True charity, the absolutely pure, perfect love of Christ, has really been known only once in this world--in the form of Christ Himself, the living Son of the living God. It is Christ's love that Mormon goes to some length to describe for us and that Paul the Apostle did as well some years before, writing to the Corinthians in New Testament times. As in everything, Christ is the only one who got it all right, did it all perfectly, loved the way we are all to try to love. But even though we fall short, that divine standard is there for us. It is a goal toward which we are to keep reaching, keep striving--and, certainly, a goal to keep appreciating.
And as we speak of this, may I remind you, as Mormon explicitly taught, that this love, this ability, capacity, and reciprocation we all so want, is a gift. It is "bestowed"--that is Mormon's word. It doesn't come without effort and it doesn't come without patience, but, like salvation itself, in the end it is a gift, given by God to the "true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ." The solutions to life's problems are always gospel solutions. Not only are answers found in Christ, but so is the power, the gift, the bestowal, the miracle of giving and receiving those answers. In this matter of love, no doctrine could be more encouraging to us than that.
I have taken for a title to my remarks Mrs. Browning's wonderful line "How do I love thee?" (Elizabeth Barrett Browning,Sonnets from the Portuguese , no. 43.) I am not going to "count the ways" this morning, but I am impressed with her choice of adverb--not when do I love thee nor where do I love thee nor why do I love thee nor why don't you love me, but, rather, how. How do I demonstrate it, how do I reveal my true love for you? Mrs. Browning was correct. Real love is best shown in the "how."
There are many qualities you will want to look for in a friend or a serious date--to say nothing of a spouse and eternal companion--but surely among the very first and most basic of those qualities will be those of care and sensitivity toward others, a minimum of self-centeredness that allows compassion and courtesy to be evident. "That best portion of a good man's life [is] his . . . kindness," said Mr. William Wordsworth (Lines Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey , lines 33–35). There are lots of limitations in all of us that we hope our sweethearts will overlook. I suppose no one is as handsome or as beautiful as he or she wishes, or as brilliant in school or as witty in speech or as wealthy as we would like, but in a world of varied talents and fortunes that we can't always command, I think that makes even more attractive the qualities we cancommand--such qualities as thoughtfulness, patience, a kind word, and true delight in the accomplishment of another. These cost us nothing, and they can mean everything to the one who receives them.
Love is a fragile thing, and some elements in life can try to break it. Much damage can be done if we are not in tender hands, caring hands. To give ourselves totally to another person, as we do in marriage, is the most trusting step we take in any human relationship. It is a real act of faith--faith all of us must be willing to exercise. If we do it right, we end up sharing everything--all our hopes, all our fears, all our dreams, all our weaknesses, and all our joys--with another person.
No serious courtship or engagement or marriage is worth the name if we do not fully invest all that we have in it and in so doing trust ourselves totally to the one we love. You cannot succeed in love if you keep one foot out on the bank for safety's sake. The very nature of the endeavor requires that you hold on to each other as tightly as you can and jump in the pool together. In that spirit, and in the spirit of Mormon's plea for pure love, I want to impress upon you the vulnerability and delicacy of your partner's future as it is placed in your hands for safekeeping--male and female, it works both ways.
In Mormon's and Paul's final witnesses, they declare that "charity [pure love] never faileth" (Moroni 7:46, 1 Corinthians 13:8). It is there through thick and thin. It endures through sunshine and shadow, through darkest sorrow and on into the light. It never fails. So Christ loved us, and that is how He hoped we would love each other. In a final injunction to all his disciples for all time, He said, "A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you" (John 13:34; emphasis added). Of course such Christlike staying power in romance and marriage requires more than any of us really have. It requires something more, an endowment from heaven.
Remember Mormon's promise: that such love--the love we each yearn for and cling to--is "bestowed" upon "true followers of Christ." You want capability, safety, and security in dating and romance, in married life and eternity? Be a true disciple of Jesus. Be a genuine, committed, word-and-deed Latter-day Saint. Believe that your faith has everything to do with your romance, because it does. You separate dating from discipleship at your peril. Or, to phrase that more positively, Jesus Christ, the Light of the World, is the only lamp by which you can successfully see the path of love and happiness for you and for your sweetheart. How should I love thee? As He does, for that way "never faileth."