One of the central doctrines and principles of Zion is love - to first love God with all our hearts and to love each other (our neighbors) as ourselves. So important are these central doctrines, the Savior said, “There is none other commandment greater than these” (Mark 12:31)
As we place God first in all things, greater love and devotion is established between husband and wife, parents and children. The power of God’s love transforms us, enriches our lives, brings happiness and peace, and ultimately perfects us - “If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us. God is Love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him.” (1 John 4:12 & 16)
We can never comprehend in our mortal minds how deeply our Father in Heaven loves us as His children. His love and the love of His Son through the Atonement, is the greatest expression of love the world has ever known. “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another. (1 John 4:7:10 -11 )
The word “one” is a very significant yet often overlooked word that has many meanings. It is a central theme of Zion - “one heart and one mind”, in loving - “love one another”, in unity - “if ye are not one, ye are not mine”, and especially in the greatest gift given to all of mankind – the Atonement [at-one-ment] of Jesus Christ.
Elder James E. Faust testified, “Our Redeemer took upon Himself all the sins, pains, infirmities, and sicknesses of all who have ever lived and will ever live. No one has ever suffered in any degree what He did. He knows our mortal trials by firsthand experience. We long for the ultimate blessing of the Atonement—to become one with Him, to be in His divine presence, to be called individually by name as He warmly welcomes us home with a radiant smile, beckoning us with open arms to be enfolded in His boundless love. The overwhelming message of the Atonement is the perfect love the Savior has for each and all of us. It is a love which is full of mercy, patience, grace, equity, long-suffering, and, above all, forgiving.” (Elder James E. Faust – “The Atonement: Our Greatest Hope” – Oct 2001 General Conference)
The Atonement frees us from anything anyone can do to offend us or hurt us. As we fully receive the Atonement into our personal lives, we receive the love of God in our hearts – to forgive, to remember no more, to not compare or judge, and to recognize we are all in this together – that no one is better than another and we are all equal in the sight of God.
Elder M. Russell Ballard has said, “Brothers and sisters, I believe that if we could truly understand the Atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ, we would realize how precious is one son or daughter of God. I believe our Heavenly Father’s everlasting purpose for His children is generally achieved by the small and simple things we do for one another. At the heart of the English word atonement is the word one. If all mankind understood this, there would never be anyone with whom we would not be concerned, regardless of age, race, gender, religion, or social or economic standing. We would strive to emulate the Savior and would never be unkind, indifferent, disrespectful, or insensitive to others. If we truly understood the Atonement and the eternal value of each soul, we would seek out the wayward boy and girl and every other wayward child of God. We would help them to know of the love Christ has for them. We would do all that we can to help prepare them to receive the saving ordinances of the gospel.” (The Atonement and the Value of One Soul – April 2004 General Conference).
We invite every member of the stake to reach out more – to open our hearts and our homes to invite others into our lives. To share ourselves with our neighbors, our ward family, and anyone the Lord brings into our paths. We invite each of you to love one another more fully – to take time to listen and build relationships, to visit the sick and weary, to forgive an offense, to reconcile a relationship, to receive impressions each week concerning “whom the Lord would have us love”. It is through the Atonement we are privileged to participate with God – “As I have loved you, love one another”.
We testify that these impressions are from our Father in Heaven. These are the first things we are to do now to establish Zion more fully in our homes, wards, and stake. As we diligently seek to be obedient to the instructions we receive, we qualify for further instructions from our Father in Heaven to lead us and prepare us. We are humbled to have felt His love for every family, every son and daughter in this stake. We share these feelings with you with our love and our prayers that together we might all become of one heart and one mind, that we will dwell in righteousness together, and that there will be no poor (emotionally, spiritually, temporally) among us – that indeed we may all become more pure in our hearts to receive all that the Father has for us.
We love you.
The Salem Utah Stake Presidency