I’m not a people person by nature. I can enjoy company, but I don’t often seek it out. Usually, I try to avoid it, though I’ve been working on this.
Yesterday I re-read something that had jumped out at me when I read it earlier this year. Actually, I’d read this many times before, but it was upon this reading that something new struck me. Such is the experience of those who study the Book of Mormon.
I’d often wondered how to increase my capacity for charity–the inherent desire to know people, to love them, to want to help them. I’ve prayed for growth in this capacity, but I still have a long way to go.
But then I read these verses:
3 And they also took of the firstlings of their flocks, that they might offer sacrifice and burnt offerings according to the law of Moses;
4 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. [Mosiah 2:3-4, emphasis added]
And there it is, hidden right in a little bit of backstory at the end of a verse that amounts to no more than a narrative transition: one of the most powerful spiritual truths I’ve ever gained from the book:
The ability to love others is nurtured by first submitting ourselves to God’s law.
Seeing it now, it isn’t surprising: charity is God’s kind of love. Developing it is part of our exercise to become more like Him. And the way to do that is to live like Him.
It’s a 7th habit kind of thing: if we want the strength to give to others, we need to build that up in ourselves first.
The Book of Mormon’s focus on the blessings of observing the obligation to obey the commandments is persistent. Also recently, I was impressed by 1 Nephi 15:25, which ends with the phrase “keep his commandments always in all things.” Not just sometimes in all things, and not just always in some things. Both. No room for equivocation there.
I can testify that obedience to the commandments does engender a more general love of humanity in us. But I still have a long road ahead before I really feel open to reaching out and embracing “the whole human family of Adam” (Mormon 3:20), and that’s because I’m far from perfect. As the latter improves, so will the former.