Vertically Connected Blog
You may find this surprising, but mothers actually have a lot in common with Nephi.
Sure, he’s a man and he lived over 2000 years ago and he killed someone and he had visions and he built a boat and he successfully crossed an ocean in that same boat and he became the leader of a nation. Have I missed anything? Oh, and his brothers wanted to kill him.
Does any of that resemble something in your life? I would assume (and hope!) not.
Nevertheless, we mothers still have a lot in common with Nephi.
How? Well, Nephi had never snuck into a city, slain a man, had a vision, built a boat, crossed the ocean, or led a people before. And though he had many threats on his life, each time his brothers tried to kill him, they tried a new approach, thus catching him off guard yet again!
So much of Nephi's life was about doing things he had never done before.
Does that sound familiar to anyone?
From the very first moment we enter motherhood, there is a lot of unfamiliar and uncharted territory. So many things that we either have never done before, never planned on, or never imagined would ever be part of our journey! In fact, at one point years ago, I realized that maybe instead I would like to try building a boat – it probably would have been easier that this whole mothering thing!
But daunting or not, I have noticed something interesting.
There must be a purpose in our lacking an impressive or ideal resume to qualify us for the things that God asks us to do because we are not alone.
Think about it. Moses, Esther, Peter, Daniel, David, Joseph, Moroni, Alma, Sariah, Rachel, Rebekah, and so many other ordinary mortals were asked to do things they were either not prepared for or very inexperienced at and yet God still asked them.
And we can learn a lot from the company with which we are associated.
Let's just look at one example from Nephi's life.
When Nephi crept into Jerusalem to get some records from a man he knew wouldn’t be very happy about giving them up, he didn’t really know how he was going to do it.
Nephi and his brothers had already tried twice and failed, losing their bargaining chips and almost their lives in the process. Laman and Lemuel were so frustrated they wanted to finish the job Laban’s servants had started.
But Nephi’s response to Laman and Lemuel, and to his situation, indicates that he understood something about being placed in these kinds of situations: “Let us go up again into Jerusalem," he said, "and let us be faithful in keeping the commandments of the Lord; for behold he is mightier than all the earth, then why not mightier than Laban and his fifty, yea, or even than his tens of thousands? Therefore let us go up; let us be strong like unto Moses. . . . The Lord is able to deliver us . . .” (4:1-3; emphasis added).
How did Nephi know that?
Because Nephi knew something else. And it’s actually something that we know, too. Nephi knew that “the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them” (1 Nephi 3:7). And remember, this proclamation of faith was made before the many times that Nephi had actually been delivered in his life!
Somewhere, somehow, Nephi had learned and experienced for himself that our Heavenly Father is a God of preparation. He must have been taught some of the character and attributes and perfections of God from “all the learning of [his] father” (1 Nephi 1:1). With this in mind, maybe we can understand better why he would sneak into a city that was probably swarming with people ready to kill him “not knowing beforehand the things which [he] should do” (4:6). Some may say that was pretty risky, but Nephi trusted His God for he knew that he had His preparation and His experience on his side.
Elder David A. Bednar once shared a profound insight about this principle. He said: “Just think about any responsibility you’ve ever had as a leader in the Church. Were you well prepared before you were called? No. Did you know what you were doing when you were called? No. So, the Lord, by inspiration through those who are in authority, calls us to do things that we’ve never done, that we’re not prepared to do, and that we struggle with on the front end especially, learning what we’re to do. . . . And there’s reason for that. As long as we’re clueless we’re dependent upon heaven. As soon as we think we know what we’re doing then we tend to rely more on the arm of the flesh. In the Church every single one of us has been in the position where heaven took a chance on us. We didn’t know what to do, we certainly were not experienced, we were worthy and willing, but heaven took a chance.” (“A Conversation on Leadership,” February 24, 2010, 6).
Heaven knows that any of us who choose to be a part of helping to build God's Kingdom and bringing “to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39) brings to that great responsibility inadequacies or imperfections or inexperience.
Heaven takes a chance on those deficiencies. And heaven takes a chance that when we find ourselves inadequate or imperfect or inexperienced that we will turn to heaven for help.
You are more prepared for the divine calling of motherhood than you may think (and for the things you may face as you go through it, for that matter) because of the doctrine that your Father in Heaven is prepared and He has prepared so much in your behalf, even in the minute details of your life.
Because He is God, He is prepared. And that’s all that really matters.
Indeed, motherhood is much more about Him than it is about us.
The word “prepare” appears nearly 500 times in the four standard works. A majority of the time, it is used to refer to either the preparations the Father has made for His children or preparations He inspired or instructed His children to make.
Either way, these preparations involve His omniscience for they were made long before we needed them or long before we understood why we needed them. And I have come to trust in that omniscience.
This is not His first time doing this.
He is not surprised that we sometimes get surprised.
He is not unprepared for any of our lack of preparation.
He is not frightened by our being a little bit frightened.
We are neither the only ones nor the first ones in the history of mankind that have felt anxious about facing Red Seas and angry kings and lion’s dens and Goliaths and lost sons and foreign lands and ocean voyages.
And He’s going to keep on asking.
So, maybe it is perfectly normal and perfectly acceptable to feel a little overwhelmed by circumstances that we have never faced before. There are divine purposes in finding ourselves standing on the outer wall of our own proverbial city without a clue how we are going to accomplish what God has commanded us to do.
Nephi still “went forth” . . . knowing and trusting. We have dozens of examples of people in scripture, history, and all around us who have done the same.
And so must we – even if we cannot see farther than about one step in front of us.
These experiences require us to exercise faith; faith to find the ways He has prepared for us and the ways He has prepared us that we might not know about yet.
This kind of seeking is often part of His plan - a plan that not only involves bringing to pass the immortality and eternal life of our children . . . but of us . . . by molding and shaping and refining us in ways that turn our hearts and minds and eyes . . . heavenward.
After the Lord had the prophet Moses lead the children of Israel out of their bondage in Egypt, He intended to take them to a land reserved for them, a place where they could live in peace and happiness. However, even though they had been miraculously delivered by His hand, the Israelites struggled to remember their God, thank Him, or truly worship Him and thus they struggled being guided by Him to this promised land. (Indeed, that's why the journey took 40 years!)
At one point in their journey, as they were struggling (again!) to be grateful and humble in their trying circumstances, “the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people; and much people of Israel died.” (Numbers 21:6) Realizing in that moment their responsibility in that trial, the Israelites pled with Moses to ask the Lord if He would take the snakes away.
But the Lord responded with an unexpected solution.
He instructed Moses to make a serpent out of brass, put it on a stick, and hold it up.
Once he was finished, Moses then told the people that if they would look up to that brazen serpent up on that pole, they would be healed and protected and live.
Isn't it interesting that hundreds of poisonous snakes were slithering at their feet and biting them; people standing next to them were getting bit, possibly screaming with pain; some of their loved ones and children were probably dying, and yet God was asking them to take their attention off all that around them . . . and look to Him by looking up to that brazen serpent.
It seems a little strange. And I’ve wondered if they might have said to themselves, “What difference will looking at a snake made out of metal make? How is that going to help?”
Indeed, it seems many of them probably did. For many of them wouldn't look and perished. They didn't understand what the serpent symbolized nor how Moses was trying to get them to look to their God in their circumstances.
I have been reminded of the Israelites experience with the brazen serpent several times as I've found myself asking that same question about something the Lord had instructed me to do.
One time many years ago, I had been praying for guidance for one of our children. He was struggling with his emotions, some difficult circumstances, and getting along with others and I was struggling to figure out what the real problem was and what could be done about it. I prayed about my concern often for several months but didn't really get any answers.
Then one day I was in the laundry room folding laundry when a clear, quiet thought came into my head: "Just listen to him."
I stopped what I was doing for a second and listened again. "Just listen better to him."
I knew immediately that the Lord was referring to this particular son but I am embarrassed to say that the next thought that popped into my head was:
"What difference will that make? How is that going to help? He is struggling with some really difficult things right now - things much bigger than not being listened to!"
However, I decided to at least try it. (I mean I hadn't been able to come up with any better ideas.) And it has been so interesting to watch just how inspired those four words truly were for that son in particular, with his personality and individual needs.
That one small piece of what seemed like vague, possibly irrelevant counsel from the Lord was the very thing that was being neglected in our large and sometimes chaotic family. And it is something that my husband and I have come back to again and again, continually seeking the Spirit's direction of how and when we can listen to him better.
I have discovered that the Lord often holds up a modern version of a brazen serpent in our lives. And often this simple, seemingly irrelevant symbol offers us the same kind of protection, healing, peace, or a chance to truly live during this mortal experience.
Maybe it is an impression that we really need to rededicate ourselves to prayer or the recurring thought that our scripture study is lacking. It may be what seems to be a guilty reminder that we are not worshipping in the temple enough or that our church service needs to be more focused on the Savior instead of ourselves. Or sometimes it is something even more simple than that: listen better . . . serve more . . . let go of that anger . . . let go of that expectation of yourself.
Whatever the instruction is, we may find ourselves dismissing those simple promptings because of more pressing concerns in our lives. Or we may acknowledge His encouraging reprimand is true, but conclude we have bigger problems to solve than that.
However, we know that the Lord truly does bring to pass incredible things by simple means (Alma 36;7). Often, He solves big problems with small solutions.
One Sunday a little while ago, I was sitting in a Stake Conference and the topic of the conference was Temple and Family History work (again!). I am also embarrassed to say that I immediately started tuning out the speakers because I was so tired of hearing about Temple and Family History work!
“When do I have time to do family history?” I asked myself. “Why would I prioritize it when I have so much to do, so little time, and so many things on my plate? What difference does it make? How could it possibly help me with all of the other things I need to worry about?”
And then it dawned on me! Could this be a brazen serpent the prophet is holding up for the Church in general? Could this be a small and simple means that could offer protection, healing, peace and ultimately a chance to truly live in these perilous and often frightening last days?
On a very logical level, it doesn’t really make sense.
How can something like doing family history work help us with all of the challenges we have in our day?
For example, how can family history work help a son who is struggling with pornography or his parents who are seeking to know how to help him? The internet, smartphones, and technology bombard us on every side. Confusion, distraction, and indifference are slithering at our feet. How could indexing really help protect our families against the blatant immorality that has crept into our homes and lives today? Indeed, the people around us are getting “bit” and are suffering; some of our loved ones and children are even spiritually dying.
And yet, God through His prophet is asking us to take our attention off of all these poisonous influences and look to Him by looking back.
What difference could it possibly make? How could that help?
I don’t fully know the answer to those questions, but I guess neither did the Israelites. They simply had to have the courage and faith to obey prophetic instruction and trust not only in the divine source of that instruction but the divine blessings of it. They, like us, had to trust that what they were being counseled to do would ultimately lead them to the Savior.
At least one conclusion I have come to is that family history work leads us to the temple. And it seems that those few hours we spend learning, pondering, and participating in ordinances in the temple are another small and simple means that brings to pass great things in the thousands of hours we spend outside the temple living our lives.
Think about it: if there was no doctrine of participating in ordinances for the dead, we would maybe go into the temple a half a dozen times in our entire lives – once for ourselves, and a few other times escorting others or witnessing a marriage sealing. Our proxy work for the dead gives us an opportunity to go into the temple every single week if we choose!
But I think there might be more reasons than that - even more personal and meaningful applications in each of our lives and our circumstances.
And those reasons are for you and I to discover by doing family history work and taking our families (both living and deceased) to the temple.
However, family history work is just one example! It is only one counsel that has been given to us in these latter days by our prophet.
What other brazen serpents could the prophet be holding up for us today?
If we look for that help - those simple, seemingly irrelevant admonitions the Lord gives to His prophets - we will discover them all around us.
And they are God's higher way of offering us peace, protection, healing and a chance to truly live "after the manner of happiness" (2 Nephi 5:27) in an overwhelming and often frightening world. Indeed, they give us access to the peace, protection, healing and life found in His Son, Jesus Christ.
This past weekend, we were blessed again with incredible messages and clarifying doctrines from the Lord’s chosen servants that will enrich and bless our lives for years to come.
As you listened to and learned from General Conference, did impressions come to your mind of something you need to improve on?
Were you inspired to change something in your life?
Or were you motivated to simplify an aspect of your life?
I have found that personal revelation often flows when we place ourselves in settings where the heavens are open and God is pouring down knowledge from them (D&C 121:33). Conference definitely seems to be one of those places.
And what a joyous place to find ourselves in.
I have also noticed that sometimes after I've been truly enlightened or motivated to increase the level of my discipleship, I find myself feeling unsure I really can do what I've been inspired to do. I often know the impression is right, I just don't know how it will work.
And I've wondered:
Why would I struggle with this?
Why would I doubt this can work?
Why would I doubt I can do this?
I am a faithful person who loves the Lord and truly desires to be obedient.
In seeking to understand why this sometimes happens, I have found there is at least one possible cause of my lack of confidence, fear, or insecurity. And it has nothing to do with my faith or obedience or willingness.
It has to do with the negative beliefs or false perceptions I often don't even know I have.
Let me explain what I mean with a story from the scriptures.
In the Old Testament, we learn about a man named Jonah who was instructed by the Lord to go to Nineveh to warn the people of their imminent destruction if they did not repent. But instead of being obedient, Jonah ran as fast as he could to the coastal city of Joppa, found a ship going to Tarshish, and sailed as far away from his responsibility as possible. (Some scholars even believe that Tarshish was geographically probably one of the farthest places Jonah could realistically go from Nineveh at that time.)
Have you ever wondered why he did that?
At first, we might think that Jonah was afraid or disobedient or even unfaithful.
Yet, it seems it was much more than that.
Jonah had somewhat of a history with the Ninevites. They were a powerful, idolatrous, and barbaric people who had enslaved, tortured, and killed Jonah’s people over a long period of time. It might be safe to say that Jonah probably didn’t like them.
And so, when that revelation came to reach out in mercy and compassion towards them and give them a chance to repent, Jonah really didn't want to.
That revelation had filtered through some pretty strong opinions of the Ninevites, which not only affected his attitude towards that revelation, but also his obedience to it.
Later in Jonah’s story when the whale spit him out on the shore and the Lord told him a second time to go to Nineveh, Jonah was compelled to obey.
But it doesn’t seem like he had changed what he believed about the Ninevites.
He preached unto them and then sat down and waited for them to be destroyed, even though they had turned “every one from his evil way, and from the violence that [was] in their hands,” and began to believe in God (Jonah 3:5, 8).
When the Ninevites weren’t destroyed, Jonah was angry that God hadn’t done what He originally said He was going to do. He believed the Ninevites deserved to be destroyed even though they had started to repent.
It is interesting to point out, however, that it wasn’t the revelation for Jonah to minister among the Ninevites that was the problem, nor how God willing the Lord was to forgive them of their rebellion and wickedness. It was Jonah’s belief about the Ninevites that inhibited his faith and obedience.
Now, we probably won’t receive a revelation to go to Nineveh.
However, we might receive an impression, “Forgive your dad.” That revelation might immediately filter through the belief, “But my dad doesn’t deserve forgiveness” or “I could never forgive my dad” or “Forgiveness means forgetting or condoning what happened.” And then we might become angry that God would ask us to do something like that and run, like Jonah, as far away from the revelation as we can.
Again, the revelation itself isn’t the problem in this situation, even if it feels like it. The fear or anger or discouragement we might feel could instead be caused by a negative, unhealthy, or false belief.
We interpret our struggle or unwillingness or doubt as a lack of faith, when, in reality, that could not be farther from the truth!
Many years ago, I met two young people who were obviously in love. Yet as I sat and talked with them one day in my office, the young woman told me, “I want to marry Jake with everything in me. I love him. I’ve fasted about it and I took my decision to the Lord. And I’ve got my answer. The problem is . . . he won’t marry me.”
I was rather surprised by that last statement. And so I asked Jake, “Do you love Katelyn?”
“Yes, I do. She’s the most amazing person in the world.”
“Do you want to marry her?”
“Yes, I do,” he said, and then he hesitated, “. . . but I won’t.”
Jake then explained to me, “When I was younger, I had a problem with pornography. I put my life in order and became worthy to serve a mission. After I got home, I had a couple struggles with it, but I am doing well now and feel there’s been a lot of progress. But I just don’t think it’s fair for her to marry someone like me. I still have to fight to keep my thoughts pure. I just don’t want to put her through this. She is such a wonderful girl, and so I just can’t marry her.”
As we talked for the next hour, I shared with the two of them the doctrine of the Atonement of Jesus Christ and the power He has to heal and change us so that we're not in bondage to our past. We looked at the definition of the word “atonement,” and talked about how it actually means “to cover” or to make “at-one” again (Elder Russell M. Nelson, “The Atonement,” Ensign, November 1996).
We studied what Isaiah teaches about the Atonement, and how Christ has the ability to exchange our ashes (or lack of faith, or heavy burden, or serious sin, or whatever it is) and give us beauty and praise and righteousness and glory.
I respected Jake’s willingness to be accountable and responsible, and my intent wasn’t to convince him he should marry Katelyn. I just wanted to make sure he understood the power the Savior had not only to forgive him, but also to heal him and actually change him into “a new creature” (2 Corinthians 5:17).
Near the end of our conversation, I could see some hope in both of their eyes. However, when I asked Jake how he felt, he said he was still struggling with the idea that he wasn’t ever going to be worthy enough to marry her; he believed she deserved someone better than him.
After they left, I realized that perhaps the only way those two were ever going to be able to move forward in their relationship was if Jake figured out what he really believed about Jesus Christ, His Atonement, and what becomes of not only our worthiness but our worth to Him when we sin. I felt he also needed to sort out why he didn't believe that redemption through Christ was also offered to him and that it could actually help and heal him.
I knew Jake had a knowledge of the principles and doctrines about repentance, forgiveness, and divine worth. However, I also knew that he was struggling — not only to find peace through recovery, but also to receive a confirmation about making one of the most important decisions of his life. And it was largely because of the misconception that he would never be worthy to marry such an incredible young woman because of past sin.
So, if you find yourself struggling to have faith in or be obedient to something the Lord has revealed to you or asked you to do, consider first that it might simply be because that revelation filtered through an unhealthy, unrealistic, destructive, or false idea that is skewing your ability to consider it, follow it, or believe in it.
And if so, it is that false idea that needs to first be re-examined, not the revelation!
As we identify and remove the untrue ideas, assumptions or perceptions that often hide somewhere in the backstage of our minds, the truth is allowed to fill our hearts and minds and souls with the light and love of our Savior, Jesus Christ.
And then acting in faith on that truth is so much easier.
We live in a world where we are constantly bombarded by worldly messages of self-reliance - messages that we, and we alone, are responsible for the success, health, wealth, progress, peace, and happiness of ourselves, our families, and maybe everyone around us.
We are programmed to believe that only the proactive and self-motivated win the prizes in this life.
Indeed, it seems everything is up to us.
And although I think there are some true principles that underlie this idea – principles such as agency, accountability, responsibility, sacrifice, hard work, and faith – the problem with this skewed concept is that there is no room for another absolutely critical component of the gospel of Jesus Christ: grace.
We know about grace. We hear about it all the time. But it seems we sometimes have a hard time finding room for it in our lives and maybe even in our righteous efforts to be "anxiously engaged" and proactively doing things of our own will.
Indeed, for the driven and ambitious, the concept of grace can feel foreign and maybe even uncomfortable.
So, what exactly is grace?
How does it correct the world's false doctrine about self-reliance?
And where does it fit in our discipleship of Jesus Christ?
While I don’t know all the answers to those questions, I have a few thoughts.
To me, the grace of God spoken of in the scriptures is the enabling power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. And it is essential that we have and use that power in our lives.
Elder David A. Bednar clarified that there are two powers available to us because of Christ's Atonement: the redeeming power and the enabling power.
He said, “I suspect that you and I are much more familiar with the nature of the redeeming power of the Atonement than we are with the enabling power of the Atonement. It is one thing to know that Jesus Christ came to earth to die for us. That is fundamental and foundational to the doctrine of Christ. But we also need to appreciate that the Lord desires, through His Atonement and by the power of the Holy Ghost, to live in us—not only to direct us but also to empower us. . . . I frankly do not think many of us “get it” concerning this enabling and strengthening aspect of the Atonement, and I wonder if we mistakenly believe we must make the journey from good to better and become a saint all by ourselves through sheer grit, willpower, and discipline, and with our obviously limited capacities.”
In our conscientious and faithful efforts to be anxiously engaged in ministering to others, receiving revelation, fulfilling callings, studying our scriptures, raising children, turning to the Lord, becoming like Him, or a host of other righteous efforts, we may forgot the part that grace plays in all of it.
Sister Carolyn J. Rasmus, a BYU professor and administrator, shared the following experience:
“Some time ago, while serving as an institute teacher, I discovered that my students would occasionally come to me for comfort when they had problems. Over a period of many months, I became acquainted with a woman who shared with me her life story. It was not pretty. As a child she had often been abused, and this had led to years of therapy because she could not cope.
I remember the day she came to my office pleading for help. I could clearly see her pain, but I was just a teacher. I had had no training in how to comfort people who had suffered such things, and I pled with the Lord to know how I might help.
I recommended that she counsel with her bishop, but I also felt impressed to play some recorded Church hymns. After a time, when she was calmer, I seated her in my office chair. On the wall at eye level was a painting of Jesus Christ. I invited her to look into His eyes as I read to her from the scriptures:
“Fear not, little flock. . . . Look unto me in every thought; doubt not, fear not” (D&C 6:34, 36).
“The Lord hath comforted his people, and will have mercy upon his afflicted. . . . Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands” (1 Nephi 21:13, 15–16).
“Behold, he suffereth the pains of all men, yea, the pains of every living creature” (2 Nephi 9:21).
“Look unto God with firmness of mind, and pray unto him with exceeding faith, and he will console you in your afflictions, and he will plead your cause” (Jacob 3:1).
As each scripture came to my mind, I felt that I was being prompted by the Spirit to know and do things beyond my natural ability. She later described having felt “an overwhelming feeling of love and peace.”
To help my friend, I had called on Heavenly Father to help me in an area of weakness, and He granted me help. This kind of divine assistance, often given through the influence of the Holy Ghost, is one of the gifts of the enabling power of the Atonement.”
And so, for me, grace has become a power that gives us the ability to do things we would not otherwise be able to do of our own power.
Yes, it is by grace that we are resurrected, something we cannot do on our own.
By grace, we are forgiven of sin, something we cannot do on our own.
But it is also by grace that we are able to help someone in their need when we have no idea how to help them or what they really need.
And it is by grace that the person we are trying to help finds comfort and peace when they do not know how to help themselves.
The Atonement of Jesus Christ was an infinite Atonement – not only meaning it is never-ending, but also that it has no bounds, meaning it is limitless in space, extent, and size; it is impossible for us to measure or calculate.
Thus, the grace offered us by Jesus Christ has no bounds.
There is no situation we find ourselves in that is outside the bounds of it.
Once I started to understand what it really is, I realized I have seen this power manifest in so many different ways, in my own life and in the lives of those I love.
It is by grace we reach out to someone who is always rude to us.
By grace we are enabled to succeed in a subject that is difficult for us to learn.
Grace helps a teenager understand why is it is hard for her to make friends.
It helps a young man overcome his fear of asking for help from his parents.
It is by grace that a young woman follows the impressions she has been having to serve a mission, even though talking to people she doesn’t know and finding herself in situations that are unfamiliar are probably two of the hardest things for her to do.
It is by grace that a young man accepts a mission call to serve and love a people, even a specific race, that he has had many negative experiences with as he was growing up.
It is by grace that someone can find the power and ability to love others in a deep and profound way when they were not raised with this love.
It is by grace that a mother finds one more ounce of patience after a long, busy day with children.
But it is also by grace that a mother finds a peace and love in such abundance in her heart - and that she did not know was there - as she visits her son in jail.
It is by grace that a husband and father finds hope and healing and an enhanced ability to overcome a pornography addiction that has spanned almost 3 decades – a battle that could not be won until he finally accepted that he could not of his own power overcome it.
It is by grace that an unmarried sister in her 40’s is still able to come to Church week after week even though Church is probably one of the hardest 3 hours of her week because of all the things she is reminded she doesn’t have right now in her life.
This is what grace looks like. This is how we lift it out of the scriptures and see it manifest itself in every day mortal life.
On a personal level, it is by grace, indeed by a power that I did not have on my own, that I have been able to be lifted out of the dark and lonely world of depression.
It is this enabling power of the Atonement that has helped me see some of the sources of my depression – things I did not understand about myself and my beliefs about the world and my God that were keeping me trapped in a vicious negative cycle.
And it is even by grace that I have been able to understand that part of my struggle, part of my discouragement and despair, was because I was trying to do everything by myself. It is by an unseen power that man does not possess on his own that my husband has been able to reach out to me, wrap his arms around me, and reassure me that no matter how nasty and irrational I had been to him, he still loved me.
It is by grace that my family has been able to move forward and heal from the negative effects of such an ugly situation.
Grace kicks in at whatever point we cannot do something on our own – when our own efforts are depleted. Grace begins where our ability ends - no matter why or where it ended.
For some situations, His grace comes almost immediately, like maybe when we are struggling to even find the desire to believe. In other situations, we might meet somewhere in the middle and feel we have at least brought something to the table. And still other times, it comes in the final moments, hours, or months of a trial, one where we have handled it so faithfully, trusting in God’s “perfect plan” so well for so long, but we run out of steam near the end and just don’t know if we can endure it anymore.
I have discovered that it is no surprise to our Heavenly Father that we cannot do it all and do it all right. Not only is it no surprise to Him, He specifically designed mortality to be this way.
On the eve of Jesus Christ’s suffering in Gethsemane, He issued this benediction to His disciples: “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you. . . . Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27).
Of this invitation, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland said, “[This] may be one of the Savior’s commandments that is, even in the hearts of otherwise faithful Latter-day Saints, almost universally disobeyed; and yet I wonder whether our resistance to this invitation could be any more grievous to the Lord’s merciful heart.” Elder Holland added, “I am convinced that none of us can appreciate how deeply it wounds the loving heart of the Savior of the world when he finds that his people do not feel confident in his care or secure in his hands.”
He promises us that because He has overcome the world, there is nothing is this world that can overcome us – if we turn to Him and are empowered with His power.
This is the doctrine of the Atonement: that our Father sent His Son to ransom and redeem all of us and provide for us a power to return to Him. It is something we cannot do on our own. Although we live in a world that beats an incessant drum that we can and should make happen in our lives everything that needs to happen, that everything is up to us, that relying on someone or something else is weakness, and that somehow we earn our way back to God, the doctrine of the Atonement of Jesus Christ is that the more we rely on Him, the more power is made available to us.
I know this is true. I have experienced this for myself. Indeed, I have spent the majority of my life buying into what the world and the adversary have been saying – that everything is up to me. And that's not only a lie, it's absolutely impossible.
I challenge you to think if there is a struggle in your life right now that could be lifted, eased, changed, or healed, if you were to use more deliberately, more specifically, and more faithfully the enabling, healing, cleansing, strengthening, and enduring power of the Atonement – even something that maybe you may not think has anything to do with the Atonement or something that, whenever you think about it, you say to yourself, “I can’t do this.”
For it is in those very words, in that honesty and frustration and even anguish, that we will realize that indeed we can’t – at least not by ourselves.
We need the grace of Jesus Christ.
One of the big mysteries of the dating experience is figuring out whether someone you are dating is someone you could marry.
And because marrying someone is a big deal - both immediately and eternally - solving that mystery is also a big deal.
While there is no magic formula for figuring out who you should spend the rest of eternity with, there are some ways to at least make a more informed and inspired decision.
And some of those ways involve asking some really good (and really honest) questions so that you can receive revelation based on as much information and understanding as possible.
Remember, one of the main purposes of dating - as opposed to sitting next to someone in a class or even hanging out with them - is to get to know someone well enough that you can make a decision about the future of a relationship with that person.
That kind of knowledge requires spending lots of time together, talking and learning about each other, and sharing common experiences in a wide variety of circumstances. It also requires you to be open with each and willing to share your thoughts, feelings, perceptions of life, expectations, hopes and dreams.
Elder Robert D. Hales taught:
"The track that leads to marriage passes through the terrain called dating! Dating is the opportunity for lengthy conversations. When you date, learn everything you can about each other. Get to know each other’s families when possible.
And so, with Elder Hales' counsel in mind, I have compiled 107 questions that couples can begin asking each other when they are dating exclusively and seriously.
Here's some preparation for them:
Stephen & Michelle Hunsaker
Stephen teaches at the Logan Institute of Religion for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and has been teaching for over 26 years.
Michelle is a full-time mom who enjoys reading, writing, teaching, and anything and everything to do with musicals.
They are the parents of ten children and authors of the book : Boxing the Lord In and Other Ways We Hinder Revelation.
Their hope is that each week through the thoughts and ideas they share in this blog, you can become more "vertically connected" in your lives. They seek to see and share "things as they really are" and "as they really will be" (Jacob 4:13) by learning how to build more and more on the sure foundation of the Savior, Jesus Christ and the doctrines and principles of His gospel.