been worthwhile and appreciated, he taught a vital principle: “The best and most clear indicator that we are progressing spiritually and coming unto Christ is the way we treat other people” (Ensign, May 1992, 18).
Perhaps adding to the title for this section to read “Charity Comes from the Heart not from the Pocketbook” could be used to illustrate the following from President Joseph F. Smith:
God has commanded this people to remember the poor, and to give means for their support. … We do not believe in charity as a business; but rather we depend on mutual helpfulness.
The Church has always sought to place its members in a way to help themselves, rather than adopting the method of so many charitable institutions of providing for only present needs. When the help is withdrawn or used up, more must be provided from the same source, thus making paupers of the poor and teaching them the incorrect principle of relying upon others’ help, instead of depending upon their own exertions. … Our idea of charity, therefore, is to relieve present wants and then to put the poor in a way to help themselves so that in turn they may help others (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith, 197).
Developing the Virtue of Charity
The first question in this section is, “How can we become more charitable?” (p. 177). An answer implied several times but not spelled out explicitly in this chapter is “follow the spirit.” Here is a great example of this from Heber J. Grant:
I remember once while sitting in the State Bank I saw an aged brother passing, by the name of John Furster. He was one of the first men baptized in Scandinavia. As he passed the bank window, the Spirit whispered to me “Give that man twenty dollars.” I went up to the teller, handed him my I O U for $20, walked down the street and overtook Mr. Furster in front of the Z. C. M. I. store. I shook hands with him and left the twenty dollars in his hand. Some years later I learned that that morning Brother Furster had been praying for sufficient means to enable him to go to Logan and do a little work in the temple there. At the time, the Salt Lake Temple was not completed. The twenty dollars was just the amount he needed, and years later he thanked me with tears running down his cheeks, for having given him this money (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Heber J. Grant, 142).
Concerning another answer to this question, President Joseph F. Smith, speaking of the Relief Society, responded:
Where on earth should we look for good, for the spirit of truth, for sincerity, for divine love, for patience and long-suffering and forgiveness and endurance and charity and every other blessed thing, if we do not look for it in the organizations that develop the mothers and the daughters of Zion (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith, 185).
From the prophet Joseph comes the following:
In July 1839, the Prophet spoke to a group of Church leaders: “I then addressed them and gave much instruction … touching upon many subjects of importance and value to all who wish to walk humbly before the Lord, and especially teaching them to observe charity, wisdom and fellow-feeling, with love one towards another in all things, and under all circumstances” (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith, 426).
The prophet Joseph also gave a great discourse on the need to develop charity:
It is a duty which every Saint ought to render to his brethren freely—to always love them, and ever succor them. To be justified before God we must love one another: we must overcome evil; we must visit the fatherless and the widow in their affliction, and we must keep ourselves unspotted from the world; for such virtues flow from the great fountain of pure religion [see James 1:27].
[A member of the Church] is to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked, to provide for the widow, to dry up the tear of the orphan, to comfort the afflicted, whether in this church, or in any other, or in no church at all, wherever he finds them.
The rich cannot be saved without charity, giving to feed the poor when and how God requires.
Consider the state of the afflicted and try to alleviate their sufferings; let your bread feed the hungry, and your clothing cover the naked; let your liberality dry up the tear of the orphan, and cheer the disconsolate widow; let your prayers, and presence, and kindness, alleviate the pains of the distressed, and your liberality contribute to their necessities; do good unto all men, especially unto the household of faith, that you may be harmless and blameless, the sons of God without rebuke. Keep the commandments of God—all that he has given, does give, or will give, and an halo of glory will shine around your path; the poor will rise up and call you blessed; you will be honored and respected by all good men; and your path will be that of the just, which shineth brighter and brighter until the perfect day [see Proverbs 4:18] (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith, 426-7).
That charity is in general a disposition of Latter-day Saints was spoken of by President Joseph F. Smith:
We have always managed to give something to the poor, and refuse no one who asks for food. I believe this is the general sentiment and character of the Latter-day Saints. I think all the Mormon people are kindly disposed, and are generous toward the poor and unfortunate, and that there is not a Latter-day Saint under the sound of my voice or anywhere that would not divide his portion with his fellow creature in case of need (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith, 194).
That the development of charity is crucial to our religion was also emphasized by President Joseph F. Smith:
…let us exercise charity and forgiveness, love and mercy, one towards another; and go out of your way to help those that are in distress, so that the widow’s voice shall not ascend to God in complaint against the people for the lack of food, or raiment, or shelter. See to it that the orphan is not without a home in the midst of this people, nor without food or raiment, or chance to improve his mind. See to it that charity pervades all your actions and dwells in your hearts, inspiring you to look after the poor and afflicted, comforting those that are in prison, if they need comforting, and ministering unto those that are sick; for he that giveth a cup of cold water to a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith, 193).
The second suggestion in this section about “Developing the Virtue of Charity” is what to do when we feel uncharitable. President Grant shared a great example of this idea:
I heard a story of a brother (I have forgotten his name now) who attended a meeting in the early days. President Brigham Young made an appeal for donations to send to the Missouri River to help the Saints gather to Zion. He wanted everybody who could afford it, to give an ox or a cow or any other donation. One good brother jumped up and said, “I will give a cow.” Another brother got up and said, “I will give a cow.” The first brother had two cows and a large family; the other brother had a half-dozen cows and a small family. And, so the spirit [of the devil] came over the first man, [saying,] “Now, look here, you cannot get along with your large family; you cannot possibly get along with one cow. Now, that other man has got a small family and six cows; he could just as well give two or three and still get along all right.” As he started home, he walked four or five blocks, all the time getting weaker and weaker. Finally he thought, “I guess I won’t,” and then he realized the difference in the spirit that was tempting him and the one that had prompted his promise to the President of the Church that he would give a cow. Here was a spirit telling him to fail to fulfill his obligation, to fail to be honest, to fail to live up to his promise. He stopped short and turned around and said, “Mr. Devil, shut up or just as sure as I live, I will walk up to Brother Brigham’s office and give him the other cow.” He was not tempted any more (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Heber J. Grant, 141-2).
Included in the third suggestion in this section is the statement, “The Savior taught that we must love others as we love ourselves” (see Matthew 22:39) (p. 177). Several important points may be important to understanding this. First, if we don’t love ourselves, how can we then have love for our neighbor? Secondly, take note that in this commandment we are not to love our neighbors “more than” or “less than” ourselves, but plainly “as” ourselves.
President Joseph F. Smith gave a terrific discourse on this commandment to love our neighbor as our self. It is a little long, but filled with wisdom:
It is a comparatively easy thing for a man to say he believes in God and in the atoning blood of Jesus Christ, that he believes in repentance of sin, in baptism for the remission of sin, and in the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost. It is apparently easy for a man to progress thus far. But when it comes to loving one’s neighbor as oneself, it is not so easy. Here we come to the difficult hill to climb, where we find all our powers taxed to the utmost to get to the top of it; and climbing as we may have been for many years of our lives, I will venture the assertion that we woke up this morning and found ourselves climbing still at the foot of the hill, we have not even approached the summit. For few men indeed, or women, even in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, can say truthfully, “I love my neighbor as I love myself.”
We do not as a rule love our neighbor as we love ourselves. [Someone] once said, “Of all my mother’s sons I love myself the best.” So it is with God’s children upon this earth. Though our Father has many of them, and we are all of one blood, and we are members perhaps of one community, of one faith believing in one God and in one Lord Jesus Christ, yet each of us loves himself or herself the best. This feeling crops out in our daily life, in our hourly association with each other. It too often crops out even between husband and wife; often between father and children, and it is very prevalent among children. Is this Christianity? Is this the doctrine of Jesus Christ? Not according to the way I read the books and understand the principles of life and salvation. The scriptures tell us that we should prefer one another in love; that we should yield our own comfort, our own convenience, our own desires, or own happiness to the desires, the comfort and happiness of our neighbors;—to say nothing of our kindred and loved ones.
How are we to love our neighbor as we love ourselves. It is the simplest thing in the world; but too many people are selfish and narrow and not given to that breadth of feeling which reaches out and considers the benefit and welfare of their neighbors; and they narrow themselves down to their own peculiar and particular benefit and blessing and well being, and feel it to say: “O, let my neighbor take care of himself.” That is not the spirit that should characterize a Latter-day Saint (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith, 195).
Then President Smith added the following powerful concept:
I would advise that we learn to love each other, and then friendship will be true and sweet. It has been said by one, that “we may give without loving, but we cannot love without giving” (Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph F. Smith, 196).