Having trained in the Humanities, I value the creative genius that brings music, visual art, and performance art to the world. I find so much of worth in these creations, because, so often, they point me to God. I have felt my mind quicken and my spirit resonate with art, music, and literature as I discover something good, true, and beautiful. These qualities speak to the source of creative genius, even the Creator of all.
But when the arts become exercises in ego or explorations of evil practices for the sake of curiosity or titillation, they lose any elevating connection to God and we are reminded that “since man had fallen he could not merit anything of himself” (Alma 22:14). So much of what we do on earth only has lasting meaning if it points to God and includes Him in the process. Think how very different an average day might be if you began that day with a prayer asking God to help you work on improving a bad behavior, to give you an opportunity to help someone in need, and to watch over a particular family member. How would dedicating your day to these specific purposes change your thoughts, your actions, how you looked at other people throughout the day, and more? What we do on earth takes on its greatest meaning and significance when we make God part of the details.
Jesus Christ adds value and purpose to our lives through His Atonement. Despite human ability to create marvelous works of art, innovation, and mechanical brilliance we cannot merit anything of ourselves in an eternal sense. Only “the sufferings and death of Christ atone for [our] sins, though faith and repentance” (Alma 22:14). We cannot save ourselves but Christ can. He suffered, bled, and died for us all so that we could have the opportunity to repent and gain eternal life. “[H]e breaketh the bands of death, that the grave shall have no victory”––He provided the gift of Resurrection to all “that the sting of death should be swallowed up in the hopes of glory…” (Ibid.)
2 Nephi 22:5
Sing unto the Lord; for he hath done excellent things; this is known in all the earth.
The invitation to sing out and tell the entire Earth about the Savior causes me to reflect on my own deeds. Have I done “excellent things” while here on Earth? If you asked my kids, husband, extended family, and friends to summarize my life, what would they report? I know some days my children would probably tell anyone who asked that I yelled too much or I was a mean mommy.
In my quest to be more like the Savior, I not only want to celebrate the excellent things He has done, but I also want to do excellent things that point others toward Him. The most “excellent thing” He has done is provide for humankind the Resurrection and the opportunity to gain eternal life—collectively summarized in this chapter as “salvation.” The most excellent thing I can do is raise my children to follow Jesus Christ, lift my neighbors, and bring others to Christ so that they, too, can qualify for salvation.
2 Nephi 10:25
Ever since my mission I am always on the lookout for pithy, one-scripture references that capture the core message of any of the missionary lessons. Plan of Salvation one-shot scriptures are especially tricky considering all the components involved, but 2 Nephi 10:25 addresses the essential parts of the Plan with beautiful, invocational phrasing.
Wherefore, may God raise you from death by the power of the resurrection, and also from everlasting death by the power of the atonement, that ye may be received into the eternal kingdom of God, that ye may praise him through grace divine. Amen.
Isn’t that fabulous?! This verse is so succinct. The reality of life is that each individual on earth has an immortal spirit and a mortal body. In order to return to live with God, He has provided the Earth for our testing ground and preparation. We each need our spirit and body united together and clean from sin in order to enter God’s presence. But every mortal body is subject to physical death and we each sin while on earth (“everlasting death”), which separates us from God spiritually. Jesus Christ is the Redeemer of mankind: He provides resurrection as a free gift to all, in which our spirits are bonded with a perfected, glorified body of flesh and bone; He also provides access to forgiveness of sin (cleansing of one’s spirit) by the power of His Atonement.