Shortly after Nephi and his family left Jerusalem, Nephi saw in vision many events that would occur throughout the earth's history. In speaking about the birth of Jesus Christ, the angel asked Nephi, "Knowest thou the condescension of God?" (1 Nephi 11:16). Nephi's answer was both revealing and inspiring. "I know that [God] loveth his children," he answered, "nevertheless, I do not know the meaning of all things" (v. 17).
The Lord loves us enough to give us the gospel. He loves us enough to answer our prayers. The Lord gives us commandments to keep us safe and happy. As the primary song tells us, he "has given me an earthly home, with parents kind and dear."
Brothers and sisters, I, like Paul, am fully persuaded that nothing in heaven, on earth, or in hell can separate us from the love of God through Christ Jesus our Lord.
"He loves us because He is filled with an infinite measure of holy, pure, and indescribable love. We are important to God not because of our résumé but because we are His children. He loves every one of us, even those who are flawed, rejected, awkward, sorrowful, or broken. God’s love is so great that He loves even the proud, the selfish, the arrogant, and the wicked.
"What this means is that, regardless of our current state, there is hope for us. No matter our distress, no matter our sorrow, no matter our mistakes, our infinitely compassionate Heavenly Father desires that we draw near to Him so that He can draw near to us."
God loves all His children. His love is not provincial. It does not restrict itself. God loves men and women, children and adults, rich and poor, straight and gay, black and white, Mormon and Catholic and Buddhist and Muslim, Republicans and Democrats, Americans and Russians and Africans, the married, single, and divorced, Ph.D's and high school dropouts.
A year and a half ago, I had the chance to live in Jerusalem for a time. While I was there, I spent a lot of time among the olive trees in the Garden of Gethsemane. A beautiful cathedral is built over the site where, tradition has it, Jesus knelt on a rock to pray, and suffered and bled as His atoning journey began. A friend wrote about the experience, "Christ alone paid the price for sin. He had the weight of the world press down upon Him until He bled from every pore. This blood He so freely spilt, gives us comfort and healing, life and light. How grateful I am that on this night Christ would be willing to bear the burden of my sins, that I might be healed...As I sat there in the Church...I felt a great pain for the suffering that Christ suffered on my behalf. I sat there completely alone in the church and thought of when He was completely alone in the garden. I sat there in dark (the chapel is intentionally dark to represent night) as I thought of how the Messiah kneeled in darkness, pleading on my behalf to the Father. As He bore my burden, blood came from every pore. As these thoughts filled my mind, I was then filled with the most joyous happiness I have perhaps ever felt. I did not feel guilt for His pain, I felt peace. I did not feel anxiety for the suffering I caused Him, I felt forgiveness. I did not feel sadness for causing such anguish, I felt pure love. I love my Savior, and will be eternally grateful for that which He did for me, in a garden called Gethsemane. In a garden that by its very name symbolizes the freedom, life, and light that has been brought into my life through His precious blood."
I feel much the same way. I love my Savior. I am grateful for the freedom and light He has given me, for the peace that His love has brought me. I, like my friend, have "felt to sing the song of redeeming love."I had another friend some years ago, who was struggling with a trial I had never experienced and could not understand mentally. As I watched him go through it, I saw the depths of hell in his eyes. I saw his pain and anguish, and I chose to love him, and I hurt with him. But there came a point when I had nothing left to give him, no more emotional energy for him, when my heart was empty and I had exhausted my natural strength. And at that moment, I was filled with a love so deep I knew it did not come from within me. I saw my friend as the Savior saw him. I loved him the way the Savior loved him. When I had nothing left to give, the Lord filled me with His love, gave me His strength, showed me how much and how purely He loved both of us. He gave me a portion of that love. He taught us and healed us, showed His willingness to quickly forgive and redeem. As I grew closer to my friend, I grew closer to God. I saw that God was not the wrathful being I had imagined. I saw that, as John put it, "God is love," he said, "and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him" (1 John 4:16).
Because of Christ's great sacrifice, we can have hope for the present and for the future. We can find peace in this life, and eternal life in the world to come. We can conquer fear, for "there is no fear in love, but perfect love casteth out all fear, because fear hath torment" (1 John 4:18). When we are filled with the love of God, we can find peace even in a world of turmoil, even when, like Nephi, we do not understand the meaning of all things.
Nephi's statement has become more and more meaningful to me over the years, as I have come to grips with many things I do not understand. I have asked questions for which there are no answers. At times I have cried in frustration to the heavens, and the heavens have remained silent. But one thing that I have felt over and over again is the assurance that God loves me, that He knows me, that He wants me back, that nothing that is or was or ever will be can separate me from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Until that day, I know and bear witness that each of us are children of God, and that God loves His children.
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