Wednesday, February 25, 2009

"Because He First Loved Us"

I wrote this article for the February 2009 issue of Great Expectations, the Singapore Mission Newsletter.

When Nephi was shown in vision the birth of our Savior, he was asked if he understood the “condescension of God”. Nephi replied that though he did not know all things, he knew that God “loveth his children” (1 Nephi 11:17). That was in part, the foundation of Nephi’s faith, and the trust that he had in God. Though he did not in any measure know or understand the meaning of all things, of one thing he was sure: he was a beloved son of his Heavenly Father. Nephi knew who he was. With that in mind, he was confident that the Lord would provide a way for him, and he would be able to do and obey all that the Lord commanded him.

In the same way, we can each gain a testimony of that love, knowing that we have a Heavenly Father who loves us, and who is watching out for us in all our endeavors. When we come to know (and not just believe) that God loves us, and when we know that he loves all His children, we are then able to preach the gospel in a way that befits the promptings that we receive and knowledge that we acquire, understanding that God has a plan for each one of His children.

When, due to family circumstances, I was released from my mission the first time, I headed off to BYU to study, and for the most part, was relatively content. But, there were still hours and days of doubt that filled my mind and heart, wondering why I had been taken off my mission and what I had done to deserve this. By and by, there came a day when I was piled down with the many burdens of life, but mostly weighted down by the disappointment of not being able to serve the Lord in the way that I thought I needed to. In great despair, I knelt down and prayed to the Lord, pleading with Him to help me overcome these many challenges. Just at that moment, I felt, for the first time in a long while, the loving arms of my Father in Heaven. It was not anything spectacular; I did not hear a voice or see a vision. But, I knew that God was there, and the Spirit spoke peace to my soul. For those few minutes, I knew that I felt just as Nephi did, I had “beheld his glory,” and that I was and could be “encircled about eternally in the arms of His love” (2 Nephi 1:15).

The Lord gave me a wonderful calling in my college ward that allowed me to especially serve my priesthood brethren, most of whom were returned missionaries. Through the experiences I gained serving in that calling, I came to understand that the Lord has much in store for each of us. There are many trials that we will face, but as we come to understand the Atonement of our Savior, and apply it in our lives; we will know that the Lord has been, and always will be mindful of His sons and daughters. That understanding will allow us to be grateful to the Lord so much the more for His exemplary life of love and service. Keeping that in mind, we can be at peace, certain that no matter what happens, we are loved!

In the first chapter of the Book of Moses, Moses sees God and receives instruction from Him. At the end of the experience, Moses collapses, realizing that “man is nothing, which thing (he) never supposed.” Of course, the cowardly Adversary appeared to Moses in his weakened state, saying, “son of man, worship me.” Moses’s reply makes it plain that though he knew of his inferiority in relation to the Lord, Moses understood his superior standing in relation to the Devil as a son of God as he “…looked upon Satan and said: Who art thou? For behold, I am a son of God, in the similitude of his only begotten” (Moses 1:13). Moses knew that he was a beloved son of God, and that made the difference when he faced the challenges placed before him. In this instance, the challenge was the Devil!

The trials that we face might not be as dramatic as Moses had it, but the challenges that are placed before us will still be equally hard and will try the depths of our faith. But, as I have come to appreciate what it means to be a child of God, I have come to understand that when we know who we are, there is nothing that we can’t overcome, because we know that we are each children of an omnipotent and omniscient Father who loves and wants the best for us. I have come to learn that this past year, and as I have served the Lord in the mission field. All in all, the love that abounds in this world can be found in the gospel of Jesus Christ, from which stems the fruit of charity. As we go about teaching the restored gospel, I believe that the most important thing we can do is to obey the great commandment in the law, which is to “love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind” (Matthew 22:37). As we do so, we will be able to feel the reciprocal love that Heavenly Father so wants us to feel and understand that “We love him, because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19).

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