There is a busy world out there with an infinite number of invitations to do what is right. The opportunities to love and lift are endless. Sure, there are other voices, more persistent and readily noticeable, that may catch our attention at times and tempt our hearts in very angry, selfish, or dark, sometimes day-dreamy ways. When sin enters our hearts in such a way, we, as people whose experience with God has taught us better, repent and turn our hearts towards the Love of God and delightedly savor His assurance, peace, confidence, and purpose. There is so little in the realm of evil that has any appeal; it is all seen as dead-end roads with nothing to make them worth traveling.
But the truth of our situation as people of God is that not all of us can ‘walk into’ the love of God as easily as walking into another room. For some the hunger becomes so strong that they frustratedly throw everything they have into finding God, only to find the heavens still seemingly closed tight. They’re left feeling that they must not mean much to their Father who sees and knows everything while leaving their thirst for His goodness blatantly unattended to. They know so surely in their minds that God loves them, but still sit alone, trying to dismiss the way they feel in their hearts.
This solemn journey ends in different ways for different people. For some, God’s perceived absence becomes so real that they may judge His promises to be fairy tales that they were once foolish enough to believe in. For others their saddened hearts are eventually convinced that the promises of God are for others, not them. At times the struggle appears so universal that we may be tempted to accept our lack of fulfillment in God to be a common thing, just part of following Him. Others will find their hearts rekindled with the love of God, bask in the presence of His Holy Spirit, and enjoy a portion – or even all – of what God has always promised to the faithful.
The struggle is all too common. We as Latter-Day Saints are plagued by our own weaknesses both individually and collectively. As surely as we stumble with imperfect understanding ourselves, this effect plays out within our congregations and our entire body that is spread out across the entire earth can sway together in not only virtue, but also in error. We aren’t an infallible people, we don’t have infallible leadership, and God certainly hasn’t given any – or all – of us all of the understanding of the eternities. Even those we tend to respect the most, those who are chosen and sustained as prophets, seers, and revelators, those who we look to to teach us, are not more than just people, but are, like us “subject to all manner of weaknesses in body and mind.”1,2 Imperfection is simply the way He perfectly governs His kingdom. The Lord shows His strength and guides the entirety of His earthly affairs by leading and instructing fallible mortals on an intricately grand scale. Yet still, His work goes forward and his purposes never fail.3
And so, in this way, God has revealed Himself in power and great glory. And so, in this way, popular beliefs, perspectives, and attitudes of our people aren’t necessarily present by divine intent. In fact, some carry on causing confusion, frustration, heartache, disillusionment, and folly.
This is where it becomes challenging. Despite understanding these simple realities, I am surprised that some of this folly has been so powerfully perpetuated that it seems to have spanned my entire life thus far. I’ve been part of it, deeply immersed, but it is only in the past decade that I’ve really come to see how disappointing so much of it is. I’m puzzled though, because there were generations of opportunities to just recognize the behavior, generations of people reading scripture, and generations of people striving to follow God. My gut aches when I try to put all of it together – what did and does happen among our people, power of observation, scripture, and seeking divinity – with at least half of a century of time. On some levels it is astounding to me that I actually dealt with this culture.* Still, from the testimonies of today’s youth, it appears that what I observed and when I was younger is just as apparent to them. It takes no special gift or training to see.
On a broader scope, I have read and heard firsthand so many bitter testimonies of people who have become disaffected from or who have completely left the faith of my childhood. Interestingly, when people do part ways with the Church, it isn’t normally a result of our immense understanding of God or our Savior, it is quite the opposite. Like the negative experiences, I have read and heard some of the most heartfelt and passionate testimonies about the importance and value of the gospel of Jesus Christ and the importance of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. The oddest and most peculiar thing to me is not in how much negative and positive testimonies differ – because, expectedly, they do – but how cohesively they all align to make our weaknesses painstakingly clear.
Through the scriptures we have the record of God’s dealings with His people. By delving into these inspired writings, we see the rise and fall of kingdoms and civilizations, we see the collective redemption and apostasy of the people of God, and we are taught the law and power of God from the mouth of Christ Himself. Yet with the depth of our understanding of the scriptures and God’s word to the ancients, do we still hold ourselves guiltless as a people? Do we still believe “All is well in Zion?”4
From another angle, the Lord spoke to Moroni in Ether 12:27 saying: “And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness… and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me.” From this scripture, Jesus Christ is the revelator of our weaknesses; let me just say that this is not just on an individual level but a collective one as well. That if we come unto Him, He will show unto us our weakness. This isn’t the voice of some bitter apostate casting doubt on the divinity of our cause, this isn’t some cynic sitting back and nitpicking at some obscure quote they can’t even begin to understand in context, this is the voice of Jesus Christ who will show us our weaknesses. He doesn’t condemn, but reassures that His grace is sufficient. On an individual level, we can feel His love as He covers our weaknesses even as he reveals them to us. It is a beautiful thing about His burden.5 The scripture finishes with this promise: “For if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.”6 (emphases added)
There is no light of Christ manifest in this world brighter than the light of Christ Himself, and that light should not be eclipsed by any other thing. It is time for change. But the change God desires will only occur if we are willing to listen directly to the voice of God and intimately acquaint ourselves with His teachings. Our love for God and the gospel of Jesus Christ as it is in the heavens needs to be more powerful than the love of this kingdom of God as it now is and things as they now are. Even as much as we believe that God has built His kingdom here upon the earth, we can still pray with all of our hearts “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.”7 There is so much to accomplish.
We assuredly believe that the heavens did retain Jesus Christ until ‘the times of the restitution of all things’ did come.8 And those times are now; they are our present, but the work isn’t yet completed.9 We look to the past, where our predecessors laid the foundation10 with Christ as the ‘head of the corner’11, but do we believe that the work of God on this church, on our body of followers is done? If all that those in the past have done is laid the foundation, isn’t it time that build something else? Something different? If our predecessors built the foundation and maybe the walls, do we need more of the foundation? More walls?12 Is that the work we were sent to do? To repeat the work that has been done before us? No. Absolutely and unequivocally, no. Is there work that is done that might be worthy of revisiting? Correcting? Important God-given principles that we need to remove to a new location or shift into a more perfect perspective in His Kingdom? Absolutely and unequivocally, yes.
In looking to the future, “we believe that [God] will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the kingdom of God.”13 The restoration is still happening. 7 The work of God then needs to be continued, not merely maintained. It needs to be completed, not just repeated. The patterns of those who have gone before us will not be enough to perform the work that falls upon us.
We have been in need of a new, refreshed understanding, our own blueprints for our contribution – and it is all coming. More and more it is coming from our leadership. More and more individuals are being raised up14 to fulfill just this purpose. Their experience and confidence will vary as surely as the role they will play. Among these weak and simple15 will be those who have heard the voice of God,16,17 longingly sought Him, become thoroughly acquainted with His spirit, and allowed God to write His law into their hearts.18 They are not troubled by their weakness any more than they desire it; they are perfect in Christ. They have set aside the pride of the ‘righteous’ or priestcraft,19 the very sin of the Jews.20 God is and has been sending them and they – with God – will finish His work that He has given them. They continue to preach: “Prepare ye the way of the Lord, and make his paths strait, for the hour of His coming is nigh.”21
We won’t be flawless either, but the work has always been in good hands — His.
- Mosiah 2:10-11, “I have not commanded you to come up hither that ye should fear me, or that ye should think that I of myself am more than a mortal man. But I am like as yourselves, subject to all manner of infirmities in body and mind; yet I have been chosen by this people, and consecrated by my father, and was suffered by the hand of the Lord that I should be a ruler and a king over this people; and have been kept and preserved by his matchless power, to serve you with all the might, mind and strength which the Lord hath granted unto me.”
- “Lord, I Believe” Jeffrey R. Holland, April 2013 General Conference, “So be kind regarding human frailty—your own as well as that of those who serve with you in a Church led by volunteer, mortal men and women. Except in the case of His only perfect Begotten Son, imperfect people are all God has ever had to work with. That must be terribly frustrating to Him, but He deals with it. So should we. And when you see imperfection, remember that the limitation is not in the divinity of the work. As one gifted writer has suggested, when the infinite fulness is poured forth, it is not the oil’s fault if there is some loss because finite vessels can’t quite contain it all. Those finite vessels include you and me, so be patient and kind and forgiving.”
- Doctrine & Covenants 76:3, “His purposes fail not, neither are there any who can stay his hand.”
- 2 Nephi 28:21, “And others will he pacify, and lull them away into carnal security, that they will say: All is well in Zion; yea, Zion prospereth, all is well—and thus the devil cheateth their souls, and leadeth them away carefully down to hell.
- Matthew 11:29-30
- Ether 12:27, “And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.”
- Matthew 6:10.
- Acts 3:32, “Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.”
- Are You Sleeping through the Restoration? President Dieter F. Uchtdorf, April 2014 General Conference, “Sometimes we think of the Restoration of the gospel as something that is complete, already behind us—Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon, he received priesthood keys, the Church was organized. In reality, the Restoration is an ongoing process; we are living in it right now. It includes ‘all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal,’ and the ‘many great and important things’ that ‘He will yet reveal.’ Brethren, the exciting developments of today are part of that long-foretold period of preparation that will culminate in the glorious Second Coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.”
- Doctrine & Covenants 64:33, “Wherefore, be not weary in well -doing, for ye are laying the foundation of a great work. And out of small things proceedeth that which is great.”
- Acts 4:11, “This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner.”
- The irony of this question isn’t lost on me. We have in many instances been builders of walls by being a judgmental and exclusive people and I hope and see that we can replace that with Christ-like love. But really, the irony doesn’t really contribute to the point I was trying to make.
- Articles of Faith 1:9, “We believe all that God has revealed, all that He does now reveal, and we believe that He will yet reveal many great and important things pertaining to the Kingdom of God.”
- Matthew 3:9, “And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.”
- Doctrine & Covenants 1:18-23, “And also gave commandments to others, that they should proclaim these things unto the world; and all this that it might be fulfilled, which was written by the prophets— The weak things of the world shall come forth and break down the mighty and strong ones, that man should not counsel his fellow man, neither trust in the arm of flesh— But that every man might speak in the name of God the Lord, even the Savior of the world; that faith also might increase in the earth; that mine everlasting covenant might be established; that the fulness of my gospel might be proclaimed by the weak and the simple unto the ends of the world, and before kings and rulers .
- John 10:27-29, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand.”
- Doctrine & Covenants 29:7, “And ye are called to bring to pass the gathering of mine elect; for mine elect hear my voice and harden not their hearts.”
- 2 Corinthians 3:3, ”Written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart.
- 2 Nephi 26:29, “He commandeth that there shall be no priestcrafts; for, behold, priestcrafts are that men preach and set themselves up for a light unto the world, that they may get gain and praise of the world; but they seek not the welfare of Zion.”
- 2 Nephi 10:3-5, “Wherefore, as I said unto you, it must needs be expedient that Christ—for in the last night the angel spake unto me that this should be his name—should come among the Jews, among those who are the more wicked part of the world; and they shall crucify him—for thus it behooveth our God, and there is none other nation on earth that would crucify their God. For should the mighty miracles be wrought among other nations they would repent, and know that he be their God. But because of priestcrafts and iniquities, they at Jerusalem will stiffen their necks against him, that he be crucified.”
- Doctrine & Covenants 133:16-17, “Hearken and hear, O ye inhabitants of the earth. Listen, ye elders of my church together, and hear the voice of the Lord; for he calleth upon all men, and he commandeth all men everywhere to repent. For behold, the Lord God hath sent forth the angel crying through the midst of heaven, saying: Prepare ye the way of the Lord, and make his paths straight, for the hour of his coming is nigh.”
* On some levels it is astounding to me that I actually dealt with this culture – as similar as if I were to find a multigenerational Tupperware container of food in my fridge passed down all the way from my great-grandfather – Why are we keeping that?