For the longest time, I didn’t think I had any charity.
Whenever I heard about charity in Primary, Sunday School, Young Women, Relief Society, and even many of my university religion classes, the message I always got was that charity was service. Charity was going out and giving, working, and putting yourself out there for other people. As I understood it, if you don’t do service, you don’t have charity, the pure love of Christ (see Moroni 7:47).
It’s not as if I was unkind, or didn’t perform my callings to the best of my ability, or didn’t help out where I could. It’s just that mental illness—depression and anxiety—kept me from serving how I wanted. How could I go out and help people when I couldn’t even take care of myself—when I couldn’t even love myself? I always felt that my charity was lacking because I wasn’t actively going out and serving people like the Savior did.
Very recently, in my Doctrine and Covenants class, my professor was teaching about hope, faith, and charity. I prepared myself for the guilt and numbness I would feel when charity came up. However, I was surprised when my professor said, “Charity is a loving relationship with God. It is not service.” I probably got whiplash from looking up so quickly. What? What about the message I’d been taught all those years?
I wanted to learn more about what my professor said, so I began searching for talks on the topic. President James E. Faust gave an address called “A Personal Relationship with the Savior,” which is exactly what we had discussed in class! In his talk, President Faust doesn’t say the word charity even once, yet the message is brimming with the importance of developing a tender relationship with God.
When my professor said that charity is not service, he meant that charity is not service by definition. Rather, service is a product of charity—something we want to do because of the personal, loving relationship we have with God. President Faust mentions serving as one of the steps toward gaining and maintaining a relationship with Jesus Christ. Nevertheless, the main topic of the article is developing a profound closeness to the Savior.
President Faust’s talk and my professor’s lecture helped me realize that I do have charity. Although my relationship with the Savior is neither perfect nor fully developed, it is full of love and faith. With that knowledge, I have been given, as President Faust says, “a calming courage.” My experience with charity will continually change. I may experience it as giving service, or, during those times when I feel I cannot serve as I want to, I may simply experience it as I pray to express my gratitude to God. Either way, I will experience true charity.
Read or watch President James E. Faust’s full message to learn more about having a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
—Lauren Allred, Mormon Insights
feature image by joshua earle
Find more insights
Watch “The Civility Experiment” to see how the pure love of Christ blesses everyone’s lives.
To help you know how to develop charity while experiencing mental illness, read or watch Elder Jeffrey R. Holland’s “Like a Broken Vessel.”
Read or watch what this former Relief Society General Presidency member had to say about how charity changes us, calls us to action, and affects the way we treat ourselves and others.
I am so impressed with your post! Thank you for sharing your insights on charity. I have felt very similarly when charity has been discussed. It is awesome to know that as our relationship grows we become more like him and can experience the pure love of Christ as our actions reflect his. Well done!
As your uncle, I am proud of your ability to write and express yourself. As a person who also has struggled with charity and service, I really appreciate your perspective and will strive to improve my relationship with the Lord so that I can serve more effectively.
I honestly think that a lot of us feel that way–I know I feel guilty about not doing more service, even though, in reality, I really can’t. Thank you for the reminder that charity is really about our relationship with God.