Kindness Begins with Me

KindYesterday while sitting outside the high school to pick my daughter up from an early morning cheer practice, I was listening into a satellite radio station taking a random survey.  From what I could tell by the responses, the individual being questioned was an elderly woman.  Most of the survey was quite comical and had me laughing out loud, but one of the final questions hit me.  The radio host asked, “If you could be a superhero what super power would you wish to posses?”  Her response was immediate, “I would have the ability to help people show greater kindness toward each other.”

The virtue of kindness and its importance has consumed my thoughts lately.  Maybe it’s the fact that we’re in the middle of summer vacation.  I haven’t had a much of a break from the kids so kindness, freely given, is getting a little more difficult, especially around dinnertime.  Perhaps the reminder has come in caring for a depressed neighbor this past week, searching for comfort during a painful family crisis.  Or maybe its by just observing it in my community; seeing saddened faces in the aisles at the local grocery store.  At any rate, The radio station survey was the final “nudge” I needed to get me to write my thoughts down. This post may only reach small numbers today, but in life some of the greatest things offered start very small, at times just a desire within our heart. . . Much, much smaller than an ELEPHANT for instance . . .

Kindness is a virtue in many cultures and religions. This picture depicts1280px-Buddha_with_the_Elephant_Nalagiri the parable of Buddha and the elephant Nalagiri. Devadutta, jealous of Buddha and wanting to hurt him, sent an angry elephant named Nalagiri into a street where Buddha and his colleagues were walking. As the angry Nalagiri approached them, Buddha’s loving kindness and friendliness tames Nalagiri. The parable teaches that kindness affects everyone.  The elephant is also a symbol of remembering. We must remember that when we come upon an unhappy soul, instead of judging we show added compassion, we may not know the details of their troubles, but we do have the ability to know when someone needs a smile or a hello.

“No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.” -Aesop

One of my favorite gospel addresses teaching kindness comes from Joseph B. Wirthlin (2005 April General Conference).  As you read below ask yourself,

How can I show greater kindness?

“Many years ago, when I was called as a bishop, I had a desire for the bishopric to visit those who were less active in the Church and see if there was anything we could do to bring the blessings of the gospel into their lives.  One day we visited a man in his 50s who was a respected mechanic. He told me the last time he had been to church was when he was a young boy. Something had happened that day. He had been acting up in class and was being noisier than he should when his teacher became angry, pulled him out of class, and told him not to come back.  He never did. It was remarkable to me that an unkind word spoken more than four decades earlier could have had such a profound effect. But it had. And, as a consequence, this man had never returned to church. Neither had his wife or children. I apologized to him and expressed my sorrow that he had been treated that way. I told him how unfortunate it was that one word spoken in haste, and so long ago, could have the effect of excluding his family from the blessings that come from Church activity. “After 40 years,” I told him, “it’s time the Church made things right.” I did my best to do so. I reassured him that he was welcome and needed. I rejoiced when this man and his family eventually returned to church and became strong and faithful members. In particular, this good brother became an effective home teacher because he understood how something as small as an unkind word could have consequences that extend throughout a lifetime and perhaps beyond.

Kindness is the essence of greatness and the fundamental characteristic of the noblest men and women I have known. Kindness is a passport that opens doors and fashions friends. It softens hearts and molds relationships that can last lifetimes.

Kind words not only lift our spirits in the moment they are given, but they can linger with us over the years. One day, when I was in college, a man seven years my senior congratulated me on my performance in a football game. He not only praised how well I had done in the game, but he had noticed that I had showed good sportsmanship. Even though this conversation happened more than 60 years ago, and even though it’s highly unlikely the person who complimented me has any recollection of this conversation, I still remember the kind words spoken to me that day by Gordon B. Hinckley, who would later become President of the Church. The attributes of thoughtfulness and kindness are inseparably linked with President Hinckley. When my father passed away in 1963, President Hinckley was the first person to come to our home. I’ll never forget his kindness. He gave my mother a blessing and, among other things, promised her that she had much to look forward to and that life would be sweet for her. These words have brought comfort to her and to me, and I’ll never forget his kindness.

Kindness is the essence of a celestial life. Kindness is how a Christlike person treats others. Kindness should permeate all of our words and actions at work, at school, at church, and especially in our homes.

Jesus, our Savior, was the epitome of kindness and compassion. He healed the sick. He spent much of His time ministering to the one or many. He spoke compassionately to the Samaritan woman who was looked down upon by many. He instructed His disciples to allow the little children to come unto Him. He was kind to all who had sinned, condemning only the sin, not the sinner. He kindly allowed thousands of Nephites to come forward and feel the nail prints in His hands and feet. Yet His greatest act of kindness was found in His atoning sacrifice, thus freeing all from the effects of death, and all from the effects of sin, on conditions of repentance.

The Prophet Joseph Smith exemplified kindness in his life to everyone, old and young. One child who benefited from the Prophet’s kindness remembered:

“My older brother and I were going to school, near to the building which was known as Joseph’s brick store. It had been raining the previous day, causing the ground to be very muddy, especially along that street. My brother Wallace and I both got [our feet] in the mud, and could not get out, and of course, child-like, we began to cry, for we thought we would have to stay there. But looking up, I beheld the loving friend of children, the Prophet Joseph, coming to us. He soon had us on higher and drier ground. Then he stooped down and cleaned the mud from our little, heavy-laden shoes, took his handkerchief from his pocket and wiped our tear-stained faces. He spoke kind and cheering words to us, and sent us on our way to school rejoicing.”

There is no substitute for kindness in the home. This lesson I learned from my father. He always listened to my mother’s advice. As a result, he was a better, wiser, and kinder man. I have tried to follow my father’s example and listen to my wife’s point of view. I value her opinion. For example, when my wife begins a sentence with the words “I should think you would …” I instantly pay attention and begin searching my mind for something I may have done wrong. Ofttimes before my wife has finished her sentence, I have already planned out in my mind a magnificent apology. In truth, my wife is a model of kindness, gentleness, and compassion. And her insight, counsel, and support have been invaluable to me. Because of her I, too, am a wiser and kinder person. The things you say, the tone of your voice, the anger or calm of your words—these things are noticed by your children and by others. They see and learn both the kind and the unkind things we say or do. Nothing exposes our true selves more than how we treat one another in the home. I often wonder why some feel they must be critical of others. It gets in their blood, I suppose, and it becomes so natural they often don’t even think about it. They seem to criticize everyone—the way Sister Jones leads the music, the way Brother Smith teaches a lesson or plants his garden. Even when we think we are doing no harm by our critical remarks, consequences often follow. I am reminded of a boy who handed a donation envelope to his bishop and told him it was for him. The bishop, using this as a teaching moment, explained to the boy that he should mark on the donation slip whether it was for tithing, fast offerings, or for something else. The boy insisted the money was for the bishop himself. When the bishop asked why, the boy replied, “Because my father says you’re one of the poorest bishops we’ve ever had.” The Church is not a place where perfect people gather to say perfect things, or have perfect thoughts, or have perfect feelings. The Church is a place where imperfect people gather to provide encouragement, support, and service to each other as we press on in our journey to return to our Heavenly Father.

Each one of us will travel a different road during this life. Each progresses at a different rate. Temptations that trouble your brother may not challenge you at all. Strengths that you possess may seem impossible to another. Never look down on those who are less perfect than you. Don’t be upset because someone can’t sew as well as you, can’t throw as well as you, can’t row or hoe as well as you. We are all children of our Heavenly Father. And we are here with the same purpose: to learn to love Him with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and to love our neighbor as ourselves.  One way you can measure your value in the kingdom of God is to ask, “How well am I doing in helping others reach their potential? Do I support others in the Church, or do I criticize them?” If you are criticizing others, you are weakening the Church. If you are building others, you are building the kingdom of God. As Heavenly Father is kind, we also should be kind to others.

Elder James E. Talmage, a man who is remembered for his doctrinal teachings, showed great kindness to a neighbor family in distress. They were complete strangers to him. Before he was an Apostle, as a young father, he became aware of great suffering at a neighbor’s home whose large family was stricken with the dreaded diphtheria. He did not care that they were not members of the Church; his kindness and charity moved him to act. The Relief Society was desperately trying to find people to help, but no one would because of the contagious nature of the disease. When he arrived, James found one toddler already dead and two others who were in agony from the disease. He immediately went to work, cleaning the untidy house, preparing the young body for burial, cleaning and providing for the other sick children, spending the entire day doing so. He came back the next morning to find that one more of the children had died during the night. A third child was still suffering terribly. He wrote in his journal: “She clung to my neck, ofttimes coughing [germs] on my face and clothing, … yet I could not put her from me. During the half hour immediately preceding her death, I walked the floor with the little creature in my arms. She died in agony at 10 A.M.” The three children had all departed within the space of 24 hours. He then assisted the family with the burial arrangements and spoke at their graveside services.  This he did all for a family of strangers. What a great example of Christlike kindness! When we are filled with kindness, we are not judgmental. The Savior taught, “Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven.”  He also taught that “with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.”

“But,” you ask, “what if people are rude?”

Love them.

“If they are obnoxious?”

Love them.

“But what if they offend?  Surely I must do something then?”

Love them.

“Wayward?”

The answer is the same.  Be kind.  Love them.

Why? In the scriptures Jude taught, “And of some have compassion, making a difference.”  Who can tell what far-reaching impact we can have if we are only kind? My brothers and sisters, the gospel of Jesus Christ transcends mortality. Our work here is but a shadow of greater and unimaginable things to come.The heavens opened to the Prophet Joseph Smith. He saw the living God and His Son, Jesus the Christ. In our day, a prophet, President Gordon B. Hinckley, walks the earth and provides direction for our time. As our Heavenly Father loves us, we also should love His children. May we be models of kindness. May we ever live up to the words of the Savior: “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.”  Of these truths I bear witness in the sacred name of Jesus Christ, amen.

What wonderful words to live by.  Think about those you come in contact with each day; your family, your coworkers, even the woman you share the elevator ride up with each morning to the office floor.  How might you bring a little extra light into their day?  What difference will a simple smile make?  Let me finish with the words of a favorite Primary song:

“I want to be kind to ev’ryone, For that is right, you see.

So I say to myself, “Remember this: Kindness begins with me.”

“Kindness Begins with Me,” Childrens Songbook, 145

 

Now go and do.

Download Photo Handout (.pdf): Kind

What does it mean to take upon myself the name of Jesus Christ?

Take Upon His Name

Original image from LDS.org

Covenant.  Renew.  Fulfill.

When we are baptized, we covenant to take upon ourselves the name of Jesus Christ. We renew this covenant when we partake of the sacrament (see D&C 20:77). We fulfill this covenant by putting the Lord first in our lives, by striving to think and act as He would, and by standing “as witnesses of God at all times and in all things, and in all places” (Mosiah 18:9). -Come Follow Me, July

Object Lesson:  As a class, look at the several popular company logos (or others they are familiar with) and discuss why logos are important for a company and what specific attributes and qualities make each company exceptional and unique.  Finish with the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints logo.  Consider asking, “Why is the font size of Jesus Christ largest on the logo?” and “What part do each of them play in building up ‘the brand'” (so to speak) or in even better words, “How have they taken upon themselves the name of Jesus Christ?” Walt-Disney-Screencaps-The-Walt-Disney-Logo-walt-disney-characters-31872968-2560-1440   FERRARI__1_-Wallpapers4Desktop.com_ Apple-logoLDS Logo

Building a Brand - NAME

Read the following verses in Mosiah 5 together as a class:

Introduction: King Benjamin has finished giving his address and desires to know if his people believed the words he had spoken.

2 And they all cried with one voice, saying: Yea, we believe all the words which thou hast spoken unto us; and also, we know of their surety and truth, because of the Spirit of the Lord Omnipotent, which has wrought (caused) a mighty change in us, or in our hearts, that we have no more disposition to do evil, but to do good continually (conversion). Have you felt this mighty change in your heart? Are you working toward conversion?

5 And we are willing to enter into a covenant (sacred promise) with our God to do his will, and to be obedient to his commandments in all things that he shall command us, all the remainder of our days, that we may not bring upon ourselves a never-ending torment (knowing we did not receive celestial glory), as has been spoken by the angel, that we may not drink out of the cup of the wrath of God.

7 And now, because of the covenant which ye have made ye shall be called the children of Christ, his sons, and his daughters; for behold, this day he hath spiritually begotten you; for ye say that your hearts are changed through faith on his name; therefore, ye are born of him (spiritually) and have become his sons and his daughters. How has your heart or actions changed because of your faith in Him?

Each time you read the word “name” in the following verses, think of Jesus Christ:8 And under this head ye are made free, and there is no other head whereby ye can be made free (Jesus Christ). There is no other name given whereby salvation cometh; therefore, I would that ye should take upon you the name of Christ, all you that have entered into the covenant with God that ye should be obedient unto the end of your lives.

9 And it shall come to pass that whosoever doeth this shall be found at the right hand of God, for he shall know the name by which he is called; for he shall be called by the name of Christ. Who will be found on the right hand of God?

10 And now it shall come to pass, that whosoever shall not take upon him the name of Christ must be called by some other name; therefore, he findeth himself on the left hand of God.

11 And I would that ye should remember also, that this is the name that I said I should give unto you that never should be blotted out, except it be through transgression; therefore, take heed that ye do not transgress, that the name be not blotted out of your hearts.

12 I say unto you, I would that ye should remember to retain thename written always in your hearts, that ye are not found on the left hand of God, but that ye hear and know the voice by which ye shall be called, and also, the name by which he shall call you. Do you know of Christ? OR Do you KNOW Christ?

How can I fulfill the covenant I have made? 15 Therefore, I would that ye should be steadfast and immovable, always abounding in good works, that Christ, the Lord God Omnipotent, may seal you his (children of Christ), that you may be brought to heaven, that ye may have everlasting salvation and eternal life, through the wisdom, and power, and justice, and mercy of him who created all things, in heaven and in earth, who is God above all. Amen.

I renew the covenant I made at baptism.

I become a member of the Church that bears His name.

I publicly proclaim my belief in Him.

I am willing to do the work in His Kingdom.

I will participate in the sacred ordinances of the temple and to receive the highest blessings available through his name and authority.

I commit to do all that I can to achieve eternal life in the Kingdom of our Father.

I do all that I can to be counted among those whom he will choose to stand at his right hand and be called by his name at the last day.

*     *     *

Download the worksheet What does it mean to take upon myself the name of Jesus Christ for each classmember.

Additional quotes to reinforce the doctrine and create further discussion:

Wilson 2 - NAME Wilson 1 - NAME Sacrament - NAME Eyring - NAME Authority - NAME

The following enrichment material comes from church addresses I found while studying, see references below:

Name on the Temple (Each one of us is symbolic of a temple):DSCN3688-768x1024

When the children of Israel were still on the other side of the Jordan, the Lord told them that when they entered the promised land there should be a place where the Lord their God would “cause his name to dwell.” (Deut. 12:11; see also Deut. 14:23–24; Deut. 16:6.) Time after time in succeeding revelations, the Lord and his servants referred to the future temple as a house for “the name” of the Lord God of Israel. (See 1 Kgs. 3:2; 1 Kgs. 5:5; 1 Kgs. 8:16–20, 29, 44, 48; 1 Chr. 22:8–10, 19; 1 Chr. 29:16; 2 Chr. 2:4; 2 Chr. 6:5–10, 20, 34, 38.) After the temple was dedicated, the Lord appeared to Solomon and told him that He had hallowed the temple “to put my name there for ever.” (1 Kgs. 9:3; 2 Chr. 7:16.)

Similarly, in modern revelations the Lord refers to temples as houses built “unto my holy name.” (D&C 124:39; D&C 105:33; D&C 109:2–5.) In the inspired dedicatory prayer of the Kirtland Temple, the Prophet Joseph Smith asked the Lord for a blessing upon “thy people upon whom thy name shall be put in this house.” (D&C 109:26.)

All of these references to ancient and modern temples as houses for “the name” of the Lord obviously involve something far more significant than a mere inscription of his sacred name on the structure. The scriptures speak of the Lord’s putting his name in a temple because he gives authority for his name to be used in the sacred ordinances of that house. That is the meaning of the Prophet’s reference to the Lord’s putting his name upon his people in that holy house. (See D&C 109:26.)

George_Albert_SmithPresident George Albert Smith, the 8th president of the Church, told of the following experience:

Six years after being called to be an Apostle, President Smith suffered a serious illness, which made it impossible for him to actively serve in his calling for more than two years and which weakened him physically for many more years. He moved to St. George, Utah, to take advantage of its warmer climate. While recovering there he had a remarkable dream:

These are his words: In St. George we arranged for a tent for my health and comfort, with a built-in floor raised about a foot above the ground, and we could roll up the south side of the tent to make the sunshine and fresh air available. I became so weak as to be scarcely able to move. It was a slow and exhausting effort for me even to turn over in bed.

One day, under these conditions, I lost consciousness of my surroundings and thought I had passed to the other Side. I found myself standing with my back to a large and beautiful lake, facing a great forest of trees…. I realized, or seemed to realize, that I had finished my work in mortality and had gone home….

I began to explore, and soon I found a trail through the woods which seemed to have been used very little, and which was almost obscured by grass. I followed this trail; and after I had walked for some time and had traveled a con­siderable distance through the for­est, I saw a man coming towards me. I became aware that he was a very large man, and I hurried my steps to reach him, because I recognized him as my grandfather. In mortality, he weighed over three hundred pounds, so you may know he was a large man. I remember how happy I was to see him coming, I had been given his name and had always been proud of it.

When Grandfather came within a few feet of me, he stopped. His stopping was an invitation for me to stop. Then, and this I would like the … young people never to forget, he looked at me very earnestly and said:

“I would like to know what you have done with my name.”

Everything I had ever done passed before me as though it were a flying picture on a screen–everything I had done. Quickly this vivid retrospect came down to the very time I was standing there. My whole life had passed before me. I smiled and looked at my grandfather and said:

“I have never done anything with your name of which you need be ashamed.”

He stepped forward and took me in his arms, and as he did so, I became conscious again of my earthly surroundings. My pillow was as wet as though water had been poured on it–wet with tears of gratitude that I could answer unashamed. [George Albert Smith, Sharing the Gospel with Others, pp.110-12]

Sister Gertrud Barthel (East Germany)

Let me share with you the story of an sister from the former communist East Germany, Sister Gertrud Barthel. I believe Sister Barthel has truly taken upon herself the name of Christ.

Over the past few years, I have had the opportunity on several occasions to travel to the former East Germany. When I have visited there, I have particularly enjoyed meeting those who were members of the Church during the communist times. They had to deal with a government that taught that there was no God and actively discouraged religious activity.

In addition, the government officials were concerned about potential threats to their control, so they organized a secret policy force, the State Security force, better known as the Stasi. The Stasi collected records of activities of individuals they considered as possible threats. They collected this information through a huge network of informers. The informers were sometimes volunteers but many were coerced into spying on their neighbors. Often the informers provided information on the activities of other informers. One could describe East Germany as a nation of spies spying on other spies.

Sister Barthel joined the Church as a teenager in the late 1940s as the communist government was initially coming into power. Since the Communists had prohibited the printing of religious texts, she did not have her own scriptures until several years after she was baptized. She watched the separation of Germany into two countries, one communist and one democratic, from the east side of the wall. In the early 50s she married. Her husband was not a member of the Church and still is not a member. Her daughter followed the communist anti-religion dogma and did not become involved with Church. Despite this lack of support, Sister Barthel remained an active member of the small Werdau Branch throughout the communist era. This dedication to the Church during the difficult and challenging Communist era in and of itself might be a demonstration of her commitment to taking upon herself the name of the Savior. However, there is more to this story.

In 1989, the wall came down, and the East Germans were finally free. As it became clear that the communist regime was crumbling, the Stasi officers attempted to destroy the huge volume of files that they had accumulated on their fellow citizens. This was an act of self-preservation for them. They didn’t want the East German citizens to discover what they had done. However, the citizens were well-aware of the Stasi’s activities, and they rushed to the Stasi offices to prevent the destruction of the files.

Most of the files were saved, and they are now public records open to anyone who wants to look at the information that the Stasi collected from their network of informers. Included in the files are the names of those informers who reported on their fellow citizens.

When I spoke with Sister Barthel about her life and experiences under the communists, I asked her what information about her Church activities the Stasi had collected about her. She said that she didn’t know. Although she was confident that the Stasi had collected information about her and had a file on her, she had never looked at her files. When I asked why, she responded that there was no reason to look at the files. She said that it was possible that some of her friends had been coerced into providing information about her and their names would be in the files. She said that she didn’t want to know who might have reported about her. Her words were, “Nothing good could come of that.”

Nothing good could come of that! What a remarkable attitude of love and forgiveness from a remarkable sister. Has she adopted the attributes of being a disciple of Christ in her life? Absolutely! Has she differentiated herself in her attitudes and behavior? Definitely! Has she consistently lived according to her beliefs? Certainly!

“Taking upon Us the Name of Jesus Christ,” Dallin H. Oaks, April General Conference 1985

 “Take Upon Ourselves His Name” Brent Wilson, Dean of the School of Business