“Charity never faileth” is the motto of the Relief Society, the women’s group in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and one of the oldest and largest women’s organizations in the world. Charity is an attribute of Jesus Christ and necessary in order for us to return to the presence of our Heavenly Father.
Thomas S. Monson, prophet, seer, revelator, and president of the Church, spoke on the topic of “Charity Never Faileth” at the Relief Society Broadcast in October 2010. He began his talk by sharing the following story.
A young couple, Lisa and John, moved into a new neighborhood. One morning while they were eating breakfast, Lisa looked out the window and watched her next-door neighbor hanging out her wash.
“That laundry’s not clean!” Lisa exclaimed. “Our neighbor doesn’t know how to get clothes clean!”
John looked on but remained silent.
Every time her neighbor would hang her wash to dry, Lisa would make the same comments.
A few weeks later Lisa was surprised to glance out her window and see a nice, clean wash hanging in her neighbor’s yard. She said to her husband, “Look, John – she’s finally learned how to wash correctly! I wonder how she did it.”
John replied, “Well, dear, I have the answer for you. You’ll be interested to know that I got up early this morning and washed our windows!”
President Monson then asked, “Are we looking through a window which needs cleaning? Are we making judgments when we don’t have all the facts? What do we see when we look at others? What judgments do we make about them?” He suggested that “Why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?” could be compared with “Why beholdest thou what you think is dirty laundry at your neighbor’s house but considerest not the soiled window in our own house?” He continued.
None of us is perfect. I know of no one who would profess to be so. And yet for some reason, despite our own imperfections, we have a tendency to point out those of others. We make judgments concerning their actions or inactions.
There is really no way we can know the heart, the intentions, or the circumstances of someone who might say or do something we find reason to criticize. Thus the commandment: “Judge not.” …
I have always loved your Relief Society motto: “Charity never faileth.” [1 Corinthians 13:8] What is charity? The prophet Mormon teaches us that “charity is the pure love of Christ.” [Moroni 7:47] In his farewell message to the Lamanites, Moroni declared, “Except ye have charity ye can in nowise be saved in the kingdom of God.” [Moroni 10:21]
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 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.
According to President Monson, we must have mercy, tolerance, sympathy, and compassion in order to have charity. For a recent religion class I chose to develop the Christlike attribute of tolerance. One of the “weekly opportunities” I did in my becoming project was to pray for a woman in my congregation that sorts of grates on my nerves. I decided that I would pray for this sister and her family every day. As my project continued, I became concerned for her and how she was dealing with difficult children and her husband’s occupation. I had softer, more tender thoughts about her. I do not know if my prayers helped her, but they helped me develop more tolerance for her. It was as though someone had “washed” my “windows.”
In a recent Time Out for Women (TOFW) in Anchorage, Alaska, Anthony Sweat said that the opposite of charity is pride, selfishness, and cares of the world. He described charity as the “Fatherly love of God for His children and His children for Him.” Love of God fills us with joy. Love of God plus Love for God equals Love like God or Charity. Charity changes our natures.
Charity is not easy to develop because it includes all the other Christlike attributes. We cannot develop charity until we have humility, meekness, patience, tolerance, etc. “Charity never faileth” because anyone who has charity is like Jesus Christ.