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A love for God, that is so strong, that it drives man past the confines of mortality-by Emma Hughes

Im Emma Hugh's my husband in Franklin Hughes. He he grew up in and out of this ward. So I think most of you know him and if you know him then you know what an amazing storyteller he is. So I figured I'd leave all the details about who we are and how we got here to him because it'll be way more exciting that way than if I try and tell you. But we're really excited to be in this ward and for the opportunity to speak today. We were given the opportunity of choosing our own topics, which was super exciting at first, and then turned out to be absolutely terrible for me because I'm really indecisive. And so I spent probably more time worrying about what the talk would be about than actually writing the talk. But after a lot of pondering, I decided to just offer the small portion of understanding that I have about what I've been studying recently in the hopes that you will be encouraged to learn more about it on your own, because it has been such An amazing experience to really delve into this part of the gospel and the peace, and joy that I have found in learning more about. It has been amazing.

In the scriptures we read about men who have a love for God, that is so strong, it drives them past the confines of mortality. They accomplish the impossible. Faithful and tireless at the end of it all, they're praising God and preaching about their great love that they have for him. Elder Bednar recently spoke about this in a talk that he gave to an address at the missionary Training Center. Talking about a love that drives obedience, not an obedience of fear needing to be righteous, but an obedience that comes from our desire because we love God. He calls it a transformational obedience which requires much more than self-interest or a keen sense of family tradition or religious duty, rather it derives from our love for God. This is the same love that allowed weak and imperfect men to look beyond themselves and serve something higher. The same love that allowed Nephi to be steadfast through his entire journey. And Alma asked Amulek to leave behind home & family. And like we were studying last week Job endured countless trials and hardships in his life, still proclaiming his love for God at that end of it all. It's a perfect and powerful love and this kind of love, perplexed me. I did not understand it. I couldn't figure out how people could love God, something so unattainable so deeply, and powerfully that it can motivate everything that they think and do and say. I know this kind of love in earthly relationships and myself and my parents and my family and I experienced it there and I feel that same depth of devotion and conviction in that love. But I don't I think I could say that I've ever experienced that same level of love for God. I have a love for God but it's not that same driving and motivating that you think about all day long love. And I wanted it. I wanted to know how these people had attained a love for God that's so pure and so deep that they could turn their entire life over to him, every moment that they had so steadfastly. And always be so joyful in it and never feeling like they had any sacrifice. So I went into the same examples that I talked about in the scriptures earlier. To Nephi and Alma, and to King Benjamin trying to figure out what these amazingly faithful men have in common, what, where it was in their journey that they could figure out this perfect, love of God, to motivate them to be righteous for their entire life. In the first chapters of Mosiah, King Benjamin is in the final moments of his life, and he decides to give a talk of great conference to go over what he feels are the most important teachings for his people. To help them continue to be righteous after he's gone. And this is where I first kind of encountered the idea that would be the resounding answer to my question. In chapter 2, verse 4. He says," And also that they might give thanks to the Lord their God, who had brought them out of the land of Jerusalem, and who had delivered them out of the hands of their enemies, and had appointed just men to be their teachers, and also a just man to be their king, who had established peace in the land of Zarahemla and who had taught them to keep the commandments of God, that they might rejoice and be filled with love towards God, and all men."

A similar pattern of teaching is found in Alma chapter 36, when he is recounting his conversion story to his son. And so its a few verses and it's a little bit long, but I wanted to share all of it because I think it's kind of perfect. It covers the whole arc of how he got to this point. And he says, "Now, as my mind caught hold upon this thought, I cried within my heart. Oh Jesus, thou Son of God, have mercy on me, who am in the gall of bitterness, and am encircled about by the everlasting chains of death. And now, behold, when I thought this, I could remember my pains no more; yea, I was harrowed up by the memory of my sins no more. And oh, what joy, and what marvelous light I did behold; yea my soul was filled with joy as exceeding as was my pain! Yea, and from that time even until now, I have labored without ceasing, that I might bring souls unto repentance; that I might bring them to the taste of the exceeding joy of which I did taste; that they might also be born of God, and be filled with the Holy Ghost. Yea, and now behold, O my son, the Lord doth give me exceedingly great joy in the fruit of my labors; This same conversion and transformation is found over and over and over again, throughout the scriptures and modern day council. Obedience to the commandments leads to a love for God, which leads to a love for others. And not a love that Just softens our heart or lets us take pity on others or look on their situation and feel, sorry for them. But a love that allowed Alma to go across nations, through multiple trials and pursuit of sharing that love.

It's a loving God perfectly through obedience in return for all that he has given. And In doing this, we experience his perfect love more abundantly in our own lives and then in turn are filled with that love for those around us. It's a perfect cycle. One of my very favorite examples that I probably share too much from the book of Mormon is the conversion. It's really, really brief of King Lamoni's father. You don't even learn his name, But they encounter him as they're on their journey to go convert nations and this one man, and he upon hearing the gospel of Christ and being converted against his own heart, his response is, "what can I give up? What else can I do? I will give up everything. I will give up my nations and my treasures and anything so that everyone can have this. What do I need to do?" And I think its one of the greatest examples of what it looks like when we're truly converted, when we've truly come to understand what the pure love of God is in our lives because it turns us outwards and we start looking it up, everyone around us in the situations around us and looking to do more. And so what does the perfect love for others look like? When we get to that point that we have the desire, what does that do to our actions? Jesus Christ gave the ultimate, a perfect example, of course, and it's commonly referred to as grace, The grace of God that sees past imperfections. Past sins, past our misjudgments and mistreatments of others and offers unfailing relief and support.

In the book of John, Christ and his disciples passed by a blind man on the side of the road and Christ's disciples from their quick judgments assume that he's done something wrong or his parents said something wrong. And now he's in this predicament and they ask Christ, "which was it, what happened?" Wanting to know the reason behind the situation that he was in. And his response is the perfect lesson of grace and of love. He goes right past the situation and right past the reasoning and says, nothing more than "he has no sin and there's no wrong." And he makes him whole and they go on their way. He disregards everything about the situation and what judgments might be happening and what reasoning people might be trying to put that behind why he's there. And he just makes him whole and moves on.

One of my new favorite writers that I found is Adam S Miller and he recently published a book titled Original Grace. And it details the story of how he came to the understanding of this perfect love, and his interpretation of that. And he shared a story about his father who carried around a paper titled, Ten Reasons I believe. I started to imagine what was on this list because he describes his father to be this like amazingly devoted faithful man. And so I'm trying to put together what it would be, that would be on his list. Like amazing temple experiences or great revelation that he'd received in his life for those moments that we say, I know. And his list reads as follows: I apologize in advance I am pregnant and I cry over everything. And so if it don't make it through the end of it, then now you know why? But this is his list. My mom and dad told me there's a Christ. Mom walked me to church four miles each Sunday. Mom carried groceries home every day from work. Mom did without clothes, food and stuff for me. My dad in his last days, bought Gary and Sherry, two of his kids, a winter coat. My dad came to see me play basketball one day. On my 12th birthday dad gave me five dollars. It was my sister's wedding day. My mom loved my new wife. My dad came to help me set up our new trailer home. Helping my sister set up a baby bed for my first nephew in Washington DC. My dad tried to be a yellow light and got a ticket because I 13 said, "you can beat it". Each example is pure love. What sort of evidence could possibly justify his father's faith? Only pure love. Love is a willingness to do what is right no matter what, for the right reason and the right person. He says my mother and her love for me, never asked me for anything back. My father was convinced that there's only one way for all that love to happen. You follow Jesus Christ.

The more I learn, the more I experienced, a similar unraveling that Brother Miller also shared about in his quest for understanding. A stripping down of my beliefs and my understandings, these complex ideas of what I thought the gospel was and what I thought I'd worked out in my mind to be Christ's true teachings and doctrine, and I was left with this resounding answer that I found over and over and over again, Grace. Perfect love without judgment. It's a never ending cycle. The more we love him the more we understand his love and the more we love others. And it goes on and on, and on. It was easier now for me, as I started to learn these things like where these great examples of discipleship were coming from. They had gone through this cycle numerous times. They had experienced God's love so deeply that they couldn't keep it from others. Their love for God with driven by their love for fellow men and vice versa. And if you go back into the scriptures and you follow each of their accounts beginning to end, you'll see the same transformation.

And wanting to turn to the Lord they are turned to others. And then their relationship with God grows. This understanding gives a richer meaning and clarity to the two great commandments that we're taught in Matthew. "Thou shalt love thy 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 shall love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets .A love for God, a perfect love and a love for others are synchronous. And they are the key to everything in this gospel. Central to God's character is love and grace. Central to his gospel is love. And then central to his plan is love. If our goal is to ultimately be like him, we cannot pursue an eternal life with him, without grasping this concept. it is unavoidable and inseparable for the path to perfection. Understanding and feeling perfect love cannot happen if we don't extend that same perfect love, grace, to all those around us.

Though I began to better understand this concept and process I am far from perfecting it. My own weakness often keeps me from experiencing the joy that Alma speaks of From offering such Grace to others around me. But also as Alma said, "the Lord doth give me exceedingly great joy in the fruit of my labors. And in the small moments where I do remember to choose that grace, for me, and for others, the joy is incomparable. It is a joy that motivates me to, to quote, some Disney writers. Do the next right thing, just the small and simple next thing. And I know that If I faithfully pursue this process, I will come to know that pure and perfect motivating love for God.

There it's so much to be said, and learned about Grace and God's perfect love for us, and that perfect love for others. that I can't even begin to grasp a piece of it in our short-time And I hope that you'll be inspired to learn more. And to dig into this principle because I think like it says, it really is the key. It's why it's the two great commandments. It's why it's above all. Because when we can learn that grace and we can learn that love, we are able to do everything so much easier. It's kind of the beginning of the domino.

To close I just want to offer a portion of my testimony, that I know that Christ is our redeemer. And I know that the grace that he has for us is sufficient for everything. And I know that as we turn to him and we seek him out in a relationship with him fully in our lives, that the little rials and trespasses and the great trials and trespasses that happen in our lives and that happened to us become really small. It become really easy to move past because his grace is sufficient for everything and it's sufficient for us, and for others.

I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ.Amen



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