Joseph Fielding Smith, Ch. 20: “Love and Concern for All Our Father’s Children.”

We cannot truly love God if we do not love our fellow travelers on this mortal journey. Likewise, we cannot fully love our fellowmen if we do not love God, the Father of us all. The Apostle John tells us, “This commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also.” We are all spirit children of our Heavenly Father and, as such, are brothers and sisters. As we keep this truth in mind, loving all of God’s children will become easier.

Actually, love is the very essence of the gospel, and Jesus Christ is our Exemplar.[1]

"Actually, love is the very essence of the gospel, and Jesus Christ is our Exemplar."

“Actually, love is the very essence of the gospel, and Jesus Christ is our Exemplar.”

These words, spoken by President Thomas S. Monson this spring are reflective of the theme of this lesson built from quotes from another president of the Church. In chapter 20 of Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph Fielding Smith, President Smith teaches us to love and serve all of God’s children. In the “From the life of Joseph Fielding Smith” section, three examples of loving service are given by Joseph himself. Section 1 focuses on the idea that we are all children of God, and should love each other because we’re spiritual siblings. Section 2 focuses on working together and caring for each other, with a special focus on Church contexts. Section 3 encourages us to serve and help each other. Section 4 has a charming story about a horse President Smith took care of as a child with the message that we ought not to judge, but take the good in everyone and make room for a few faults. Section 5 focuses on the doctrinal necessity to love God and our fellow humans.

Extra-Manual Resources and Quotes

Perhaps the most obvious choice for a supplementary talk to this lesson is the general conference address by President Thomas S. Monson cited above, and available in full here. Beyond that, however, there are a plethora of quotes and comments available on the subject of love, service, and charity. Another great talk from a few years ago on friendship and love is Marlin K. Jensen, “Friendship: A Gospel Principle,” General Conference, April 1999. Another useful resource related to the story of President Smith’s horse is a clip taken from a short documentary that relates the story of going out with his mother in the middle of the night. It could be used to introduce the section and break up the lesson just a little, and is available here.

President Thomas S. Monson

President Thomas S. Monson

I also have several quotes from sisters, most of which, though directed to the Relief Society, are applicable to men. For example, Lucy Mack Smith taught the Relief Society in 1842 that: “We must cherish one another, watch over one another, comfort one another and gain instruction that we may all sit down in heaven together.”[2] Sister Clarissa Smith Williams, Relief Society President, taught in 1922 that: “The greatest thing in the world is love. And if we keep that always in our hearts, and give it as a message to those about us, we will be blessed and will be instruments in blessing those with whom we associate.”[3] Mary Ellen Smoot, Relief Society President, taught in 2000 that: “When we unitedly serve each other and all of our Father’s children, we can be instruments in the hands of God, not only to relieve physical suffering but, more importantly, to succor those who are in need spiritually.”[4]

Yet another wonderful address on the subject came in 2006 from President Gordon B. Hinckley: Gordon B. Hinckley, “The Need for Greater Kindness,” General Conference, April 2006. A few excerpts are as follows:

I have wondered why there is so much hatred in the world. We are involved in terrible wars with lives lost and many crippling wounds. Coming closer to home, there is so much of jealousy, pride, arrogance, and carping criticism; fathers who rise in anger over small, inconsequential things and make wives weep and children fear.

Racial strife still lifts its ugly head. I am advised that even right here among us there is some of this. I cannot understand how it can be….

Throughout my service as a member of the First Presidency, I have recognized and spoken a number of times on the diversity we see in our society. It is all about us, and we must make an effort to accommodate that diversity.

Let us all recognize that each of us is a son or daughter of our Father in Heaven, who loves all of His children….

Why can’t all of us reach out in friendship to everyone about us? Why is there so much bitterness and animosity? It is not a part of the gospel of Jesus Christ.”[5]

President Gordon B. Hinckley

President Gordon B. Hinckley

When it comes to serving and caring for others, a great sermon given in general conference a few years ago by President Henry B. Eyring entitled “Opportunities to Do Good,” comes to mind. If I could, I would place the entire talk here as the essential quotes from it, but I will simply encourage the reader to click the hyperlink to read or view the talk on their own. From the most recent general conference, we have Elder Jeffrey R. Holland’s talk, “Are We Not All Beggars?” There is also, of course the classic quote from Gordon B. Hinckley: “Generally speaking, the most miserable people I know are those who are obsessed with themselves; the happiest people I know are those who loose themselves in the service of others…. By and large, I have come to see that if we complain about life, it is because we are thinking only of ourselves.”[6]

The Ready Resources for Relief Society book I have lists several websites that are handy for discovering service opportunities in the area.[7] A few sites that are currently still existent are as follows:

www.volunteermatch.org

www.idealist.org

www.serve.gov

www.nationalservice.gov

In addition the following Church-sponsored sites have some service resources to look into:

www.ldsphilanthropies.org

www.ldscharities.org

https://vineyard.lds.org/

Come unto Christ Moment

"And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me." Image courtesy LDS.org.

“And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”
Image courtesy LDS.org.

Towards the end of his earthly ministry, Jesus Christ taught the following to his disciples:

When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.

Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?

And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not.

Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee?

Then shall he answer them, saying, verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal. (Matthew 25: 31-46.)

The Lord makes it clear that the dividing line between those beings who are saved and those who are not is the service provided to fellow humans in this life’s journey, which in turn reflects on relationships with Himself. King Benjamin likewise taught that: “when ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God,” (Mosiah 2:17) and stated, in effect, there is no way we can directly repay God Himself for all that He blesses us with:

I say unto you, my brethren, that if you should render all the thanks and praise which your whole soul has power to possess, to that God who has created you, and has kept and preserved you, and has caused that ye should rejoice, and has granted that ye should live in peace one with another—I say unto you that if ye should serve him who has created you from the beginning, and is preserving you from day to day, by lending you breath, that ye may live and move and do according to your own will, and even supporting you from one moment to another—I say, if ye should serve him with all your whole souls yet ye would be unprofitable servants. (Mosiah 2:20-21.)

Thus, we serve and repay God in some degree by serving our fellow humans. To King Benjamin, as it was to Christ, to neglect other human beings in need was to neglect God. To serve and impart substance to the poor was to serve God and a necessary part of the process of “retaining a remission of sins from day to day.” (Mosiah 4:26.) Elder B.H. Roberts once expressed this idea succinctly: “About the only way in which men can effectively express their love for God is through service to the children of God, to men.”[8]

"When ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God.”

“When ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God.”

God places a premium upon the human soul, revealing to Joseph Smith that “the worth of souls is great in the sight of God; for, behold, the Lord your Redeemer suffered death in the flesh; wherefore he suffered the pain of all men, that all men might repent and come unto him. And he hath risen again from the dead, that he might bring all men unto him, on conditions of repentance.” (D&C 18:10-11). Elsewhere, it was revealed by God that, “This is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.” (Moses 1:39.) This being God’s purpose, He is pleased when we work together to help rather than hinder each other in the process of gaining eternal life. That is why James wrote that: “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction and to keep himself unspotted from the world.” (James 1:27.) At its heart, religion is for shaping us into beings that partake of the divine nature and giving us opportunities to develop right relationships with God and with our fellow humans.  The Prophet Joseph Smith, in addressing social righteousness, once stated that, “Righteousness is not that which men esteem holiness. That which the world call righteousness I have not any regard for. To be righteous is to be just and merciful. If a man fails in kindness justice and mercy he will be damed.”[9] Once more, righteousness is equated with how we treat each other.

Christ is not only pleased when we serve each other, but he showed the example we need to follow in how we treat each other, for, as President Monson observed: “Love is the very essence of the gospel, and Jesus Christ is our Exemplar. His life was a legacy of love. The sick He healed; the downtrodden He lifted; the sinner He saved. At the end the angry mob took His life. And yet there rings from Golgotha’s hill the words: ‘Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do’—a crowning expression in mortality of compassion and love.”[10]

A Deeper Look

I’ve discussed this idea in my other blog,[11] but in all the recorded sermons and writings of Joseph Smith, Jr. available to us today, only three principles were ever given the lofty title of being a “grand, fundamental principle of Mormonism” or even simply the “fundamental principles.” If taken as the pillars of Mormonism, these principles could be considered the definitive essence of Mormonism, comparable to the “Five Pillars” of Islam or the “Four Noble Truths” and “Eightfold Path” of Buddhism. Yet, while most Mormons would be familiar with, for example, the 12 Articles of Faith or the threefold purpose of the Church, they probably could not list the grand fundamental principles of Mormonism enumerated by Joseph Smith in the latter end of his life.

Joseph Smith, Jr. laid down a few fundamental principles of Mormonism in his final years.

Joseph Smith, Jr. laid down a few fundamental principles of Mormonism in his final years.

What, then, are these pillars of Mormonism? In 1838, Joseph wrote that, “The fundamental principles of our religion are the testimony of the Apostles and Prophets, concerning Jesus Christ, that He died, was buried, and rose again the third day, and ascended into heaven; and all other things which pertain to our religion are only appendages to it.”[12] Then, in the summer of 1843, Joseph declared that, “the grand fundamental principles of Mormonism is to recieve thruth let it come from where it may,”[13] and that “friendship is the grand fundamental principle of Mormonism.”[14] While each of these three principles deserves a good look, the principle of friendship is the most pertinent to this chapter in the Joseph Fielding Smith manual.

In August of 1842, the Prophet wrote that, “How good and glorious it has seemed unto me, to find pure and holy friends, who are faithful, just, and true, and whose hearts fail not.”[15] On another occasion, he wrote that, “There are many souls whom I have loved stronger than death. To them I have proved faithful—to them I am determined to prove faithful, until God calls me to resign up my breath.”[16] Amidst all the trials and betrayals he had experienced, and perhaps because of those things, Joseph put great value on true friendship. He also felt that friendship could create a heaven wherever it was held: “Animation, virtue, love, contentment, philanthropy, benevolence, compassion, humanity and friendship push life into bliss.”[17] “Let me be resurrected with the saints whether to heaven or hell or any other good place—[where they are is] good society. what do we care if the society is good?”[18]

Beyond the friendships that played important roles in his life, friendship with its consequent brotherhood and sisterhood played an important role in the Prophet’s religious thought. In the Book of Mormon, the foundational document of Mormonism, the Nephite people are visited by the resurrected Christ, who (among other things) declared that, “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.” (3 Nephi 11:29.) Contention—the opposite of friendship and unity—was of the devil. Building on the teachings of a series of visits from the Christ, the people of the Book of Mormon built a utopian society where “there were no contention in the land, because of the love of God which did dwell in the hearts of the people…. And surely there could not be a happier people among all the people who had been created by the hand of God.” (4 Nephi 1:15-16.) Tribal divisions that had formerly existed among the people faded away during this time, being replaced by unity in Christianity: “There were no… Lamanites, nor any manner of ites’ but they were in one, the Children of Christ, and heirs to the kingdom of God.” (4 Nephi 1:17.) After hundreds of years, this utopian society collapsed, but this was not the last time such a society would appear in Joseph Smith’s restoration scriptures. In his inspired translation of Genesis, Joseph spoke of the people of Enoch, who were called “Zion, because they were of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness; and there was no poor among them” (Moses 7:18). These people built a city that was called “City of Holiness, even Zion” which was so righteous, that God took it up into heaven. (Moses 7:19-21.)

City of Enoch, or Zion

City of Enoch, or Zion

Together, this dynamic duo of societies demonstrated the ideal that Joseph tried to have the Saints in his day live as they sought to build their own Zion on earth—a people, united in love and friendship. Among the commands given in the voice of the Lord to prepare the Saints to go to the land that Joseph designated as Zion are imperatives such as, “let every man esteem his brother as himself, and practice virtue and holiness before me…. I say unto you, be one; and if ye are not one ye are not mine.” (D&C 38:24, 27.) When Zion failed and the Saints were driven out of the land, it was declared to be at least partly because, “there were jarrings, and contentions, and envyings, and strifes, and lustful and covetous desires among them; therefore by these things they polluted their inheritances.” (D&C 101:6.) Although the Saints had lost their chance to build the city called Zion for the time being, they still strove to build stakes or outposts of Zion wherever they ended up—a process that, though spiritualized in many way, still continues today.[19]

In addition to the idea of building a physical kingdom of believers united in bonds of love, friendship manifests itself in other core aspects of Mormonism. Salvation, in Joseph Smith’s view, was obtained through covenants and related ordinances, and these covenants of salvation were not only to be made between humans and God, but also between human beings. Most explicit of all covenants of friendship revealed by Joseph Smith, perhaps, was the covenant members of the School of the Prophets made, in which participants greeted each other and declared that, “I receive you to fellowship, in a determination that is fixed, immovable, and unchangeable, to be your friend and brother through the grace of God in the bonds of love, to walk in all commandments of God blameless, in thanksgiving, forever and ever.” (D&C 88:133.) Baptism, for another example, not only involved taking the name of Christ upon an individual but also the covenant to “bear one another’s burdens… mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort hose that stand in need of comfort.” (Mosiah 18:8-9.) In addition, the crowning ordinance to be performed for most Mormons in mortality was and is the marriage ordinance performed in the temple, which not only involves covenants with God, but binds a man and wife as well any children they have or may have together eternally by priesthood authority as well as with covenants to each other.

Fellowship among the Saints was also prerequisite to gain power and reconciliation with God. Joseph told the Relief Society that, “it grieves me that there is no fuller fellowship—if one member suffer all feel it[.] by union of feeling we obtain pow’r with God”[20]  and that, “If you would have God have mercy on you, have mercy on one another.”[21] Likewise, in the version of the Sermon on the Mount preached by the risen Christ in the Book of Mormon, the Christ states that, “Therefore, if ye shall come unto me, or shall desire to come unto me, and rememberest that thy brother hath aught against thee—go thy way unto thy brother, and first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come unto me with full purpose of heart, and I will receive you.” (3 Nephi 12:23-24.) To reconcile with Christ, the Saints must reconcile with each other.

"By union of feeling we obtain pow'r with God.”

“By union of feeling we obtain pow’r with God.”

Part of Joseph Smith’s vision for this grand principle of Mormonism, at least by the end of his life in 1844, was to bridge ecclesiastical differences and build friendships with people who believed than the Mormons. In 1842, the Prophet wrote that:

The Mussulman condemns the heathen, the Jew, and the Christian, and the whole world of mankind that reject his Koran, as infidels, and consigns the whole of them to perdition. The Jew believes that the whole world that rejects his faith and are not circumcised, are Gentile dogs, and will be damned. The heathen is equally as tenacious about his principles, and the Christian consigns all to perdition who cannot bow to his creed, and submit to his ipse dixit [dogma].

But while one portion of the human race is judging and condemning the other without mercy, the Great Parent of the universe looks upon the whole of the human family with a fatherly care and paternal regard; He views them as His offspring, and without any of those contracted feelings that influence the children of men, causes “His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.”[22]

Like the God Joseph portrayed here, Joseph taught that Mormons were to reach out, care for, and befriend men and women of other faiths. He declared that, “If it has been demonstrated that I have been willing to die for a Mormon I am bold to declare before heaven that I am just as ready to die for a presbyterian. a baptist or any other denomination.”[23] Further, in July of 1843—a time when Mormonism was becoming more distant from mainstream Christianity and its teachings—Joseph offered this interesting statement in a sermon that was noted as “a conciliatory address to Strangers & all”:

“Wherein do you differ from other in your religious views?” In reality & essence we do not differ so far in our religious views but that we could all drink into one principle of love One the grand fundamental principles of Mormonism is to recieve thruth let it come from where it may.—we belive in the great Eloheim. who sits enthroned in yonder heavens.—so do the presbyterians. If as a skillful mechanic In taking a welding heat I use a borax & allum &c. an succeed in welding you all together shall I not have attained a good object.

if I esteem mankind to be in error shall I bear them down? No! I will will lift them up. & in his own way if I cannot persuade him my way is better! & I will ask no man to believe as I do. Do you believe in Jesus Chrst &c? So do I. Christians should cultivate the friendship with others & will do it.[24]

“But how truly magnanimous this declaration is,” observes writer Don Bradley, “cannot be appreciated without knowing the origin within scripture of the phrase ‘drink into one.’” Bradley continues:

Outside of the 9 July 1843 sermon, the phrase appears in LDS literature only in 1 Corinthians 12:13, where Paul uses the expression to explain the mystical or metaphorical “body of Christ”:

For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. (1 Corinthians 12:12–13)

Invoking this passage, Joseph Smith conveyed the radical idea that the Latter-day Saints and those of other traditions jointly comprise the body of Christ….

Joseph envisioned a Christendom united by faith in God and Jesus Christ and by mutual love, a contemplated unity which might best be understood on the model offered by Freemasonry. Freemasons have long sought cross-denominational unity, without ecclesiastical integration, based on belief in God, brotherhood, and a commitment to truth and to relieving the needs of the poor.

While advocating Christian unity, however, Joseph clearly did not envision the institutional unification of Christendom, the merging of all church structures into one. He continued to maintain Mormonism’s exclusive claims to authority to perform ordinances or sacraments. Sandwiched between his ecumenical 9 July and 23 July sermons, for instance, Joseph dictated and taught a revelatory text declaring that the sacrament of marriage was eternally binding only if performed by the priesthood of Elijah and that Joseph himself was the one man on earth holding the keys of this priesthood.[25]

"If as a skillful mechanic In taking a welding heat I use a borax & allum &c. an succeed in welding you all together shall I not have attained a good object?"

“Friendship [is] like Bro Turley [in his] Blacksmith Shop [welding iron to iron; it unites the human family with its happy influence].”

In a sermon preached later in the month, Joseph continued the thought of welding all religions together in bonds of friendship by teaching that:

Friendship is the grand fundamental principle of Mormonism, [it is designed] to revolution[ize and] civilize the world.—pour forth love. Friendship [is] like Bro Turley [in his] Blacksmith Shop [welding iron to iron; it unites the human family with its happy influence]…. [If the] Presbyterians [have] any truth. embrace that. [Same for the] Baptist. Methodist &c. get all the good in the world. [and you will] come out a pure Mormon.[26]

Friendship is on the of grand fundamental principles of Mormonism and ought to be a defining force in all interactions that Mormons have with those inside their families and faith communities as well as with those of other faiths. If applied more fully, as Joseph Smith taught it should be, it would not only revolutionize and civilize the world, but would turn Mormonism into a veritable heaven on earth.

[1] Thomas S. Monson, “Love—the Essence of the Gospel,” CR, April 2014.

[2] Susan Christiansen, et. al (editors), Words of Wisdom: A Collection of Quotes for LDS Women, (Lulu, 5.

[3] Words of Wisdom, 5.

[4] Words of Wisdom, 63.

[5] Gordon B. Hinckley, “The Need for Greater Kindness,” General Conference, April 2006

[6] Gordon B. Hinckley, Teachings of Gordon B. Hinckley (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Company, 1997), 589.

[7] Boice, Trina (2013-11-13). The Ready Resource for Relief Society Teaching: Joseph Fielding Smith (Kindle Locations 2330-2333). Cedar Fort, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

[8] B.H. Roberts, CR, April 1914, 101.

[9] Cook, Lyndon W. (2009-09-03). The Words of Joseph Smith (Kindle Locations 4052-4053). Deseret Book Company. Kindle Edition.

[10] Thomas S. Monson, “Love—the Essence of the Gospel,” CR, April 2014.

[11] The full essay that this comes from is available here.

[12] Joseph Smith, Jr., Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 2007), 49.

[13] Cook, Lyndon W. (2009-09-03). The Words of Joseph Smith (Kindle Locations 4598-4604). Deseret Book Company. Kindle Edition

[14] Cook, Lyndon W. (2009-09-03). The Words of Joseph Smith (Kindle Locations 4714-4719). Deseret Book Company. Kindle Edition

[15] Joseph Smith, Jr., Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph Smith (Salt Lake City: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints), 461.

[16] Smith, Teachings of the Presidents, 463

[17] Smith, Teachings of the Presidents, 342

[18] Cook, Lyndon W. (2009-09-03). The Words of Joseph Smith (Kindle Locations 4714-4719). Deseret Book Company. Kindle Edition

[19] For further reading on the idea of Zion in Mormonism, I have a four-part series of blog posts starting here.

[20] Cook, Lyndon W. (2009-09-03). The Words of Joseph Smith (Kindle Locations 2607-2608). Deseret Book Company. Kindle Edition

[21] Cook, Lyndon W. (2009-09-03). The Words of Joseph Smith (Kindle Location 2621). Deseret Book Company. Kindle Edition

[22] Times and Seasons, 15 April 1842, 758

[23] Cook, Lyndon W. (2009-09-03). The Words of Joseph Smith (Kindle Locations 4592-4596). Deseret Book Company. Kindle Edition

[24] Cook, Lyndon W. (2009-09-03). The Words of Joseph Smith (Kindle Locations 4598-4604). Deseret Book Company. Kindle Edition

[25] Bradley, “Grand Fundamental Principles,” 37

[26] Cook, Lyndon W. (2009-09-03). The Words of Joseph Smith (Kindle Locations 4714-4719). Deseret Book Company. Kindle Edition. The brackets are added from clarity, and the longer sections added are taken from the History of the Church rendition of the sermon.

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