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Karen Dunkley

Karen Dunkley

25 Nov. 2008

Transcript

Evidences of the Savior's Love

One of the great blessings in my life has been the opportunity for 18 years to work with students and faculty, and I want to say that truly you are lights in my life, and I am grateful for all of you.

“I Feel My Savior’s Love” is one of my favorite songs, and today I’m going to use the words and the ideas from that song to discuss the power of the Savior’s love in our life.

The first verse talks about the first step in coming to know our Savior, and that’s recognizing His love. It reads:

I feel my Savior’s love

In all the world around me,

His spirit warms my soul

Through everything I see.

(Ralph Rogers Jr., K. Newell Daley, and Laurie Huffman, Children’s Songbook, p.74)

Often we recognize God’s love in very simple things. I grew up in Ogden, living in the foothills at the base of a mountain, and the mountains in Ogden are very different than the mountains in Salt Lake. They’re rugged rock, and the shades of the mountains vary from various colors of brown to a salmon pink. One evening when I was about seven, I was out in my front yard playing as the sun was setting. And as it set, the light from the sunset diffused in such a way that the colors of the mountain came alive. It looked like it was vivid or alive. It glowed. And even the sky above was rose tinted. I think it was the first time I recognized something so beautiful, and even at that age I knew that that beauty was created by God. I was filled with wonder and awe and fear.

I stood on the sidewalk for a few minutes, absorbing all of that beauty, and then I ran into my house to tell my mother that the end of the world was coming.

Many years later, I was working as an aide in an intellectually handicapped classroom, and we were with the children at the zoo. I was not very happy to be there because, although most of the children were very obedient and willing to do what they were told, there were a couple of them that were rebellious and very difficult to handle. We finished walking around the lower part of the zoo and we were walking slowly up the hill when I lifted my eyes, and above the trees I saw the head and neck of a giraffe. And without any warning, this powerful feeling started to envelope me. I was filled with gratitude as I realized the grace and beauty of this animal that God had created.

Now think about your own lives. What have you seen in your own life that has helped you to recognize the love of the Savior? I have shown you two very simple examples of the myriads of evidence that surround us, that show us that our Savior loves us.

In Psalms 33:5 it reads: “The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord.” And as we begin to see and recognize with our souls as well as with our eyes the beauty of the world around us and the blessings of living in the world with the gospel of Jesus Christ, we open our eyes to recognize the power of the Savior and His love for us.

In Alma 36, Alma is telling his son Helaman about his miraculous conversion and rebirth. We all know that Alma was in darkness for three nights, racked with pain and torment and sorrow. But finally he remembered the words of his father about one Jesus Christ, who was coming into the world to atone for the sins of the world. Alma changed the course of his life when he, recognizing the power of the Savior, cried out within his heart, “O Jesus, thou Son of God, have mercy on me” (v. 18). This awareness and recognition is a necessary beginning for our own spiritual growth, and for Alma it happened very quickly. But for us it takes time and experience for the love of the Savior to sink into our hearts. As we have these experiences, they become part of the process of coming to know the Savior.

The second verse of the song reads:

I feel my Savior’s love,

His gentleness enfolds me,

And when I kneel to pray,

My heart is filled with peace.

The first time I realized the gentleness of the Savior’s love was when, just after I turned 16, I went to receive my patriarchal blessing. When I was 16, people didn’t prepare for patriarchal blessings like they do now. Today, your parents probably would have a family night, or you would talk about the blessings. You would probably fast and pray, and your parents might also. And your parents and even your brothers and sisters might go with you to the blessing. My mother gave me the address of the patriarch, and all alone after school, I walked to his house, knocked on his door, and he invited me in. I had never met him before.

He visited with me for just a moment, and then he invited me to sit on a hard, straight-backed chair, turned on an old-fashioned recording machine, and laid his hands on my head and began to bless me. As he spoke, a warm and tender feeling began to flow through my whole body. It was so intense, and yet the gentleness was so profound that silent tears ran down my cheeks. I knew God knew me. I knew God loved me, and I felt enfolded in His arms.

This verse also talks about God revealing His love through peace as we pray. About twenty years later I was studying the Book of Mormon, reading in a very thoughtful and serious way, and as I came to Ether 12:27, the words “if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness,” just stood out for me. The promise indicates that if we humble ourselves and exercise faith, weak things will become strong to us. I decided that it was time for me to face my weaknesses, and that I would pray to the Lord and ask Him to reveal them to me.

My intention was to just list them all on a sheet of paper and then work on them one by one, and feel that sense of accomplishment that comes as you cross them off. So for two days I fasted and prayed. Every day I prayed several times a day. After two days there was no answer. So I ceased the fast, but I kept on praying several times for two days longer. Then, after two days, as I was driving my young daughter to her dance lessons and thinking about what I had been seeking to know, and very quietly a voice came into my mind and said, “Karen, your weaknesses will be revealed to you one by one, when you are ready.”

At that very same moment, the car filled with that same gentleness and warmth that I had felt and described before. It filled me and lifted me, and the message that came into my heart was that God loved me and accepted me for who I was at that very moment. The peace and the joy of that experience lasted for several days, because I knew how much God cared about me.

In the interpretation of Lehi’s dream, the angel asks Nephi if he knows the meaning of the Tree of Life. And Nephi says, “Yea, it is the love of God, which sheddeth itself abroad in the hearts of the children of men; wherefore, it is the most desirable above all things” (1 Nephi 11:22).

And then the angel added: “Yea, and the most joyous to the soul” (v. 23).

Alma, again in Alma 36 as he was recounting his experiences of recognizing the Savior’s love, says: “Yea, I was harrowed up [no more] by the memory of my sins…and oh, what joy and marvelous light I did behold…my soul was filled with joy as exceeding as was my pain! …There was nothing so exquisite and sweet as was my joy” (vv. 19-21).

As we have these kinds of experiences, our desire to follow the Savior increases. Elder John H. Groberg writes: “God’s love transforms us. When filled with God’s love we can see and do and understand things we otherwise could not see and do and understand” (John H. Groberg, “The Power of God’s Love,” Ensign, Nov. 2004). Thus when we receive his love, we are willing to submit to His spirit and we have that mighty change of heart that Alma talks about.

The next verse of the song describes the change of the heart as yielding our hearts to Him. It reads:

I feel my Savior’s love

And know that he will bless me.

I offer him my heart,

My shepherd he will be.

God wants us our desire to know Him to grow to the point that we’ll turn over our will to Him, and allow our will to be consumed in His will. Neal A. Maxwell writes: “Surrender of the mind is really a victory, because it introduces us to God’s stretching and higher ways…. As we yield our hearts, He trusts us, and our blessings of understanding and knowledge increase. We gain a more enhanced individuality, and we are then more capable of receiving all that the Father has” (Neal A. Maxwell, “Consecrate Thy Performance,” Ensign, Dec. 2008).

Helaman, in Helaman 3, explains both the process and the blessings of yielding our hearts to God. He writes: “[Yea, and] they did fast and pray…and become stronger and stronger in their humility, and firmer and firmer in the faith of Christ, [even] unto [the receiving of] joy and consolation…even to the purifying and the sanctification of their hearts, which sanctification cometh because of their yielding their hearts unto God” (v. 35).

As we offer Him our hearts, we accept Him as our Shepherd and we come to know His voice. The 23rd Psalm has always been one of my favorite scriptures in helping me to understand the Savior’s ever-present love and His role in my life as a shepherd. The first lines read:

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.

He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

Our Savior knows the places that will nourish us with opportunities for our faith and our knowledge and our testimonies to grow. He knows how to bless us through the ministrations of the Holy Ghost and the living water of the Atonement that will calm and bring peace to our spirits. And as we partake of these blessings and opportunities, our souls are healed and our righteousness brings glory to him.

The next lines read:

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they [leadeth] me.

A shepherd’s rod is a club about three feet long, and it has a huge knob on the top of the club. The shepherd uses it to beat away the wolves from the flock. A rod is also a sign of power and authority. A staff, which is longer than a rod, is used for guiding the sheep. The Savior knows that as we go through life, we are going to face trials and temptations, sorrow and trouble. But He will protect and guide us if we trust in Him.

The next lines read:

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

The Savior has prepared sacred altars for us—the sacrament table, the altars at the temple where we make and renew sacred covenants. The promises and blessings that come from these ordinances and covenants will fill our lives with abundance as we understand and honor them.

The last two lines are an individual affirmation:

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

They testify of the great promises of God and that those who partake of these blessings and take the Savior as their Shepherd will receive all of the promises and will be honored in this life and in the life to come.

One line of the verse of the song “I Feel My Savior’s Love” that we just read says, “I feel my Savior’s love, and know that He will bless me.” Mormon, in Moroni 7, teaches us that one of these blessings is that the pure love of Jesus is bestowed upon the true followers of Jesus, and that, filled with this love, they can become like Him. They have that power to do that. This love is also called charity; it’s the pure love of Christ. And as this love changes us, as we become more like Him, it expresses itself in our loving and serving others.

The final verse of “I Feel My Savior’s Love” reads:

I’ll share my Savior’s love

By serving others freely,

In serving I am blessed,

In giving I receive.

You’ll remember that the Savior said to his apostles on the eve of his crucifixion, “As I have loved you, …love [ye] one another” (John 13:34). If we follow this admonition, then the pattern of the Savior’s life as He lived among men on earth should be the pattern that we try to follow in our own lives as we serve others. So how did He show His love for us when He lived upon the earth?

I’ve listed some of those things, and as we go through them, we could each ask ourselves how we could take each example and apply it in our own lives as we serve others. The first of those is that:

  • He left an exalted position to come down among men.
  • Second, He knew that He was God’s son, and knowing that gave Him clear perspective.
  • Third, He was not influenced by the world.
  • Fourth, He taught us His commandments, which are eternal truths.
  • Five, He chastened us.
  • Six, He also blessed others, including the sick and the sinner.
  • He prayed to the Father for strength and guidance.
  • He also prayed to the Father for us for strength and guidance.
  • He encouraged those who were weak.
  • He allowed us to learn.
  • He called others and entrusted them to do His work.
  • He desires that we all return to our Heavenly Father.
  • He faithfully fulfilled the commitments that He had made to His Father, in Gethsemane, as He suffered and atoned for our sins, and on Cavalry, where He died for our sins.

As we try to understand this love, we see that it has no bounds, and we begin to see others as God’s children, with divine potential. He wants all of us to have that opportunity to feel that love, and so He uses our hearts, our hands, our might, our strength to accomplish His purposes.

We have a good friend, Jim, who served as a bishop in Texas about fifteen years ago, and he shared the following story with us. One early Sunday morning in his bishop’s office, he got a call from another bishop in his stake. The bishop told him that he was calling to give him a “head’s up” about a woman who had just moved into Jim’s ward. The bishop’s Elder’s quorum had helped move her the previous day. The bishop told him that the woman had many problems, that she was demanding, manipulative and hard to please. And he also told him that although he was sorry that Jim would have to work with her, that he was very glad that she was leaving his ward.

Well, right after sacrament meeting, the woman was at the door of the bishop’s office, wanting to talk with Jim. She was not very clean; her hair was dirty and stringy, her clothes were rumpled, and she did not give off a very happy aura or attitude. The bishop’s call had already made Jim apprehensive, and as he listened to her wants, her needs and her expectations, he felt overwhelmed. Finally he stopped her and said, “I’d like to get to know you better. Why don’t you tell me how you gained your testimony of the gospel of Jesus Christ?”

That question led to her past history and a whole litany of problems that had occurred during her childhood and growing up years. Frustrated, Jim bowed his head and quietly prayed, “Father, how do you see this woman?” As he lifted his head, sitting in front of him was a beautiful woman, a daughter of God. Humbled and amazed, Jim understood. The moment of revelation only lasted for a short time, but Jim understood.

Elder [David B.] Haight taught, “God does not love us because we are lovable, or because we have a pleasing personality, or because we have a good sense of humor. He loves us in spite of who we are or what we have done” (David B. Haight, “Love All,” Ensign, Nov. 1982).

Alma’s experience is another example for us as he tells Helaman, “From that time”—meaning the time of his miraculous conversion—“…I have labored without ceasing… [to] bring souls unto repentance; that I might bring them to taste…the exceeding joy [that I tasted]” (Alma 36:24).

As we carry out our Church callings, as we look for other ways to serve, as we extend kindness and love to others, and as we follow the whisperings of the Spirit that sometimes come to tell us who needs to be loved or served, those we serve will not only feel of our love, but they’ll feel of the Savior’s love.

I remember many years ago feeling deeply disappointed because I felt that I had been overlooked for a position that I wanted very badly. I felt that I had failed, that I had been rejected by my peers whom I respected, and that I didn’t want to face the world. In my mind I knew I was being foolish, but the negative feelings persisted so after several days, I finally knelt down and just poured out my heart to my Heavenly Father.

Within twenty minutes, my doorbell rang. As I opened the door, standing on my front porch was Sister Scoville, a unique wonderful woman in her early eighties who was also my visiting teacher. She had in her hand some little booklets from a Christian organization that she subscribed to that was sponsored by Norman Vincent Peale, who was a prominent Christian minister at that time. And she said to me, “Karen, I suddenly felt that maybe you should read these booklets.”

Each one of them was a message about how to face discouragement or disappointment using God’s love and positive thinking. I don’t remember anything specific about what I read. But I will never forget the love and gratitude I felt to Sister Scoville for listening to the whisperings of the Spirit and following the promptings, and the love that I felt to the Lord for answering my prayer.

President Monson has said, “Of all the blessings in my life,” and he has had many, “one of the sweetest is the feeling that the Lord provides when I know that He has answered the prayers of a person through me” (Thomas S. Monson, “How Do We Show Our Love,” Ensign, Jan. 1998). And you will remember that the Savior said, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me” (Matthew 25:40).

The chorus of this song reads:

He knows I will follow him,

Give all my life to him.

I feel my Savior’s love,

The love he freely gives me.

Elder [Robert F.] Orton, in a 2001 conference stated: “Given the purpose of our existence, if we do not love our neighbor and God, then whatever else we do will be of little consequence” (Robert F. Orton, “The First and Great Commandment,” Ensign, Nov. 2001). I love the scripture which says we should be “rooted and grounded in love” (Ephesians 3:17) .Recognizing the love of the Savior in our life, coming to know Him, yielding our hearts to Him, and loving and serving others will help us to be rooted and grounded in love. Are we?

Does He know that we will give all our life to Him? It’s my prayer that each of us will have that desire in our hearts. I testify that as we enter into a covenant relationship with Jesus Christ that He will make us whole and complete, through the power of His Atonement, which is the greatest evidence of His love. I so testify in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.