Thursday, November 3, 2011

What He Had Promised, He Was Able Also To Perform

The apostle Paul spent much of his epistles speaking about the law of Moses and the grace of Christ.  He, like Abindai before him, strove to convince his people that, while the law of Moses was good, created as a "schoolmaster to bring us to Christ" (Galatians 3:24), it was only through Christ, and not the deeds of the law, that salvation could be obtained.  It was a strange position for a man like Paul to take.  By his own admission, he kept the law with exactness, and had honored it throughout his life, "after the most straitest sect of our religion I lived a Pharisee" (Acts 26:5).  Said he, "If any other man thinketh that he hath whereof he might trust in the flesh, I more: Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee; Concerning zeal, persecuting the church; touching the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith" (Philippians 3:4-9).

As a man who had lived his whole life striving for one brand of righteousness, Paul was now bailing out of the old way, counting it "loss for Christ."  How very odd!  What seems even stranger is his insistence that he's discovered a new brand of righteousness, which he calls "righteousness which is of God by faith [in Christ]."  But what does it mean to be righteous by faith?

To Paul, it doesn't seem to mean that we should abandon righteous acts.  "What then?" he asks, "shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid" (Romans 6:15).  Nor does it mean that verbal proclamation of Jesus as Lord is sufficient for salvation: "Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven" (Matthew 7:21).

Paul says that Abraham, the father of many nations, was made "righteous by faith."  But Abraham lived before the Law was given--and yet we regard him as patriarch and claim his promised blessings as our own.  In what way, therefore, was Abraham righteous?

"For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness... Cometh this blessedness then upon the circumcision only, or upon the uncircumcision also? for we say that faith was reckoned to Abraham for righteousness.  How was it then reckoned? when he was in circumcision, or in uncircumcision? Not in circumcision, but in uncircumcision... Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all... Who against hope believed in hope, that he might become the father of many nations, according to that which was spoken, So shall thy seed be" (Romans 4:3-18).

Abraham "against hope believed in hope."  "And being not weak in faith, he considered not his own body now dead, when he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sara’s womb: He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform.  And therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness" (v. 19-22, emphasis added).  Abraham was counted righteous because he heard the word of the Lord, and acted on it, going into a strange land, "hoping against hope" in the promise of a child in his old age, his wife long past her childbearing years, traversing the mountain with his son Isaac, not understanding God's requirement to sacrifice him, but "Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead" (Hebrews 11:19).

But Abraham did not act blindly, Paul says.  Abraham's righteousness--and, by analogy, our righteousness--isn't a measure of blind obedience to a list of rules.  Abraham obeyed because, as Paul put it, he was "fully persuaded that, what [God] had promised, he was able also to perform."  Abraham's belief in God's power and promise was not a passive declaration of testimony--it was a fire that burned brightly, that spurred him to action.  He believed God when God promised him a land, a posterity, and an eternal priesthood--and his actions were based on that faith--his was righteousness, not by law, but "by faith in Christ."

I believe it works the same way with us.  God is not interested in our obedience for its own sake--because He enjoys collecting a host of automatons.  Rather, He wants us to understand and embrace His power as we learn how to use it.  He wants us to trust Him in our joys and in our extremities, to rely on his promises--even against hope, to believe in hope.  He wants us to be fully persuaded, as was Abraham, "that what he has promised, he is able also to perform."  When we are filled with that certainty, our righteousness will come by faith, and not by law.  It will flow out of us in love, not be squeezed out by coercion.

Our faith in God's ability and determination to keep His promises then becomes the motivating principle for our actions.  Our righteous works flow from that belief--after all, why would we bother praying unless we believed that God was able to keep His promises to answer those prayers?  Why bother repenting unless we believed that God was determined to keep "the covenant of the Father unto the remission of your sins?" (Moroni 10:33).  Why would we share the gospel with our neighbors unless we believed that God was able to keep His promises to send His Spirit to testify of its truthfulness?  All of our good works thus find their most natural basis in an understanding of God's character, power and fidelity--an assurance that what God has promised, He is also able to perform--in our lives, and in the lives of those we love.  Thus the salvific "righteousness by faith" is not a mere belief, but is a faithfulness conditioned on a belief, or a certainty, that God is able to keep His promises, that God will keep promises--and therefore, that when we keep our promises to God, we can with surety look forward in faith to a better world.

Or, as Ether put it, "Wherefore, whoso believeth in God might with surety hope for a better world, yea, even a place at the right hand of God, which hope cometh of faith, maketh an anchor to the souls of men, which would make them sure and steadfast, always abounding in good works, being led to glorify God" (Ether 12:4).

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Behold, How He Loved Him!

For some reason, I wandered over to my friend’s apartment that night.  Her bedroom had a strange feeling about it--she was reading a book in bed, and greeted me when I came in, but I knew that something was off.  Slowly, and with some encouragement, she admitted what was wrong, and spoke of the pain that had filled her soul for so long in secret, and I was overcome.  Quietly, deliberately, she admitted what she had long suspected--that I, too, had gone through what she was experiencing right then.  I confirmed her suspicion, and then I cried with her, in remembrance and in love, with an empathy that only a person who had walked that path could fully feel.  That night, we bonded over painful experiences we shared, and our burdens were lightened as we bore them together.  She may have been mourning, but at least we could mourn together.

During a difficult time in my life, I once went to the temple, seeking some peace. Looking for clarity, I asked to speak to the temple matron, who proceeded to put me in my place so forcefully that I can only describe her words as spiritual abuse. To be so violated in a place where I so wanted to commune with God's holiness was scarring to me, and I fled from the temple, weeping and utterly alone.

For some reason, I decided to go up and sit by the Christus, hoping that the familiar words of my Savior would offer some sort of salve. By this point, I had dried my tears, but I'm sure my bloodshot eyes gave away my grief. A sister missionary saw me up there, sitting alone.  I don’t know what went through her mind as she sat beside me, but I knew that her words were exactly what I needed to hear.  She didn’t pry, or exhort, or even comfort, in the traditional sense.  She didn’t say, “there, there,” or even ask what was wrong, and I never told her.  Instead, she told me about her life, in some of its most painful and personal details, and then spoke words of such tenderness that to this day I get weepy when I remember them.

She spoke from experience about the love of God manifest in sorrow.  She told me that I was important to God, that I was the one He was thinking of right now, that I was the one He was weeping for. That as my heart broke, His was also breaking. That whatever the reason for my hurt, whatever my heartache, He had experienced it all so He could succor me. He had atoned for me—not just for my sin, but also for my pain. She said that He longed to hold me.  Once again, I was overcome.

Her words that day, and her gentle tears, combined with her testimony of the Savior’s tears, spoke peace to my heart.  Though she didn’t know me or anything about me, she mourned with me as I mourned, and I was lifted.  She demonstrated wisdom and empathy beyond her years, and I rejoiced that the God I worship had sent one of His angels to make manifest His love in my grief.

Jesus arrived in Bethany too late.  Having taken his time in getting there, He had missed the death of Lazarus, had missed even the opportunity to comfort his sisters in their grief.  Hearing that He was close, Mary ran to the outskirts of the town to meet Him.  “Then when Mary was come where Jesus was, and saw him, she fell down at his feet, saying unto him, Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died.”

“When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews also weeping which came with her, he groaned in the spirit, and was troubled.”  Looking out on the burial place, John records in utmost simplicity, “Jesus wept.”

“Then said the Jews, Behold how he loved him!”  (John 11:32-36).  

Other bystanders were confused, wondering why the man who healed so many sick people could not bring Lazarus back from the dead.  And indeed, Christ would do just that in a moment, but for now, he wept.

I suppose there are many reasons why Jesus wept that day.  The most personally compelling is that He wept out of love.  Certainly He loved Lazarus, and missed his companionship, but even beyond that, He had perfect empathy for the grief-stricken Mary and Martha.  He wept because those He loved were sorrowing.  He didn’t say, “there, there, don’t worry about all this, I’m going to bring him back.”  For a moment, for a beautiful, transcendent moment, He just wept.  He mourned with Mary and Martha and their family and friends, legitimized their grief, shared their sorrows, and demonstrated His deepest love.

When we are baptized, we covenant to do many things differently, to change the way we interact with our fellow men and women, to witness of Christ by behaving as He would behave, becoming willing to take upon us His name.  King Benjamin tells us that to “come into the fold of God, and to be called his people,” we must be “willing to mourn with those that mourn” (Mosiah 18:8-9).  Comforting those who need comfort is on his list, too, but first, we are called to simply mourn.

What a strange idea--to be commanded, not to bring more joy into the world, but to share in its sorrow!  In this radical formulation of our duty, mourning takes on a sacred character.  It becomes a ritual obligation, not just an occasional happenstance of life.  It colors all our relationships, which must now be close enough that we are driven to mourn when another sorrows, not just to bring casseroles.  The Lord commands in no uncertain terms, “Thou shalt live together in love, insomuch that thou shalt weep for the loss of them that die” (Doc. & Cov. 42:45).  He commends those who noticed that He was in prison, “and ye came unto me,” not, “and ye organized a jailbreak to get me out”  (Matthew 25:36).

In the moment before the miracle, before Lazarus came forth or the daughter of Jairus rose, before Thomas could touch the Risen Lord, before things fall into place for us, before our hearts are filled with the peace of God, there is always that moment, often more than a moment, when we need the companionship of a covenant community, joining with the Savior, weeping with us.

When we see our calling in this way, “coming unto” those in grief, “weeping for [their] loss,” and mourning alongside them take on new meaning--they become required by covenant, not just occasioned by the vicissitudes of life.  Grief becomes, not just understandable, but holy. And, in this moment, shared grief is shared holiness.  Perhaps the miracles, when they come, are made even more miraculous because we shared in the grief that preceded them.  Or perhaps, as I suspect, shared grief makes us more like the Savior, who shared all mortality’s pain, knowing our burdens perfectly so He can carry them perfectly, mourn them perfectly, and give us perfect relief.

We worship a crucified Lamb, a suffering servant, a forsaken Redeemer.  Perhaps, then, when we mourn with those that mourn, we are the closest we can come to stretching forth our hands to touch the face of God.

Picture from

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Boldly Before The Throne of Grace

On the Day of Atonement, the high priest stood alone in the temple.  The priests and the people waited outside the tabernacle as he killed the bull, the rams, and the goats, and offered them upon the altar, pouring out the blood.  He alone bore the sacrificial blood beyond the veil into the Holy of Holies, sprinkling it there upon the mercy seat to atone for the sins of the people, the smoke from the incense he held shielding him from God’s view.  

On that day, and that day alone, the high priest spoke the ineffable name of God, and confessing the sins of the whole people, performed the rituals necessary to cleanse them and the temple in which they worshipped.  His was a weighty responsibility, and in order to perform it, the high priest was required to be clean, inside and out.

Reflecting on this yearly ritual on Yom Kippur, which Jews all over the world will observe again this week, Paul observed that Jesus was the “great high priest, that is passed into the heavens,” and therefore urged his readers to “hold fast our profession.  For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities, but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:14-15).  What a startling idea--that Jesus, the high priest of our religion, was tempted like we are, lived in a mortal body like we do, experienced the joys and sorrows and trials and pains of this life that we live, and did so without sin.  

Sometimes I find it hard to relate to the idea of Jesus, to the idea of a God-made-flesh, to understand exactly how far the “condescension of God” extends in the Incarnation of Christ.  (1 Nephi 11:16).  Sometimes the question “What Would Jesus Do?” is a real puzzle for me, not something that fits on a keychain.  Sometimes I think, “I don’t know what Jesus would do.  Besides, Jesus was...well, Jesus was God.  I think He’s sort of in a different category from me.”  But Paul’s words ring out in answer--Jesus was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.  As the great high priest, He knows perfectly our struggles because He was one of us, He was one with us, he chose to “take upon him [our] 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” (Alma 7:12).  

Because of that great gift, because of the actions of our great high priest, Paul urges, “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).  Even the ancient high priest, when he came before the mercy seat, did so timidly, in fear of the Lord, performing the ritual quickly and then leaving just as quickly.  But Paul enjoins us to come to God boldly, to pass through the veil into the presence of God, to go no more out.

“But Christ being come an high priest of good things to the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us” (Hebrews 9:11-12). Paul ties each object in the temple to Christ--first, the high priest, now the sacrificial blood that the high priest sprinkles on the mercy seat to atone for the people.  Christ’s blood, he says, which Christ Himself “offered without spot to God” can “purge your serve the living God” (Heb. 9:14).  

Being purged by that blood, Paul further urges us to have “boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh” (Hebrews 10:19-20).

Christ the high priest.  Christ the blood of the sacrifice.  And now, Christ the veil of the temple.  The veil itself, the heavy curtain that separated the people from the presence of God the Father, the gate by which the high priest entered His presence, was a representation of the flesh of Christ.  Consider that powerful symbol for a moment.  Consider that it is only through the name of the Son of God that we approach God and can be wrapped in the arms of His love.  Recall that when we ask for knowledge from God, we ask through Jesus Christ, and the Father answers us in the name of His Son.  Through His flesh, His blood, His Atonement, we enter into the presence of God.  Through the marks on his body, the symbols of His great and last sacrifice, we are allowed to reach out and embrace the divine.  Through the power of those same holy wounds we are protected from the power of the destroyer, shielded from destruction in this day and at the last day.  Now, and at the hour of our death, it is Jesus who holds the keys of death and Hell, and Jesus who bids us “knock, and it shall be opened.”

“Wherefore we receiving a kingdom which cannot be moved, let us have grace, whereby we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear:

“For our God is a consuming fire”  (Heb. 12:28-29).

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Temple Recommend

I had to leave an event early this evening because of a prior commitment.  As I was leaving, a friend asked where I was going.  
"I have a temple recommend interview at the stake center," I said.
"Oh," he said.  "Well, I hope you get recommended!"
"Oh, I hope so,too!"  

We both meant it as a joke, but for some reason his words have stuck with me.  I really did hope so, because it really is an honor to be recommended to worship in the house of the Lord.  It's a privilege and a joy to go to the temple.  A busy schedule these past two months has prevented me from making the drive, and I have felt the loss.  Lately I have found myself yearning for the familiar peace I feel only when clothed in white, standing in a place filled with the holiness of the Lord's presence.  The temple has become a place I dearly, dearly love.

"“Every temple that this church has built has in effect stood as a monument to our belief in the immortality of the human soul, that this phase of mortal life through which we pass is part of a continuous upward climb, so to speak. And that as certain as there is life here, there will be life there."
--President Gordon B. Hinckley

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Let This Cup Pass From Me

The Passover meal being ended, Jesus and His disciples walked across the city of Jerusalem, and descended from the Temple Mount deep into the Kidron Valley below.  Peppered with tombs of figures both famous and obscure, the dry riverbed received the blood of the sacrificial animals killed in the temple above it.  Though it was a festival night, and the moon shone full, the depth of the valley and its placement between two steep mountains ensured that it was always in shadow.  Jesus and His disciples were walking "through the valley of the shadow of death" (Psalm 23:4).

From there, they made their way to a place called Gethsemane (whose name comes from two Hebrew words, meaning "oil press"), at the foot of the Mount of Olives (Mark 14:32, Luke 22:39).  It was a place with which they were very familiar, for "Judas...knew the place, [because] Jesus oftentimes resorted thither with his disciples" (John 18:2).  Leaving most of the company at the garden's edge, Jesus took His dear friends and companions, Peter, James, and John with Him, and went further into the garden.  He pled with them to stay awake and pray, needing their companionship and love in this time of greatest sorrow, needing their witness at this time of greatest love. "And he went a little further, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt" (Matthew 26:39).

Latter-day Saint theology attributes rich meaning to the Agony of Gethsemane: we believe that Christ's Atonement began there, that in His prayer, Jesus struggled not only with fear of His impending death, but also with the weight of the sins of all mankind.  We understand that His suffering in Gethsemane was salvific, that the weight of the world, the heavy burden of the aggregate agony of the incompleteness of fallen man caused Him to sweat blood, and that in that blood, we are redeemed (Luke 22:44).

We also understand that in some way, incomprehensible to us, Christ experienced the weight, not only of our sins, but also of our sorrows, our ills, our infirmities.  This He did out of magnificent love, that He might be perfectly prepared to comfort and heal us in all things.  Alma prophesied that Christ would "take upon him [our] 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" (Alma 7:12-13).  Here was the condescension of God perfected in lowliness and love, that Christ would suffer so that He might know by experience--according to the flesh--the depth of suffering of His creations, not only for their ultimate salvation, but also, most poignantly, so that He could succor His children according to their infirmities.  He experienced the depth of human sorrow, made suffering holy by taking it upon Himself, and learned according to the flesh every terrible truth of the human condition, descending below all things that He might be in and through all things, the light of truth (see Doc. & Cov. 88:6).

Christ's prayer in Gethsemane, next to the Our Father, is perhaps the most iconic prayer ever uttered. "Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done" (Luke 22:42).  I find this portion of the narrative singularly moving, for in it, I get a glimpse of the humanity of Christ. Up until this point, Christ had never experienced a distinction between His will and the will of His Father.  As a young boy He chided His mother, "wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business?" (Luke 2:49). When questioned by the Jews, He insisted, "My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me" (John 7:16), and "I do nothing of myself; but as my Father hath taught me...I do always those things that please him" (John 8:28-29).

His agonized prayer that the cup might be removed from Him, then, represents the first time that Jesus experienced a distinction between His will and His Father's will.  He wanted something different from what He knew God wanted, and yet we believe that He was without sin.  This suggests to me an enormously reassuring doctrine--that it is not a sin to want something different from what God wants.  Furthermore, I am comforted to know that Christ experienced this difference of will, and the pain and separation from God that inevitably comes with it.  He thereby opened the gate so that mortals like me, who will readily admit a deficit of understanding of the divine plan and a difference of will, might still boldly stand in the presence of God and find peace in His grace. He was obedient in all things to the Father, but in this deeply human moment, where Christ was driven by the very human desire to avoid the wrenching pain that descended upon Him, I learn that "we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities, but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin" (Hebrews 4:15).  I cease thinking of my Savior as ontologically different from me, as wholly other, and I understand that Christ fully embraced my humanity in order to give me His divinity.

Great is the Lamb.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

My Lord and My God

I am a bit of a scripture nerd.  So all this week, I have been excited for today, because today, a week after Easter, commemorates the day when the apostle Thomas gained his own witness of Christ's resurrection.

It must have been an excruciating week for Thomas. Something (we don't know what) had kept him away from the upper room where the other disciples had assembled on Resurrection Sunday. When he returned, "The other disciples...said unto him, We have seen the Lord" (John 20:25).  But Thomas could not wrap his mind around the idea, and he refused to believe.  And why should he?  Nothing like this had ever happened before.

I've wondered about what life must have been like for Thomas that week--unable to understand, unwilling to believe what he could not see.  Despite the disciples' insistence, "he said unto them, Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe.  And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them" (v. 25-26).  Jesus appeared to the assembled disciples, and gave Thomas a second chance, an opportunity to witness the miracle for himself.  "Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing" (v. 27).  Thomas, moved and humbled, cried out, "My Lord and my God" (v. 28).

"Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed" (v. 29).  I am one of those who have not seen.  And yet I believe.  In the spirit of Christ's admonition, on this Sunday I would like to share some of the things that I believe.

I believe in God.  I believe that I have Heavenly Parents who love me, who created all things in heaven and in earth, who have all wisdom and all power, both in heaven and in earth.  I believe that man cannot comprehend all the things that God can comprehend (see Mosiah 4:9).  I believe in my Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.  I believe that He was born of a virgin, laid in a manger, and raised by a carpenter.  I believe that He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried.  I believe that on the third day he rose again according to scripture.  I believe that He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father, and that one day He will come again to judge the living and the dead (see the Apostle's Creed).

I believe the He is my Savior, that His Atonement covers my sins and heals me and makes me whole.  I believe that His grace is sufficient for me and for each one of you, and that as we come unto Christ, we can be perfected in Him.  Because His grace is sufficient--it is enough (see Moroni 10:32).  I believe that Christ is a God of second chances--that He will never abandon us, that those who seek Him diligently will find Him, and in Him will find rest, and have life more abundantly.

Unlike Thomas, I have not seen.  And yet I believe.

Click here for more on the story of Thomas.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Woman, Why Weepest Thou?

The pre-dawn hours of Sunday morning found Mary Magdalene and other women at the tomb of Jesus, discovering the stone rolled away and the angels proclaiming the strange news: "He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay" (Matt. 28:6).  Peter and John, soon summoned, saw only the empty graveclothes and the empty tomb.  The disciples scattered, unsure of what to think.  But John tells us that "Mary stood without at the sepulchre weeping" (John 20:11).  For her, the angelic visitation was not enough to stanch her tears.  Still she stood, keeping heartbroken vigil outside the tomb of the one she called Master, the one who had been so cruelly taken from her days before, the one whose body had now gone missing.  Where was He?  Who had taken Him?  Why had they stolen His body?   And what would become of her, now that her Messiah was gone?  A thousand questions filled her heart.

In the faint light, she saw a figure by the tomb.  It was the gardener, she supposed--and why should she not?  This was the beginning of the work day, after all, and she was in a garden.  His voice called to her, "Woman, why are you crying?  Whom are you seeking?" (John 20:15).

Just like that.  No prelude, no words of comfort--just another question to add to the many others that haunted her.  "Why are you crying?"  This question she had already answered: "Because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him" (v. 13).  "Whom are you looking for?"  Ah, there was the clincher.  John recorded Jesus' words as an echo of His question to the disciples who followed Him at the beginning of His ministry: "What seek ye?" (John 1:38).  Jesus had promised them then that "thou shalt see greater things than these" (v. 50), and He was about to make good on His promise.

But first, the question that hung in the air.  It was a strange thing for Christ to lead off with, really.  Why another question?  Why this question?  Who was Mary looking for?

She was looking for her Lord--well, for the body of her Lord--to perform for Him the last act of dedicated service that one can perform for a beloved friend.  She was there with spices, to anoint His body and to bury it.  Mary was seeking a corpse.  And she could look forever and not find it, for Christ was risen.  And so His question, seemingly so out of place, re-framed her quest, and prepared her to understand the glorious fact of His resurrection.  And when at last Jesus called her by name, and she understood who He was, Mary could not be restrained from clinging to Him, her rapturous joy quickly overcoming any pretense of propriety.  For here He was, Christ in the flesh again--not the lifeless body she had been seeking, but the glorified and risen Lord.

I wonder how many times we make the same mistake that Mary did, how often we fail to see God's work because our eyes are clouded by tears or by the darkness that comes before dawn, how readily we overlook the miraculous beauty of God's love because we are looking for something else, something far less majestic than what God is offering us.  (I know I've done it.)  How often does Christ stand near us, and we overlook Him?  How often does He call to us, and we hear only the mundane voice of a gardener?

Perhaps we should ask ourselves the same question--What are we seeking?

And when God offers us far more than what we sought, will we recognize the voice of the Lord when He calls us by name, and follow the example of Mary, who "turned herself, and saith unto him, Rabboni; which is to say, Master" (John 20:16)?  Will we allow God to turn our tears of grief into tears of joy?  Will we cling to Him and worship Him, or will we cling to the grief of disappointed hope and dashed dreams?  Will we be transformed and comforted by resurrecting love, or will we ever remain standing outside the sepulchre, weeping?

Whom are we seeking?  Why are we crying?  What are we overlooking?

Friday, April 22, 2011

He Died! The Great Redeemer Died!

Today is Good Friday, the most solemn day of the Christian calendar. It doesn’t fit well with pastel bonnets, or spring animals, or chocolate eggs. You don’t say “Happy Good Friday” the way you wish friends a “Merry Christmas” or a “Happy Easter.” Because Good Friday is not happy.

It is not happy, but it is Good.

It marks the day when the lights went out, when the earth shook and the heavens wept, when the God of nature died. It was a day of betrayal, abandonment, loneliness, and despair. It witnessed the greatest injustice, the deepest suffering, the cruelest irony, and, in all creation, the most consuming love.

Good Friday, too often overlooked, is a crucial step on the road to Easter, for the joy of Resurrection Morning came only in and through the wrenching sorrow of Gethsemane and Golgotha. With transcendent events, as with mundane ones, the realities of life can best be understood by contrast to their opposites. We must taste the bitter, that we might know how to prize the sweet. Easter Sunday could not be a holiday unless Good Friday were a funeral, for only in the context of overwhelming sorrow does transcendent joy have any meaning.

I've walked the streets of Jerusalem before, from Gethsemane to the home of Caiphas, the court of Pilate, the hall of judgment with its whipping post, and finally to Calvary's awful hill, and wondered what it must have been like for my Savior to walk through those streets, weighed down by the awful burden of the sins of His children, the horrors of this world and the aggregate agony of the fallen-ness of man. I'm sure His heart broke to see the path to Golgotha littered with discarded palm branches, brown and withered in the harsh sun, trampled underfoot by the same crowd that held them aloft a few days before. I'm sure he wept as he heard those who had cried “Hosanna!” instead shouting “Crucify him!”

On Good Friday, the world was turned upside down. The redeemer of worlds without number was "judge[d] to be a thing of naught" (1 Nephi 19:9). The Creator was condemned to death by the creatures He had given life. He who had been hailed as the promised Deliverer now carried His own cross. The hands that had healed the lepers and the blind were pierced with iron nails.

Pilate hung a sign above the head of Christ. Meant to mock the one crucified there, it unwittingly proclaimed his authority, "This Is Jesus, The King of the Jews." And as the King of the Jews, the King of all the world, hung dying, abandoned by His followers, reviled by His children, deserted by His God, He cried out in agony, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?"

But at that anguished cry, the heavens were still, and the Son of God, the Creator and Redeemer of worlds without end, died without an answer.

He died; the great Redeemer died,
And Israel's daughters wept around;
A solemn darkness veiled the sky,
A sudden trembling shook the ground.

Come, saints, and drop a tear or two
For him who groaned beneath your load;
He shed a thousand drops for you,
A thousand drops of precious blood.

Never before or since has triumph looked so much like defeat.

For more on Good Friday, click here.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

They Covenanted With Him For Thirty Pieces Of Silver

A few days before Jesus' death, the gospel of Matthew records Judas's anger at the "waste" made of a jar of costly ointment, with which a woman had anointed Jesus' head.  In this gospel, the anointing is immediately followed by one of the most disturbing scenes in all of scripture.  Matthew records, "Then one of the twelve, called Judas Iscariot, went unto the chief priests, And said unto them, What will ye give me, and I will deliver him unto you? And they covenanted with him for thirty pieces of silver" (Matt 26:14-15).

Not long thereafter, Judas, "and with him a great multitude with swords and staves, from the chief priests and elders of the people" accosted Jesus as He prayed in Gethsemane's garden (26:47).  Having determined beforehand to indicate to the soldiers which man was his master with a gesture of affection, Judas "forthwith...came to Jesus, and said, Hail, master; and kissed him" (v. 49).  The cruel irony of this token did not escape the Savior's notice, and He asked, "Judas, betrayest thou the Son of man with a kiss?" (Luke 22:48).

Later, of course, Judas was seized with horror at his betrayal, but by then, the vicious act was done, "the Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners" (Matthew 26:45).  Returning the money to the indifferent Pharisees could do nothing to save either Judas or Jesus.  For both men, their Last Supper had been eaten; they were not long for this world.

Much has been made of the price for which Judas agreed to hand over his Master: thirty shekels, or pieces of silver.  Many have noted that thirty pieces of silver was the price fixed by law as that of a slave, and so it was.  That Judas would be persuaded by so paltry a sum to turn from his Redeemer is tragic, and reflects poorly on his character.  But that Christ's life would be bought for that specific price is far more meaningful than the commentary it gives us on the faithlessness of His former disciple.

Thirty pieces of silver was the price of a slave, it is true, but only under a very specific circumstance: it was the price paid for the life of a manservant or maidservant who had been pierced (or gored) by the horn of an ox (Exodus 21:32).  Thus Christ's life was valued as that of a "suffering servant" (Isaiah 53), of whom had been prophesied, "They shall look on Him whom they pierced" (John 19:37, Zechariah 12:10).

Pilate's words to the people the next day would beg them to see Jesus' true identity, his cry changing from "Behold the man" (John 19:5) to "Behold, your king!"  (John 19:14)  But all the leaders of the people could see was a dying servant, pierced through, a man for which the price had been paid, and called for his death, considering that "it is expedient for us, that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not" (John 11:50).  And so it was, eternally expedient, that one man should die, a sinless sacrifice for all, "that whosoever believeth in him might not perish, but have everlasting life" (John 3:16).

"Then answered all the people, and said, His blood be on us, and on our children" (Matthew 27:25).  On this day of Atonement, and always, this is my fervent prayer.

When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss,
And pour contempt on all my pride.

Forbid it, Lord, that I should boast,
Save in the death of Christ my God!
All the vain things that charm me most,
I sacrifice them to His blood.

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?

His dying crimson, like a robe,
Spreads o’er His body on the tree;
Then I am dead to all the globe,
And all the globe is dead to me.

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.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

The Stones Cry Out: Hosanna in the Highest!

This is a powerful and poignant week in the larger Christian community. This week, Western Christians celebrate the last week of the Savior's mortal ministry, beginning with His triumphal entry, and encompassing his powerful teachings and parables of that week, the Last Supper He held with His disciples and friends, His Atonement, trials, and death, His burial, and His glorious Resurrection.

We begin with the day known as Palm Sunday, which marks Christ's triumphal entry into the city of Jerusalem. It is a day of great joy.
Two centuries ago, a healer and teacher known as Jesus of Nazareth rode into the city from His night residence in Bethany, in the home of Simon the Leper and his children Mary, Martha, and Lazarus, his dear friends. He rode on the back of a donkey, in the manner of the ancient kings of Israel as they went to be crowned. The symbol did not escape the notice of the people, who, having heard of His arrival, "spread their garments in the way; others cut down branches from the trees, and strawed them in the way. And the multitudes that went before, and that followed, cried, saying, Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!" (Matthew 21:8-9). Hosanna, they cried--literally, "Oh, save us now!" They recognized Christ as the king He was, and quoted (and sang, perhaps) a Messianic Psalm (Psalm 118) to greet Him.

The scene was enough to interest the rest of the city's inhabitants, whose numbers had swelled tremendously in anticipation of the Passover, which would be celebrated in just a few days. Newcomers wanted an explanation, and Matthew records that "all the city was moved, saying, Who is this? And the multitude said, This is Jesus the prophet of Nazareth of Galilee" (Matthew 21:10-11). The disciples were not shy about proclaiming the greatness of their Master, as Luke records, "the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen" (Luke 19:37).

All this adoration bothered the Pharisees immensely, as Luke records: "And some of the Pharisees from among the multitude said unto him, Master, rebuke thy disciples" (Luke 19:39). But despite their plots against His life, and the harm He knew would come from so much publicity, the Savior refused to rebuke those who acknowledged the truth: that He who then descended the Mount of Olives was about to descend below all things, to rise above all things, that He might be in and through all things, the light of truth (Doc. & Cov. 88:6). He was and is the "light [that] shineth in darkness; and thedarkness comprehended it not" (John 1:5). And though that week did not end as the disciples then expected, by the end of it they knew even more powerfully that Christ was the Lord, "for they shall not be ashamed that wait for me" (Isaiah 49:23).

Instead, Jesus rebuked the Pharisees, and testified that He was the promised Messiah: "And he answered and said unto them...if these [disciples] should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out" (Luke 19:40).

I feel driven to echo the testimony of these disciples, and to speak for the mute stones that would cry out if I were silent. Like the disciples, I praise the Lord for the mighty works that I have seen. Like them, I cry Hosanna!--Oh, save me! My heart shouts praises to the Holy One of Israel. I praise Him for His light, which pierces the darkness of my heart. I praise Him for His healing power and mercy. I praise Him because He weeps, and because He laughs, because He smiles and sings and loves and teaches and heals me and the whole world. I praise Him because He died and because He lives. I love Him. I have given my life to His service.

Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Ashes to Ashes, Dust to Dust

Yesterday was Ash Wednesday, the first day of the liturgical season of Lent. Lent is a season of penitence, reflection, and preparation for the week of Christ's Passion. In many traditions, disciples "give up" something for the duration of Lent, as an exercise in self-control and in fulfillment of Christ's admonition to "Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there shall your heart be also" (Matt. 6:19-21).

Last evening I attended a lovely service at a Presbyterian church in the area. At the conclusion of the service, we were invited to come forward and receive a blessing and the imposition of ashes. It was a beautiful and humbling experience to be reminded of my own mortality, my own fallen nature and need for a Redeemer. As the priest gently drew an ashen cross on my forehead, she called me by name and quietly intoned, ‎"One day through Christ we may live eternally with God. But in this sphere we are mortal, and must remember that we came from dust, and to dust we shall return. We are made from ashes, and ashes are all that will remain." Ashes to ashes. Dust to dust. The life cycle of mortals continues. The eternal soul lives on.
After the service, I went to a meeting with friends. It was interesting to me to watch people's puzzled double-takes when they saw my appearance. I watched as their eyes darted to my forehead, quizzical, then to my eyes as they attempted to ignore it, then distractedly back to the black smudge above them, their lips twisted in a bemused smile. It was hard to see past the ashes. Conversation was awkward initially. The ashes came between us all evening.

Now, I don't fault my friends at all--outside of chimney sweeps and coal miners, ashes aren't a typical adornment to faces. But it made me think about how we treat others who walk around in this world with ashes on their foreheads--with something we see that makes them strange or fallen or dirty. Kristine wrote a beautiful essay at By Common Consent about feeling "marked" living as a divorced woman in the church. Divorce is certainly one thing that can make us feel unworthy or broken--and I bet you can think of several other circumstances that might cause you to recoil from the company of another--or that have caused others to recoil from yours.

Sometimes it can be hard to see past the ashes on the foreheads of those around us. It's so easy to see the brokenness and fallen-ness of our fellow mortals, so easy to forget that we, too, are fallen, that we, too, are broken, that we, too, sin. It has changed the way I view others as I have come to understand that Christ's Atonement is enough for my sins--and that it also applies to everyone else around me, that Christ's grace is sufficient for me, AND that it is sufficient for everyone else, that I don't have any business judging others, because they are saved by the very same power that saves me, healed by the very same Lord who heals me, and redeemed by the very same atoning sacrifice that I rely on to redeem me. But when I fall victim to that all-too-common tendency to judge others, to see in the faces of my fellow men only the ashes, and not the glorious immortal beings of eternal potential behind the ashes, it humbles me to realize that I, too, am but ashes and dust, but that the Lord sees past all that, and invites me to "awake, and arise from the dust" and "by the grace of God...become holy, without spot" (Moroni 10: 31,33).

This Lenten season, I'm going to work on extending that same grace to others. I'm going to try harder, in my interactions with others, to see past their failings to their great potential, past their mortality to the glorious fact of our mutual redemption, past the ashes to the spark of divinity within.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Lord, How Is It Done?

I was asked to speak in my ward today on the topic of exaltation. Big topic, I know. This is the talk I gave. It was fairly well received, I think. The best comment I got was from a friend who asked me, "What business does an engineer like you have using a word like 'soteriology?'" I just laughed. Enjoy.

Good afternoon, brothers and sisters. I take as my text today a statement of Enos, who spent the whole night in prayer to God for the remission of his sins. Somtime during the night, he tells us, “And there came a voice unto me, saying: Enos, thy sins are forgiven thee, and thou shalt be blessed. And I, Enos, knew that God could not lie; wherefore, my guilt was swept away. And I said: Lord, how is it done?” (Enos 1:5-7).

That’s the question I’d like to try to answer today. When we’re talking about redemption, about salvation and exaltation, “Lord, how is it done?” It’s a central question to all religions, what scholars call “soteriology”--what does salvation consist of, and how is it accomplished?

I’d like to argue that there are three conditions necessary for salvation and exaltation: First, we must have a divine potential. Second, those who are saved must be obedient to God’s laws and enter into a covenant relationship with Him. And third, we need the enabling, saving, and exalting power of Christ’s atoning grace.

I’d like to elaborate on each of these in more detail.
1. Divine potential (theosis)
First, in order for exaltation to be a possibility, we must each have a divine potential--that is, there must be something in us able to be exalted.. Mormon theology is very vocal in affirming that we are spirit children of God, with the potential to become like Him. This doctrine of theosis--of divinization--of man-becoming-like-God, is a strange one to those of other faiths--but it gives us hope. The idea that, as Paul says, “we are the children of God. If children, then heirs, heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ” gives us something to strive for, gives us a limitless view of our possibilities. (Romans 8) The Christian theologian C.S. Lewis wrote,

“It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship...There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal...Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbour is the holiest object presented to your senses...for in him also Christ...Glory Himself, is truly hidden.”

When we understand our divine origin and divine potential, it changes the way we act towards others and towards God. John said, “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the [children] of God...Beloved, now are we the [children] of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. And every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure” (1 John 3:1-3).

When we have hope that we are the children of God and can become like Him, it leads us to Godly living, to purify ourselves as God is pure.

This leads us to the second condition necessary for exaltation--Godly living, faith, repentance, obedience, and entering into a covenant relationship with God.

2. Faith, repentance, and obedience to covenants

The Prophet Joseph wrote, “There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated—And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated.” (D&C 130:20-21) If this is true for everyday laws--for instance, if keeping the word of wisdom allows us to run and not be weary, and walk and not faint, and if paying tithes and offerings opens the windows of heaven to us, then surely the bigger things like exaltation are also predicated upon keeping God’s laws.

Obedience isn’t the end of our obligation, though. We also need to make and keep covenants with God.

In the sacrament we just participated in, we each renewed a covenant we made to take upon ourselves the name of Christ, to be called His people. This covenant relationship with God requires certain actions on our part--mourning with our brothers and sisters, comforting the afflicted, visiting the sick and the widowed and the fatherless--being God’s hands in doing his work.

The establishment of this covenant relationship demonstrates our obedience to God, but it also increases our desire to obey the Lord in anything He will command in the future. It means that our dedication to the Lord is not temporary or for as long as it is convenient, but that we are ready, as was Peter, to go with our Savior “both into prison, and to death” (Luke 22:33).

C.S. Lewis said, ‎"The work of devils and of darkness is never more certain to be defeated than when men and women, not finding it easy or pleasant but still determined to do the Father's will, look out upon their lives from which it may seem every trace of God has vanished, and asking why they have been so forsaken, still bow their heads and obey."

The Lord said of His covenant people, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.” By making and keeping covenants we become Christ’s “sheep,” we become His people--He comes to know us, and we come to know Him. We hear His voice and learn to follow it.

Our personal righteousness, covenant-making and covenant-keeping, are necessary, but not sufficient, conditions of exaltation.

Or, in Abindai’s words, “Salvation doth not come by the law alone; and were it not for the atonement, which God himself shall make for the sins and iniquities of his people...they must unavoidably perish, notwithstanding the law” (Mosiah 13:28).

This leads us to the third, and most important, condition of exaltation: the mercy, grace, and love of God as manifest in the Atonement of Christ.

3. Christ’s grace, mercy, and love

Mormons have historically been uncomfortable with the concept of grace. Maybe that’s because it sounds too Baptist to us, or perhaps it’s because we would prefer to emphasize the more concrete concepts--all the things we need to do, and not do, in order to be good enough to return back to God.

But the scriptures repeatedly testify that while our works are necessary, we can never be good enough to deserve exaltation. You can never do enough home teaching, you can never deliver enough casseroles, you can never go to the temple enough or read the scriptures enough or turn down enough alcoholic beverages to be good enough to merit God’s presence. Or, as King Benjamin would say, “if ye should serve [God] with all your whole souls yet ye would be unprofitable servants” (Mosiah 2:21).

Well, that sounds depressing. But it turns out that that’s okay. Because ultimately we’re not saved by our works. We don’t work our way to heaven. Christ was the only one who managed to work His way to heaven, and I promise you’re not going to be the second. We are saved, not on our own merits, but on the “merits and mercy and grace of the Holy Messiah, who layeth down his life according to the flesh” (2 Nephi 2:8).

Paul put it simply, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God. Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). Eternal life is “the greatest of all the gifts of God,” and it is a gift, not a salary. If we are exalted, it will be because of Christ, not because of us.

Now by this point, some of you are probably thinking, “Hey, wait a minute!” and quoting the other half of the couplet we like to use when we talk about grace, Nephi’s statement that “by grace we are saved after all we can do” (2 Nephi 25:23).

It’s an intruiging statement. In context, Nephi says, “For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do. And, notwithstanding we believe in Christ, we keep the law...and look forward with steadfastness unto Christ...wherefore the law hath become dead unto us, and we are made alive in Christ because of our faith.” (2 Nephi 25:23-25). It’s clear his emphasis is on salvation through the grace of Christ, irrespective of the law, which he says is “dead.”

But we’re still left with an interesting problem. That couplet hasn’t fully been explained. “By grace we are saved after all we can do.” What does he mean, “after all we can do?”

Well, let’s rule out some things he doesn’t mean. He doesn’t mean “after we keep every commandment perfectly, after we do all that is possible for us to do, then grace will save us,” because if he meant that, none of us would qualify--there is no one in this room who has ever done “all they could do,” who has ever kept the commandments perfectly, who has NOT “sinned, and fallen short of the glory of God.”

OK, so if “after all we can do” doesn’t mean that, what does it mean?
Anti-Nephi-Lehi, the king of the pacifist converted Lamanites, gave us some insight into that phrase. He spoke to his people, uring them not to go to war, “And I also thank my God, yea, my great God, that he hath granted unto us that we might repent of these things, and also that he hath forgiven us of those our many sins and murders which we have committed, and taken away the guilt from our hearts, through the merits of his Son.

“And now behold, my has been all that we could repent of all our sins and the many murders which we have committed, and to get God to take them away from our hearts, for it was all we could do to repent sufficiently before God that he would take away our stain” (Alma 24:10-12).

“All we can do,” it seems, involves repenting of our sins and allowing God to take them away from our hearts. “All we can do” is to repent sufficiently before God that he will take away our stain. And when we have done “all we can do,” the grace of Christ saves us, according to what Moroni calls “the covenant of the Father unto the remission of your sins.” And that, brothers and sisters, is a covenant that cannot be broken.

In order to meet the conditions of that covenant, we have to repent. And in order to repent, we have to be humble, to recognize our fallen nature and our need for an atonement. It’s a very human tendency, among Christians who are trying to live good lives, to think, “Of course we all need the Atonement, I just need it a little less than most, thank you very much. I’m doing pretty well on my own.” But in order to repent we have to have the attitude of King Benjamin’s people, who “viewed themselves in their own carnal state, even less than the dust of the earth. And they all cried aloud with one voice, saying: O have mercy, and apply the atoning blood of Christ that we may receive forgiveness of our sins, and our hearts may be purified; for we believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God” (Mosiah 4:2). Only when they were humble and recognized their need for an Atonement did the “mighty change of heart,” joy, and “peace of conscience” come.

So now let’s recap. We’ve talked briefly about each of the three conditions for exaltation--Divine Potential, Obedience and Covenant Relationships with God, and the Atonement and Grace of Jesus Christ. Moroni wraps all these conditions into a few short verses in his last charge to us: he takes for granted that we are perfect-able beings, with divine potential, and that we can be saved and exalted by obedience, repentance, and relying on the grace and mercy of Christ. He says: “come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God. And again, if ye by the grace of God are perfect in Christ, and deny not his power, then are ye sanctified in Christ by the grace of God, through the shedding of the blood of Christ, which is in the covenant of the Father unto the remission of your sins, that ye become holy, without spot" (Moroni 10:32-33).

Brothers and sisters, I add my witness to Moroni’s that when we repent, deny ourselves of all ungodliness and love God with everything that we have, then His grace is sufficient for us, and we can be exalted, that we can become holy, without spot, because we will be perfect-in-Christ. I bear testimony that we can come boldly before the throne of grace, and receive the promise that Enos received when the Lord told him, “thy sins are forgiven thee.”

I have felt his reassuring promise and have known, like Enos, that God could not lie. I have tasted the beautiful peace and wholeness that comes from Christ's Atonement. When I felt that same "peace of God, which passeth all understanding" (Philippians 4:7), I have been led to say with Enos, "Lord, how is it done? How is it possible that I could feel this wonderful, this complete, this joyous? How can You take pain away so completely and replace it with such exquisite joy?" And the answer, as was the Lord's answer to Enos, is simply, "Because of thy faith in Christ... wherefore, go to, thy faith hath made thee whole."

I bear witness that through the Savior’s Atonement we can be forgiven of our sins, and can be exalted, becoming “holy, without spot.” I testify that the Atonement has the power to heal, because it has healed me, and I do so in the name of my Savior Jesus Christ, Amen.