Howard is Back

Well Hello fellow Awesomites! Needless to say life has been awesome lately. Living on a ranch with 20 teenage boys makes for good times. Not quite awesome times yet, but we are working on it. Actually we got close to awesome last week when I rode a cow. It was approaching awesome and then I fell off. Lots of rocks in Arizona. Seriously the good times never end. Once I heal I’m getting back on and showing that cow who’s boss.

The fun times don’t stop there either. I get home and get to hang out with Eli, who just turned 2. He told me today that there was a tiger outside. We went to look for it but it was gone. I told Eli he probably ran awayt because he as afraid of us. Oh well. We’ll get him one day. When Eli and I aren’t hunting tigers I get to hang out with Jonathan who is almost 6 months. He spend most his day smiling like Dan Rains. It’s great. Here is a talk I gave in Sacrament last month.

Charity: The Path of a Disciple

In the story of the Prodigal Son we learn of a family in which the younger of two brothers leaves home with his inheritance only to return penniless and begging for a job. The father has compassion on his son and invites him back into his home. Overjoyed at his son’s return the father decides to have a celebration. He kills the fattest calf and dresses his son in his finest robes. Not only has the wayward son returned but he has had a change of heart. Imagine the joy this father must have felt for “his son was dead, and is alive again, he was lost, and is found.” However not everyone in the family is as excited about the homecoming. The older brother upon returning from work learns about his brother and the party in his honor. This is how he responds:

28 And he was angry, and would not go in: therefore came his father out, and intreated him.

29 And he answering said to his father, Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment: and yet thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends:

30 But as soon as this thy son was come, which hath devoured thy living with harlots, thou hast killed for him the fatted calf.

Can you understand his anger? He was the good brother. If there should be a party for anyone it should be for him. After all:

While he was waking up for early morning Seminary and spending his Saturdays doing service projects his brother was sleeping in recovering from a party and preparing for the next one.

While he was at church on Sunday his brother was out snowboarding.

While his brother was driving a brand new mustang he was driving his grandma’s old corolla.

While he was a poor college student his brother had a questionable sales job making lots of money.

While he was working hard and paying his health insurance premiums his brother would visit the ER for his medical needs and never see the bill.

While his brother was a reckless driver he obeyed all the traffic rules.

While his brother was out wasting his father’s money he was investing in a secure future.

While his brother was bringing shame to the family he was bringing his family honor.

Clearly he was the “good” son. And because he was the good son, because he had never disobeyed his father’s commandments, shouldn’t all his good deeds and a life of devotion bring him happiness? If he was the good son then why wasn’t he happy? What could cause such a “good” person to become so angry that he would refuse to enter his father’s home? Words of the apostle Paul to the saints at Corinth shed light on why the older brother is so angry.

2 though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.

3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.

1 Corinthians 13: 2-3

The older brother had faithfully obeyed his father and had sacrificed much for his family. But, he failed to have compassion for his younger brother. Consequently, when the rest of his father’s house was rejoicing over the return of a lost soul, the older brother’s life of obedience and sacrifice profited him nothing. He would not enter his father’s home. Because of his lack of charity, the obedient son, in spite of all his good deeds and faithfulness, is angry, unhappy, and alone.

In October 2009 General Conference Elder Uchtdorf said:

“Since the beginning of time, love has been the source of both the highest bliss and the heaviest burdens. At the heart of misery from the days of Adam until today, you will find the love of wrong things. And at the heart of joy, you will find the love of good things.”

Does this not perfectly describe the condition of the hearts of the father and older brother? The father is experiencing the highest bliss while his oldest son is experiencing the heaviest burden. What could be more blissful for a father than a celebration in honor of a returning loved one? What could be more burdensome for a son than to refuse to enter his father’s home because of a hard heart? Elder Uchtdorf reveals that the reason why the older son is angry is because he is guilty of the love of wrong things. How interesting that he doesn’t say misery comes from being mistreated, unfair circumstances, or unmet needs.

When I am miserable it is because I am loving wrong things. This principle is an invitation for us to examine who or what we are blaming. It is only after I accept the responsibility for my misguided love that I can repent and allow Christ to heal my heart. As long as I continue to blame circumstance or others for my misery I am unable to repent. Without repentance it is impossible to have joy. Until the older son recognizes and repents of his lack of charity he will be unhappy.

Another of the Savior’s parables that teaches the role compassion plays in our lives is the Good Samaritan.

25 And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?

26 He said unto him, What is written in the law? how readest thou?

27 And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself.

28 And he said unto him, Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live.

This is the part where the story could have an alternative ending. The lawyer could search his heart and discover that it was a failure to keep this great commandment that caused him sorrow. He could have asked for a change of heart and the Savior would have forgiven him his sins. He could have been made whole. But he didn’t reflect and search his heart. Do you blame him? How often do we ask ourselves “Am I loving God with all my heart, mind and strength?” How often do we reflect on our interactions with our brothers and sisters and earnestly ask “Am I loving them as I love myself”? The lawyer, not wishing to ask himself these questions, instead seeks for justification.

29 But he, willing to ajustify himself, said unto Jesus, And who is my bneighbour?

Not satisfied with the greatest of all commandments this man wanted the Savior to be more specific. He would keep a lesser commandment to justify breaking the greatest commandment.

30 And Jesus answering said, A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead.

31 And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side.

32 And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side.

33 But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him,

34 And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him.

35 And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee.

This parable is referenced in the hymn A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief. I will read verse 5

5. Stript, wounded, beaten nigh to death,

I found him by the highway side.

I roused his pulse, brought back his breath,

Revived his spirit, and supplied

Wine, oil, refreshment—he was healed.

Upon first glance we know that the man who has been stripped of his belongings, beaten, and left for dead is in desperate need of help. The Samaritan upon recognizing this need cares for the man and delivers him to a place of safety with the promise that all his future needs will be provided for. Yet, the hymn, written from the perspective of the Samaritan concludes with these words:

I had myself a wound concealed,

But from that hour forgot the smart,

And peace bound up my broken heart.

Now, who was healed? In his service to others he recognizes that his own broken heart has been healed. This parable of two people in need speaks to us all. One of the men is in need of physical healing the other in need of spiritual healing. Though the men differ in circumstance they are united by their need for a Savior. One of the most beautiful teachings of this parable is that when charity is practiced both the helper and the helped increase in their love for God and for their fellow man.

I testify that as we set out to serve our brothers and sisters that our own “concealed wounds” will be healed. Each of us is carrying sin. Some of our sins we are guilty of and need to repent now. Some of our sins we have committed long ago and have forgotten them. Some of the sins we have carried for so long we don’t even think of them as sins, they are more like bad habits. We just think they are the way we are. Some sins we have inherited from false traditions of parents. Whatever the nature of our sins serving others will expose those sins and the power of the Atonement will heal us of them. The apostle Peter taught:

“And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins” to which Joseph Smith translated that “charity preventeth a multitude of sins”

1 Peter 4:8

Jesus Christ embodies the charity that shall cover the multitude of sins. All sin is covered through his atonement. His life of service and sacrifice is the perfect example of how to love.

I testify that Christ is our Savior. He has paid the price for our sins and is waiting for us to come to Him. Charity is the natural result of a disciple of Christ. Indeed we may know how devoted we are in our discipleship by how we love and serve. Especially how we love and serve those we live with and those who stand to offer us nothing in return.

It is my prayer that we may all seek the gift of charity. Pray for it. Scrutinize your lives. I testify that if you ask God the Father how you can be of more service to His children He will always answer. It is my prayer that we heed his council in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen

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