In stake conference, a speaker mentioned a mother who had children not currently attending church sob to him that she couldn’t believe this was happening to her because, in her words, “I did everything I could!”
While I eagerly point out that I don’t know anything about this particular lady or what it feels like to have a child older than nine, I did think that this mother might be missing a major point of the Plan of Salvation. Our “enough” alone was never supposed to be “enough.”
This one statement makes it sound like it is all on us to make something happen- in this case, that the outcome of my child’s choices is entirely based on how much I do or do not do. (Which is false, thank Heavens.)
When we rely on the Savior to finish our best efforts, we no longer have the guilt (or pride) that makes life’s emotions go up and down. We are no longer tossed “like a wave of the sea” (James 1:5) because we have chosen instead to let Jesus be the captain of our ship.
Right after God proclaimed that we could come to Earth to “prove [us] herewith, to see if [we] will do all things whatsoever the Lord [our] God shall command [us],” He follows with this: “And the Lord said: Whom shall I send? And one answered like unto the Son of Man: Here am I, send me..And the Lord said: I will send the first.” (Abraham 3:25, 27) He sets the test, He provides a Way.
Because God is the ultimate perfection, His standard for success is the ultimate high. He wants to prove His children so He can give them “all that [He] hath.” (D&C 84:38) In His perfect love and understanding, He gave us a Way to reach that ultimate level.
“For God so loved the world, that He gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John3:16) Jesus is the Way to return home to God.
As we set off on our path to “prove” ourselves obedient children of God, we will stumble and we will fall. But just like the Plan of the Pine Tree is that a pinecone must fall to become its own tree, the Plan for us includes us falling to then become a “tree springing up into Everlasting life.” (Alma 32:41) God provided a Savior for us. And this is what we must build our entire mindset on.
If we have this mindset (namely: falling is how we grow), think how differently we will view ourselves. Think of a mistake you made in the past week that made you feel further away from God. Have you acknowledged the enmity you created? Have you asked God to forgive you? Have you exercised faith in Jesus by asking for the Spirit to confirm to you that the distance is no longer? Jesus bridges the gaps we make by our infractions. He brings us back to the Father so that we “can always have His Spirit to be with us.” (D&C 20:77) After we do these things, our heart is filled no longer with guilt, regret, depreciation, and self-pity. Instead, our heart is filled with love for Jesus, intense appreciation for the gift of God’s perfect Son, and a deep desire to be a better witness for Him.
We make mistakes. We fall short. We feel the darkness that comes from being distance from God. And then comes our choice. Will we “not now return unto [the Savior] …that [He] may heal [us]?” (3 Nephi 9:13) The effect of the Savior’s love on our heart will cause us to rejoice and be “filled with the Love of God.” Our minds will be filled with love, gratitude and awe at our Savior. (Mosiah 4:12)
Jesus fills up our failures. He finishes off our efforts. He polishes our feeble attempts. He adds the sublime to our sincere exertions. He takes our humble endeavors and turns them into miracles.
I have always loved these words spoken in conference when I was 22 years old: “Our all by itself is still only almost enough—until it is finished by the all of Him who is the “finisher of our faith.” At that point, our imperfect but consecrated almost is enough.” (Elder Hafen, 2004)
In response to some questioning Jesus’s choice of company, he said, “They that are whole need not a physician; but they that are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but the sinners to repentance.” (Luke 5:31-32)
Knowing the character of Jesus, would you rather be one of the sick, one of the sinners that Jesus compassionately wrapped His arms around? Or would we choose instead to view ourselves as whole and righteous and not in need of Him? I hope I would have the humility to drop all pretense of self-sufficiency and run to His feet, sick, lame and in need of His healing power.
All have “fallen short” of the glory of God (Roman 3:25)….the difference is that sometimes we realize it and turn to the Savior and sometimes we ignore it and rely on “the arm of the flesh.” (2 Nephi 4:34)
Which brings us to our point: bad choices happen. To us, to our children, to our family, to our friends… but does the bad choice bring us to our knees in rejoicing that Jesus in His great mercy saves? Does the bad choice our children make lead us to a discussion of joy on how their bad choice allows them to turn to Jesus? Does a family member’s bad choice give us joy at the opportunity to turn to Jesus for His gift of forgiveness to allow us to forgive others their trespasses?
A “Jesus-Saves” mindset allows all the short-comings to become an opportunity for the gift of Jesus in our life– this instead of letting these short-comings be reasons for frustration, judgment, exclusion and self-doubt.
Truly, when we “look unto [Jesus] in every thought… [we can] doubt not, [and] fear not.” (D&C 6:36)
It has been so long since I’ve posted that I couldn’t remember how, haha. For sake of brevity, I’ve listed out some study material that has guided my thoughts. Please take some time to read through the steps of great scripture study here if you are looking to deepen your study of the scriptures! Enjoy! -Lara
- Elder Renlund’s talk about how the Savior looks at His sheep
- Elder Hafen’s talk on our relationship with the Savior
- Nephi’s psalm, 2 Nephi 4:17-35
- King Benjamin, Mosiah 4:10-12, (but how can one only read a few of his sermon!)
- President Uchtdorf’s talk “Perfect Love Casteth Out Fear”