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 woke up very early this morning with the words of this hymn running through my mind and thought I would share it with you.
For me, it represents the open arms that Christ extends to every man or woman who has wandered off into strange paths and desires to return.
Since I have had the privilege to spend this Sunday in Florence, Italy, after attending a spirit-filled Sacrament Meeting here, I thought the following might be appropriate.
Alberto Sottili is a silver craftsman. He recognizes and treasures beautiful things. Each day in his shop in Florence, Italy, he creates jewelry—lovely necklaces, earrings, and brooches. But he is modest about his skills. “My shop is very simple—it is really just a laboratory,” he says. “I always wanted to be a musician, but I didn’t have enough money. So, when I was 14, I worked in the summer and began learning to make jewelry.”
Three years later—at a time when his life seemed very unsettled and he was searching for direction—Alberto heard about something that brought peace and beauty to him. “God loves you,” a relative who was a member of the Church assured him. Alberto was so impressed by this simple statement that he consented to kneel and pray with him. “I felt an incredible peace inside after our prayer, and I felt that I should learn more about this church.”
When the elders began teaching the gospel to Alberto in 1974, they spoke to him about Joseph Smith, the Word of Wisdom, and the purpose of life. “As I listened, I was touched by the fact that the ideas the missionaries were explaining to me were already familiar,” recalls Alberto. One month later, Alberto was baptized.
Today—20 years later—Alberto’s life is still surrounded by beauty. For many years, he was a single parent to his two older daughters, Simona and Silvia. When they were 12 and 11 years old, he met his present wife, Maria Teresa. They were married in the Swiss Temple and now have two more lovely daughters, Sara, 6, and Denise Gloria, 1. The older girls—now 19 and 18—have strong testimonies of the gospel, and both desire to serve missions. Simona reflected, “Thanks to the gospel, I am the person that I am. The gospel influences me each day of my life. Even though sometimes it is hard, I feel that the gospel brings me strength and freedom.”
Silvia is following in her father’s artistic footsteps as she studies painting and sculpture. She also follows his spiritual footsteps as she expresses her testimony, “I am so thankful for my father—it is because of him that I was able to join the Church. Often, people in the world feel that they have the freedom to do whatever they want to do. But I think that obedience to the laws of the gospel is the only thing that makes us really free from the weight of the bad things of the world. To me, the gospel is strength and help, and everything in my life. The most important thing I know is that God loves me and listens to me.”
In Florence, Italy, a city renowned for beautiful treasures, Alberto Sottili talks about his own priceless treasures: “I think that everything good is from God. To keep our family together, we have to work, to pray, to have home evening. We must not permit evil to come into our house.”
And Maria Teresa agrees, “I can’t imagine my life without the gospel. The gospel is my life!”
“A Foundation in Faith,” Tambuli, Nov 1994, 41
I need thee every hour,
Most gracious Lord.
No tender voice like thine
Can peace afford.
I need thee, oh, I need thee;
Every hour I need thee!
Oh, bless me now, my Savior;
I come to thee!
“I Need Thee Every Hour”, Hymns no. 98
Remember, this repentance, this willing submission to humiliation and a kind of death, is not something God demands of you before He will take you back and which He could let you off if he chose: it is simply a description of what going back to Him is like. If you ask God to take you back without it, you are really asking Him to let you go back without going back. It cannot happen. Very well, then, we must go through with it. But the same badness which makes us need it, makes us unable to do it. Can we do it if God helps us? Yes, but what do we mean when we talk of God helping us? We mean God putting into us a bit of Himself, so to speak. He lends us a little of His reasoning powers and that is how we think: He puts a little of His love into us and that is how we love one another. When you teach a child writing, you hold its hand while it forms the letters: that is, it forms the letters because you are forming them. We love and reason because God loves and reasons and holds our hand while we do it. Now if we had not fallen, that would be all plane sailing. But unfortunately we now need God’s help in order to do something which God, in His own nature, never does at all–to surrender, to suffer, to submit, to die. Nothing in God’s nature corresponds to this process at all. So that the one road for which we now need God’s leadership most of all is a road God, in His own nature, has never walked. God can share only what He has: this thing, in His own nature, He has not.
But supposing God became a man — suppose our human nature which can suffer and die was amalgamated with God’s nature in one person — then that person could help us. He could surrender His will and suffer and die, because He was a man; and He could do it perfectly because He was God. You and I can go through this process only if God does it in us; but can do it only if He becomes man. Our attempts at this dying will succeed only if we men share in God’s dying, just as our thinking can succeed only because it is a drop out of the ocean of His intelligence: but we cannot share God’s dying unless God dies; and He cannot die except by being a man. That is the sense in which He pays our debt, and suffers for us what He Himself need not suffer at all.”