“Chapter 3: ‘Love Thy Neighbour as Thyself’” Teachings of Presidents of the Church: John Taylor (2011), 20–29
“Chapter 3,” Teachings: John Taylor, 20–29
President John Taylor frequently taught the Saints the importance of not only believing, but also practicing the Savior’s plea to love our neighbor. “Love one another,” he encouraged, “and work the works of righteousness, and look after the welfare of all, and seek to promote the happiness of all. That is what God is doing.”2 He believed strongly in the role of the Spirit in nurturing our love for others. “When you get the Spirit of God,” he taught, “you feel full of kindness, charity, long-suffering, and you are willing all the day long to accord to every man that which you want yourself. You feel disposed all the day long to do unto all men as you would wish them to do unto you.”3
From his baptism in 1836 to his death in 1887, John Taylor witnessed a great deal of persecution and unjust treatment toward the Saints. He saw mobs drive Church members from their homes; he was an eyewitness to the martyrdom of Joseph and Hyrum Smith (and was himself grievously wounded in the attack); and he was with the Saints in Utah when they continued to be persecuted. Nevertheless, he consistently exhorted Church members to love all people. In an address he gave in Utah while he was President of the Quorum of the Twelve, he said:
“David prayed that God would send his enemies to hell quickly [see Psalm 55:15]. Jesus, when he was being crucified, suffering the pain of a cruel death, said, ‘Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.’ [Luke 23:34.] I like that prayer much better than the other one. … This is the feeling we ought to have. We ought to have it one towards another and treat one another with kindness and not get up hard feelings. … I hear a man say sometimes, ‘I hate such a man.’ Why, I do not know of a person that I hate in the world. The command is to love one another.”4
God is our Father, we His children, and we all ought to be brethren; we ought to feel and act like brethren, and while we are striving to serve the Lord our God with all our hearts, minds, souls and strength, we ought, at the same time, to seek to love our neighbor as ourselves; we ought to feel interested in his welfare, happiness and prosperity, and in anything and everything that will tend to promote his temporal and eternal good.5
If we try to defraud our brother, how can we expect God to bless us in that, for he is a child of our Heavenly Father just as much as we are. And being his child he feels interested in his welfare, and if we try to take advantage to the injury of the Lord’s child; do you think he would be pleased with us? … We want to be just and generous to each other. “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength.” This we are told is the first commandment. And the second is like unto it, namely, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” [Mark 12:30–31.] Do we do this? If we did, then how pleasantly we could come before the Lord. …
… We should so live that our love for each other can increase all the time, and not diminish, and have charity in our bosoms so that we may bear with one another’s infirmities, feeling that we are the children of God seeking to carry out his word and will and law. And then treat everybody right.6
We ought to be full of charity, of brotherly kindness and affection and love one towards another and love towards all men. We ought to feel as our heavenly Father does.7
Seek one another’s welfare, as the scripture says: “Be kindly affectionate one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another.” [See Romans 12:10.] You say that is rather hard; well, but you had better do it. We are told to love our neighbor as ourselves. If we can do this, and then prefer our neighbors to ourselves, and if there is a little advantage, put it on their side, we not only fulfil the law and the prophets, but the gospel. Let us cultivate the spirit of love and kindness, and let every little unpleasantness be buried.8
The religion that we have embraced, in its spiritual signification, brings us into communication one with another and helps us to love one another, and I wish there was a little more of that disposition among us, and that we loved one another a little better and studied one another’s interests a little more. I wish we could sympathize with our brethren, and be full of loving kindness and generosity one towards another. I wish that we could feel that brotherly love continued, and that it was spreading and increasing, flowing, from the fountain of life—from God, from heart to heart as oil is poured from vessel to vessel, that harmony, sympathy, kindness and love might be universal among us. This is what the gospel will do for us if we will only let it.9
At an assembly [of the Church] some little time ago there were twenty-five nationalities represented. Is there any difference of sentiment among these diverse people? No.
In speaking with a gentleman recently on some of the difficulties between the English and the Irish people, I told him that it was lamentable that such a feeling should exist. Well, said he, they are two different races and they cannot affiliate, one being Celtic and the other Anglo-Saxon, and their sympathies and feelings are dissimilar. Their ideas and feelings differ; their education and their instincts differ. That is very true so far as it goes. But what of us? We are gathered here under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, and that as I before said, produces a unity of feeling and spirit, a oneness and sympathy that does not exist in the world and Jesus has said, “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” (John 13:35.) …
And how is it, brethren? Are we Scandinavians; are we English; are we Scotch, Swiss or Dutch, as the case may be? No; the Spirit of God, which we obtained through obedience to the requirements of the gospel, having been born again, of the water and of the Spirit, has made us of one heart, one faith, one baptism; we have no national or class divisions of that kind among us.10
We are not all alike. Our faces are different, our habits are different, although made of the same material and possessing the same kind of an organization. So dissimilar are we that you can hardly find two people alike. I do not want everybody to think as I do, I am willing to grant every one a great amount of leeway in regard to these things; but I would like to see everybody do right and cleave to God. And as for a great many other little things I care very little about them.11
If good people are suffering for the common necessaries of life, the scriptures say, “If a man having this world’s goods see his brother in need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion, how dwelleth the love of God in him?” [See 1 John 3:17.] And in regard to those matters, we ought to look to the wants of everybody. … Do not let us make paupers of them; but let us treat them as brethren and sisters, as good, honorable men and women; let us see that they are provided for.
I have seen some people who would get down upon their knees and pray most heartily for God to feed the poor and clothe the naked. Now, I would never ask the Lord to do a thing that I would not do. If we have them among us, suppose we go at it and relieve them. … And if people sustain misfortune of any kind, look after them and bestow upon them those things necessary for their welfare and happiness. And God will bless us in so doing.
I would a great deal rather that you would take, say a sack of flour, some beef, … sugar, some butter and cheese, and clothing, and fuel, and such comforts and conveniences of life, and thus try to make people feel happy, than all the prayers you could offer up to the Lord about it; and he would rather see it too. That is the proper way to do things. In receiving blessings ourselves, try to distribute them, and God will bless and guide us in the ways of peace.12
A man came to Jesus on one occasion and asked him, which was the greatest commandment. The Savior answered him: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” [Matthew 22:37–39.] Can we do that? It is sometimes hard work, is it not? We too frequently feel we would rather put two dollars in our own pocket than one in our neighbor’s do we not? We would rather have two or three cows than that our neighbor should have one? …
Treat everybody well, and do what is right to everybody, and cultivate the spirit of kindness towards all. And when you see somebody’s cattle in somebody’s grain, feel sufficient interest in his welfare to go and drive them out; and try to promote the welfare of your neighbors and make them feel as comfortable as you can; and God will bless us, and we will bless one another.13
Treat one another aright. Have you sinned one against another? Then go and make restitution. Have you defrauded one another? Go and make it right. Have you spoken unkindly to your brother or sister? Then go and acknowledge your wrong and ask to be forgiven, promising to do better in the future. And then he or she might say, on the other hand, “Yes, and I said so and so the other day, won’t you please forgive me?” How much better and how much more in keeping with the calling of a saint of God such a course would be than to harbor hard feelings in the heart.14
Let us treat one another with kindness and one another’s reputation with respect, and feel after one another’s welfare, treating everybody as we would like God to treat us. And then, when we come to the Lord, we can say, “Father, forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive them that trespass against us,” [see Matthew 6:12, 14] for if we do not forgive our brother, how can we expect our Heavenly Father to forgive us? If we have had any difficulty with our neighbor, let us endeavor to make it right. Say, “Brother or sister so and so, my conscience rather troubles me about something I said about you or did to you, or some deal I had in which I got the advantage of you, and I have come to make it right, for I am determined to do right, no matter what other people do.”15
If men, by taking a wrong course, act imprudently and seek to injure us, shall we seek to injure them? No, we will try to do them all the good we can. “But that is not natural.” But then we ought to be changed from nature to grace. Jesus stated, “Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you,” etc. [Matthew 5:43–44.] When you have done all that and met all the requirements of the law, what more can be asked of you? Nothing. …
… If there be trouble existing between me and anybody else, I would meet them half way, yes, I would meet them three quarters or even all of the way. I would feel like yielding; I would say, I do not want to quarrel, I want to be a Saint. I have set out for purity, virtue, brotherhood, and for obedience to the laws of God on earth, and for thrones and principalities and dominions in the eternal worlds, and I will not allow such paltry affairs to interfere with my prospects. I am for life, eternal lives and eternal exaltations in the kingdom of God.16
“Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Do you constantly think of that? We get down upon our knees and many of us think we are pretty decent fellows; but there is Brother So-and-so, he does not do exactly right, and I do not like him very well, and I have been talking about him a little, for he has done me an injury, and I would like to have full retribution, but, O God, won’t you forgive my sins? I will, says the Lord, on condition that you forgive your brother, and only on that condition. “If thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.” [Matthew 5:23–24.] When this law is complied with, then we can say, forgive our trespasses as we forgive those that trespass against us.
In our present condition, if the Lord were to answer our prayers, many of us would not be forgiven. If we want the entire people to be good saints, let us be good saints ourselves. Let him that says to another, “You must not steal,” steal not himself. You that teach your brother not to speak evil of his neighbor, do you refrain from doing it yourself? …
We should operate for one another’s interest, having sympathetic feelings for each other. We are supposed to be brethren in the church and kingdom of God, knit together by the indissoluble ties of the everlasting Gospel, not for time only, but for eternity. Hence all our operations should be for that end, founded on the principles of righteousness and friendship.17
Our feelings towards the world of mankind, generally, ought to be the same as Jesus manifested to them. He sought to promote their welfare, and our motto ought ever to be the same as His was—“Peace on earth and good will to men.” [See Luke 2:14.] No matter who they are or what they are we should seek to promote the happiness and welfare of all Adam’s race.18
If we make any little stumbles the Savior acts not as a foolish, vindictive man, to knock another man down. He is full of kindness, long suffering, and forbearance, and treats everybody with kindness and courtesy. These are the feelings we wish to indulge in and be governed by; these are the principles, and this is the spirit that ought to actuate every elder in Israel; and by which he ought to govern his life and actions.19
If Jesus, when upon the earth, could patiently endure the scoffs, sneers and reproaches of men which were so indiscriminately heaped upon Him; if we are in possession of the principles which were enunciated by Him, we can afford also to cherish the same noble and magnanimous feelings that dwelt in His bosom. …
Jesus came here according to the foreordained plan and purpose of God pertaining to the human family as the Only Begotten of the Father full of grace and truth. He came to offer Himself a sacrifice, the just for the unjust; to meet the requirements of a broken law, that the human family were incapable of meeting, to rescue them from the ruins of the fall, to deliver them from the power of death to which all peoples had been subjected by the transgression of a law, and He Himself … offered himself, the Son of God, as competent propitiation for the sins of the world. And when He was opposed, rejected, cast out, spat upon and maligned; and again, when He was crucified, … He [said], “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” [Luke 23:34.]
He taught that it was written in the law in olden times, that there should be “an eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth:” but, says He, “I say unto you … Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.” [See Matthew 5:38–39, 44–45.] These were principles worthy of a God; these were feelings that if cherished by the human family, would elevate them from that low, groveling position in which they are laboring, would place them on a more elevated platform, would bring them into communion with their Heavenly Father and prepare them for an association with the Gods in the eternal worlds.20
Why is it important in our associations with others to remember that all people are children of our Heavenly Father? What can we do to help us “feel as our Heavenly Father does” toward others? What are some ways you have seen people “seek one another’s welfare”?
How must we live so that “our love for each other can increase all the time and not diminish”? What can we do to accomplish this with our families?
In what ways has the gospel helped you cultivate love for others?
What opportunities do you have to help those who are “suffering for the common necessaries of life”? How can we know the best way to respond to these situations?
How should we resolve conflicts with others? How can we increase our love for those who disagree with us?
Why is it important to forgive others? How does our forgiveness of others influence our ability to feel the Spirit? How does refusing to forgive others affect us?
How can we avoid giving offense to others or being offended ourselves? How can we overcome our pride to ask someone for forgiveness?
What examples has the Savior provided concerning love and forgiveness? How has His example helped you love or forgive others?