Harmony, calm, quiet, serenity, tranquility, restfulness, stillness, fellowship, connection, empathy, cohesion, unity, understanding, freedom. These are all words that describe peace. When I looked up the definition of peace in various online dictionaries I found basically the same three meanings. Freedom from fighting or war, freedom from disquieting or oppressive thoughts or emotions and harmony in personal relations.

I think all of these synonyms are applicable to peace. What is interesting to me is that with all of its synonyms (which are far more than we have listed here) and how broadly the concept of peace is understood, it can be such a hard thing to cultivate in our own lives.

I want to you to ask yourself, at this moment, are you at peace with your life? Are you at peace with yourself? Are you at peace with others? If not, why? What are obstacles that may be preventing more peace in your life. A few may be:

  • Expectations
  • Agency of others
  • Self Doubt
  • Resentment
  • Financial Insecurity
  • Health problems
  • Children

Obviously this is only a small list. There are a myriad of causes of anxiety and distress in life. We could go on and on. Now, however, I want you to think about things you do to try and bring peace to yourself. Things that might be spiritual in nature or just simple things that help relieve stress at the end of a rough day or help you maintain a peaceful, positive attitude in general. Perhaps you read, or shop, or pray, or relax in a bubble bath. There are many ways we can be active in helping alleviate some of the stresses in our lives, particularly when it comes to one item on the list above. Something that seems to be the root of most obstacles to peace.

Expectations

Whether unrealistic or not, when we hold ourselves or others to certain expectations and they don’t measure up, it will be hard to have peace.



Elder Jeffrey R. Holland has taught, “The search for peace is one of the ultimate quests of the human soul. We all have highs and lows, but such times come and they usually always go. Kind neighbors assist. Beautiful sunshine brings encouragement. A good night’s sleep usually works wonders. But there are times in all of our lives when deep sorrow or suffering or fear or loneliness makes us cry out for the peace which only God Himself can bring. These are times of piercing spiritual hunger when even the dearest friends cannot fully come to our aid.
Perhaps you know people... who are walking through the dark valleys of this world’s tribulation. Some may be desperately worried about a [family member], worried about their [own] health or their happiness or their faithfulness in keeping the commandments. Some are living with physical pain, or emotional pain, or disabilities that come with age. Some are troubled as to how to make ends meet financially, and some ache with the private loneliness of an empty house or an empty room or simply empty arms.
These beloved people seek the Lord and His word with particular urgency...they are tired in brain and body and heart, they wonder if they can get through another week or another day or sometimes just another hour. They are desperate for the Lord’s help and they know that in such times of extremity nothing else will do.
...At least one of the purposes of general conference and the teachings of the prophets down through the ages is to declare to these very people that the Lord is equally fervent in trying to reach them, that when there is trouble His hopes and His striving and His efforts greatly exceed our own and it never ceases. We have been promised,  “He that keepeth us will not slumber, ...nor will he sleep. Christ and His angels and His prophets forever labor to buoy up our spirits, steady our nerves, calm our hearts, send us forth with renewed strength and resolute hope. They will all to know that “if God be for us, who can be against us?” In the the world we shall have tribulation, but we are to be of good cheer. Christ has overcome the world. Through His suffering and His obedience He has earned and rightly bears the crown of “Prince of Peace.”


President Howard W. Hunter recalled one of the great stories of Christ’s triumph over that which seems to test us and try us and bring fear to our hearts.

“As Christ’s disciples had set out on one of their frequent journeys across the Sea of Galilee, the night was dark and the elements were strong and contrary. The waves were boisterous and the wind was bold, and these mortal, frail men were frightened. Unfortunately there was no one with them to calm and save them, for Jesus had been left alone upon the shore. As always, he was watching over them. He loved them and cared for them, In their moment of greatest extremity they looked and saw in the darkness an image in a fluttering robe, walking toward them on the ridges of the sea. They cried out in terror at the sight, thinking that it was a phantom that walked upon the waves. And through the storm and darkness to them - as so often to us, when, amid the darknesses of life, the ocean seems so great and our little boats so small - there came the ultimate and reassuring voice of peace with this simple declaration, “It is I; be not afraid.”
Peter exclaimed, “Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water.” And Christ’s answer to him was the same as to all of us. “Come.”
Peter sprang over the vessel’s side and into the troubled waves, and while his eyes were fixed upon the Lord, the wind might toss his hair and the spray might drench his robes, but all was well. Only when with wavering faith he removed his glance from the Master to look at the furious waves and the black gulf beneath him, only then did he begin to sink. Again, like most of us, he cried, “Lord, save me.” Nor did Jesus fail him. he stretched out his hand and grasped the drowning disciple with the gentle rebuke, “O thou of little faith, why didst thou doubt?”
It is my firm belief that if as individual people, as families, communities, and nations, we could, like Peter, fix our eyes on Jesus, we too might walk triumphantly over the “swelling waves of disbelief” and remain “unterrified amid the rising winds of doubt.” But if we turn away our eyes from him in whom we must believe, as it is so easy to do and the world is so much tempted to do, if we look to the power and fury of those terrible and destructive elements around us rather than to him who can help and save us, then we shall inevitably sink in a sea of conflict and sorrow and despair.”



Elder Holland has said that, “...for real and abiding peace to come, we must strive to be more like that exemplary Son of God….Sometimes, we bring a lack of peace upon ourselves, by our failure to look to or act like Christ. But there are times, where it seems peace should be our reward for virtuous living yet is not.”

The following is an excerpt from a talk given by Elder Holland in the October 1996 General Conference, titled, “The Peaceable Things of the Kingdom”

“Yes, peace is a very precious commodity, a truly heartfelt need, and there are many things we can do to achieve it. But-for whatever reason-life has its moments when uninterrupted peace may seem to elude us for a season. We may wonder why there are such times in life, particularly when we may be trying harder than we have ever tried to live worthy of God’s blessings and obtain His help. When problems or sorrows or sadness come and they don’t seem to be our fault, what are we to make of their unwelcome appearance?
With time and perspective we recognize that such problems in life do come for a purpose, if only to allow the one who faces such despair to be convinced that he really does need divine strength beyond himself, that she really does need the offer of heaven’s hand. Those who feel no need for mercy usually never seek it and almost never bestow it. Those who have never had a heartache or a weakness or felt lonely or forsaken never have had to cry unto heaven for relief of such personal pain. Surely it is better to find the goodness of God and the grace of Christ, even at the price of despair, than to risk living our lives in a moral or material complacency that has never felt any need for faith or forgiveness, any need for redemption or relief.”

As many of you know, I’ve struggled with mental illness for as long as I can remember. There was a time where I kept it to myself and tried to box it up and put it into a dark corner and then I got panic disorder and all my facades were ripped away from me and I became so tired of being terrified that I didn’t care who knew what about me anymore. I’m grateful for that because it allowed me to open up enough to a therapists to finally be diagnosed and because I have been able to help others who are struggling with the same things. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and the depression and anxiety which stem from it have been my constant companions in life and they were a lot worse when I was young and misconceptions about why it was all happening to me. Sometimes well meaning individuals and even scripture can imply things to a mind that is already laden with guilt or fear. For a long time I thought that I must be a really awful person. The scripture would come to mind about how despair cometh because of iniquity and though I didn’t know just what I had done I knew that I felt despair and so I must be a vile person. How much peace and freedom came to my mind when I started to realize that wasn’t true. That we live in a fallen world where bad things happen and peace can’t be fully recognized without going through those things. I don’t know if I believe every specific thing a person goes through is what was meant to be but I know that we can grow from whatever comes our way if we look to Christ.  Certainly despair can come from iniquity but that is not the only source of it. I want to share some insight with you from an article in the January 2009 Ensign magazine. It’s titled: “From Bipolar Disorder: My Lessons, in Love, Hope and Peace.

“It is common to hear a talk in which sin is identified as the cause of depression. Sin certainly can cause us to sink into a deep abyss, but it is not the cause of all feelings of depression. If sin is weighing us down,...the Savior’s Atonement can rescue us from the pains of sin and make us clean again. Depression may not be immediately lifted upon complete repentance, but we can still move forward.
In instances when sin is not the cause of depression, it is crucial that we not second-guess ourselves. Feelings of profound guilt are common in people who are depressed. In such circumstances, the guilt is usually not proportional to the trivial mistakes they may have made. Realizing that guilt is unsubstantiated may not eliminate it, but this knowledge can temper the severity of these feelings.”

For now, I have accepted that sometimes I will have periods of peace and sometimes my mind will be in chaos, no matter how good I’m trying to be. But I do have an overall peace of conscience and peace of soul when I look to Christ who promises to one day make my peace perfect and everlasting.
There are some great free printables from the blog, Let's Get Together, that tie in with this lesson. The author links to talks and activities that help supplement teaching about Christ's attributes and would make a great resource for a course of extended study or for family home evenings.


President Ezra Taft Benson taught: “Two thousand years ago a perfect man walked the earth: Jesus the Christ. he was the son of a heavenly father and an earthly mother. He is the God of this world, under the Father. He taught men truth, that they might be free. His example and precepts provide the great standard, the only sure way, for all mankind.

No other single influence has had so great an impact on this earth as the life of Jesus the Christ. We cannot conceive of our lives without his teachings. Without him we would be lost in a mirage of beliefs and worships, born in fear and darkness where the sensual and materialistic hold sway. We are far short of the goal he set for us, but we must never lost sight of it; nor must we forget that our great climb toward the light, toward perfection, would not be possible except for his teachings, his life, his death, and his resurrection.

In the 14th chapter of John, Jesus is tenderly saying his farewell to his disciples after the last supper. He tells them that he goes to prepare a place for them in his Father’s house; that where he is, they also may be. And Thomas says to him: “Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way?

“Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”

The road lies before us, it is clearly marked.”

We must become like Christ.

Ezra Taft Benson continued, "‘What would Jesus do?’ or ‘What would He have me do?’ are the paramount personal questions of this life. Walking in His way is the greatest achievement of life. That man or woman is most truly successful whose life most closely parallels that of the Master.”

In order to become like the Savior, we obviously need to know what he was like. Thankfully scripture is filled with accounts of his doings and his teachings. So let’s looks at just some of the many wonderful attributes of Jesus Christ. I've selected a quote or quotes for each attribute that help strengthen our understanding of that attribute. As we work to apply these Christlike traits more fully in our lives, we become closer to Him and to being like Him.

ATTRIBUTES OF CHRIST

Faith

Quote 1: “[To have Faith in Christ] means, of course, trying to do all that He says. There would be no sense in saying you trusted a person if you would not take his advice. Thus if you have really handed yourself over to Him, it must follow that you are trying to obey Him.”

Quote 2: “When a train goes through a tunnel and it gets dark, you don’t throw away the ticket and get off. You sit still and trust the engineer.” - Corrie Ten Boom

Hope

Quote 3: “Hope is one of the Theological virtues. This means that a continual looking forward to the eternal world is not (as some modern people think) a form of escapism or wishful thinking, but one of the things a Christian is meant to do. It does not mean that we are to leave the present world as it is. If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were just those who thought most of the next.” - C.S. Lewis
Charity

Quote 4: “Perhaps the greatest charity comes when we are kind to each other, when we don’t judge or categorize someone else, when we simply give each other the benefit of the doubt or remain quiet. Charity is accepting someone’s differences, weaknesses, and shortcomings; having patience with someone who has let us down or resisting the impulse to become offended when someone doesn’t handle something the way we might have hoped. Charity is refusing to take advantage of another’s weakness and being willing to forgive someone who has hurt us. Charity is expecting the best of each other.” - Marvin J. Ashton

Diligence

Quote 5: “Progress means getting nearer to the place you want to be. And if you have taken a wrong turning, then to go forward does not get you any nearer.
If you are on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; and in that case the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive man.”

Knowledge

Quotes 6: “Of all treasures of knowledge, the most vital is the knowledge of God.” - Spencer W. Kimball

Quotes 7: “He cannot help us remember things we have not labored to learn.” - David A. Bednar

Patience

Quote 8: “Noah waited 120 years before the predicted rains arrived. Abraham waited 25 years for a promised son. Joseph waited 14 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. Job waited perhaps a lifetime, 60-70 years for God’s justice. God prepares leaders in a slow cooker, not in a microwave oven. More important than the awaited goal is the work God does in us while we wait.” - John C. Maxwell

Humility

Quote 9: “Humility is selfless, not selfish. It doesn’t demand its own way or speak with moral superiority. Instead, humility answers softly and listens kindly for understanding, not vindication. Humility recognizes that no one can change someone else, but with faith, effort, and the help of God, we can undergo our own mighty change of heart.” L. Whitney Clayton

Quote 10: “We draw people to Christ not by loudly discrediting what they believe, by telling them how wrong they are and how right we are, but by showing them a light that is so lovely that they want with all of their hearts to know the source of it.” - Madeleine L’Engle

Virtue

Quote 11: “If thoughts make us what we are, and we are to be like Christ, then we must think Christlike thoughts. Let me repeat that: If thoughts make us what we are, and we are to be like Christ, we must think Christlike thoughts.” - Ezra Taft Benson

Obedience

Quote 12: “Good and evil both increase at compound interest. That is why the little decisions you and I make every day are of such infinite importance. The smallest good act today is the capture of a strategic point from which, a few months later, you may be able to go on to victories you never dreamed of. An apparently trivial indulgence in lust or anger today is the loss of a ridge or railway line or bridgehead from which the enemy may launch an attack otherwise impossible.”

PERFECTION IS A PROCESS

Elder James E. Talmage gave a parable of the Owl Express. He wrote:

"During my college days, I was one of a class of students appointed to fieldwork as a part of our prescribed courses in geology...A certain assignment had kept us in the field many days...As the time allotted to the investigation drew near its close, we were overtaken by a violent windstorm, followed by a heavy snow - unseasonable and unexpected, but which, nevertheless, increased in intensity so that we were in danger of being snowbound in the hills. The storm reached its height while we were descending a long and steep mountainside several miles from the little railway station at which we hoped to take a train that night for home. With great effort we reached the station late at night while the storm was yet raging...
...The train for which we so expectantly and hopefully waited was the Owl Express - a fast night train connecting large cities...
Long after midnight the train arrived in a terrific whirl of wind and snow. I lingered behind my companions as they hurriedly clambered aboard, for I was attracted by the engineer, who during the brief stop, while his assistant was attending to water replenishment, bustled about the engine, oiling some parts, adjusting others, and generally overhauling the panting locomotive. I ventured to speak to him, busy though he was. I asked how he felt on such a night - wild, weird, and furious, when the powers of destruction seemed to be let loose, abroad and uncontrolled, when the storm was howling and when danger threatened from every side...
His answer was a lesson not yet forgotten. In effect he said...."Look at the engine headlight. Doesn't that light up the track for a hundred yards or more? Well, all I try to do is to cover that hundred yards of lighted track. That I can see, and for that distance I know the road bend is open and safe...The light of the engine is always ahead of me!"

That engineer moved his train along the track, one lit up segment  at a time and that is all we are expected to do as well. We must remember that progress is often slow, and that slow is just fine. Ants build their mounds one grain of sand at a time. Birds build their nests a few twigs at a time, some taking weeks to fully construct. God doesn’t care as much about where you have been as he does about where you are and where you are willing to go.

However, sometimes what we see most when we look to Jesus or other good people we admire, are all the ways in which we fall short of them. This may result in giving up on ourselves or in frenzied attempts to better ourselves faster than we are able.

President Lorenzo Snow said: “Do not expect to become perfect at once. If you do, you will be disappointed. Be better today than you were yesterday, and be better tomorrow than you are today.”

And Mosiah 4:27 reads,  “And see that all these things are done in wisdom and order; for it is not requisite that a man should run faster than he has strength.”

We don't need to be perfect in every aspect all at once. We only need to be trying each day to be a little better. Every choice we make for good is progress. Every unwise choice we make and try to remedy, we are making slow, beautiful, important progress. It is because of Christ that we can try again, that our slates are wiped clean. His example, His love and His kindness are the greatest of gifts all year through and with his help we really can become like Him. He does wipe away all tears, He does make all things right and He truly does love you.


Do you know how loved you are?

Yes, you.

You, staring at the screen this very moment. You, who are wondering if every breath is still worth it. You, who can't fathom that somebody might still love you because you no longer love yourself. You, who are thinking of taking that awful leap into oblivion.

I've stood on that precipice and looked into the gaping abyss below. It is a beguiling choice when you loathe yourself and believe that the lives of those you love would be better without you. Indeed, what some call the most selfish of acts is one you feel would be the most selfless.

However, you must know the truth.

In your absence you will leave chaos. Shock, grief, anger and guilt will all battle with one another in the minds of those you've left behind. They will hold themselves accountable for kind words unspoken and good deeds undone. They will know guilt in the anger they feel towards you. For they will be so very, very angry with you at times because they love you so very, very much.

Those you were around most often may struggle with feeling that you must have disliked them to want to leave them. Confusion will hound them with one question continually.

Why?

It's the one question that even a carefully written note of explanation can't satisfy. There is no acceptable answer and there never will be because it is not acceptable that you are dead and that you chose it.

The ripples of your decision will reach people you never even knew. For those who know people who love you, will mourn with them. There will be those who never knew you or anyone who cared about you who will mourn for you and yours when they hear your story, simply because they know the pain of suicide in their own lives. The scars of your decision may never fully heal.

If there is any part of your mind still open to reason then I ask you to realize two things.

First, you have a choice.

Turn away from the abyss. There is nothing there for you. Choose to keep living life, one breath at a time if needed. Choose pain, choose emotion, choose to believe you just might be wrong about leaving.

Second, you are so loved.

You may not feel it or recognize it but it is unequivocally true. For besides countless others who value association and friendship with you, I love you. I love you and I empathize with you because I know your struggle. My heart breaks for it. But I promise you that it is not insurmountable.

Choose to live.







The most prolific writer (or at least letters of which the greatest amount were saved) were the letters of Aunt Nancy Whitmarsh, my husband's 3rd great grand aunt. Nancy Anna Ward was born 22 July 1826 in Philadelphia, PA and died there on 5 April 1905. She married James Whitmarsh in 1847 and bore 8 children, three of whom died in infancy, and that I might never have known existed but for one letter she wrote which I will share later. Her letters are particularly interesting to me as she includes many details of daily living that some might find mundane but that paint a great picture of life in Philadelphia in the 1800's. Unfortunately, there is no photograph of Nancy in the family collection. I hope to find one someday.

526 N. 53rd St.
West Phila. Oct. 18th 1891


My dear nephew,
Your of Sep. 14th (wish I had a decent pen) came in due time and I have been wanting to write and put your curiosity at rest though not in the way you can expect for I really cannot recall anything I was going to communicate in the way of news that was “strange, startling and peculiar”. Did I really write that? I think those adjectives in a dream or some other unaccountable way. Indeed my curiosity is aroused now to find out what I had in mind. I am inclined to think I only referred to our improvements, new piazza, new fence, etc.


It is Sabbath evening and as I belong to the “shut outs” as well as the “shut ins” I thought perhaps an hour might be profitably spent in writing to you as your letter expressed comfort in hearing from home. I have been contending with the “blues” today and trying to reason with myself that I have much for which to be thankful. Mother is well as usual, wheels about, sits at the east bay window all day and looks out. Howard is better, is taking “Hoods Sasparilla” and does not have that tired feeling. It contains dandelion that I know to be useful in a discordant condition of the system. He took a ride last evening by moonlight in a tandem tricycle, that is two in one vehicle. Their “steed”, their own legs and feet. There were two others of the same kind of vehicle and they all rode to the Park several mile. Howards’ became somewhat unmanageable as they went down grade and ran into a band of earth throwing them out but hunting no one. Howard says they have three wheels and are safe, do not topple over like a bi-cycle. I suppose last night they were cautious. The part was composed of young men (no ladies). Your father came out with Mollie about two weeks ago to color his measures. They did the work in the empty house next door and attended to the drying in the parlors and shed. Albert was on to take the balance of his family home to Pittsburg. It was a big disappointment all around. We have named it a “fizzle”. You see he reckoned without his host the landlord would not release him as he fully expected and after much suspense and anxiety especially on the part of Caddie and the oldest child they had to give the project up. Caddie wrote me after the return “I am homesick for 53rd St.” and “this suspense is fast whitening my hair”.


Yesterday week (Saturday) your father came out to fold or roll some of the measures. He did not come as early as he expected so was delayed in returning, indeed it was nearer eleven o’clock than ten when he left and then he carried two bundles of rolls in each as they weighed seventeen - made a heavy load for him to carry so far to reach the car and then to walk to his lodgings. The reason he did not come earlier he said orders were coming in and he could not get away from the office. Yesterday he came again before noon and worked steadily rolling and tying until after ten and carried away 2 bundles. Howard has taken some in but only one bundle at a time. I think the last move of the office was a good thing. I have never been there to see it but from the description it is much more cheerful, he has gas light and heat without any extra charge and less rent to pay. The day light is more plentiful and surroundings much better. Your father appears much better than last winter and sometimes he speaks of his condition then he says he was not sick bodily but his mind was sick on account of breaking up his home and George’s treatment. Did you know that George called at the office and told him he was not going to pay anything for that mantel mirror as his father owed him for his services on partnership in the business until the papers were destroyed and he offered to come and go over the books to see how much his father was indebted to him? Do you know what George called his father last winter when the first papers were destroyed? A thief and a coward. Only think after all his kindness and attention whenever he visited him. I told your father one day that it was well to be ones own executor as Wills are often broken and then added he had not a child who regarded him as you did. In a few days he sent you $50. I think much of that talk and surmisings last winter was without foundation as there was a little of it this summer by Mollie which turned out to be entirely without the least foundation as I soon learned. Some weeks ago when he came out I saw a lack of his usual cheerfulness and felt something was depressing him. Before he left he told me about Adamson curring pieces and he said he could not sleep one night worrying about his business but since that he has returned to his normal condition and business is pretty good. I told him he had enough already to live on, which of course he knows. How we do cling to the present life although it may soon be over with us. We forget ‘Tis not the whole of life to live.”


This morning I followed a train of thought suggested by the dim gas light burning. When I retired last night the dim light seemed very necessary in the darkness and looked important. This morning when daylight appeared how insignificant the burner appeared, of no use whatever so I thought how we value the things of the present - life, our joys, how they absorb our thoughts! Our sorrows, how great they seem! And yet in the bright light of eternity how insignificant these things appear. “For I reckon the offerings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed.


I enclosed the funeral services read at the grave of Mr. Peterson and then ask you to read Corinthians Fifth Chapter.


Tell Lusetta that I hope she will have better success than many do in Phila. The newspaper says there is much complaint of fruit spoiling and cans popping. You have not guessed why a woman loves to put up fruit and it is not for herself but she enjoys serving her family, eat it.


I rec’d a letter from David in Sept. he says his bank acct. is now good for $5.00 (five hundred)


Kenton and his son Louis have left the hotel and board at his sisters, Mrs. Hudson. It cost $16 a week for both at hotel.

Love to wife and children from your loving Aunt Nancy

Image Credit The Lost Lamb by Del Parson

President Benson taught that, “The purpose of the Lord’s church is to further the progress of every son and daughter of God toward the ultimate blessings of eternal life.”


Notice President Benson’s choice of the word church. It made me think of Elder D. Todd Christofferson’s talk in which he said “How does His Church accomplish the Lord’s purposes? It is important to recognize that God’s ultimate purpose is our progress. His desire is that we continue “from grace to grace, until [we receive] a fullness”5 of all He can give. That requires more than simply being nice or feeling spiritual. It requires faith in Jesus Christ, repentance, baptism of water and of the Spirit, and enduring in faith to the end.6 One cannot fully achieve this in isolation, so a major reason the Lord has a church is to create a community of Saints that will sustain one another in the “strait and narrow path which leads to eternal life."


In the manual under lesson 20, “Feed my Sheep”, President Benson mentions specifically our mission, as Latter-Day Saints, to perfect the Saints and then focuses on ways we can shepherd those who have separated themselves from the church back into the fold. However, I want to broaden his focus, on being shepherds and leaders in helping to perfect everyone. This includes acquaintances and friends who are active, inactive, or don’t know the gospel at all. It includes those whom we have stewardship over, whether through our church callings or as parents and spouses. It includes strengthening other family relationships as well. Because we have different backgrounds and viewpoints we can all participate in perfecting each other.


First, we should know what a saint is and what it means to perfect something. The very statement, perfecting the saints, implies that a saint is not a perfect person. My favorite definition of a saint is the one Nelson Mandela gave, “I am not a saint, unless you think of a saint as a sinner who keeps on trying.”


To perfect something is to mend, to restore, or to complete it. I don’t know exactly how God defines something as perfect, but there is one thing about perfection that is certain and Martin G. Collins, an Elder of the Church of the Great God says it beautifully: “We cannot be perfect apart from others. The Bible links perfection with human relationships. Christ urges us to be as perfect as our Father in Heaven and ties the process to how we treat each other. The Kingdom of God is about eternal, peaceful relationships...Life would be easier for Him if he ignored us, but He works on helping us develop our relationship with Him. He is the One who works perfection in us. Not perfect in the sense that we are flawless but in the sense that we are complete. That we work together to maintain balance and community and love between each other.”


God has given us guidelines for maintaining balance, community and love between each other. They’re called the commandments, both the original ten and others that we’ve received since that time. Some commandments are absolute and some have been given based on the circumstances of a given people in a given time period. But all of them are given to us to help us treat God, others and ourselves with respect and love.


Of course the greatest source of help God has given us is Christ, both his actual atonement and his example of true leadership. Speaking of Christ, President Benson said, “His example continues as the greatest hope and strength of mankind.” Why is that? Why did he make such a huge impact on people in his day and why have his teachings so long endured?

President Spencer W. Kimball gave us the following insight into Christ's effectiveness:

1. "Jesus knew who he was and why he was here on this planet. That meant he could lead from strength rather than from uncertainty or weakness."

2. "Jesus operated from a base of fixed principles or truths rather than making up the rules as he went along. Thus, his leadership style was not only correct, but also constant."

3. "Jesus said several times, "Come, follow me." His was a program of "do what I do", rather than "do what I say." He walked and worked with those he was to serve.

4. "Jesus saw sin as wrong but also was able to see sin as springing from deep and unmet needs on the part of the sinner. This permitted him to condemn the sin without condemning the individual. We can show forth our love for others even when we are called upon to correct them."

5. "Jesus knew how to involve his disciples in the process of life. He gave them important and specific things to do for their development. Jesus trusts his followers enough to share his work with them so that they can grow. That is one of the greatest lesson of his leadership. If we brush other people aside in order to see a task done more quickly and effectively, the task may get done all right, but without the growth and development in followers that is so important."


President Benson taught “The power of Christ’s leadership grew from the challenge of His example… His [success in gaining] the loyalty and devotion of men to principles of righteousness depend[ed] upon love as the great motivating factor. He helped us realize that the godlike qualities in each of us clamoring for expression can become glorious living realities.”

Underlying all of Christ's actions is love. It all comes back to love, always. All of us crave love, and when we can’t find it among certain people, we seek it elsewhere. Jesus asked us to feed his sheep, to be like him in in keeping each other in the fold and leading back those who stray. To lead, to shepherd is not passive. We don’t wait for others to come to us and we shouldn't wait for others to leave before we reach out. True leadership is love. Love that lifts and motivates others to betterment, to action.


President Benson said, “There are no new solutions to this old problem of sheep straying elsewhere for food...The answer...is found in prayerfully shepherding and feeding the flock... There must be real, heartfelt concern by a true and loving shepherd...Thus, we must all learn to be true shepherds. We must manifest the same love to others that the Good Shepherd has for all of us.”


To be a leader is to guide others. To shepherd, is to guide others. And how do we best lead and guide others? How do we feed his sheep? We love them. Love is absolutely the greatest motivator there is. That is clear through Christ’s example. Think for a moment of a time when love changed you. Not love that you gave to someone else, but love that you felt from someone else that made you do or become something more.


Love is crucial to effectively shepherding because without it, we cannot have a full measure of the Holy Ghost and the Holy Ghost is necessary in both directing our words and in impressing the truth of our words into the hearts of our listeners.


President Russell M. Nelson recently said, “Sisters, do you realize the breadth and scope of your influence when you speak those things that come to your heart and mind as directed by the Spirit?...We need women who are devoted to shepherding God’s children along the covenant path toward exaltation; women who know how to receive personal revelation, who understand the power and peace of the temple endowment; women who know how to call upon the powers of heaven to protect and strengthen children and families; women who teach fearlessly. Attacks against the Church, its doctrine, and our way of life are going to increase. Because of this, we need women who have a bedrock understanding of the doctrine of Christ and who will use that understanding to teach and help raise a sin-resistant generation.12 We need women who can detect deception in all of its forms. We need women who know how to access the power that God makes available to covenant keepers and who express their beliefs with confidence and charity."

Be more confident in your ability to lead through love. Let us all strive to love better and deeper. Each act of love we give will ultimately draw those with whom we come into contact, closer to Christ.

Suggestions for additional study: