Yea, I would that ye would come forth and harden not your hearts any longer; for behold, now is the time and the day of your salvation; and therefore, if ye will repent and harden not your hearts, immediately shall the great plan of redemption be brought about unto you (Alma 34:31, my emphasis added).
And now I, Nephi, cannot write all the things which were taught among my people; neither am I mighty in writing, like unto speaking; for when a man speaketh by the power of the Holy Ghost the power of the Holy Ghost carrieth it unto the hearts of the children of men (2 Nephi 33:1, emphasis mine).
He comprehendeth all things, and all things are before him, and all things are round about him; and he is above all things, and in all things, and is through all things, and is round about all things; and all things are by him, and of him, even God, forever and ever (D&C 88:41).
Now, as my mind caught hold upon this thought, I cried within my heart: O Jesus, thou Son of God, have mercy on me, who am in the gall of bitterness, and am encircled about by the everlasting chains of death.And now, behold, when I thought this, I could remember my pains no more; yea, I was harrowed up by the memory of my sins no more.And oh, what joy, and what marvelous light I did behold; yea, my soul was filled with joy as exceeding as was my pain!Yea, I say unto you, my son, that there could be nothing so exquisite and so bitter as were my pains. Yea, and again I say unto you, my son, that on the other hand, there can be nothing so exquisite and sweet as was my joy (Alma 36:18-21).
O God, Aaron hath told me that there is a God; and if there is a God, and if thou art God, wilt thou make thyself known unto me, and I will give away all my sins to know thee, and that I may be raised from the dead, and be saved at the last day. And now when the king had said these words, he was struck as if he were dead (Alma 22:18, emphasis mine).
I love the scriptures, particularly these few I have included. I don’t read them enough. I certainly don’t feast as I should. They give me hope when I make them my focus.
At the end of the day, it’s not about what we think we know, it’s about WHO we know. The scriptures testify of redemption through the atonement of our Savior. All things point to Him. The only way out of this creation is through Him.
No matter where we are we can turn to Him. He is our Redeemer. I don’t think He cares so much if we are a liar, fornicator, drunk, or hypocrite. He simply wants us to seek His redeeming grace, come unto Him, and to be healed of our sins and tendencies.
I’m overwhelmed to think that we can give Him our baggage. That He has already paid the price.
I spoke to a Christian minister this week who runs a bookstore. He is convinced that Mormons will go to Hell simply because they believe that they must “work out their salvation.” I guess I agree that we must somehow figure out how to receive His grace, rather than His justice, BUT I cannot wrap my head around the idea of simply “accepting” His grace. In his mind, just accept His grace and don’t worry about the rest.
I offered the idea that maybe our “work” is to surrender to Him, He rejected the idea of anything that involved “work.”
I don’t know about you, but “working” out our salvation — to me — seems require some effort on our part and takes an enormous amount of the sweat of the brow.
Look at the comments on this blog as an example: So many ideas and voices for how it works. Bishops, former bishops, leaders, lay members: people of all persuasions and nationalities, effectively disagreeing on what is and what isn’t. All of us trying figure out how it works. What ideas are correct and incorrect. Who is a fraud and who is sent.
When it comes to the idea of works, here’s where I am today — I think it all comes down to what does our faith produce?
Do we have works that follow after our faith? Do we possess the fruits of the Spirit of God? See Galatians 5:22-26:
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another.
Are you loving? I don’t care if you think you have some important position or reputation, if you do not show me love, perhaps you do not possess the Love of God or the Spirit as you may suppose.
Are you joyful? Despite the trials? Despite the pain? Is your pain swallowed up in your joy? (I struggle with all these but this one in particular. My lack of joy at times seems to mirror my lack of trust in God)
Do you have peace? Despite your longsuffering? What do you know about suffering? Do you often wonder what tomorrow will bring? Do you feel vulnerable? Have you been falsely accused? Falsely slandered? Mocked? Brought to the tribunal by your enemies? Have you suffered pain beyond description? Unsure if you will make it? Unsure if you will be able to provide for those you love?
Are you gentle? Or are you quick to injure? Do you retaliate when you feel threatened? Or do you respond with kindness and humility?
Are you temperate? Have you overcome the passions of the flesh? Or do you define yourself by what your flesh still yearns for? Falling into the trap of assuming your desires and appetites are greater than who you really are.
In my opinion, IF YOUR IDEAS DO NOT BRING FORTH THE FRUITS OF THE SPIRIT, then your seed just might be dead, your faith non-existent, your works of no worth. The only thing that seems to matter is whether we obtain faith unto salvation or not (1 Peter 1:5). Notice FAITH comes before repentance.
We can all talk a good game and we can hold onto our gospel hobbies and ideas, BUT if we do not REPENT of our sins, WITH FAITH preceding REPENTANCE, then we will remain in our present state, with no redemption, experiencing no true change in our nature.
We will remain self-righteous and pompous — sounding good (sounding brass), BUT WHO KNOW NOT GOD.
I’m humbled by these ideas. I’m not there yet. But somehow I believe that the scriptures can help us learn true repentance. Not repentance by the definitions we often employ. But a true change in disposition. A rebirth.
I think that learning to distinguish between truth and error is a key. We must discern between true and false messages and messengers.
I also believe our faith will come as a result of our willingness to sacrifice. In some cases that sacrifice may come as a result of our having chosen to believe an obscure witness, as did Alma with Abinadi.
“A religion that does not require the sacrifice of all things never has the power sufficient to produce the faith necessary unto life and salvation” (Lectures on Faith, Joseph Smith, Prophet, Seer, and Revelator).