Latter-day Saint Life

Elaine Dalton: The One Simple Gift That Could Transform the World


We often think of charity as an action. But I think of charity as a state of the heart. It is powerful; it is life changing; it includes the ability to see with new eyes and feel with a new heart. It includes the gift of seeing others as God sees them. The true charity of which I speak makes it possible, and even easy, to look beyond behaviors, outward dress, and appearance to the nobility within. It is a “high definition” look into an immortal soul. The gift of charity enables the recipient to discern and to know the heart.

Charity is a spiritual gift that is bestowed from the Father to all who are true followers of His Son, Jesus Christ. The gift of charity comes because of the Savior’s infinite Atonement. It is more than outward actions—more than casseroles and canned goods donations—it is a condition of the heart. It is a gift that is earned, sought after, and does not come easily because it is in direct opposition to the natural man. It is bestowed, and it doesn’t come without patience, practice, repentance, and purity—but it comes. President Ezra Taft Benson described the process this way: “The Lord works from the inside out. The world works from the outside in. The world would take people out of the slums. Christ takes the slums out of people, and then they take themselves out of the slums. The world would mold men by changing their environment. Christ changes men, who then change their environment. The world would shape human behavior, but Christ can change human nature” (“Born of God,” Ensign, Nov. 1985, 6). Charity can not only transform us; it can transform the world. Imagine what it would be like to live in a society that was constantly striving to possess this heavenly gift. It would be a Zion society! And Zion is the pure in heart—pure hearts, pure people, pure love!

I have been tutored about charity from women all over the world. I have been its recipient. In every country, in every circumstance in which I traveled in my previous calling as the Young Women general president, the women I met exhibited this gift. And as Elder Quentin L. Cook said in the April 2011 general conference, “You are extraordinary!” (“LDS Women Are Incredible!” Ensign, May 2011, 18–21). It is a daunting task to go to places where you don’t know a soul and to walk into a chapel filled with leaders you have never met and then in a second feel encircled and enveloped by the love in the room—the love of the Savior for them, the love of the Savior in the eyes of those present, the love of the gospel, and the love  of others. It is pure, undiluted, unadulterated love—it is charity. You wear the mantle of charity regally!

Shortly after the heartbreaking stillbirth of our daughter’s first child at eight and a half months, I had to leave her and return home to Salt Lake City. I was worried about leaving her to face the ensuing gray Chicago winter days with this grief in her heart. Shortly after I returned home, Emi received a package on her doorstep. She opened it to find a statue of a woman, a pioneer woman, standing straight and erect, perhaps looking beyond present difficulties herself. The note accompanying the gift read simply, “You are strong and courageous.” This inspired act of pure love from a woman who was prompted by the Spirit has served as a beacon and a light in the days and even years that have followed for my daughter and also for me. That magnificent woman’s charity is a beacon in my life to this day. And often on difficult days I find myself saying, “You are strong and courageous.”

You are not ordinary. You are the Lord’s elect daughters. You can do hard things. You have the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost. You are true followers of Christ. You know what it means to make and keep sacred covenants, and because of that you are striving to “always remember him” in your thoughts and your actions (Moroni 4:3). By your small and simple acts of charity, you are changing the world. Don’t get discouraged, and don’t give up. Your light and your love make all the difference. Will each of you commit along with me to reach out and light up the life of another daily? It doesn’t take much, and it doesn’t have to be grand—just a smile, a loving touch, an arm around another, a compliment. Will you do that with me?

The world teaches us that life is all about winning. The Savior teaches us that winners help others succeed. The world teaches that we have no responsibility for another’s actions, decisions, or failures. The Savior teaches us that we can change lives and influence choices as we reach out, forget ourselves, and extend a hand of charity. President Thomas S. Monson reminded each of us of this eternal truth when he said: “In a hundred small ways, all of you wear the mantle of charity. Life is perfect for none of us. Rather than being judgmental and critical of each other, may we have the pure love of Christ for our fellow travelers in this journey through life. May we recognize that each one is doing her best to deal with the challenges which come her way, and may we strive to do our best to help out” (“Charity Never Faileth,” Ensign, Nov. 2010, 125).

Life teaches us that “charity never faileth” (Moroni 7:46). In fact, we can be assured that “it endureth forever; and whoso The world teaches us that life is all about winning. The Savior teaches us that winners help others succeed.

Image from Getty Images

For more inspiring insights from Elaine S. Dalton, read No Ordinary Women.


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