Life isn’t easy. I’ve written a couple of times now about pain, loss, and death and it’s a recurring question and dilemma for a lot of good people: Why did this have to happen? How will I survive…? Is there anything anywhere that will ever make it right again?
If you’re a Christian—and whether that’s a Reformed Christian, a Mormon Christian, or some other version of the faith—you likely believe that Christ paid the price for us to (1) live again someday and (2) to be able to repent and return to live with God someday. This is a fundamental part of Mormon doctrine even though we differ in ways from many Christians in what we believe is asked of us once we accept Christ into our lives and enter His Kingdom through the ordinance of baptism. In the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we believe we’re saved by grace “after all we can do” (2nd Nephi 25: 23) or, in other words, that we are still expected to live good lives and obey the commandments, etc. There are some Christians, a large percentage in fact, who’ve been taught that once you’re “saved” you’re finished—that nothing more is expected of you (not all, I realize). Many of us disagree. We believe God expects more of us as we work through mortality and seek over time to become more like Him and His Son.
One of my favorite writers, a former professor and famed Church scholar from BYU named Hugh Nibley, talked about the path of repentance that we need to try to follow in our lives. I’ve always loved the way he describes it. In one of his books, Approaching Zion, he taught that “a righteous man (or woman) is one who is repenting.” That sounded a little backward to me at first, don’t you think? You’d think that a person who is “righteous” is one who doesn’t need to repent, but that just isn’t true, most of all because such a man or woman doesn’t exist! We all fall short—even the best of us.
I’ve said this before but there are really three fundamental truths we all should know and understand:
Fact # 1: No “unclean” thing can enter the kingdom of God. The scriptures make this abundantly clear (Click Here to see a whole list from LightPlanet.com with several verses on this topic from both The Holy Bible and modern scriptures like The Book of Mormon, etc.).
Fact # 2: Every one of us sins and falls short of the glory of God and, without intervention (i.e. a Savior), we would be banned from returning to our Father in Heaven‘s presence. We would, in effect, be permanently/eternally “stuck,” unable to go forward, and prohibited from returning home (because of our own dirtiness). We needed help to be clean again; we couldn’t achieve this on our own.
Fact # 3: There had to be a price paid (for sin) and it’s Jesus who paid that price for us all through His magnificent, atoning sacrifice. He made it possible for us to be resurrected, live forever, and to work through the steps of repentance in order to return again to our home above.
I’ve heard it explained as though we all are reaching as high as we can and doing whatever is possible to get there but forever unable to reach high enough (and all the while knowing that it will never be enough). We try and try but will always fall short! We just can’t cleanse ourselves! It is then that Christ reaches down and “picks us up,” making up the difference through His blood that’s been shed. He pays the price for OUR sins. He made it possible for us to return to our original home someday, based (we believe) upon conditions of repentance.
It can be a little overwhelming I know when we realize we’ve fallen short of the mark and are working to overcome the effects of our sins and mistakes, especially if we think we have to do it all on our own. It can be especially daunting if we don’t understand this Plan of our Father in Heaven. Once we do we can take heart and have hope in the realization that we can and will be whole and truly delivered some day.
One of the most beautiful parts of it all is the fact that Christ didn’t leave us alone—He left us a Comforter, the Holy Ghost. “And I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you forever….” (John 14: 16). Why is he referred to as the Comforter, though? There’s more than one reason….
First, the Holy Ghost, of course, can comfort us when we are distressed, bring peace to our hearts and hope to our minds, etc. He can calm our fears, buoy us up, and remind us of the good in the world, our blessings, the reality of the “Plan” for us, and more. But there’s another, more important, reason and it is this: we know that when we live the gospel and make good choices, on occasion we’re blessed with the opportunity to feel the spirit reassuring us that we’re doing alright. We know that when we’re baptized by someone who holds the priesthood of God (the authority to act in God’s name that was restored on earth through the Prophet Joseph Smith), we can receive the Gift of the Holy Ghost, or in other words, the right to the constant companionship of the Holy Ghost, dependent upon our personal worthiness. But here’s the amazing part: when we feel this spirit, when it confirms and touches our heart, did you know that that is the Lord’s way of letting us know who we are, of confirming that He and His plan for us are real, and most importantly, that we are on track and will be with Him again someday, as long as we continue to repent, progress, complete the steps that He has asked us to do, and most importantly, accept and come unto Christ as He’s commanded us to do.
Continuing along this path and along the topic of repentance, as mentioned earlier in this post, the best part of it all is (I think) we don’t have to be perfect to feel the spirit in this way. We just have to be trying, progressing, and making the effort to be a “righteous” (i.e. repenting) man or woman. We must be making an effort and, when we are, when we feel the sweet spirit of His Comfortor, we know that our “offering” is acceptable of God. We can be “comforted” in this knowledge and continue to press forward in hope. We can know with certainty that, if nothing else, we are on track. (This doesn’t mean we’re done and it doesn’t mean we can stop trying, but it does mean we’re headed in the right direction and the Lord is pleased with—i.e. we are justified—in our personal progress).
Huge Nibley continued in his book (and I’m paraphrasing so please bear with me): he described repentance/mortal life as a “staircase” we are all progressing up. “The person at the bottom of the staircase who is sincerely ‘trying to move up’ it,” he explained, “is better off than a person at the very top who is looking or sliding back down….” We all, of course, move up the staircase at different speeds and in different manners and it does us no good to judge others or compare ourselves to one another as we sometimes do. (We all have different backgrounds, upbringings, weaknesses, and strengths). Only God will know if we’re making (or made) our best effort. The good news is, we know He’s there, watching over us, rooting for us, waiting … through the “Spirit of Comfort” with which He blesses us along the way. It is ongoing evidence of who we are and of how He feels about us. We can trust in this knowledge and look forward to a brighter day.
If nothing else, know this: we are children of a loving Father in Heaven. He knows us, He loves us, and He’s never left us alone, even in those times in which it feels like He has. He hasn’t and there’s a purpose to whatever heartache or trial we’re being asked to undergo. Our Father is always just a prayer away and He’s intimately concerned with every one of us. Matthew 10: 29-31 reminds us that not even a sparrow will fall to the ground without our Father noticing (and also that we are of “far more value than many sparrows”).
That’s all I have to say for today. I hope this message gives you a little comfort and peace. I realize I’ve been waxing a little longwinded lately so my apologies for being so verbose. I hope you don’t mind. I’ve had some important things to say and share and I hope they’re of help to a few of you.
As always, thanks for checking in.
God be with you,
Patrick Laing – Portland, Oregon USA