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“Hate is learned. Love is natural.”
More love. Less hate. It’s one of the many powerful phrases created in rainbow colors last summer in show of support for the victims of the horrific shooting at a gay club in Orlando, Florida, that left 49 people dead and another 50 injured.
Every time I saw a profile picture with the words “More Love. Less Hate” or hashtags like #lovewins and #stopthehate or #prayfororlando, I would tear up a bit. You see, I am from Orlando. And it’s impossible to express in words the horror and heartache of knowing the worst mass shooting in U.S. history happened in your beautiful hometown by a shooter motivated by hate.
Watching news of the Orlando shootings brought back memories of the Sept. 11 attacks. Investigators have classified both as acts of terror, and the one in Orlando was the deadliest on U.S. soil since 2001. Do you remember how our hearts broke that day? How we cried just watching the news? How we hugged our families tighter? How we turned to God and asked him to heal our country? How we started to pray more fervently, even in public? How we came together in love?
Fifteen years later, it’s happening again. You see the heartbreaking images. You watch the emotion-filled videos. You read the social media posts of how strangers, all over the world, are coming together to “mourn with those who mourn and comfort those that stand in need of comfort. …” (Mosiah 18:9) And it seems more people are seeking to understand those who are different, showing love regardless of race, religion or sexual orientation. It’s been a beautiful thing to watch.
So, how do we help this kind of love continue? We don’t need terror attacks to bring us together. In our everyday lives, we can come together in love and do small things that can have a lasting effect.
My 4-year-old son made a canvas that hangs in my office that spells out “love” with his handprint. Though simple and sweet, it carries a deep message for me: What makes love special is when it’s personal. And that means, like his little handprint, our hands and our hearts need to be in it. It’s nice and easy to say you love someone or a group of people, but it’s your hands in action, your efforts, done in a genuine way, that make those expressions of love really mean something.
The Sunday night after the Orlando shootings, I was a mess. But I knew I needed to use the opportunity to teach my kids an important lesson. We sat on my bed that night and tears rolled down my cheek as I explained to them that a man gunned down more than 100 people because they were different.
We talked about what it means to be gay. We talked about who we know and love that is gay and that it doesn’t matter that they are different. They’re our friends. They’re our family. We love them no matter what because God made them and loves them, just like he loves and made us. If we want to be like God, we need to love unconditionally like he does. We, as parents and adults, can lead by example by befriending someone who is different or helping someone we might otherwise unjustly judge or pass by. Our children need to see us practice what we preach. There are opportunities every day, even if it’s just talking about a news story, to point out to our children the consequences of hate and love. We stop the hate when we stop it in our spheres of influence.
The world is more full of love than evil. I absolutely believe that is true. It goes along with my belief that Jesus Christ will overcome Satan, that good triumphs over evil and that despite this world of thistles and thorns, we can still, as LDS Church President Thomas S. Monson said, “find joy in the journey — now” (see “Finding Joy in the Journey,” November 2008).
We live in scary times. There is no doubt about that. Hate is all around us, but so is love, if we believe in it. God loved us enough to bless us with the ability to talk with him through prayer. God loved us enough to bless us with a way to hear his answers through the power of the Holy Ghost. God loved us enough to tell people from thousands of years ago to write what they experienced in books of scripture so that we can learn from their trials, triumphs and mistakes. God loved us enough to bless us with living prophets and apostles to help us better see the light in the darkness. Divine love is all around us. We just need to believe.
I remembered recently a talk given by President Gordon B. Hinckley while I was at BYU called “Be Not Afraid, Only Believe.” The counsel he gave, just days before Sept. 11, now feels very prophetic. He said to:
• “Still our voices of insult and sarcasm.”
• “Look for the remarkable good among those with whom you associate.”
• “Speak of one another’s virtues more than we speak of one another’s faults.”
• “More generously compliment virtue and effort.”
• “Do not despair. Do not give up. Look for the sunlight through the clouds.”
President Hinckley closed his talk with these beautiful thoughts:
“‘Be not afraid, only believe’ (Mark 5:36). Believe in God our eternal Father, he who is greatest of all, who stands ever ready to help us and who has the power to do so. Believe in Jesus Christ, the Savior and the Redeemer of mankind, the worker of miracles. … Believe in the power of the Holy Ghost to lead, to inspire, to comfort, to protect. … Believe in yourselves as sons and daughters of God, men and women with unlimited potential to do good in the world. … Believe in one another as the greatest generation ever yet to live upon the earth.”
If we are the greatest generation, we better start acting like it. Make love personal. Teach love by example. Believe in love — always.
Irinna Danielson is a Florida native and graduated from Brigham Young University with a degree in print journalism. She is a wife and mother to four beautiful children and embraces all of the craziness that comes with that.
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