Throwback Thursday: Elder Bednar on How to Increase Love

david a bednar - cropped

This week, the throwback isn’t all that much of a “throw”, as it comes from a talk David A. Bednar gave in April of this year. We Believe in Being Chaste was the title of his message and he spends quite a bit of time explaining why Latter-day Saints do believe in being chaste. There are many lines worth quoting (and in fact the whole thing is worth reading), but today I’ll just share this little statement:

Love increases through righteous restraint and decreases through impulsive indulgence.

And there you have it. Short and sweet. If Elder Bednar was going for a concise and memorable statement (say 140 characters or so), I say he deserves high marks. The character count on this particular line comes in at a healthy 85 – plenty of breathing room to add all kinds of relevant hashtags. It’s brief, yet powerful. Catchy, but not cliché. Perfect for our Twitterized world.

But it’s even more perfect for how we should govern our lives. I’d venture a guess that we all have learned from experience that our ability to feel real, genuine love is enhanced when we deliberately discipline our lives. Likewise, we diminish our ability when we abandon that discipline. An impulsive indulgence could be as subtle as a mouse click, which leads to a pornographic website or image. Or lingering on an indecent TV show while channel surfing. But righteous restraint looks and acts like Joseph of old, who fled from a tempting situation and “got him out” (Gen. 39:12).

So here’s to righteous restraint and to rejuvenating repentance. Let’s always remember there’s a way back and a way up, if for whatever reason, we’ve stumbled in our efforts to righteously restrain all our passions.

Photo credit: lds.org

Oh, that tears would wash it out!

One of the less pleasant experiences in life is to realize you’ve been unkind, cruel, or harsh toward another person. Mistakes are, after all, so much easier to identify in others rather than in ourselves. Sometimes, we’re too quick to point out those mistakes either to the person directly, or to our friends, allies, and family behind the person’s back.

In more honest moments with ourselves, I think we’d find our own performance falling short of the high standard we often set for others. That is why I find this poem, starting with the second verse, so powerful:

2. Jesus said, “Be meek and lowly,”
For ’tis high to be a judge;
If I would be pure and holy,
I must love without a grudge.
It requires a constant labor
All his precepts to obey.
If I truly love my neighbor,
I am in the narrow way.

3. Once I said unto another,
“In thine eye there is a mote;
If thou art a friend, a brother,
Hold, and let me pull it out.”
But I could not see it fairly,
For my sight was very dim.
When I came to search more clearly,
In mine eye there was a beam.

4. If I love my brother dearer,
And his mote I would erase,
Then the light should shine the clearer,
For the eye’s a tender place.
Others I have oft reproved
For an object like a mote;
Now I wish this beam removed;
Oh, that tears would wash it out!

5. Charity and love are healing;
These will give the clearest sight;
When I saw my brother’s failing,
I was not exactly right.
Now I’ll take no further trouble;
Jesus’ love is all my theme;
Little motes are but a bubble
When I think upon the beam.¹

This poem was put to music written by Charles Tillman and is found in the current version of the LDS Hymnbook as #273 Truth Reflects Upon our Senses (some may recognize the tune, as it’s shared with the more familiar Life’s Railway to Heaven, popularized at different times by Johnny Cash and Brad Paisley). I have yet to find a great recording of the hymn itself – so my apologies if you decide to click on this link, which will take you to a very dry, unfeeling version of the song, but at least you get to hear the tune and chord structure written by Tillman, which I think is memorable in its own right.

It may not be a great congregational hymn (it’s certainly not a popular one, at least in the wards I’ve attended), but it contains the striving and yearning of the soul I think all of us have felt as we learn to temper our tongues and our feelings, and learn to fill our hearts with love. For me, this hymn is a great reminder of the second great commandment, which calls us to love our neighbors as ourselves.

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¹Written by Eliza R. Snow. The poem is based on the familiar teaching of Jesus found in Matthew 7:1-5. For the lyrics to Life’s Railway to Heaven, supposedly written by Snow as well, visit here.

Reflections on a Child’s 1st Birthday

Her due date coincided with a midterm exam in my most difficult class of the semester. The professor had been somewhat reluctant to let me possibly take the exam at a different time in the event our daughter decided to come on that day, September 20.  “Do you really need to be there for that?” she had asked incredulously. I paused for a moment to formulate a reasonable response. “Well probably,” I think I said. “So far I’ve really liked being married and I’d kind of like to stay married.”

Despite my anxiety over Professor Maleficent, and despite my wife’s growing discomfort, we were both looking forward to our little girl’s arrival. Mixed in with the excitement was a little nervousness about adding a second child when our first was just a month shy of his two-year birthday – especially as I had just begun the most challenging year of my graduate program. To complicate matters, my church service responsibilities required getting up early to teach a group of 20 teenagers about the New Testament, which took place Monday through Friday, each week and each month, throughout the school year.  

Thankfully, our baby came a week after the due date, thus averting a showdown with Professor Loki, although whether my wife was as thankful for the delay as I was is a different story. The rest of the year was admittedly challenging. But now that the pace of life has slowed a bit and there are a fewer responsibilities on our plate, we’ve increasingly gotten into the rhythm being a family of four. 

But with the perspective that comes with time, I reflected back on the last year the other night as I put our little girl to bed. After she fell asleep in my arms, I sat there making some assessments about the different aspects of my life since she was born:

  • In the last year, has the amount of love and affection in my heart increased, or decreased? Increased, I realized, definitely increased.
  • In the last year, have I slept more or less than the year before? Easy. Much less.
  • In the last year, has my capacity to efficiently handle different priorities and responsibilities increased or decreased? I think probably increased – still working on it, of course and imagine I always will be.
  • In the last year, have I exercised more or less than the year before? Less, unfortunately. Probably should be the one thing I don’t let slip during busy or challenging times.
  • In the last year, has my family grown closer together or farther apart? Closer. In fact, I thought of the joy I feel as I watch our two kids play and interact with one another. And their relationship has grown over time. Soon after we brought our daughter home from the hospital, I was slightly worried about our son’s reaction to this new baby in our family and how he would handle the change. But one night when the house was quiet and the kids were in bed I had a deep sense that despite his young age, he has a great, latent love for his sister and that his love and affection for her is older than either of them. It was a flash of truth that gave me, as their father, the perspective necessary to help encourage and rekindle that affection. Now we’re seeing that love and relationship expand as they both grow up.

Overall, despite the lack of sleep and the slowdown in my exercise routine, and even despite the overall craziness during the last year, I’m very thankful for this little girl in our lives. She has won me over each day since she was born. The father-daughter relationship, I have found, is unique from the father-son relationship. Both are wonderful in their own way and for their own reasons and I love them both. Nothing quite compares with being a parent.

All of this has made me realize that the decision to have kids has been among the best decisions I’ve made in my life – only preceded, perhaps, by the decision to be physically present at their births, which as it turns out, helped me stay happily married…despite the best efforts of Professor Palpatine.