Friday, June 26, 2009

Of More Importance Than They All

There are a lot of important things in this life. Families are important. Having a source of income is important. Supporting one's community is important. Good friends are important.

There are a lot of important things in the gospel. Prophets are important. Scriptures are important. Accepting and magnifying callings is important. Family history and temple work are important. The priesthood is important.

Alma, in speaking to the people of Gideon, talked about the importance of living in accordance with the teachings of the Gospel. But he focused his sermon on a declaration that has always moved me, commanding his people to "look forward for the remission of your sins, with an everlasting faith, which is to come. For behold, I say unto you there be many things to come; and behold, there is one thing which is of more importance than they all—for behold, the time is not far distant that the Redeemer liveth and cometh among his people" (Alma 7:6-7).

And then, speaking of the Redeemer's mission, he said, "And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions 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 infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities. Now the Spirit knoweth all things; nevertheless the Son of God suffereth according to the flesh that he might take upon him the sins of his people, that he might blot out their transgressions according to the power of his deliverance; and now behold, this is the testimony which is in me" (Alma 7:11-13).

Alma was a powerful speaker who knew and taught the gospel with breadth and clarity. He doubtless knew and understood many important truths of the gospel. But one truth received the distinction of "most important"--that the Redeemer would live and come among His people, suffering their pains, atoning for their sins, and granting them power over death and hell according to the power of His deliverance.

I, too, have realized, time and again, that this glorious truth is the most important thing I could know, the most important thing I could study, the most important thing I could understand, the most important thing I could declare. It trumps all other doctrines, theories, or topics of interest as the single most salient fact in the history of the universe.

Speaking of this beautiful truth, Isaac Watts wrote,

See from His head, His hands, His feet,
Sorrow and love flow mingled down!
Did e’er such love and sorrow meet,
Or thorns compose so rich a crown?

Were the whole realm of nature mine,
That were a present far too small;
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.

Indeed it does. Such wondrous love, such amazing grace, demands all that we have and ever hope to be. As King Benjamin told his people, " if you should render all the thanks and praise which your whole soul has power to possess, to that God who has created you, and...if ye should serve him with all your whole souls yet ye would be unprofitable servants" (Mosiah 2:20-21).

We don't serve God because we're doing Him a favor, or because He needs an advisor. We serve Him because we love Him, and we love Him because He first loved us (1 John 4:19). We serve Him because our hearts, humbled by such love, move us to an expression of thanks that is deeply sincere even though it is eternally insufficient.

Truly this is the most important fact in all eternity. Christ came to die for sinners--for us. In doing so, He reconciled the finite with the Infinite, the incomplete with the Complete, the fallen with the Exalted. He blots out our sins according to the power of His deliverance. Many things are important. But, with Alma, I proclaim that the Atonement of Christ is of more importance than they all. For, as it was in Alma, this is the testimony which is in me.

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