There is no limit on what can be said of tolerance, patience, and true understanding. Christ does not judge without knowing the full story. He does not withhold his blessings due to perceived differences. He treats us all fairly because He knows why we are as we are.
I do judge without knowing the full story. I do withhold my service due to misunderstandings and incongruencies of thought. I cannot be truly fair. I cannot help but to be less than charitable in my thoughts and actions. Particularly when I feel the sting of having been judged poorly myself.
Yet, I recognize differences, ponder on them, and find that I love people more for the things that make them different from me. If there is some way in which I can be of service, offer an uplifting word, or simply wait for an opportunity, I try to do so.
It is a small start, indeed, but I hope to one day understand charity as Presidet Thomas S. Monson does:
My dear sisters, each of you is unique. You are different from each other in many ways. There are those of you who are married. Some of you stay at home with your children, while others of you work outside your homes. Some of you are empty nesters. There are those of you who are married but do not have children. There are those who are divorced, those who are widowed. Many of you are single women. Some of you have college degrees; some of you do not. There are those who can afford the latest fashions and those who are lucky to have one appropriate Sunday outfit. Such differences are almost endless. Do these differences tempt us to judge one another?
Mother Teresa, a Catholic nun who worked among the poor in India most of her life, spoke this profound truth: “If you judge people, you have no time to love them.”5 The Savior has admonished, “This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.”6 I ask: can we love one another, as the Savior has commanded, if we judge each other? And I answer—with Mother Teresa: no, we cannot.
The Apostle James taught, “If any . . . among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s [or woman’s] religion is vain.”7
I have always loved your Relief Society motto: “Charity never faileth.”8 What is charity? The prophet Mormon teaches us that “charity is the pure love of Christ.”9 In his farewell message to the Lamanites, Moroni declared, “Except ye have charity ye can in nowise be saved in the kingdom of God.”10
I consider charity—or “the pure love of Christ”—to be the opposite of criticism and judging. In speaking of charity, I do not at this moment have in mind the relief of the suffering through the giving of our substance. That, of course, is necessary and proper. Tonight, however, I have in mind the charity that manifests itself when we are tolerant of others and lenient toward their actions, the kind of charity that forgives, the kind of charity that is patient.
I have in mind the charity that impels us to be sympathetic, compassionate, and merciful, not only in times of sickness and affliction and distress but also in times of weakness or error on the part of others.
There is a serious need for the charity that gives attention to those who are unnoticed, hope to those who are discouraged, aid to those who are afflicted. True charity is love in action. The need for charity is everywhere.
Needed is the charity which refuses to find satisfaction in hearing or in repeating the reports of misfortunes that come to others, unless by so doing, the unfortunate one may be benefited. The American educator and politician Horace Mann once said, “To pity distress is but human; to relieve it is godlike.”11
Charity is having patience with someone who has let us down. It is resisting the impulse to become offended easily. It is accepting weaknesses and shortcomings. It is accepting people as they truly are. It is looking beyond physical appearances to attributes that will not dim through time. It is resisting the impulse to categorize others.
In a hundred small ways, all of you wear the mantle of charity. Life is perfect for none of us. Rather than being judgmental and critical of each other, may we have the pure love of Christ for our fellow travelers in this journey through life. May we recognize that each one is doing her best to deal with the challenges which come her way, and may we strive to do our best to help out.
Charity has been defined as “the highest, noblest, strongest kind of love,”12 the “pure love of Christ . . . ; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with [her].”13
“Charity never faileth.” May this long-enduring Relief Society motto, this timeless truth, guide you in everything you do. May it permeate your very souls and find expression in all your thoughts and actions.