Do You See What I See?
In Relief Society yesterday we had a lively discussion on Elder Dallin Oaks’ Conference talk, ‘Trust in the Lord’ (October 2019). We were exchanging views on the afterlife, family history, and personal revelation. During the deliberations, several sisters mentioned that the Family History responsibility falls squarely and heavily on their shoulders. For instance, in my case, I am the only member of the Church in my family and Family History is my responsibility. I got the impression that these sisters were adding this task to an existing list of Gospel responsibilities that was already pretty long. I'll get back to this a little later.
Recently, a paradigm shift-an earthquake-has taken place in my understanding of God’s pattern and process in my life. I have always believed that, as I am obedient, I qualify for the Spirit to dwell in me. The better I am, the more blessings I receive. I put so much pressure on myself. I placed myself as the agent of change in my life and in my relationship with Jesus Christ.
It's kind of stinkin' thinkin'! I'd identify myself as an achiever. I've fulfilled many worthwhile goals in my life. But along the way, I always had a sneaking suspicion that something was askew. I didn't feel that I understood what God wanted of me. I never felt worthy enough to qualify for His love. I couldn't maintain changes that I would implement. These were good things. Like praying every day, going to the Temple often, studying my scriptures every day, fulfilling my callings in the Church, doing my Family History, having FHE every Monday night, and on and on.
Verses in 1 John 4 and, actually, all through the scriptures, communicate a very different approach to our relationship with God and with our own lives. 1 John 4:10 Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 13 Hereby know we that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit. 19 We love him, because he first loved us.” A pattern is revealed in these particular verses. We love Him because He loved us first. Do you see it?
In the early 12th century, the cleric Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, “a man of intense … faith,” penned the following words:
Jesus, the very thought of thee
With sweetness fills my breast;
But sweeter far thy face to see
And in thy presence rest.
So here it is. The change, I mean. Jesus is the fount of grace, filling our souls. Grace is God’s persistent, loving pursuit of us despite our constant forgetfulness. God is the agent, God is the wellspring. God is the actor. God is the source of our capacity to love, to obey, to prevail. God initiates and I respond.
Now back to my sweet Relief Society friends. I raised my hand and said, “We’re missing the most important thing about taking Gospel responsibilities on our shoulders. Our actions/works don’t come first. Our spiritual responsibilities emanate from God. He loves us, He fills our heart with His grace, the Holy Spirit is there...THEN, under this influence, we are taught the will of God for our lives. What does He want us to do? We can trust Him to lead us in exactly the right direction each day, every minute. Our part is to heed his guidance. And as we do, grace to grace and grace for grace, He empowers us in our efforts. We end up doing much more than we could on our own. We don’t need lists-not checklists, at least”.
Now go back and read these verses. 1 John 4:10 Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. 13 Hereby know we that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit. 19 We love him, because he first loved us.”
Do you see what I see?
Here are some more examples of this teaching.
Alma 7:11 And he shall go forth, suffering pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind; and this that the word might be fulfilled which saith he will take upon him the pains and the sicknesses of his people.
Elder Bednar said, “I frankly do not think many of us ‘get it’ concerning [the] 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.”
"The belief that through our own “sheer grit, willpower, and discipline” we can manage just about anything seems to be widespread these days. This simply is not true. Heavenly Father and the Savior can inspire, comfort, and strengthen us in our time of need, if we remember to cast our burdens at Their feet." David A. Bednar, “In the Strength of the Lord"
“The enabling power of the Atonement strengthens us to do and be good and to serve beyond our own individual desire and natural capacity.”
Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles, “The Atonement and the Journey of Mortality,” Ensign, Apr. 2012, 42–43.
Now do you see?