Many of us think of love as an attribute. But it is more. In the gospel of Mark, Jesus gives the first great commandment which is to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength. Love, therefore, is a commandment. We may sometimes profess our love to God in prayers when we say, “We love thee Father,” but what does it really mean to love God?
Love God with all thy heart. Loving God with all our hearts means having righteous desires. Why? Because our desires directly impact our choices and our moral agency. The desire of our hearts is the driving force behind our actions and choices. Loving God with all our hearts means desiring to submit our wills to God, change our ways, repent of our sins, strive to overcome our weaknesses, and “let the affections of [our] heart[s] be placed upon the Lord forever.” All our desires, be it temporal or spiritual, should be rooted in our love of God.
Love God with all thy soul. The Lord invites us to “come unto him, and offer [our] whole souls as an offering unto him.” Offering our whole souls to Him means following His commandments willingly and joyfully, without the grudging thought that we are only following Him because of the blessings that we will receive or because we are compelled to follow.
Love God with all thy mind. When we love God with all our minds, we strive to remember Him each day, not only because we made a promise to remember Him always when we were baptized, but because we want to be reminded of God’s perfect love for us no matter the circumstance. We also take the time to study the scriptures, attend Sunday school, seminary, and institute classes, and listen to prophets and apostles. Focusing and filling our minds with His words and the words of His servants will help us know Him better and understand His goodness and love for us.
Love God with all thy strength. Loving God with all our strength means losing ourselves in the service of our fellowmen, because by doing so, we are in the service of our God. It involves sacrificing our personal time, using our talents, exerting our efforts, and giving of our substance to those whose hands need a little lifting. It also means caring for and strengthening our bodies to be capable of serving.
Love thy neighbor as thyself. Loving our neighbor cannot be separated from loving God, for in the scriptures the Lord Himself said, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” This is the second great commandment. It is important to note that obeying this commandment is not simply about loving others. It is about loving others as we love ourselves. It means looking after the welfare of others, bearing one another’s burden, uplifting those whose shoulders hang down with sorrow, recognizing that none of our fellow travelers on this earth are perfect, and cultivating an attitude of kindness and generosity one towards another. The question, “Would I do the same to myself?” will help us consistently check if we are truly loving our neighbors.
As we obey the first great commandment, our loyalty to Heavenly Father will not waiver even at the darkest stage of our lives. And when the time comes that He asks, “Do you love me?”, we will be able to answer without a second thought, “Yea, Lord, thou knowest that I love thee.”