This morning I have a spiritual thought to share.
NOTICE: This does at times contain the doctrine of Elder McClellan, not always of the church. If you cannot distinguish between the two please refrain from quoting me.
At our past zone conference President Omer gave us a challenge to read the Book of Mormon and look for the following.
1.) Jesus Christ, his mission and doctrine
2.) The doctrine of the Atonement and how to access it
3.) Answers to "questions of the soul"
During my recent Book of Mormon reading one thing in particular stood out to me, it is the ability we have to "choose liberty and eternal life through the great mediator of all men, or to choose captivity and death, according to the captivity and power of the devil." (2 Nephi 2:27)
I've spent quite a fair amount of time considering, "why is it that we would choose captivity and death?" The answer I found is really quite simple. " The natural man is an enemy to God"(Mosiah 3:19.) When we arrive at the age of accountability (Doctrine & Covenants 68:27) we change from having agency to moral agency. At this age some have been taught correct principals they can use to govern their lives, most have not. Fewer still understand why it is they should choose the right, again most do not. Though children of 8 years are unlikely to meet the pitfalls that come upon teenagers and adults, the natural man still begins to work in their lives. As we grow into adulthood the natural man begins to become more and more prevalent as our ability and understanding to sin increases. Its much easier to do "what feels right" rather than "what is right."
The problem is that the natural man is just that... NATURAL. Often times it's just second nature to do these things, especially when you don't have a firm understanding of the gospel. I believe that the reason that we so often choose to follow the natural man is due to the instant gratification we receive. Though "wickedness never was happiness"(Alma 41:10) we can get a temporary high of sorts from breaking the commandments. People are all to often perfectly fine following this path with the natural man as a guide, however there comes a time when no matter what you do that high will be turned off. Satan will leave you without the pleasure that you once enjoyed and darkness enters your life. Eventually the reality of your addiction filled life will be internalized, and sorrow consumes you.
We had an investigator by the name of Bobby (name changed.) For a long time Bobby was content with life, he was happy with the party life style he was living and it was routine to break the most serious of God's commandments. This life style began at age 13 when his mother passed away, and only ended when he met us (the missionaries.) After his conversion he wrote "When I met the missionaries I was at the lowest point in my life, my heart was hardened to a point where I could not take love. In fact I'm the one that walked up to them, seeing them pass by. Because I was at a state where I was exhausted by my stubbornness and my lack of spiritual strength."
Bobby has now been baptized, received the Priesthood, holds a temple recommend and is serving as the 2nd Counselor in the young men's presidency of his group. Looking back at the process of his conversion, from the day I meet him until the day I baptized him, I cant help but think about why such a mighty change was wrought in his life. One day I finally decided to ask him, he said " It was the atonement of Jesus Christ... Heavenly Father blessed my with inner peace. I stopped the loneliness by living the gospel... I came to realize that all the time I was in darkness the Lord never left, but it was I who had forsaken myself."
This powerful statement makes me thing of 2 Nephi 26:23-28:
"For behold, my beloved brethren, I say unto you that the Lord God worketh not in darkness. He doeth not anything save it be for the benefit of the world; for he loveth the world, even that he layeth down his own life that he may draw all men unto him. Wherefore, he commandeth none that they shall not partake of his salvation. Behold, doth he cry unto any, saying: Depart from me? Behold, I say unto you, Nay; but he saith: Come unto me all ye ends of the earth, buy milk and honey, without money and without price. Behold, hath he commanded any that they should depart out of the synagogues, or out of the houses of worship? Behold, I say unto you, Nay. Hath he commanded any that they should not partake of his salvation? Behold I say unto you, Nay; but he hath given it free for all men; and he hath commanded his people that they should persuade all men to repentance. Behold, hath the Lord commanded any that they should not partake of his goodness? Behold I say unto you, Nay; but all men are privileged the one like unto the other, and none are forbidden."
I cannot pretend to be able to understand the Atonement of Jesus Christ, but I think I know a little. I do know a few parts of the atonement that directly affected Brother Bobby, and I'll take a minute to elaborate on each. The atonement of Christ accomplished 3 main things.
1. Gave people the ability to receive forgiveness for sins
2. Set a precedent for everyone to be resurrected
3. The Lord has experienced everything we have, are, and will go through.
Let's talk about the first... first... ha. Christ was offered as a sacrifice for our sins, and "though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow. Though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool" (Isaiah 1:18) Bobby went through the process of repentance and has overcome the consequences that the natural man had brought into his life. As we were meeting with him helping him to repent I recall him telling us how he could feel God's love in his life.
Point two is self-explanatory.
Now for bullet point 3. Bobby had lost his family early on in life, and was left to the world until his aunt was finally able to take him in. As he learned of Jesus Christ and his earthly ministry he could feel support flowing unto him daily. As John 16:33 states:
"These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world."
As he came unto Christ, walked the path of repentance and began to exercise faith, Bobby was able to have support through his trials. He was given strength the overcome his addictions and prepare himself for baptism. At times we may feel alone or like no one understands what it is we are going through, but the fact of the matter is that those statements are quite untrue. Heavenly Father and Christ are there to help us through anything and everything. As Bobby realized, God was always there, he was just missing the outstretched helping hand.
The natural man is the great stumbling block of the human race. It is something that during our lifetime we need to learn to overcome (that is however a letter for a different time.) Due to our imperfect lives there will be times that, just like Brother Bobby, we have to use the atonement to overcome the different affects that the natural man brings into our lives due to sin.
When it comes to the Atonement nothing is impossible. Forgiveness can be earned, broken hearts repaired, loneliness done away with. I believe its hymn 194, but one of the hymns states "I believe in Christ, so come what may." We may not be perfect, we may be falling backwards constantly, but if we keep strong in our faith and testimony of Christ there is no obstacle that is impassible.
I don't know if the point I'm trying to get across worked. Hopefully It did.
I know that Jesus Christ is our Lord and Savior. I know that His love for us has no bounds. To those who choose to follow Him He has extended this promise (DC 76: 50-70):
"And again we bear record—for we saw and heard, and this is the testimony of the gospel of Christ concerning them who shall come forth in the resurrection of the just— They are they who received the testimony of Jesus, and believed on his name and were baptized after the manner of his burial, being buried in the water in his name, and this according to the commandment which he has given— That by keeping the commandments they might be washed and cleansed from all their sins, and receive the Holy Spirit by the laying on of the hands of him who is ordained and sealed unto this power; And who overcome by faith, and are sealed by the Holy Spirit of promise, which the Father sheds forth upon all those who are just and true. They are they who are the church of the Firstborn. They are they into whose hands the Father has given all things— They are they who are priests and kings, who have received of his fullness, and of his glory; And are priests of the Most High, after the order of Melchizedek, which was after the order of Enoch, which was after the order of the Only Begotten Son. Wherefore, as it is written, they are gods, even the sons of God— Wherefore, all things are theirs, whether life or death, or things present, or things to come, all are theirs and they are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s. And they shall overcome all things. Wherefore, let no man glory in man, but rather let him glory in God, who shall subdue all enemies under his feet. These shall dwell in the presence of God and his Christ forever and ever. These are they whom he shall bring with him, when he shall come in the clouds of heaven to reign on the earth over his people. These are they who shall have part in the first resurrection. These are they who shall come forth in the resurrection of the just. These are they who are come unto Mount Zion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly place, the holiest of all. These are they who have come to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of Enoch, and of the Firstborn. These are they whose names are written in heaven, where God and Christ are the judge of all. These are they who are just men made perfect through Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, who wrought out this perfect atonement through the shedding of his own blood. These are they whose bodies are celestial, whose glory is that of the sun, even the glory of God, the highest of all, whose glory the sun of the firmament is written of as being typical."
Heavenly Father Loves you, Christ loves you. The beauty of Their plan is that all those who choose to follow Them may receive the blessings mentioned above. Better yet, we can enjoy them together.
Hopefully you enjoyed this.
Love yall lots,