I've been serving in our stake presidency for the last two-and-a-half years. To be very honest, it's been a difficult calling for me in many ways. And yet there are some aspects of the calling that have been so beautiful, so sublime and sweet that I wouldn't change it, and I'd gladly accept it all over again.
For example, giving temple recommend interviews has taught me, beyond any doubt, that God knows and loves each of His children. In a large stake, a lot of the interviews I give are naturally going to be with people I don't know well, some of whom I don't know at all.
I have come to look forward to these sacred occasions because of the love I feel for these people. I don't mean that I, personally, come to love them more (although that's true). What I mean is far more profound. When I give these recommends--and I assume this holds true for anyone who has that responsibility--I feel the Lord's love for the person being interviewed. For a few wonderful moments, I seem to feel with the Lord's heart and see with His eyes. I have learned time and again the truth that the Lord does not look on people as we do. His view is so much deeper, broader, and complete. And, in spite of knowing us better than anyone, He still sees us in a generous, gentle, loving way that defies my ability to describe. Each time I begin an interview, I can feel great waves of warmth and goodness, of kindness and compassion.
Temple recommend interviews serve an important purpose. The Lord has charged that no unclean thing enter His house, and this is not a minor matter. And yet, my experience is that even in an inherently evaluative setting, the overwhelming feeling I sense from the Lord is love for these people. They are His children and He loves them. Dearly and deeply, quirks, warts, and all.
The purity of this love, the warmth and openness is so different from the pinched and narrow way I think most of us see each other and ourselves. The gap between my own assessments of people and the feelings I feel when I'm acting for the Lord is so great that there is really no comparison.
I'm reminded on each of these occasions just why it is incumbent on me not to judge others and why I need to try to be loving. It's not only that there is information I don't have, although that is true. It's also because the Lord's judgements are cloaked and wrapped in charity so thick and real as to almost be tangible. Informed by and rooted in this level of pure love, His judgements are going to be vastly different than those that come from human hearts.
In addition to that, I have learned that the Lord's capacity to love is so much greater than mine. In consistency, in breadth, and depth; in endurance and texture and dimension; in intensity, constancy, and duration He loves so much more and so much more deeply than I do.
Since I am so far behind him, my only reasonable choice is to try to be as loving as I can be. If even my best efforts are far from the mark, then surely my worst efforts are unacceptable.
Speaking of my own shortcomings, these experiences always give me courage. It is easy to be overwhelmed with my own faults and flaws and failings. There are so many of them. And yet, after I give a temple recommend interview, I feel a little flutter of hope. Surely if the Lord loves these other people so much, He must love me, too. He's not a respecter of persons. Although I sometimes feel so eminently unloveable, these occasions give me the courage to hope, and that hope evolves into faith that my Heavenly Father loves me, too.
The Kindling, was published in July. He blogs about all of the above at www.bradenbell.com