Sunday, October 2, 2011

Look Up And Live

When I was in Oregon over the summer, I drove along the coast and stopped at several locations where lighthouses overlooked the rocky shore. They stood as silent sentinels to guard against a treacherous shoreline; friendly beacons that would light a dark night and guide ships to safety.

I love the imagery of a lighthouse; a guiding light when all around is dark. Often in life I feel like I'm on a boat in the middle of a stormy ocean. Surrounded by boisterous waves, it's hard to take my eyes off the frightening depths beneath me. But when I remember to look up, it's then that I can see the brilliance of the lighthouse, and I know that I will live if I follow it's shining beacon.

There are numerous examples in the scriptures of times when salvation came from looking up. In Numbers, we read the account of the Israelites as they are journeying through Canaan. They complain, again, about not having bread or water and so "the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and much people of Israel died." (21:6) The children of Israel were sinning against the Lord and suffered the consequences of their disobedience. But because the people began to repent, "the Lord said unto Moses, Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live. And Moses made a serpent of brass, and put it upon a pole, and it came to pass, that if a serpent had bitten any man, when he beheld the serpent of brass, he lived." (21:8-9)

The Lord has compassion on his children. He knows that we will make mistakes. And so He has prepared a way for us to be healed from sin in our lives through the Atonement of His Son. Repentance can be as healing for us as looking to the brass serpent was for the Israelites. But we read in 1 Nephi 17:41 "He sent fiery flying serpents among them; and after they were bitten he prepared a way that they might be healed; and the labor which they had to perform was to look ; and because of the simpleness of the way, or the easiness of it, there were many who perished."

All that was required was to look! But because of the easiness of the way, many would not look and perished. How often do I refuse to look to my Savior because of pride, stubborness, or doubt. If we can believe that we will be healed by looking, why not look? Nephi taught, "And as he lifted up the brazen serpent in the wilderness, even so shall he be lifted up who should come. And as many as should look upon that serpent should live, even so as many as should look upon the Son of God with faith, having a contrite spirit, might live, even unto that life which is eternal." (Helaman 8:14-15)

Another Nephi taught, "And as the Lord God liveth that brought Israel up out of the land of Egypt, and gave unto Moses power that he should heal the nations after they had been bitten by the poisonous serpents, if they would cast their eyes unto the serpent which he did raise up before them...I say unto you, that as these things are true, and as the Lord God liveth, there is none other name given under heaven save it be this Jesus Christ, of which I have spoken, whereby man can be saved." (2 Nephi 25:20)

If we can look up at our Savior, and exert our faith in repentance, then He will exercise His atoning power to heal us from the sins and afflictions that are keeping us from being whole. The Savior's life was set as an example for us to look to; to know how to live to return to our Father in Heaven.

In the vision of the Tree of Life, the angel repeated told Nephi to "Look!", and Nephi "looked and beheld" the tree of life, the Lamb of God and Christ's mission upon the earth, the iron rod, and the sacrifice of the Savior for our sins. Because Nephi looked, he beheld and understood how Christ could help us gain eternal life.

When Christ came to the Americas after His resurrection, the people were gathered at the temple in Bountiful. It is recorded, "And it came to pass that while they were thus conversing one with another, they heard a voice as if it came out of heaven...And it came to pass that again they heard the voice, and they understood it not. And again the third time they did hear the voice, and did open their ears to hear it; and their eyes were towards the sound thereof; and they did look steadfastly towards heaven, from whence the sound came.

"And behold, the third time they did understand the voice which they heard; and it said unto them: Behold my Beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased, in whom I have glorified my name- hear ye him. And it came to pass, as they understood they cast their eyes up again towards heaven; and behold, they saw a Man descending out of heaven...and he came down and stood in the midst of them." (3 Nephi 11:3-8)

The people listened and when they understood the voice, they cast their eyes up towards heaven. Once we can understand the Spirit that prompts us to look to our Redeemer for life, we too can look up and behold the marvelous healing power of the Savior.

In the middle of a tumultuous ocean storm, a lighthouse can break through the darkness and bring a vessel safely to harbor. Likewise, in life there are times when it feels as though the darkness is all encompassing, everlasting, and unrelenting. But if we can lift our eyes from the depths of our sorrows and pain, we too can see the light of our Savior illuminating for us the way back to His light.

My testimony echoes the words of John: "And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: That whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved." (John 3:14-17)

Monday, September 12, 2011

The Light of The World

When I was a child, I have a memory of going deep into a cave with my family. When we were sufficiently far enough in that we could no longer discern any light from the entrance, my father had us turn off the flashlights we were using. The result was instant darkness. I held up my hand, inches from my face, trying to see even a tiny bit but to no avail. The darkness was simply too engulfing, too complete. Of course, all we had to do was turn back on our flashlights and that light that seem so insignificant when we were first entering the cave was suddenly a bright, shining beacon in the dark.

Life is often like that cave from my childhood. We enter in, leaving the glowing sun without, and venture forth into the dark. At first the light from the cave entrance illuminates our path, but gradually it decreases until we find ourselves surrounded by utter blackness, unsure of how we arrived and hard pressed to find a way out. The despair of finding ourselves in this situation is often overwhelming and makes it difficult to believe that we will ever emerge from the darkness.

But though at times it's difficult to see, Heavenly Father has prepared a way for all to rediscover light in their lives. He sent His Son, Jesus Christ to the world to be the light of the world. John 1:4-5 states, "In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not." Christ shines in the darkness as our beacon of hope; our sure way to emerge from whatever darkness is engulfing our lives and back into the light of God. John explains further, "[Christ] was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world." (1:9)

A familiar psalm expresses the belief "The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?" (Psalms 27:1) Whether it is fear, disappointment, grief, self-loathing, depression, anger, or any other malady that keeps us from seeking the light of Christ, He continues to plead with us to come unto Him. John records, "Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life." (John 8:12)

Sometimes, when I feel as though darkness has blinded my path and I can no longer see, I remember the story of the man born blind. For countless years, this man had lived in darkness with no hope of escape. Then Christ came, as recorded in John, and stated, "As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world. When he (Christ) had thus spoken, he spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and he anointed the eyes of the blind man with the clay. And said unto him, Go, wash in the pool of Siloam. He went his way therefore, and washed, and came seeing." (John 9:5-7)

Christ can perform a similar miracle in each of our lives. He knows how to remove the blindness covering our eyes and hiding the light. He invites us each to wash/repent so that we too may come forth seeing. I love the imagery in Isaiah 9:2 "The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined." Abinadi further declared, "He is the light and the life of the world; yea, a light that is endless that can never be darkened; yea, and also a life which is endless, that there can be no more death." (Mosiah 16:9)

But Heavenly Father will not force us to choose the light. He has given each person their agency and will not retract that gift. Like the serpent raised in the wilderness with the promise that he that looked would live, we each have the choice of whether or not we will seek for light in our lives. Samuel the Lamanite, in preaching to a wicked Nephite city asked, "How long will ye choose darkness rather than light?" (Helaman 13:29)

Sometimes it's hard to believe that even with the sins we have committed in the past, God would still want us. We are afraid that if we turn to the light, we will be rejected and found unworthy. But then I remember the story of Alma the Younger. He went about actively trying to destroy the church of God. He committed many sins and led others down the paths of wickedness as well. But Alma was confronted by an angel who caused him to review his life and the path he was taking. Alma states, "I was racked with eternal torment, for my soul was harrowed up to the greatest degree and racked with all my sins. Yea, I did remember all my sins and iniquities, for which I was tormented with the pains of hell... And now, for three days and for three nights was I racked, even with the pains of a damned soul." (Alma 36:12-13, 16)

But God showed mercy even to this man who had committed so many sins against him. Alma continues, "And it came to pass that as I was thus racked with torment, while I was harrowed up by the memory of my many sins, behold, I remembered also to have heard my father prophesy unto the people concerning the coming of one Jesus Christ, a Son of God, to atone for the sins of the world. Now, as my mind caught hold upon this thought, I cried within my heart: O Jesus, thou Son of God, have mercy on me, who am in the gall of bitterness, and am encircled about by the everlasting chains of death. And now, behold, when I thought this, I could remember my pains no more; yea, I was harrowed up by the memory of my sins no more. And oh, what joy, and what marvelous light I did behold; yea, my soul was filled with joy as exceeding as was my pain! Yea, I say unto you, my son, that there could be nothing so exquisite and so bitter as were my pains. Yea, and again I say unto you, my son, that on the other hand, there can be nothing so exquisite and sweet as was my joy." (Alma 36:17-21)

If God can heal even a man such as Alma and bring light back into his life, then surely he can do the same for each of us. One of my favorite songs when I'm feeing low contains these verses:

Never doubt His goodness.
Don't believe that it's too late.
He sees your every struggle,
and He knows the trials you face.
Feel His warmth around you.
See His arms are open wide.
Know that He stands ready,
when you start to change your life...
Follow and believe Him.
Put your trust in Him again.
Change your heart forever.
Let the miracle begin.

The light of Christ is a miracle in each life. D&C 88:67 states, "And if your eye be single to my glory, your whole bodies shall be fill with light, and there shall be no darkness in you; and that body which is filled with light comprehendeth all things."

D&C 88:11-13 states, "And the light which shineth, which giveth you light, is through him who enlighteneth your eyes, which is the same light that quickeneth your understandings; Which light proceedeth forth from the presence of God to fill the immensity of space- The light which is in all things, which giveth life to all things, which is the law by which all things are governed, even the power of God who sitteth upon his throne, who is in the bosom of eternity, who is in the midst of all things."

Just as turning on a flashlight instantly brought light to me in a dark cave, the light of Christ can and will light the life of each person that turns to Him. And I know that by following that light, we can all come back into everlasting light in the presence of our Heavenly Father.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

He Is Risen

Since tomorrow is Easter, I've been pondering on the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of our Savior, Jesus The Christ. I could not begin to recount the ways in which Christ has affected my life and the lives all of who have lived or ever will live. I echo John's words, "And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written." (John 21:25)

I cannot add much to the scriptures, the revelations, the numerous books, and the continuing testimony of the prophets that already preach and testify of Christ. I can only encourage anyone seeking for truth to look to the scriptures, especially the Book of Mormon, for it truly testifies of Christ. Believe the words of the living prophets and apostles; they are special witnesses of Christ and have been given power and authority in this time to testify of the reality of a living Savior who gave His life and then took it up again in order to redeem the world.

All I have to give is my testimony of a personal Savior. I know He knows me, cares for me, and wants me to return to His presense to live with Him and my Father in Heaven again. I know that through following His teachings, I can have joy and peace in this life. I echo Peter who, when asked by the Savior if he would continue following him, said "Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life. And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God." (John 6:68-69) I know that Jesus is that Christ, the only one who had power to perform the great and last sacrifice that would satisfy the demands of justice and encircle me in the arms of safety. (See Alma 34:9-16)

Joseph Smith testified, "And now, after the many testimonies which have been given of him, this is the testimony, last of all, which we give of him: That he lives! For we saw him, even on the right hand of God; and we heard the voice bearing record that he is the Only Begotten of the Father- That by him, and through him, and of him, the worlds are and were created, and the inhabitants thereof are begotten sons and daughters unto God." (D&C 76:22-24) I have a testimony that Joseph spoke the truth. That the true church on the earth today is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. I know that Jesus Christ is the head of our church and that He has given the priesthood authority to our leaders today.

I know He lives. I know that He atoned for my sins, was crucified, and rose again that Easter morn. He overcame the pains, afflictions, and sins of man. He overcame the bands of death. I know that He did this for me. Christ's ministry was for the one. I know He knows me personally, and He knows each of us personally. He gave His life for me so I could return to live with Him again. This is why I celebrate the Easter season- He has given me hope, peace, and love. He is the author and finisher of my faith, and the reason for the hope that is in me.

I cry every time I read the words of the angels, "Why seek ye the living among the dead? He is not here, but is risen." (Luke 24:5-6) I add my testimony to that statement and testify He is risen, and He is the Savior of the world.

Monday, April 18, 2011

How Firm A Foundation

I know it's a Christmas picture, but I just love the Salt Lake Temple. I'm always humbled to think about how much was sacrificed to erect this magnificent edifice. It's beautiful both outside and in. It stands as a beacon; a shining testimony of the truth held dear by Pioneer Saints of the importance of temples and the work done therein. The part of the temple not seen, however, is my favorite story to hear.

The account is given of how the Saints intially built the foundation of this structure using sandstone. They completed the foundation only to have to bury it for fear of the US Army coming through the valley. Once they uncovered the foundation, they were disheartened to realize that the stones they had worked to lay for years had cracked. The wrenching decision was reached to remove the sandstone foundation and replace it with granite. The effort took years, but was worth it as the granite foundation has held up the temple that has become a symbol of faith for millions. The Saints knew that only a sure foundation would be able to hold the weight of the temple. It had to be built carefully, one stone at a time. It had to be exact, so that the pressures it was under would not cause it to collapse.

Our spiritual foundations are just as crucial in supporting us through the pressures and trials we face, as the physical foundations are in supporting buildings like the Salt Lake Temple. Recently I've experienced a trial in my life that has given me pause and caused me to honestly examine my foundation of faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ. How have I built my foundation? On whom does it rest? And is it really strong enough to withstand the pressures in my life?

A scripture came to mind of an account Christ gave of the wise and the foolish man in Matthew 7:24-27. He states "Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock. And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: And the rains descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house: and it fell: and great was the fall of it."

When I am afflicted with the rains, and the floods, and the winds of life I know that I can withstand, because I have built my foundation on the gospel of Jesus Christ. I have faith in my Savior, in God's plan, and in His ability to help me stand firm in times of trial. If I hold true and faithful to the covenants that are my foundation, then I know I can weather life's storms. This doesn't mean that the storms won't come. In fact, I think the winds, the floods, and the rains try harder to tear down those houses that are built upon the rock. But if we have built ourselves up as carefully as the Saints did in laying the granite foundation for the Salt Lake Temple, then our foundations will be sure, solid, inmovable, and able to withstand the tempest.

In the Book of Mormon, Jacob teaches the Nephities, "This stone (meaning Christ) shall become the great, and the last, and the only sure foundation, upon which the [we] can build." (Jacob 4:16) Later, Helaman exhorts his sons, "Remember, remember that it is upon the rock of our Redeemer, who is Christ, the Son of God, that ye must build your foundation; that when the devil shall send forth his mighty winds, yea his shafts in the whirlwind, yea, when all his hail and his mighty storm shall beat upon you, it shall have no power over you to drag you down to the gulf of misery and endless wo, because of the rock upon which ye are built, which is a sure foundation, a foundation whereon if men build they cannot fall." (Helaman 5:12)

As we carefully lay the foundations of our faith in Christ, as we keep His covenants and obey His laws, He has promised that we cannot fall. When we're beaten down, we will be there to lift us up again, to strengthen our feeble knees, and keep us on the path to eternal life.

It is foolish to believe, however, that we don't need to take care in building our foundation. Haphazard efforts in laying our spiritual cornerstones would be as ludicrous as thinking that throwing stones into a trench would create a solid base for a building. Firming our foundations takes precision, effort, and time. But once laid, it becomes our anchor in the storm.

One of the greatest examples to me of a firm foundation is Captain Moroni. The scriptures state, "He was a man who was firm in the faith of Christ...Yea verily, verily I say unto you, if all men had been, and were, and ever would be, like unto Moroni, behold, the very powers of hell would have been shaken forever; yea, the devil would never have power over the hearts of the children of men." (Alma 48:13,17) What a character statement! If we could be like Moroni, firm in the faith of Christ, what a difference it would make in our lives. How crucial it is to build our foundation firmly on the gosepl of Christ. Only then will we "be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand." (Ephesians 6:13)

In the hymn "How Firm A Foundation" it reads,

"How firm a foundation, ye Saints of the Lord,
Is laid for yor faith in his excellent word!
Fear not, I am with thee; oh, be not dismayed,
For I am they God and will still give aid.
I'll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand,
Upheld by my righteous omnipotent hand.
When through the deep waters I call thee to go,
The rivers of sorrow shall not thee o'erflow,
For I will be with thee, thy troubles to bless,
And sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.
When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie,
My grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply.
The flame shall not hurt thee; I only design
Thy dross to consume and thy gold to refine.
The soul that on Jesus hath leaned for repose
I will not, I cannot, desert to his foes;
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I'll never, no never, no never forsake!

God will never forsake us in our times of need if we build our foundation of trust on Him. Though He won't stop the storms from coming, if we are firm in our faith He will enable us to weather whatever trials may come. When the tempest is raging, He will always be there to calm the winds and the waves. And I know that because my foundation is built upon Christ, I will always be able to stand.

Friday, April 8, 2011

The Worth of A Soul

I recently returned from a trip to Washington D.C. Our capitol houses wonderful collections inside the various Smithsonian museums of those objects we deem to be of great worth. Among these, in the Museum of Natural History, is the Hope Diamond. One of the largest diamonds in the world, it is accounted of great worth and is therefore guarded closely to ensure its protection. How interesting it is that this diamond, this piece of compressed coal, should be valued so highly as to ensure its safety and our admiration. In contrast, I was thinking tonight of how little society seems to value life. We hear daily accounts of lives taken throughout the world in wars, natural disasters, or local disputes. How sad it is that this has become so common place that we often do not ponder the deeper implications of the loss of life.

More important still, I've come to realize that while life is important, the blessings of eternal life are more precious than all diamonds in the world. In a revelation to the Prophet Joseph Smith God counselled, "Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God. For behold, the Lord your Redeemer suffered death in the flesh; wherefore he suffered the pain of all men, that all men might repent and come unto him." (D&C 18:10-11) God is our Heavenly Father and as such He deeply values the lives of each of His children. He paid the ultimate price- sacrificing His only Begotten Son- so that each of us would have the chance to return to Him. It is hard for me to sacrifice those things in my life that I truly care for and desire. Would I be able to sacrifice a child?

But because He has a perfect comprehension of our eternal worth, God proceeded with the plan. We might look past Him, but He never forgets us. Nephi quotes Isaish and states "But, behold, Zion hath said: The Lord hath forsaken me, and my Lord hath fogotten me-but he will show that he hath not. For can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? Yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee, O house of Israel. Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me." (1 Nephi 21:14-16)

The scriptures are filled with numerous parables and testimonies confirming the worth of the soul. In Matthew, Jesus recounts the parable of the sheep. "For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost. How think ye? if a man have an hundred sheep, and on eof them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray? And if so be that he find it, verily I say unto you, he rejoiceth more of that sheep, than of the ninety and nine which went not astray." (Matt 18:11-13)

I like the verse in Luke 19:10 that states "For the Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost." Christ not only saves us, He seeks us out to be saved. This is further illustrated in the parable of the piece of silver which reads, "what woman having ten pieces of silver, if she lose one piece, doth not light a candle, and sweep the house, and seek diligently till she find it? And when she hath found it, she calleth her friends and her neighbours together, saying, Rejoice with me; for I have found the piece which I had lost. Likewise, I say unto you, there is joy in the resence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth." (Luke 15:8-10)

One of my favorite parables is that of the prodigal son. We know how it goes- disobedient son wastes his inheritence in riotous living, falls into poverty, at first is too proud to return, but then decides that his father will at least treat him as well as the servants and starts home. My favorite verses, however, describe the father's reaction. He has every right to be angry and disappointed but instead this is how he reacts: "But when he (the son) was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him." (Luke 15:20)

How the father must have loved this wayward son! Firstly, he saw his son a great way off. He must then have been looking for him to return; watching and waiting with faith that his wayward son would come home. Secondly, he had compassion, ran to his son, and kissed him. I love this image. Being in the position of the father, would we have enough love and forgiveness in our hearts to recognize the worth of those that have hurt us? In the place of the son, are we humble enough to ask for forgiveness and return when we've done wrong? When we understand both the worth of others as well as our own worth, we begin to see how God can have charity and understanding when we do wrong. We might not grasp the full measure of our worth, but God does, and I know that He waits with open arms to receive us and longs to bring us safely back home.

John 3:16 states "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son. that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life."

Moses 1:39 states "For this is my work and my glory, to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man." God not only wants us to live forever, He wants us to live like Him and with Him.

Remember the worth of souls is great. In this world where souls are sold for pennies, never think that you have no worth. You are a child of God. You have the capacity to become like him, to live with him. You are of great worth.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Beholding Grace

Sometimes living near BYU has major benefits. Today it was the opportunity I had to go tour the Carl Bloch exhibit currently displayed in the Museum of Art. BYU manage to procure several altar pieces and other paintings from Denmark and they are absolutely beautiful. But the one I find most fascinating is the one I've seen every time I'm in the MOA; Christ Healing at the Pool of Bethesda.

In ancient times, Jewish tradition held that the Pool of Bethesda possessed special healing properties, and that when the water was disturbed by the touch of an angel, the first person in the water would be healed of their infirmities. Because of this, many who were sick or afflicted would gather at the pool and wait for the waters to be troubled. John 5:2-9 tells the story of a man who was there 38 years waiting to be healed, and this is the subject of Bloch's painting. In the painting, Bloch shows Christ lifting the cover of darkness wherein the man resides. The symbology is easily portrayed as a glowing Christ comes as the light of the world to a man who sits in darkness. The still pool in the corner of the painting contrasts with the Living Water who has the power to heal both body and soul.

When viewing the painting, this scripture from Isaiah came to mind: "The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light; they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined." (Isaiah 9:2). What a perfect metaphor for the healing power of Christ! The light and the life of the world came to earth to cast off the darkness in our lives, and light our path to eternal life. John 1:17 states, "Grace (JST- life) and truth came by Jesus Christ."

To me, this story has always been an poignant example of the grace of Christ. He who condescended below all things purposefully lived His life in order to both understand us and be able to save us. Nephi in a vision was shown the life of Christ, and told about His mission to earth. The angel asked, "Knowest thou the condescension of God?...Behold the Lamb of God, yea even the Son of the Eternal Father. Knowest thou the meaning of the tree which thy father saw?" Nephi answered, "Yea, it is the love of god, which sheddeth itself abroad in the hearts of the children of men." (1 Nephi 11:16, 21-22).

Christ is the Living Waters, the Tree of Life, and the epitomy of the grace of Heavenly Father that allows us to gain eternal life. Nephi taught, "It is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do." (2 Nephi 25:23). Grace means mercy, benevolence, favor, and good will. Thus, after we've done all we could, God shows us mercy and will make up for our shortcomings.

In a revelation to Joseph Smith we are taught, "Through his Atonement, and by obedience to the principles of the gospel, mankind might be saved." (D&C 138:4) Of course it is important to try our hardest to live the commandments and keep the covenants we've made, but no one is perfect and no one can be the sole means of their own salvation. Abinadi discoursed on the redemption of man through Christ and stated, "Only in and through Christ can ye be saved...Teach them that redemption cometh through Christ the Lord." (Mosiah 16:13,15). Acts 15:11 states "We believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved." In Ephesians 2:8 we read, "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God." And in 2 Corinthians 8:9 Paul taught, "For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich."

God's grace, His mercy, is there for all who come unto Him, who believe in Him, and who exercise their faith in Him through humbling themselves and following His commandments. Paul taught the saints in Corinth about the grace of Christ: "My (Christ's) grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness." (2 Corinthians 12:9) And Moroni taught, "If men come unto me I will show unto them their weaknesses. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them." (Ether 12:27)

Thus, the simple recipe for allowing us to behold the grace of God is to humble ourselves and have faith in the power of the Atonement. Alma taught, "And he shall go forth, suffering pains and affliction and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people. And he will take upon him death, that he may loose the bands of death which bind his people; and he will take upon him their infimities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he many know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities." (Alma 7:11-12)

Christ wants us to be healed by spiritually coming unto Him. As he lifted the veil of darkness off the man at the Pool of Bethesda and healed him physically, Christ's Atonement gave Him the power to heal us from spiritual darkness as well. His grace is sufficient for all men who come unto Him, and He desires to bring each one out of darkness and into the light of eternal life.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

There Is Hope

Several months ago I attended a Living Legends fireside and heard a song that stated simply, "There is hope." Although I have since forgotten the rest of the words, I was struck by that powerful, yet simple statement. There is hope. So often it is easy to become discouraged in life. Whether our problems lie in our physical appearance, our social station, or our spiritual standing before God, it seems easier to live in despair rather then put forth the effort to hope for improvement.

However, our Heavenly Father did not put us on this earth to forever feel hopeless, unworth, or unloved. He stated, "This is my work and my glory-to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man." (Moses 1:39) And "men are that they might have joy." (2 Nephi 2:25). If God wants us to have immortality and eternal life, that means he wants us to be as he is. And I believe that if he wants us to have joy, that means He has joy. And we feel true joy in our lives when we have hope.

But what is hope? Defining hope for me is like trying to define salt; I know what it is but it's hard to describe to others. I finally found a definition that I liked that defined an aspect of hope- a person or thing in which expectations are centered. I liked that description because it reminded me in whom I should have hope; my Savior, Jesus Christ. Moroni records, "And what is it that ye shall hope for? Behold I say unto you that ye shall have hope through the atonement of Christ and the power of his resurrection." (Moroni 7:41) It is through the Atonement of Christ that we can change our hearts, repent, and turn again toward our goal of eternal life. And in this, I find hope. Without the Atonement, life would be an endless train of sadness and despair. But with the Atonement, we can see again the light of Christ that shines in a world gone dark.

Nephi counsels, "Ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope. " (2 Nephi 31:20) I love the expression "a perfect brightness of hope". When I think of something bright, I think of the sun because it gives light and life to the whole world. And then I think of the true light of the world- God's son. Christ stated, "I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness." (John 12:46) If we believe in Christ and follow His light, then we can have joy in this world and hope in the world to come.

How do we obtain this hope? Moroni again gives the answer- the "Comforter filleth with hope." (Moroni 8:26) In order to gain hope, we must have the Spirit. In order to have the companionship of the spirit, we must do those things which invite his presense into our lives. They're the answers that any primary child would give; pray, read our scriptures, follow the prophet. And yet how often do we do these things "with a sincere heart", and "with real intent" as Moroni admonishes? But as we strive to have the spirit in our lives, we will be filled with hope. And when we have that hope we will be able to give "a reason of the hope that is in us." (1 Peter 3:15) This world is full of darkness and despair, but because of the Atonement there is always hope.