The Two Great Commandments as One

This post is part of the General Conference Odyssey. This is the 245th week, and we’re covering the Saturday afternoon session of the October 1989 General Conference

A couple of the talks from this session had a very clear, unified theme: Love. In fact, that was the title of Elder W. Eugene Hansen’s talk, just: Love. He started off by citing Elder Tamage, who explained that the first two great commandments–to love God and to love your neighbor– “are so closely related as to be virtually one: … ‘Thou shalt love.’ He who abideth one of the two will abide both; for without love for our fellows, it is impossible to please God.”

Elder Hansen specified that, by love, he meant not some kind of abstract fuzzy feeling towards groups of people or even all people as an undifferentiated mass, but “our individual relationships with one another.”

 He went on to recommend ordinary, everyday kindness as the expression of that love:

[B]e considerate. Be sensitive to the thoughts and feelings of others, always careful not to demean or belittle by either word or act. Be encouraging, uplifting, careful not to break down a person’s confidence. It was my experience even in the legal profession—combative as it can sometimes be—that there was still much room to show consideration and respect.

There was also one story in the talk that I really enjoyed, which was about a widow who had a lot of needy small children to take care of. In the story, someone asked her which one of her numerous kids she loved best. Kind of a stupid question, in a way, but it nicely sets up a beautiful answer:

I loved most the one who was sick until she was better.
I loved most the one who was away until he returned.
I loved most the one who was failing until he succeeded.
I loved most the one who was sad until she was happy.

Elder Holland talked about love, too. Specifically, about the love of Jesus Christ for His disciples on the brink of his final sacrifice: “He Loved Them unto the End.” The talk contains a quote that I’m pretty sure I’ve seen more than once over the years:

Life has its share of some fear and some failure. Sometimes things fall short, don’t quite measure up. Sometimes in both personal and public life, we are seemingly left without strength to go on. Sometimes people fail us, or economies and circumstance fail us, and life with its hardship and heartache can leave us feeling very alone.

But when such difficult moments come to us, I testify that there is one thing which will never, ever fail us. One thing alone will stand the test of all time, of all tribulation, all trouble, and all transgression. One thing only never faileth—and that is the pure love of Christ.

Elder Holland’s talk provides a perfect segue from the concept of love to that of hardship, which lets me sneak in a few more quotes from a third talk. In Overcoming Adversity, Elder Carlos Amado said:

[T]here are tragedies that are so difficult we cannot understand them. We do not have an answer in this life for every adversity. When trials come, it is time to turn our souls to God, who is the author of life and the only source of comfort.

Those who suffer great adversity and sorrow and go on to serve their fellowmen develop a great capacity to understand others. Like the prophets, they have acquired a higher understanding of the mind and will of Christ.

For some, the true trial of our faith is to remain faithful, without murmuring against the Lord, when we lose earthly position, family members, or even when we are required to give our very lives.

Although the word “love” doesn’t appear in any of these three quotes, the concept is there in all of them. In the first, it is God’s love for us that makes turning our souls to him in times of trial meaningful and comforting. In the second, sacrifice and pain expand our ability to empathize with and love our neighbor. And in the third, the last and greatest trial is also the highest form of love: to lay down our lives for someone else.

I’ll close out with a long quote from one of my favorite songs by one of my favorite bands. The song is “For Miles” from the band Thrice. (The title, I’m pretty sure, refers to the “miles” that you would walk with someone when they compel you to go one and you willingly go the second.) Here they are:

I know one day, all our scars will disappear, like the stars at dawn
And all of our pain, will fade away when morning comes
And on that day when we look backwards We will see, that everything is changed
And all of our trials, will be as milestones on the way

And as long as we live, every scar is a bridge to someone’s broken heart
And there’s no greater love, than that one [who’ll] shed his blood for his friends

On that day all of the scales will swing to set all the wrongs to right
All our tears, and all of our fears will take to flight
But until then all of our scars will still remain, but we’ve learned that if we’ll
Open the wounds and share them then soon they start to heal

The song is here, but fair warning: this is post-punk hardcore screamo. I love it, but it might not be your scene. In that case, just enjoy the printed lyrics.

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