NT 16: Admitting that I Lack

While speaking with a friend today I experienced a profound moment in which I revealed something about myself that I didn’t even realize was true. We are all sick at my house, the weather is terrible, and I “needed” to run an errand; so I called a friend to sit with my kids. But in the process of feeling embarrassed about asking for help with a non-essential errand I realized that my impulse to call was actually driven by a feeling of loneliness. What I really needed was interaction with another adult––I needed to talk, to let a friend know I wasn’t feeling well, and to feel healed by sharing my burden.

I wondered later if that’s how the rich young man felt who came to Jesus asking, “what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?” (Mark 10:17, NT). The rich young man who was doing a good job of being a decent human being, who was keeping the commandments,  felt the need to talk to someone about his life and his eternal trajectory. Did he realize he was missing something in his quest for eternal life? Was he merely seeking to justify himself? Was he looking for a pat on the back? Did he have any sense of what he lacked (but maybe hoped that wasn’t really it)? Jesus, piercing the young man’s soul, answered, “One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor…” (ibid. verse 21, NT).

It is shocking to feel like you have a handle on life and then be forced to acknowledge that you’re missing something crucial. I needed human interaction and compassion, the rich young man needed to let go of his grasp on worldly wealth. Both needs necessitated recognition of the truth and humility to act. Change is painful but it can also be liberating once we get over that initial hurdle.

To become a richer human being––a fuller, more complete person––is the process of a lifetime. But it requires us to ask hard questions along the way about our progress and performance, and be ready to act on the answers we receive from family, friends, and God. It requires us to share our best and worst selves, to open up, to ask, “What do I need to change? How can I improve? What weakness needs strengthening?” as Elder Larry R. Lawrence suggested in his October 2015 conference talk “What Lack I Yet?”. The answers may shock, upset, grieve us, or we may have sensed that lack all along. When we humbly accept and act, we enter onto a plane of deeper experience that helps us transform, little by little, into the divine individuals God knows we can become. And all those little changes gradually accumulate to make us more like the perfect Savior who has been supporting, enabling, and helping us all along.

 

Day 43: Journeying Back to Our Heavenly Home

Alma 26:35-37

Several years ago I accompanied a set of sister missionaries to a first teaching appointment. The man we were teaching had been referred by a friend of mine. He and his wife had moved from China, earned college degrees in the US, and recently purchased a home. As we made introductions, the man mentioned that he and his wife were still settling into life in America and often felt out of place. I remembered Ammon’s words from Alma 26:36  and felt a kinship with this man––are we not all “wanderers in a strange land?”

Earth is not our first home and it will not be our last. We were spiritual beings first, children of heavenly parents who sent us out from their heavenly home so that we could have the opportunity to become like them. They sent us to earth to provide us with a mortal experience necessary to prepare us for returning to our heavenly home. Earth is not the final destination on our journey: It is a stopping point where we learn how to use our agency, choose to follow Jesus Christ, make mistakes, repent, participate in the saving ordinances, serve others, and develop godly attributes. Only through the Atonement of Christ can we qualify to return to our first and real home.

The kinship I felt that day as a fellow wanderer in this “strange land” we call earth reinforced to me Ammon’s words “that God is mindful of every people, whatsoever land they may be in; yea, he numbereth his people, and his bowels of mercy are over all the earth” (Alma 26:37). God loves each of His children regardless of the distinctions so peculiar to mortality. Culture, creed, race, education, language, political affiliation, geographic location, nationality are mortal constructs, purely temporary and secondary to our shared eternal identity as children of God. The Atonement of Jesus Christ is available to all people, for we are each numbered and known to God; He wants each of us to qualify for and receive the greatest gift He can bestow––a place in His house to dwell forever.

Day 22: Irreducible Truths

Jarom 1:2, 9

I have mentioned before that I love patterns. I also love categorizing things and naming categories. One of my hobby horses is “irreducible truths,” or eternal truths or fundamental/foundational truths. I like using the term “irreducible” because it captures an important aspect of this category: The truths they describe cannot be reduced further; they are foundational to the universe and provide the answer for so many questions rather than being questions themselves.

The prophet Jarom (son of Enos) states a couple of these irreducible truths in his very brief section of the Book of Mormon. In verse two he writes about why his writings are so short, namely that previous prophets covered what he felt were the most essential doctrines. He names the Plan of Salvation as one of these foundational principles that is both essential and already covered in the writings to which he had access, “and this sufficeth me,” he concludes. If I ever wondered what the critical knowledge of the Gospel is, here’s my answer. The Plan of Salvation teaches us where we came from, why we are here on earth, and where we are going after this life; this is reality.

Another fundamental truth Jarom touches on appears in verse nine. He references previous scriptural writings to testify of the fulfillment of God’s word that, “Inasmuch as ye will keep my commandments ye shall prosper in the land.” I love how the Book of Mormon references itself, how writers recollect past writings and confirm the fulfillment of prophecies. To me this is a witness of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon, but, even more importantly, it is a testimony of God: It expresses the irreducible truth of God’s existence, His participation in our earthly experience, His role as covenant maker, and the simply stated fact that He fulfills ALL His words and promises. It behooves us to listen and heed His word.