Recently there moved over the wires of Associated Press a catalog of crime as the daily happenings around the world were relayed to the media and thence to homes on every continent.
The headlines were brief, but they highlighted murder, rape, robbery, molestation, fraud, deceit, and corruption. I made note of several: "Man slays wife and children, then turns gun on self." "Child identifies molester." "Hundreds lose all as multimillion-dollar scam is exposed." The sordid list continued. Shades of Sodom, glimpses of Gomorrah.
President Ezra Taft Benson often stated, "We live in a wicked world." The Apostle Paul warned, "Men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, ... lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God" (2 Tim. 3:2, 4).
Must we suffer the same fate as those who lived in the cities of the plain? (see Gen. 24-25, 29). Can we not learn the lesson taught in the time of Noah? "Is there no balm in Gilead?" (Jer. 8:22). Or is there a doorway that leads us from the morass of worldliness onward and upward to the high ground of righteousness? There echoes ever so gently to the honest mind that personal invitation of the Lord, "Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him" (Rev. 3:20). Does that doorway have a name? It surely does. I have chosen to call it "The Doorway of Love."
Love is the catalyst that causes change. Love is the balm that brings healing to the soul. But love doesn't grow like weeds or fall like rain. Love has its price. "God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life" (John 3:16). That Son, even the Lord Jesus Christ, gave His life that we might have eternal life, so great was His love for His Father and for us.
In that tender and touching farewell, as He counseled His beloved disciples, Jesus taught, "He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me" (John 14:21). Particularly far-reaching was the instruction, "A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another" (John 13:34).
Little children can learn the lesson of love. While profound instruction from holy writ ofttimes is not understood by them, they respond readily to a favorite verse:
"I love you, Mother," said little John;
Then, forgetting his work, his cap went on,
And he was off to the garden swing,
Leaving her the water and wood to bring.
"I love you, Mother," said rosy Nell.
"I love you better than tongue can tell."
Then she teased and pouted full half the day,
Till her mother rejoiced when she went to play.
"I love you, Mother," said little Fan.
"Today I'll help you all I can.
How glad I am that school doesn't keep!"
So she rocked the babe till it fell asleep.
Then, stepping softly, she fetched the broom,
And swept the floor and tidied the room.
Busy and happy all day was she,
Helpful and happy as a child could be.
"I love you, Mother," again they said,
Three little children going to bed.
How do you think that Mother guessed
Which of them really loved her best?
(Joy Allison, "Which Loved Best?")
Home should be a haven of love. Honor, courtesy, and respect symbolize love and characterize the righteous family. Fathers in such homes will not hear the denunciation of the Lord as recorded in the book of Jacob from the Book of Mormon: "Ye have broken the hearts of your tender wives, and lost the confidence of your children, because of your bad examples before them; and the sobbings of their hearts ascend up to God against you" (Jacob 2:35).
In Third Nephi the Master instructed us: "There shall be no disputations among you. ...
"For verily, verily I say unto you, he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, 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.
"Behold, this is not my doctrine, to stir up the hearts of men with anger, one against another; but this is my doctrine, that such things should be done away" (3 Ne. 11:28-30).
Where love is, there is no disputation. Where love is, there is no contention. Where love is, there God will be also. Each of us has the responsibility to keep His commandments. The lessons found in scripture find fulfillment in our lives. Joseph Smith taught that "happiness is the object and design of our existence; and will be the end thereof, if we pursue the path that leads to it; and this path is virtue, uprightness, faithfulness, holiness, and keeping all the commandments of God" (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith , 255-56).
In the classic musical production Camelot, there is a line with words of warning for all. After the familiar triangle began to deepen regarding King Arthur, Lancelot, and Guenevere, King Arthur said, "We must not let our passions destroy our dreams."
From that same production came another truth also spoken by Arthur as he envisioned a better world: "Violence is not strength, and compassion is not weakness."
In this world in which we live, there is a tendency for us to describe needed change, required help, and desired relief with the familiar phrase, "They ought to do something about this." We fail to define the word they. I love the message, "Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me." Tears came to my eyes when I read of a young boy who noticed a vagrant asleep on a sidewalk and who then went to his own bedroom, retrieved his pillow, and placed it beneath the head of that one whom he knew not. Perhaps there came from the past these welcome words: "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me" (Matt. 25:40).
I extol those who, with loving care and compassionate concern, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and house the homeless. He who notes the sparrow's fall will not be unmindful of such service.
The desire to lift, the willingness to help, and the graciousness to give come from a heart filled with love. Somehow the memory of one's mother prompts such loving concern.
Some years ago there passed from mortality a friend who helped more people, spoke more eulogies, and gave more freely of his time, his talents, and his possessions than most. His name was Louis. He related to me this tender account:
A gentle, soft-spoken mother had passed away. She left to her stalwart sons and lovely daughters no fortune of finance but, rather, a heritage of wealth in example, in sacrifice, in obedience. After the funeral eulogies had been spoken and the sad trek to the cemetery had been made, the grown family sorted through the meager possessions the mother had left. Louis discovered a note and also a key. The note instructed: "In the corner bedroom, in the bottom drawer of my dresser, is a tiny box. It contains the treasure of my heart. This key will open the box." Another son asked, "What could Mother have of sufficient value to be placed under lock and key?" A sister commented, "Dad has been gone all these years, and Mother has had precious little of this world's goods."
The box was removed from its resting place in the dresser drawer and opened carefully with the aid of the key. What did it contain? No money, no deed, no precious rings or valuable jewels. Louis took from the box a faded photograph of his father. On the back of the photograph was the penned message, "My dear husband and I were sealed together for time and all eternity in the House of the Lord, at Salt Lake City, December 12, 1891."
Next there emerged an individual photo of each child, with his or her name and birth date. Finally, Louis held to the light a homemade valentine. In crude, childlike penmanship, which he recognized as his own, Louis read the words he had written 60 years before: "Dear Mother, I love you."
Hearts were tender, voices soft, and eyes moist. Mother's treasure was her eternal family. Its strength rested on the bedrock foundation of "I love you."
A poet wrote, "Love is the most noble attribute of the human soul." A schoolteacher showed her love with her guiding philosophy: "No one fails in my class. I have the responsibility to help each student succeed."
A priesthood quorum leader in Salt Lake City, a retired executive, said to me: "This year I have helped 12 of my brethren who were out of work to obtain permanent employment. I have never been happier in my entire life." Short in stature, "Little Ed," as we affectionately called him, stood tall that day as his eyes glistened and his voice quavered. He showed his love by helping those in need.
A large and tough businessman, a wholesale vendor of poultry, showed his love with a single comment made when a customer attempted to pay for 24 roasting chickens. "The chickens are going to the widows, aren't they? There will be no charge." Then he added in a faltering voice, "And there are more where these came from."
A number of years ago Morgan High School played Millard High for the Utah state football championship. From his wheelchair, to which he was confined, Morgan coach Jan Smith said to his team: "This is the most important game of your lives. You lose, and you will regret it forever. You win, and you will remember it forever. Make every play as though it were all-important."
Behind the door, his wife, to whom he tenderly referred as his chief assistant, overheard her husband say: "I love you guys. I don't care about the ball game. I love you and want the game victory for you." Underdog Morgan High won the football game and the state championship.
True love is a reflection of Christ's love. In December of each year we call it the Christmas spirit. You can hear it. You can see it. You can feel it. But never alone.
One winter day as Christmas approached, I thought back to an experience from my boyhood. I was just 11. Our Primary president, Melissa, was an older and loving gray-haired lady. One day at Primary, Melissa asked me to stay behind and visit with her. There the two of us sat in the otherwise empty chapel. She placed her arm about my shoulder and began to cry. Surprised, I asked her why she was crying. She replied: "I don't seem to be able to encourage the Trail Builder boys to be reverent during the opening exercises of Primary. Would you be willing to help me, Tommy?" I promised her I would. Strangely to me, but not to Melissa, that ended any problem of reverence in that Primary. She had gone to the source of the problem--me. The solution was love.
The years flew by. Marvelous Melissa, now in her nineties, lived in a nursing facility in the northwest part of Salt Lake City. Just before Christmas I determined to visit my beloved Primary president. Over the car radio, I heard the song "Hark! the Herald Angels Sing." I reflected on the visit made by wise men those long years ago. They brought gifts of gold, of frankincense, and of myrrh. I brought only the gift of love and a desire to say "Thank you."
I found Melissa in the lunchroom. She stared at her plate of food, teasing it with the fork she held in her aged hand. Not a bite did she eat. As I spoke to her, my words were met with a benign but blank stare. I took the fork in hand and began to feed Melissa, talking all the time I did so about her service to boys and girls as a Primary worker. There wasn't so much as a glimmer of recognition, far less a spoken word. Two other residents of the nursing home gazed at me with puzzled expressions. At last they spoke, saying: "She doesn't know anyone, even her own family. She hasn't said a word in all the years she's been here."
Lunch ended. My one-sided conversation wound down. I stood to leave. I held her frail hand in mine, gazed into her wrinkled but beautiful countenance, and said: "God bless you, Melissa. Merry Christmas." Without warning, she spoke the words: "I know you. You're Tommy Monson, my Primary boy. How I love you." She pressed my hand to her lips and bestowed on it the kiss of love. Tears coursed down her cheeks and bathed our clasped hands. Those hands, that day, were hallowed by heaven and graced by God. The herald angels did sing. Outside the sky was blue azure blue. The air was cool crispy cool. The snow was white crystal white. The words of the Master seemed to have a personal meaning never before fully felt: "Woman, behold thy son!" And to his disciple, "Behold thy mother!" (John 19:26-27).
How silently, how silently
The wondrous gift is giv'n!
So God imparts to human hearts
The blessing of his heav'n.
No ear may hear his coming;
But in this world of sin,
Where meek souls will receive him, still
The dear Christ enters in.
("O Little Town of Bethlehem," Hymns, no. 208)
The wondrous gift was given, the heavenly blessing was received, the dear Christ had entered in all through the doorway of love.