God is love
Week 49 is scheduled for study Nov. 27-Dec. 3, 2023. God is love. This week I have included no less than six links to additional articles and talks for you to use in your studies.

Day 1

As you read the Epistles of John and Jude, seek inspiration about how you can show your love to God. Record these impressions and act on them.

1 John; 2 John – God is light, and God is love.

This is one of those times where I stumble about in the hopes of saying what I feel, but with little hope of accomplishing anything more than making myself look foolish. I want to describe what light is and what God’s love is. Now there is a tall order. I still have only the smallest glimmer of those truths, but I’ll do my best for you.


In terms of speaking to our neighbor or our children, light in the scriptures refers to a state of spiritual awareness. (I’m doing my best not to use the term to describe itself.) Coming to understand spiritual things is also referred to as waking up as if from a deep sleep. In the scriptures darkness is spiritual ignorance. It is all about being lost and confused as to the things of God. Physically, the things of God tend to be very counter intuitive, so without the Spirit to reveal truth to us, the things of God don’t usually make any sense.

All the concepts of the world, like scarcity of resources, how we try to legislate cooperation between people, and so forth, is just how the natural man thinks. We think that way, because we don’t know any better, and we haven’t had any proof that our way of thinking might be flawed in any way. The fact that no government has ever been able to live in peace (without God in their lives) for more than a few years, doesn’t seem to have had any impact on humanity. We just assume we have done something wrong, and that perhaps we needed more regulation, not less. This is the darkness, the spiritual darkness that humanity lives in. It’s like a whole community who lives in a cave with only the tiniest amounts of light that work their way in only occasionally leaving shadows on the wall. No one has ever lived outside of the cave, so it is assumed that this condition of darkness is universal. The idea that we all live in such darkness does not even cross our mind. Think of the blind person who has never had sight. Blindness is all they know. Why would they assume there was more?

Only when someone is led closer to the opening of the cave, and they have been momentarily blinded by the light they have seen, dim though it was, that they begin to comprehend that what is accepted as normal might not be. In the light things make more sense. When in the light vision goes further, understanding expands exponentially, and colors – Wow! the colors! – they’re everywhere! Of course we don’t live in the light. Trips into the light must be sought after and enjoyed in only small doses, for our life for now is in the world of darkness called the cave. Eventually we all return home to our life in the darkness.

Interestingly, those who have seen the light, even dimly, have their view of their native darkness forever changed. What was their normal way of seeing now seems like a burden, for it seems darker than before. There is a discontent to have to live without the light they enjoyed, even briefly. In the spiritual world some are content to go back to their old ways and live the rest of their lives in the universal darkness of the cave. Others though develop a longing for more light. The enveloping darkness holds them back. They live with a growing hunger for more of the awareness the lighter version of living offers them. The light becomes their happy place.

This difference between light and dark is the difference between living without the Holy Spirit and living with His constant companionship. When President Russell M. Nelson talked about thinking celestial, he was talking about wanting to live our lives in the light of the Spirit. Why should we be content to wander through life in the darkness of spiritual ignorance when things as they really are can be revealed to us, but only when we are in the brighter light than the cave can offer? The Spirit is here to show us the way to the cave’s opening, that place where the sun’s bright light illuminates the landscape and nothing is hidden. There is so much to take in. So much to see and comprehend. Those who think celestial in their thoughts are those who seek the Spirit through prayer, fasting, service, Temple worship, etc.

2 Nephi 1:23 comes alive in this scenario. What a noble verse!

23 Awake, my sons; put on the armor of righteousness. Shake off the chains with which ye are bound, and come forth out of obscurity, and arise from the dust.


One of the things we learn from studying the life of the Savior is that love isn’t simple, but complex. To love as God loves is far more than just doing something nice for another person. The world has many who go about doing good for others. Godly love is demonstrated by a host of attitudes that all have to be present to constitute the love or charity that is the definition of God. When we say that God is love, we say that He is the embodiment of all the virtues we have recognized as being part of His character. Love or charity is what dominates His way of thinking and behaving to the point that by simply stating that “God is love,” we have summed up the whole of His personality.

God’s love is unconditional. We don’t have to do anything to “earn” His love. He gives it joyfully to us, because loving us makes Him happy. There are no conditions on His love. Saint, sinner, convict, mass murderer, or a person of great righteousness – all are loved equally and always. And it isn’t just that He is so willing to love us whether we do anything to be deserving of it or not. It is that He is personally willing to sacrifice of His own convenience and comfort to give us any chance that exists to find the happiness He lives with. Jesus was never loved like he loved others, and no one ever served him like he served them. Yet for all that, he was willing to suffer God’s own punishment of all the sinners in the world, in all time periods of the earth in order for them to have the opportunity to repent and return to live with God again. The reward Jesus got? – to live for eternity with some of those for whom he had suffered in eternal bliss and constant harmony. He would get to see them excel in ways they still don’t even know they will yet excel. But Jesus saw their possibilities, so he was willing to offer himself as the great and last sacrifice in order for them to have this opportunity of happiness.

The culture of love, of giving, watching over one another, or making sure everyone’s needs are met, without concern for one’s own needs, this is Christ’s love, his charity. His love includes all the attitudes that make that kind of lifestyle possible. He exhibits patience, longsuffering, tolerance for foibles and weaknesses, dedication, absolute devotion and belief in our own abilities to accomplish what he knows we can. He will never do anything that will make us question our own abilities, but he builds us up constantly, working with us at our own pace to bring us along the path of progress to the happiness he knows is waiting for us.

Christ’s love looks past our petty assumptions and is forgiving of our lesser ways of doing things. He knows it will take time for us to learn to think bigger thoughts, and to live bigger lives as we struggle to comprehend his own love for us. But he is dedicated to showing us the way back to our Father in Heaven. He uses the Holy Spirit to teach us, to enlighten our minds, to modify our personalities a tiny bit at a time so that we can practice our new attitudes as we begin to acquire them. There is nothing about being celestial that is natural to the natural man. He understands that we need lots of time and practice in our efforts to slough off our old ways as we slowly adopt his new and better ways of behaving and thinking. Our perspective of life and our expectations will be rewritten and reevaluated dozens of times as our perspective in the light grows more clear.

Today’s lesson

Today’s lesson material uses simple language, but language steeped in depth and complexity. To simply state that God is love or that God is light, says nothing to the person who hasn’t seen the light yet, or who hasn’t yet felt the love of God in their life. These are things we have to experience. Only after experiencing them do we come to crave more of their influence in our daily life. Eventually we realize that these influences, these qualities of the Spirit are so important to us that we feel we cannot live life without them. This is when we begin to see our lives from an eternal perspective. This is when we are really thinking celestial, for our only desire has become to think, feel, and behave as God does. Being Christlike has become our highest self that we strive for.

If today’s material has helped you see any additional ways in which God is both light and love, I recommend going back and rereading John’s epistles, his letters. See if you have any new impressions that help open your vision into what it is like to be like Christ. That will certainly bring you joy.

I wrote an article entitled Understanding Christlike Love that might help take today’s lesson even further in your thinking.

Day 2

As you read the Epistles of John and Jude, seek inspiration about how you can show your love to God. Record these impressions and act on them.

1 John 2-4; 2 John – If we love one another, God dwelleth in us.

This is a great time for a review of this concept we have looked at earlier in the year. Here are some previous Come, Follow Me weeks where this same concept of abiding or continuing in Christ has already been discussed.

NT27-2023 – He Is Risen (Look at Day 2.)

NT24-2023 – Continue Ye in My Love (Mainly Day 1, Day 3, and Day 5)

Commentary on John 15

Day 3

As you read the Epistles of John and Jude, seek inspiration about how you can show your love to God. Record these impressions and act on them.

1 John 2:24-3:3 – I can become like Jesus Christ.

There is a great talk the manual suggests we read that is really good. It is Becoming Like Him by Elder Scott D. Whiting of the Seventy. He makes many really insightful points such as the following as he quoted Elder Neal A. Maxwell from one of his (Elder Maxwell’s) previous talks.

Elder Neal A. Maxwell taught: “As we ponder having been commanded by Jesus to become like Him, we see that our present circumstance is one in which we are not necessarily wicked, but, rather, is one in which we are so half-hearted and so lacking in enthusiasm for His cause—which is our cause, too! We extol but seldom emulate Him.” A young minister, Charles M. Sheldon, expressed similar sentiments this way: “Our Christianity loves its ease and comfort too well to take up anything so rough and heavy as a cross.”

One of the phrases that hit me as significant for myself was “We extol but seldom emulate Him.” Ouch. It occurred to me that talking about the virtues of the Christ makes me feel good, but also can act as a shield behind which I hide so that I take comfort and glory in his goodness without necessarily worrying about my own goodness. I suppose I do indeed spend more time talking about Christ’s virtues than I spend trying to plead for his help in changing me so I am more like him. The key here is my lack of desire for changing who and what I currently am.

I have been heavy most of my adult life. Once when I really needed to lose weight I discovered that I was actually afraid that if I lost my weight I would also lose myself. Who would I be if I wasn’t hiding behind my my shield, my weight? How would I act or feel about certain things? I was terrified that I wouldn’t know who I was any longer. My weight had become part of who I was, not just a number on a scale. The two of us were intimately connected as part of my personality.

As I worked through how I felt about making the needed changes in my life and in my perspective, I finally felt comfortable with the idea that I was not committed to this course. In other words, if I felt at any time that I was losing myself (for real) I could back out and not make the changes. As I lost the weight I discovered that my fears were unfounded. I was still me even without the weight, but I felt better about me than I had ever felt before. I realize that only those who have had to go through something like this will be able to relate to it, but this is as close to the principle Elder Maxwell is addressing as I can get.

Charles M. Sheldon’s quote about us loving our ease and comfort too much to take up anything as rough and as heavy as a cross really struck me. Being a disciple of Christ really does require change. Change is not easy. It can be uncomfortable and take a lot of work. Making changes to who and what we are requires a belief in what we are trying to become, and in who is helping us make those changes. We need to feel safe. We don’t really know how we will feel once these changes are made. Will I still be me once I have gotten rid of my old way of thinking and feeling and am behaving in a new way? Isn’t this the journey of most converts to the church?

When we put our faith in Christ as the one who needs to direct the path of our changes, and who will be giving us his grace to have the ability to make those changes, our confidence will begin to grow in our relationship with God. Our trust in Him will increase. Our understanding of His ways will grow, and we will be more grateful for His loving kindness and His willingness to continue to suffer with our imperfect attempts to become like Him. But this is the whole purpose of the plan of salvation. Our Father in Heaven gave us a Savior and the Holy Ghost for this very reason. He knows we need to make many changes and that we can’t do it all by ourselves. We all need help, and that is what our Savior and the Spirit are there for, to give us the direction, comfort, and spiritual boosts and insights we need to make the needed changes. The plan of salvation was designed with this process in mind and for this very purpose!

Yes, we can become like Christ. We are supposed to become like Christ – not in some figurative way, and not a match for his greatness, but to develop the same attributes that cause us to love him in the first place. We will never be a match for his personal greatness, but we can become just like him in obedience, love, dedication, devotion to righteousness, and all those other good attributes and virtues that in so many ways define who he is. All of us are capable of this kind of emulation, for we are all children of the same Father. God does not give us commandments that are impossible to keep.

Day 4

As you read the Epistles of John and Jude, seek inspiration about how you can show your love to God. Record these impressions and act on them.

1 John 4:12 – Has “no man … seen God at any time”?

Joseph Smith put into words what the scriptures demonstrate so fully. He takes the thought “No man has seen God at any time” and adds, “except them who believe.” Have you noticed that during Christ’s mortal ministry he mingled with one and all in the house of Israel, but once he was resurrected he only appeared to those who believed. No one who was not a believer ever saw Christ after his resurrection. All of his post-resurrection appearances were to the members of the church, never in public. That also holds true to his visit to the Americas.

Even in the Old Testament this statement that God only shows Himself to the believer is true. He appeared to Moses and seventy others, to Enoch, and many of the prophets. All believers. The only time this will change is the day Jesus returns to destroy the wicked and begin the transformation of the earth for his millennial reign. They will see him, but it won’t be a reward for their belief and faithfulness, but as the harbinger of their own judgment and condemnation. Christ delights in showing himself to the faithful and the believer.

Day 5

As you read the Epistles of John and Jude, seek inspiration about how you can show your love to God. Record these impressions and act on them.

1 John 5 – As I exercise faith in Jesus Christ and am born again, I can overcome the world.

For a moment I was stymied by the thought that as I exercise my faith in Jesus Christ I am born again. I don’t usually put those two concepts together in the same sentence. Finally it occurred to me that the first fruits of faith are repentance and baptism, which is being born again, coming up out of the water in a newness of life. We leave our old selves, our old priorities, loves, and habits behind us in the symbolic grave of the font and come up out of the water as a new creature in Christ. It is this process of putting our faith in Christ the gives us a renewed desire and a greater determination to live a life of promised blessings, rather than a life without hope in a better resurrection.

Look back on what we discussed for Day 3. This is all about what it means to overcome the world. Becoming like Christ is the only way to do it. Now be sure to read Elder Neil L. Andersen’s talk Overcoming the World. Having laid the ground work for his talk through your studies so far this week, you should really get a lot out of what he has to say.

Day 6

As you read the Epistles of John and Jude, seek inspiration about how you can show your love to God. Record these impressions and act on them.

Jude 1 – “[Build] up yourselves on your most holy faith.”

The manual divides today’s verses into two categories, those who speak evil of God’s work and His servants, and how to keep our faith in Christ strong. My favorite verses are verses 12-13. Verses 10-11 talk about how their evil tendencies have corrupted them so they have become like Cain or Core (Korah), who fought against the civil authority of Moses. But it is how verses 12-13 paint short, but deadly accurate images of what these people do to themselves that I find most fascinating. Here are some of the descriptions and how I interpret them.

12 These are spots in your feasts of charity, when they feast with you, feeding themselves without fear: clouds they are without water, carried about of winds; trees whose fruit withereth, without fruit, twice dead, plucked up by the roots;

13 Raging waves of the sea, foaming out their own shame; wandering stars, to whom is reserved the blackness of darkness for ever.

12 – “Spots in your feasts of charity, when they feast with you, feeding themselves without fear.” These people are all too willing to take advantage of the goodness and charity of those who are trying to follow Christ faithfully. They come to your banquet of goodness and feed without fear. Yet these are the same people who don’t believe in what you are doing. They openly speak against the living prophet (and many of the dead ones), finding fault wherever they can. They have no shame for their hypocrisy.

These people are “clouds … without water.” What good is a cloud if it doesn’t produce life-giving rain? They hold themselves above the rest of us, but being without substance (rain) they are just being scuttled about by “every wind of doctrine” or by the will of the devil.

People planted trees for the fruit they bore. Why waste the precious resource of water on a tree that gave nothing in return? These people who speak against God’s anointed are like a tree whose fruit never ripens or who never have fruit at all. It is like they are dead twice over, and only good for being plucked up by the roots.

13 – “Raging waves of the sea, foaming out their own shame.” A character trait shared with most who rebel against the way things are done in Christ’s church is that they are willing at all times to make noise and condemn what they don’t agree with. They are the raging waves of the sea, yet the froth made from these raging waves only demonstrates their own lack of substance. Their froth is not productive and only goes to demonstrate their own shame in their shameless behavior. This is another example of those who come to the banquet of the gospel, partake of all the bounties it affords, yet shamelessly complain and accuse those whom God has appointed to conduct His affairs on the earth, whether that is a ministering assignment, a Bishop, or any leader higher up.

The closing verses of this chapter tell us clearly that our spiritual strength only comes through our devotion to Christ and the gospel he has given us. If we want to remain strong, being obedient to his commandments is necessary. That obedience is what brings us triumphant back to God.

24 Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy,

Verse 24 is only the first half of the sentence, but it shows us clearly that Jesus is the only one who is able to keep us from falling, and is able to “present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy.” Our happiness comes through Christ. Our exaltation comes through our devotion to Christ. He is how we find the strength to return successfully to God’s presence.

FHE/Personal Study

Jude 1:3-4 – Spiritual danger that may have crept into our lives

I find the title to this section interesting. That a spiritual danger is said to have crept into our life tells me that there are dangers among us that are coming and going unseen by many of us. How they were introduced or got there isn’t so important as that we need to see untruths for what they are then do as Jude says and contend for the faith. If this is a position that is accepted by the world, but not by God then we will look to the world to be provincial, quaint, narrow minded, or worse hateful. These days the pattern of behavior in society seems to be to jump right from disagreement to hate. There is little room for tolerance with those who disagree, for whatever reason.

Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints.

For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.

Have you ever wondered how someone can take the grace, the goodness of God and turn it into lasciviousness? Webster’s online dictionary defines lasciviousness this way – “unrestrained sexual behavior, or a habitual inclination to such behavior.” When someone takes the love of God and makes it sexual, I think that qualifies for what Jude is talking about. Where have we seen this happen?

The gay community has adopted a slogan that goes like this – “Love is never wrong.” As Christians we are taught from infancy that love should be freely given and accepted. Love is the defining characteristic of God, Himself, for God is love. See Day one for a discussion of this concept. This begs the question, “If love is never wrong then why is the gay community using this statement to convince everyone that love amongst gays is never wrong?” It took me a while to mentally work my way through this, but I finally realized that the gay community has turned the love of God into an acceptance of forbidden sexual love. This is the very thing Jude tells us in verse three we should contend against.

Does Jude use the words “contend against?” No, he does not. What he says is that we should be contending for the faith that was delivered to us. Why? Because of men who are “turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.” On the surface I think we can all accept that Godly love is never wrong. When love refers to extending a recognized value to each and every person as a child of God, love is never wrong. But when love means to deny God’s commandments of virtue, and redefine His own definitions of family and righteous behavior into a sexual kind of love then we have “turned the grace of our God into lasciviousness.”

In the Book of Mormon, the prophet Mormon mourned over the loss of his people. He loved them. They robbed women of their virtue and ate the beating hearts of their enemies as a sign of bravery. Mormon was disgusted by their wickedness, but still loved them as children of God who had gone terribly astray. He spent his whole life trying to reclaim them that they might not have to be destroyed. This demonstrates to us that we can love the sinner, but hate the sin.

The more the world turns to Satan in its abandonment of God the more of these kinds of things we will find being taught to our children and to us through social media and the airwaves. The world will cloak their sins in every virtuous form they can find in order to convince us to adopt their beliefs and practices. Ignoring such teaching isn’t enough. Jude says we must “earnestly contend for the faith.” We must seek to teach others a better way, for Christ has shown us the way to go, and happiness will be found only on the path he has laid out for us.

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NT49-2023 – God Is Love