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At the beginning of the semester, I was asked to come up with a project for New Testament class that would put what I was learning into a direct application to my life. I asked myself, “what would make the most positive difference in my life at this moment”? One of the things I struggle with the most is that I think I can generally be too cynical, judgmental, and selfish in my interactions with other people. So, I decided I wanted to learn more about the topic of charity as I studied the New Testament this semester.
To know about charity first requires a serious study of it. As I read the assigned passages in the New Testament, I studied them with an emphasis on charity. I would think about each verse I read and try to relate it to charity in some way. Reading the scriptures in this fashion helped me gain insights on charity in every chapter that I studied. I especially enjoyed the “Becoming Q&A” assignments because it helped me to ask specifically what I could learn about charity from a given chapter. I continued this pattern for the rest of my scripture study by asking myself inspired questions about how the people in each chapter showed charity (or lack of charity) for one another.
For example, reading about Joseph’s reaction to Mary’s unexplained pregnancy in the first chapters of Matthew made me ask myself how he could have had that much charity for his fiancée – Joseph would have naturally concluded that Mary had committed adultery, as what another way could she have gotten pregnant? How did he not freak out? This would have been such a difficult trial for him. After reading a few quotes from Elder James E Talmage, I learned that he loved his fiancée so much, and his faith was so strong, that he immediately believed the angel that came to him explaining the truth. His faith in God led him to have charity for Mary.
As I studied charity throughout the semester, I started to understand it better. Understanding bridges the gap between a belief (and action) and simple knowledge. My study of charity helped me know what charity is and how people express it, but I lacked something that would help me truly believe in it. This stepping stone came through prayer and pondering. The Spirit taught me why charity is important for me to obtain as I prayed about what I studied and thought deeply about what specific changes I needed to make in my life.
The understanding that I gained from charity led me to a belief. Belief came for me when I took what I had learned and acted upon it. Putting my plans for service and kindness (that I had decided on through pondering and prayer) into action led me to believe that charity is one of the most important principles of the gospel, that Jesus Christ has charity for every one of us, and that I can have charity for my brothers and sisters too. This was the most fundamentally important step in the process for me.
When I met the missionaries’ investigator Clarence, I felt genuine sympathy for his family’s problems. I helped them pay for groceries on one occasion when they didn’t have the means, and I had no expectation of them paying me back for it. Although Clarence had every intention of doing so, he wasn’t able to reimburse me before he moved away, and I was surprised to find that I wasn’t disappointed at all. A basic knowledge and understanding of charity would mean that I knew intellectually that I shouldn’t expect anything in return, but because I believed the principle of charity, I felt in my heart that doing the right thing means doing it solely for the benefit of others and nothing else. I felt the Spirit strongly as I served Clarence and his family – and that was all the confirmation that I needed.
Change has come into my life this semester as I have come to know, understand, and believe in the principles of charity. Where previously I would look the other way or ignore someone who needs my help, now I am actively on the lookout for people that I can assist – I have started looking forward to finding opportunities to show charity to others. The studying, question asking, and application of my understanding and belief has changed me as an individual and brought me closer to my Savior, Jesus Christ.
I have a coworker who can get on my nerves at times. Our personalities clash more than most, and the frequent jokes or comments that he makes towards me or things that I like can be hard for me to deal with. Due to this becoming project, my patience and my empathy for him have increased quite a bit. I find myself brushing off comments that would have bothered me a few months ago. I ask him questions about his interests and they lead to normal conversations. These changes came naturally out of the application of my studies, and they were totally unexpected. It’s a big deal for me to be on good terms with my coworker!
I really enjoyed working on this project this semester. I have felt a change in my interactions with others – both in my thoughts and in my external actions such as conversations and service. I believe so strongly that it is possible for every person to develop for others a measure of the love that Christ feels for each of us. I have a long way to go to get to where I want to be, but I am excited about the changes that I’ve felt so far as I have tried to follow the example of my Savior.