Without ever minimizing the seriousness of some of our mistakes, I want to give to you today the message that we can be washed and pronounced clean if we will but honor the Lamb of God. From relatively innocent mistakes or disadvantages in life to the most serious of spiritual sins, the gospel of Jesus Christ gives us a way back. We must believe in movement “from darkness to light, from suffering to peace, from misery to hope.”
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland
“A Robe, a Ring, and a Fatted Calf,” Elder Holland was president of Brigham Young University when this devotional address was given on 31 January 1984.
I am a little pencil in the hand of a writing God who is sending a love letter to the world.
Mother Teresa of Calcutta
If we at times wonder if our own agendum for life deliver to us challenges that seem unique, it would be worth our remembering that, when we feel rejected, we are members of the church of him who was most rejected by his very own with no cause for rejection. If at times we feel manipulated, we are disciples of him whom the establishment of his day sought to manipulate. If we at times feel unappreciated, we are worshipers of him who gave to us the Atonement–that marvelous, selfless act, the central act of all human history–unappreciated, at least fully, even among those who gathered about his feet while the very process of the Atonement was underway. If we sometimes feel misunderstood by those about us, even those we minister to, so did he, much more deeply and pervasively than we. And if we love and there is no reciprocity for our love, we worship him who taught us and showed us love that is unconditional, for we must love even when there is no reciprocity.
Most of our suffering, brothers and sisters, actually comes because of our sins and not because of our nobility. Isn’t it marvelous that Jesus Christ, who did not have to endure that kind of suffering because he was sin-free, nevertheless took upon himself the sins of all of us and experienced an agony so exquisite we cannot comprehend it? I don’t know how many people have lived on the earth for sure, but demographers say between 30 and 67 billion. If you were to collect the agony for your own sins and I for mine, and multiply it by that number, we can only shudder at what the sensitive, divine soul of Jesus must have experienced in taking upon himself the awful arithmetic of the sins of all of us–an act which he did selflessly and voluntarily. If it is also true (in some way we don’t understand) that the cavity which suffering carves into our souls will one day also be the receptacle of joy, how infinitely greater Jesus’ capacity for joy, when he said, after his resurrection, “Behold, my joy is full.” How very, very full, indeed, his joy must have been!
I should like, therefore, to speak to you on the premise that it is a part of discipleship for us to be prepared for the kind of rigors that Jesus always leveled his disciples. He said, “My people must be tried in all things, that they may be prepared to receive the glory that I have for them, even the glory of Zion; and he that will not bear chastisement is not worthy of my kingdom” (D&C 136:31). That is hard doctrine. Peter made it even more rigorous. Peter didn’t want us to take any credit upon ourselves for the suffering we endure because of our own mistakes. He was willing to see us take credit for the suffering we endure because of discipleship, but not because of our own stupidity or our own sin (1 Peter 2:20). Then Moroni reminded us, “For ye receive no witness until after the trial of your faith” (Ether 12:6). That’s the rigorous path of discipleship, brothers and sisters, about which I wish to speak at least in this one dimension tonight, giving you some examples, if I may.
If God chooses to teach us the things we most need to learn because he loves us, and if he seeks to tame our souls and gentle us in the way we most need to be tamed and most need to be gentled, it follows that he will customize the challenges he gives us and individualize them so that we will be prepared for life in a better world by his refusal to take us out of this world, even though we are not of it. In the eternal ecology of things we must pray, therefore, not that things be taken from us, but that God’s will be accomplished through us. What, therefore, may seem now to be mere unconnected pieces of tile will someday, when we look back, take form and pattern, and we will realize that God was making a mosaic. For there is in each of our lives this kind of divine design, this pattern, this purpose that is in the process of becoming, which is continually before the Lord but which for us, looking forward, is sometimes perplexing.
Neal A. Maxwell
Later a member of the Quorum of the Twelve, Elder Maxwell was an Assistant to the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles when this fireside address was given at Brigham Young University on 1 September 1974.
Sanctification is the process of becoming a saint, holy and spiritually clean and pure, by purging all sin from the soul. Latter-day Saint scriptures mention several factors that make sanctification possible.
First is the Atonement of Jesus Christ (D&C 76:41-42;88:18; Moro. 10:33; Alma 13:11). Christ’s blood sanctifies God’s repentant children by washing them clean in a way that extends beyond the remission of sins at baptism. This cleansing is given through grace to all who “love and serve God” (D&C 20:31). “For by the water ye keep the commandment; by the Spirit ye are justified, and by the blood ye are sanctified” (Moses 6:60; cf. 1 John 5:8).
Second is the power of the Holy Ghost, the agent that purifies the heart and gives an abhorrence of sin (Alma 13:12; 3 Ne. 27:20).
Third is progression through personal righteousness (see also Justification). Faithful men and women fast; pray; repent of their sins; grow in humility, faith, joy, and consolation; and yield their hearts to God (Hel. 3:35). They also receive essential ordinances such as baptism (D&C 19:31) and, if necessary, endure chastening (D&C 101:5). Thus, Latter-day Saints are exhorted to “sanctify yourselves” (D&C 43:11) by purging all their iniquity (MD, pp. 675-76).
Author: C. Eric Ott, The Encyclopedia of Mormonism
In one test of creativity, subjects are faced with the following problem: A ping pong ball has fallen to the bottom of a tube that stands, in a vertical position, fastened permanently to the floor. Some participants try, unsuccessfully, to reach into the tube and retrieve the ball with tools that are provided. The problem is that some tools are not long enough to reach the ball, while others are too wide to fit into the tube. Some subjects eventually give up in exasperation, but others discover a creative solution, realizing that water can be poured into the tube. The water displaces the air in the tube, and the ball pops to the surface, rising higher each time water is poured in. Once water fills the tube, the ball is easily retrieved.
In the same way, one of the best methods to remove something from our lives is to displace it with something else. . . . we can become so caught up in a purpose for good that we simply have less time and energy to get wrapped up in the bad.
Alma the Younger and Paul the apostle both utilized this principle. At one point, each had strong desires to tear down the Church, then repented. In their repentance, they permanently replaced bad with good. It would be absurd to imagine that after they were converted they had to resolve each morning, “I just have to resist the temptation to preach against Christ today.” Instead, they had become captivated and eager to build up the Church and had thrown themselves completely into the cause of Christ.
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Certainly it is true that good can displace the bad in our lives. When we are deeply involved in a positive purpose, our souls, and even our bodies it seems, resonate with the power and energy of God. Just as precious ore that has been purged of imperfections is more pure, we are more fully ourselves when we are in the midst of doing good rather than evil. In essence, the process of gaining more self-control and increasing in righteousness is not one of changing from who we are. Rather, we are changing to who we are. Changing is a process of becoming more fully ourselves.
A. Dean Byrd and Mark D. Chamberlain
Willpower Is Not Enough, (1995, Deseret Book, Salt Lake City)
When you repent and worthily partake of the sacrament, you can then “walk in newness of life” (Rom. 6:4). There is hope smiling brightly before you because of the Atonement of Christ.
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Because of Christ there is hope smiling brightly before you, and you need not worry too much about sickness, death, poverty, or other afflictions. The Lord will take care of you. Your responsibility is to keep the commandments, feast upon the words of Christ, and stay in the path to your heavenly home.
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With the hope of the Atonement and the Resurrection, you have a third great hope, the hope of eternal life. Because you have a Savior, you can plan for a future that extends beyond this life. If you keep the commandments, you are promised eternal life.
Sister Julie B. Beck
“There Is Hope Smiling Brightly before Us“, Ensign, May 2003, 103–5