“The Power to Make a Difference,” Ensign, Nov. 1983, 70
I have been deeply humbled by the call that has come to serve as one of the Presidents of the First Quorum of the Seventy. I have talked to the Lord about it and have promised him I would give him everything I have for that service. I have pled with him that he will help me qualify to receive his inspiration and support, so that I may do his will and that of his servants.
I have prayed earnestly that the Lord would guide me to say that which would benefit some of his children here on earth. After considerable effort on my part, there have come a series of impressions and a sacred feeling that somewhere there are those to whom I can provide much-needed help from the Lord. I pray that I may faithfully communicate those impressions, so that they will sink deeply into the consciousness of the individuals to whom they are intended and there find permanent root. May they transmit the Lord’s love and his desire to show you how to get help urgently needed to bring purpose and happiness into your life.
I do not know who you are. Perhaps you are one in maturing years who, because of long physical illness or growing feelings of loneliness, has begun to express bitterness and self-pity. Perhaps you are a young man or woman struggling with serious misunderstandings within the family circle. You may be a husband estranged from your wife or a single-parent mother with the frightening task of raising children without a loving, understanding, supportive companion. Perhaps you are a choice, obedient daughter who with each passing day is concerned that lifelong dreams of eternal companionship seem to be slipping away. Whoever you are, I solemnly testify that the Savior knows you; he loves you and is aware of your specific needs.
He allows others to help him in his work. May I be such an instrument today.
I will share one principle of truth which, if applied, can open the door to all the others you need to lift your spirit. It is a principle that will give you the power to make a difference in the quality of your own life.
I speak of service—self-sacrificing service to others in need. I know it is hard to help another when you feel you have been wronged. I know it is difficult to take the first step when your own heart aches for companionship or yearns for understanding. Yet such acts of service open to us the mercy and love of Jesus Christ, the Master.
Free agency is a divine gift, and God will not override it. Because of free agency, we must take the first step. Our initial acts of kindness or service to others provide us with channels of inspiration and power. In contrast, darkness and despair close in when the light of love and service dims or goes out within us. Feelings of bitterness and dissatisfaction feed upon themselves and give place to thoughts and acts of unkindness, criticism, and eventually even hatred.
I vividly recall a couple who came for counsel. She was in the final stages of divorce, and he was bitter with resentment. Gone were the flowering petals of love that had given such meaning and purpose to their courtship. Shattered was the trust that once served as a sacred bond to draw them together. The ugly entanglement of selfishness was strangling what was left of the few remaining feelings of mutual respect. I listened privately to one and then the other. Their story was all too familiar. “I love her, but do not want to be trampled upon.” “I’m grateful for what he does, but if I show the least gratitude, he thinks all our differences are resolved, and I am submerged again.”
Their problems were further complicated by economic pressures. Yet, as I listened to each separately, I could see that the means they tenaciously held individually, if shared selflessly, could have solved their financial difficulties. I could see in each admirable characteristics. There was a sincere testimony of truth, a desire to do right, and an anxiety to feel at peace with the Lord for the decisions about to be taken.
He had honestly tried to show love and affection and had done much to help her, but in every case these righteous gestures were destroyed by simultaneously expressed feelings of concern for self. In his own words, “I do not want her to take advantage of me.” She restrained the honest feelings of gratitude in her heart for his help with the children and home and said nothing. They had not the courage, nor the vision, to build one another.
Two individuals trapped in the cross fire of intense feelings rarely can think clearly or be properly motivated. They need help, and the best source of help is the Savior. Oh, how I pray they will use the principles we discussed to reach out, to lift, to build, to edify, and to forgive one another.
Three things are required to mend broken lines of communication and to heal hearts that once expressed deep feelings of pure love, respect, and trust.
First, an understanding of the principles which bring happiness in marriage. They have been eloquently stated by President Spencer W. Kimball in many of his messages. Two noteworthy examples are printed in his book entitled Marriage (Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1978).
Second, a willingness to live worthily and to strive diligently to obey the commandments of God. Such a course allows our hearts and minds to be touched by divine guidance, and our efforts to be magnified by power from on high.
Third, a sincere, selfless desire to build the other. This requires an analysis of one’s own life, to identify and change those things that must be altered so that love and trust can grow and mature and feelings of forgiveness flower.
It also requires a willingness to recognize all that is good and uplifting in one’s companion and to set aside the microscopic concentration on faults and defects. Criticism is often motivated by a desire to rationalize one’s own shortcomings and to justify termination of sacred marriage covenants.
If you would be loved, love another. If you would be understood, show understanding to another. If you would find peace, harmony, and happiness, lift another.
Yet, if we build another for selfish reasons, our acts cannot produce desirable fruits. Has not Jesus said:
“Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven. [Alms are righteous acts]
“Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee as the hypocrites, … that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.
“But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth:
“That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly.” (Matt. 6:1–4.)
I am convinced that when we give unconditional love; when our interest is first in serving, building, edifying, strengthening without thought of self; when we do not expect an automatic return for each act of kindness, generosity, or sincere effort to help; when we are not concerned about what we will receive or what others will say or whether our own burdens will be diminished, but selflessly seek to build another, the miracle of the power of the gospel is released in our lives. When we permit the Lord to work through us to bless others, that sacred experience releases power in our own lives, and miracles occur. Well did the Master say, “For inasmuch as ye do it unto the least of these, ye do it unto me.” (D&C 42:38.)
Respect and love must be earned, and there is no better way to earn them than to lift another.
Begin now with your best effort. Reach out to another. You will feel the power of the Lord flow through you. Your own self-respect will return, and you can love yourself again. Your life will be enriched and given purpose, and you will be given the power to make a difference in everything around you. Of this I testify, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.