Tuesday, June 23, 2009

God's Providential Will

Be Still My Soul

1. Be still, my soul: The Lord is on thy side;
With patience bear thy cross of grief or pain.
Leave to thy God to order and provide;
In ev'ry change he faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul: Thy best, thy heav'nly Friend
Thru thorny ways leads to a joyful end.

2. Be still, my soul: Thy God doth undertake
To guide the future as he has the past.
Thy hope, thy confidence let nothing shake;
All now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still, my soul: The waves and winds still know
His voice who ruled them while he dwelt below.

3. Be still, my soul: The hour is hast'ning on
When we shall be forever with the Lord,
When disappointment, grief, and fear are gone,
Sorrow forgot, love's purest joys restored.
Be still, my soul: When change and tears are past,
All safe and blessed we shall meet at last.

Hymns # 124
Text: Katharina von Schlegel, b. 1697;trans. by Jane Borthwick, 1813-1897
Music: Finlandia, by Jean Sebelius

The preceding hymn beautifully summarizes the personal meaning of the fourth and final aspect of God's will: His providential will. The providential will may be described as the particular path to eternal happiness that God has charted for each of His children. It involves all of the aspects and attributes of the divine charecter, especially God's knowledge, wisdom, omnipotence and love.

While Latter-day Saints usually refer to this doctrine as "foreordination," the scriptures everywhere testify to it and it has always been a fundamental doctrine of the Christian faith. As one Protestant source defines it:

"Divine providence is that activity of God whereby He uninterruptedly upholds (preserves), governs, and directs lifeless creation (Jb 9:5–6; 28:25–26; Ps 89:9; 148:8), plant life (Ps 104:13–14; 147:9), animal life (Ps 145:15; Jon 4:11), the world of men (Ps 139:13, 15–16; Jer. 1:5; Mt 4:4; 5:45; 6:26–28; 18:14; Acts 17:24–28) and all that concerns men (Ps 31:15; 91:1, 3; 121; Pr 20:24; 21:1; Lk 12:7), heaven, hell, everything (Lk 12:6–7; Cl 1:16–17; Heb 1:1–3).
Divine providence normally expresses itself in definite laws (Gn 8:22) that represent inner urges and drives implanted by God in His creatures. These laws proclaim the benignity of the Creator (Acts 14:17).

"Divine providence is ordinarily exercised through secondary causes; but these are operative only so long as God works through them. Scripture teaches that both God and the means are operative (Ps 69:9–11; 127:1; Is 55:10; 1 Co 12:6); this cannot be completely explained by the human mind.

"Divine providence deprives men neither of their liberty nor of their responsibility; it neither reduces men to automata nor makes God responsible for sin (Ro 1:18–32). God is operative in men and acts through men also when their deeds are evil (2 Sm 16:10; 24:1; Acts 17:28), but He is not the author of sin (Ps 50:16–21).

"From the viewpoint of God all is predetermined and immutably fixed (Jb 14:5; Acts 4:27–28); from the human viewpoint things happen contingently, events can be modified and depend on circumstances and decisions that men make and for which they are responsible (Ps 55:23; Is 38:1–5).

"Ultimate goals of divine providence: (1) the temporal and eternal welfare of man, esp. the salvation of the elect; (2) the spreading of the Gospel; (3) the promotion of the glory of God (Ro 11:36)."

The following is a long excerpt from a talk given by Elder Neal Maxwell at BYU in 1978, when he was a President of the First Quorum of the Seventy. Using the term "foreodination," it discusses the concept of the providential will of God much more thoroughly and elogquently than I ever could.


Of course, when we mortals try to comprehend, rather than merely accept, foreordination, the result is one in which finite minds futilely try to comprehend omniscience. A full understanding is impossible; we simply have to trust in what the Lord has told us, knowing enough, however, to realize that we are not dealing with guarantees from God but extra opportunities--and heavier responsibilities. If those responsibilities are in some ways linked to past performance or to past capabilities, it should not surprise us.

The Lord has said,

There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated--
And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated. [D&C 130: 20–21]

This is an eternal law, brothers and sisters--it prevailed in the first estate as well as in the second. It should not disconcert us, therefore, that the Lord has indicated that he chose some individuals before they came here to carry out certain assignments and, hence, these individuals have been foreordained to those assignments. "Every man who has a calling to minister to the inhabitants of the world was ordained to that very purpose in the Grand Council of Heaven before the world was. I suppose that I was ordained to this very office in that Grand Council" (Joseph Fielding Smith, comp., Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p. 365).
Foreordination is like any other blessing--it is a conditional bestowal subject to our faithfulness. Prophesies foreshadow events without determining the outcomes, because of a divine foreseeing of outcomes. So foreordination is a conditional bestowal of a role, a responsibility, or a blessing which, likewise, foresees but does not fix the outcome.

There have been those who have failed or who have been treasonous to their trust such as David, Solomon, Judas. God foresaw the fall of David, but was not the cause of it. It was David who saw Bathsheba from the balcony and sent for her. But neither was God surprised by such a sad development. God foresaw, but did not cause, Martin Harris's loss of certain pages of the translated Book of Mormon; God made plans to cope with that failure over fifteen hundred years before it was to occur (see D&C 10 and Words of Mormon).

Thus foreordination is clearly no excuse for fatalism or arrogance or the abuse of agency. It is not, however, a doctrine that can simply be ignored because it is difficult. Indeed, deep inside the hardest doctrines are some of the pearls of greatest price. The doctrine pertains not only to the foreordination of the prophets, but to each of us. God--in his precise assessment, beforehand, as to those who will respond to the words of the Savior and the prophets--is a part of the plan. From the Savior's own lips came these words: "I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine" (John 10:14). Similarly the Savior said, "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me" (John 10:27). And further in this dispensation, he declared, "And ye are called to bring to pass the gathering of mine elect; for mine elect hear my voice and harden not their hearts" (D&C 29:7).

This responsiveness could not have been gauged without divine foreknowledge concerning all of us mortals and our response, one way or another, to the gospel. God's foreknowledge is so perfect it leaves the realm of prediction and enters the realm of prophecy.

The foreseeing of those who would accept the gospel in mortality, gladly and with alacrity, is based upon their parallel responsiveness in the premortal world. No wonder the Lord could say as he did to Jeremiah, "Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; . . . and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations" (Jeremiah 1:5). Paul, when writing to the saints in Rome, said, "God hath not cast away his people which he foreknew" (Romans 11:2). Paul also said of God that "he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world" (Ephesians 1:4).

The Lord, who was able to say to his disciples, "Cast the net on the right side of the ship," knew beforehand there was a multitude of fishes there (John 21:6). If he knew beforehand the movements and whereabout of fishes in the little Sea of Tiberias, should it offend us that he knows beforehand which mortals will come into the gospel net?

It does no violence even to our frail human logic to observe that there cannot be a grand plan of salvation for all mankind, unless there is also a plan for each individual. The salvational sum will reflect all its parts. Once the believer acknowledges that the past, present, and future are before
God simultaneously--even though we do not understand how--then the doctrine of foreordination may be seen somewhat more clearly. For instance, it was necessary for God to know how the economic difficulties and crop failures of the Joseph Smith, Senior, family in New England would move this special family to Cumorah country where the Book of Mormon plates were buried. God's plans could scarcely have so unfolded if--willy-nilly--the Smiths had been born Manchurians and if, meanwhile, the plates had been buried in Belgium!

The Lord would need to have perfect comprehension of all the military and political developments, including those now underway in the Middle East--which, when they unfold, will combine to bring to pass a latter-day condition in which "all nations" will be gathered against Jerusalem to battle (Zechariah 14:2–4). It should not surprise us that the Lord who notices the fall of each sparrow and the hair from every head would know centuries before how much money Judas would receive--thirty pieces of silver--at the time he betrayed the Savior (Matthew 26:15; 27:3; Zechariah 11:12).

Quite understandably, the manner in which things unfold seems to us mortals to be so natural. Our not knowing what is to come (in the perfect way that God knows) thus preserves our free agency completely. When, through a process we call inspiration and revelation, we are permitted at times to tap that divine databank, we are accessing, for the narrow purposes at hand, the knowledge of God. No wonder that experience is so unforgettable!

There are clearly special cases of individuals in mortality who have special limitations in life, which conditions we mortals cannot now fully fathom. For all we now know, the seeming limitations may have been an agreed-upon spur to achievement--a "thorn in the flesh." Like him who was blind from birth, some come to bring glory to God (John 9:1–3). We must be exceedingly careful about imputing either wrong causes or wrong rewards to all in such circumstances. They are in the Lord's hands, and he loves them perfectly. Indeed, some of those who have required much waiting upon in this life may be waited upon again by the rest of us in the next world--but for the highest of reasons.

Thus, when we are elected to certain mortal chores, we are elected "according to the foreknowledge of God the Father" (1 Peter 1:2). When Abraham was advised that he "was chosen before he was born," and that he was among the "noble and great ones" (Abraham 3:22–23), we received a marvelous insight. Through the revelation given to us by the prophet Joseph F. Smith we read that "The Prophet Joseph Smith, . . . Hyrum Smith, Brigham Young, John Taylor, Wilford Woodruff, and other choice spirits" were also reserved by God "to come forth in the fullness of times to take part in laying the foundations of the great latter-day work" (JFS Vision 53). These individuals are among the rulers whom Abraham had described to him centuries earlier by God. They were to be "rulers in the Church of God" (JFS Vision 55), not necessarily rulers in secular kingdoms. Thus those seen by Abraham were the Pauls, not the Caesars; the Spencer W. Kimballs, not the Churchills. Wise secular leaders do much lasting and commendable good; but as Paul observed to the saints in Corinth, as the world measured greatness and wisdom "not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called" (1 Corinthians 1:26).

President Joseph Fielding Smith wrote: "In regard to the holding of the priesthood in preexistence, I will say that there was an organization there just as well as an organization here, and men there held authority. Men chosen to positions of trust in the spirit world held priesthood" (Doctrines of Salvation 3:81). Alma speaks about foreordination with great effectiveness and links it to the foreknowledge of God and, perhaps, even to our previous performance (Alma 13:3–5). The omniscience of God made it possible, therefore, for him to determine the boundaries and times of nations (Acts 17:26; Deuteronomy 32:8).

Elder Orson Hyde said of our life in the premortal world, "We understood things better there than we do in this lower world." Elder Hyde also surmised as to the agreements we made there as follows: "It is not impossible that we signed the articles thereof with our own hands,--which articles may be retained in the archives above, to be presented to us when we rise from the dead, and be judged out of our own mouths, according to that which is written in the books." Just because we have forgotten, said Elder Hyde, "our forgetfulness cannot alter the facts" (Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses 7:314–15). Brothers and sisters, the degree of detail involved in the covenants and promises we participated in at that time may be a much more highly customized thing than many of us surmise. Yet, on occasion even with our forgetting, there may be inklings. President Joseph F. Smith wrote:

But in coming here, we forget all, that our agency might be free indeed, to choose good or evil, that we might merit the reward of our own choice and conduct. But by the power of the Spirit, in the redemption of Christ through obedience, we often catch a spark from the awakened memories of the immortal soul, which lights up our whole being as with the glory of our former home. [Gospel Doctrines, pp. 13–14; emphasis added]

As indicated earlier, this powerful teaching of foreordination is bound to be a puzzlement in some respects, especially if we do not have faith and trust in the Lord. Yet if we think about it, even within our finite framework of experience, it should not startle us. Mortal parents are reasonably good at predicting the behavior of their children in certain circumstances. Of this Elder James E. Talmage wrote:

Our Heavenly Father has a full knowledge of the nature and disposition of each of His children, a knowledge gained by long observation and experience in the past eternity of our primeval childhood; a knowledge compared with which that gained by earthly parents through mortal experience with their children is infinitesimally small. By reason of that surpassing knowledge, God reads the future of child and children, of men individually and of men collectively as communities and nations; He knows what each will do under given conditions, and sees the end from the beginning. His foreknowledge is based on intelligence and reason. He foresees the future as a state which naturally and surely will be; not as one which must be because He has arbitrarily willed that it shall be.--From the author's Great Apostasy, pp. 19, 20. [Jesus the Christ, p. 29]

Another helpful analogy for students is the reality that universities, including this one, can and do predict with a high degree of accuracy the grades entering students will receive in their college careers based upon certain tests, past performances, and so forth. If mortals can do this with reasonable accuracy (and even with a short span of familiarity and finite data), God, the Father, who knows us perfectly, surely can foresee how we will respond to various challenges. While we often do not rise to our opportunities, God is neither pleased nor surprised. But we cannot say to him later on that we could have achieved if we had just been given the chance! This is all part of the justice of God.

One of the most helpful--indeed very necessary--parallel truths to be pondered when studying this powerful doctrine of foreordination is given in the revelation of the Lord to Moses in which the Lord says, "And all things are present with me, for I know them all" (Moses1:6). God does not live in the dimension of time as do we. Moreover, since "all things are present with" God, his is not simply a predicting based solely upon the past. In ways which are not clear to us, he actually sees, rather than foresees, the future--because all things are, at once, present before him.

In a revelation given to the Prophet Joseph Smith, the Lord described himself as "The same which knoweth all things, for all things are present before mine eyes" (D&C 38:2). From the prophet Nephi we receive the same basic insight in which we, likewise, must trust: "But the Lord knoweth all things from the beginning; wherefore, he prepareth a way to accomplish all his works among the children of men" (1 Nephi 9:6). It was by divine design that Mary became the mother of Jesus. Further, Lucy Mack Smith, who played such a crucial role in the rearing of Joseph Smith, did not come to that assignment by chance.

One of the dimensions of worshipping a living God is to know that he is alive and living in the sense of seeing and acting. He is not a retired God whose best years are past, to whom we should pay a retroactive obeisance, worshipping him for what he has already done. He is the living God who is, at once, in all the dimensions of time--the past and present and future--while we labor constrained by the limitations of time itself.

It is imperative, brothers and sisters, that we always keep in mind the caveats noted earlier, so that we do not indulge ourselves or our whims, simply because of the presence of this powerful doctrine of foreordination, for with special opportunities come special responsibilities and much greater risks. But the doctrine of foreordination properly understood and humbly pursued can help us immensely in coping with the vicissitudes of life. Otherwise, time can tug at us and play so many tricks upon us. We should always understand that while God is never surprised, we often are.

Life episodes can take on a new meaning. For instance, Simon, the Cyrenian, wandered into Jerusalem that very day and was pressed into service by Roman soldiers to help carry the cross of Christ (see Mark 15:21). Simon's son, Rufus, joined the Church, and was so well thought of by the apostle Paul that the latter mentioned Rufus in his epistle to the Romans, describing him as "chosen in the Lord" (Romans 16:13). Was it, therefore, a mere accident that Simon "who passed by, coming out of the country" (Mark 15:21), was asked to bear the cross of Jesus?

Properly humbled and instructed concerning the great privileges that are ours, we can cope with what seem to be very dark days and difficult developments, because we will have a true perspective about "things as they really are," and we can see in them a great chance to contribute. Churchill, in trying to rally his countrymen in an address at Harrow School in October of 1941, said to them:

Do not let us speak of darker days; let us speak rather of sterner days. These are not dark days: these are great days--the greatest days our country has ever lived; and we must all thank God that we have been allowed, each of us according to our stations, to play a part in making these days memorable in the history of our race. [Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, p. 923]

Brothers and sisters, so we should regard the dispensation of the fullness of times--even when we face stern challenges and circumstances, "these are great days"! Our hearts need not fail us. We can be equal to our challenges, including the aforementioned challenge of the secular church.
The truth about foreordination also helps us to taste the deep wisdom of Alma, when he said we ought to be content with things that God hath allotted to each of us (Alma 29:3, 4). If, indeed, the things allotted to each of us have been divinely customized according to our ability and capacity, then for us to seek to wrench ourselves free of our schooling circumstances could be to tear ourselves away from carefully matched opportunities. To rant and to rail could be to go against divine wisdom, wisdom in which we may have once concurred before we came here. God knew beforehand each of our coefficients for coping and contributing and has so ordered our lives.

The late President Henry D. Moyle said,

I believe that we, as fellow workers in the priesthood, might well take to heart the admonition of Alma and be content with that which God hath allotted us. We might well be assured that we had something to do with our "allotment" in our preexistent state. This would be an additional reason for us to accept our present condition and make the best of it. It is what we agreed to do. [CR, October 1952, p. 71]

By the way, brothers and sisters, I hasten to add that among the things "allotted" are not included things like a bad temper. The deficiencies of a developmental variety are those we are expected to overcome.

Now, as I prepare to conclude, may I point out what a vastly different view of life the doctrine of foreordination gives to us. Shorn of this perspective, others are puzzled or bitter about life. Without gospel perspective life would be a punishment, not a joy--like trying to play a game of billiards on a table with a rumpled cloth, with a crooked cue and an elliptical billiard ball (from Sir William S. Gilbert's libretto of The Mikado). (Perhaps the moral of that analogy is that we should stay out of pool halls.) In any event, pessimism does not really reckon with life and the universe as these things "really are." The disciple will be puzzled at times, too. But he persists. Later he rejoices over how wonderfully things fit together, realizing only then that, with God, things never were apart.

Jacob said that the Spirit teaches us the truth "of things as they really are, and of things as they really will be" (Jacob 4:13). Centuries later Paul said that the "Spirit searcheth . . . the deep things of God" (1 Corinthians 2:10). Of some of these deep things we have spoken today, and of how things really are. Brothers and sisters, in some of those precious and personal moments of deep discovery, there will be a sudden surge of recognition of an immortal insight, a doctrinal déjà vu. We will sometimes experience a flash from the mirror of memory that beckons us forward toward a far horizon.

When in situations of stress we wonder if there is any more in us to give, we can be comforted to know that God, who knows our capacity perfectly, placed us here to succeed. No one was foreordained to fail or to be wicked. When we have been weighed and found wanting, let us remember that we were measured before and we were found equal to our tasks; and, therefore, let us continue, but with a more determined discipleship. When we feel overwhelmed, let us recall the assurance that God will not overprogram us; he will not press upon us more than we can bear (D&C 50:40).

The doctrine of foreordination, therefore, is not a doctrine of repose; it is a doctrine for the second-milers; it can draw out of us the last full measure of devotion. It is a doctrine of perspiration, not aspiration. Moreover, it discourages aspiring, lest we covet, like two early disciples, that which has already been given to another (Matthew 20:20–23). Foreordination is a doctrine for the deep believer and will only bring scorn from the skeptic.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Lord Is Able to Do All Things According to His Will -- 1 Nephi 7:12

The following message provides a further explanation of the Permissive Will of God.


My text for today is Romans 8:28-39, which declares:

(Rom 8:28 KJV) And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

(Rom 8:29 KJV) For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.

(Rom 8:30 KJV) Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.

(Rom 8:31 KJV) What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?

(Rom 8:32 KJV) He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?

(Rom 8:33 KJV) Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth.

(Rom 8:34 KJV) Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.

(Rom 8:35 KJV) Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?

(Rom 8:36 KJV) As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.

(Rom 8:37 KJV) Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us.

(Rom 8:38 KJV) For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come,

(Rom 8:39 KJV) Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Here we find: (1) a Promise Made; (2) A Promise Explained; (3) A Promise Assured and (4) A Promise Experienced with Joy.


(Rom 8:28 KJV) And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

(A) Similar promises arecfound in D&C 90:24 – “Search diligently, pray always, and be believing, and all things shall work together for your good, if ye walk uprightly and remember the covenant wherewith ye have covenanted with one another.”

(B) In D&C 59, we are commanded to thank the Lord “in all things” and we are warned of condemnation if we do not see His hand in all things: “And in nothing doth man offend God, or against none is his wrath kindled, save those who confess not his hand in all things, and obey not his commandments.”

(C) Note that the promise is made, not to all people, but to “them that love God, who are called according to His purpose” – i.e., to the faithful.


(A) Does this promise mean that all that happens is good, that bad things do not happen to good people, or to bad people for that matter? Obviously not. Sin, pain and death abound in this world (marriages fail; spouses and children are abused; jobs are lost; long and painful illness afflicts; death takes away). These are truly painful and difficult events.

(B) So what is the “good” toward which God works all things for His faithful? Verses 29 and 30 show us the answer

(Rom 8:29 KJV) For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.

(Rom 8:30 KJV) Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.

The good that can come from all things is – the plan of salvation, our eternal life and exaltation. To God, everything is simple. His perfect love seeks for us perfect joy, which is to be found only in knowing and loving Him, becoming one with Him and receiving the fullness of eternal life. His goal is not our mortal pleasure, or happiness, or contentment – His goal is our eternal life, no matter what the cost to us, and no matter what the cost to Him.

“The Lord is omnipotent, with all power to control our lives, save us pain, prevent all accidents, drive all planes and cars, fees us, protect us, save us from labor, effort, sickness, even from death, if he will. But he will not . . . .

“The basic gospel law is free agency and eternal development. To force us to be careful or righteous would be to nullify that fundamental law and make growth impossible . . . .

“If we looked at mortality as the whole of existence, then pain, sorrow, failure and short life would be calamity. But if we look upon life as an eternal thing stretching far into the pre-earth past and on into the eternal post-death future, then all happenings may be put in perspective.

“Is there not wisdom in his giving us trials that we might rise above them, responsibilities that we might achieve, work to harden our muscles, sorrows to try our souls? Are we not exposed to temptations to test our strength, sickness that we might learn patience, death that we might be immortalized and glorified?

“If all of the sick for whom we pray were healed, if all the righteous were protected and the wicked destroyed, the whole program of the Father would be annulled and the basic principle of the gospel, free agency, would be ended. No man would have to live by faith.

“If joy and peace an rewards were instantaneously given the doer of good, there could be do evil – all would do good, but not because of the rightness of doing good. There would be no test of strength, no development of character, no growth of powers, no free agency, only satanic controls.

“Should all prayers be immediately answered according to our selfish desires and our limited understanding, then there would be little or no suffering, sorrow, disappointment, or even death, and if these were not, there would also be no joy, success, resurrection, eternal life or godhood. ‘For it must needs be, that there is an opposition in all things . . . righteousness . . . wickedness . . . holiness . . . misery . . .good . . . bad’ (2 Nephi 2:11)

“Being human, we would expel from our lives physical pain and mental anguish and assure ourselves of continual ease and comfort, but if we were to close the doors upon sorrow and distress, we might be excluding our greatest friends and benefactors. Suffering can make saints of people as they learn patience, long-suffering and self-mastery. The sufferings of our Savior were part of His education.”

-- Spencer W. Kimball, Tragedy or Destiny, 1977, pp. 2-3.

“I am afraid there are some, even of God’s own children, who scarcely think that he is equal to themselves in tenderness, and love, and thoughtful care; and who, in their secret thoughts, charge him with a neglect and indifference of which they would feel themselves incapable. The truth really is that his care is infinitely superior to any possibility of human care; and that he, who counts the very hairs of our heads, and suffers not a sparrow to fall without him, takes note of the minutest matters that can affect the lives of his children, and regulates them all according to his own perfect will, let their origin by what they may.

“The instances of this are numberless. Take Joseph. What could have seemed more apparently on the face of it to be the results of sin, and utterly contrary to the will of God, than the action of his brethren in selling him into slavery? And yet Joseph, in speaking of it said, ‘As for you, ye thought evil against me, but God meant it unto good.’ ‘Now, therefore be not grieved, nor angry with yourselves, that ye sold me hither: for God did send me before you to preserve life.’ It was undoubtedly sin in Joseph’s brethren, but by the time it had reached Joseph it had become God’s will for him, and was, in truth, though he did not see it then, the greatest blessings of his whole life. And thus we see how God can make even ‘the wrath of man to praise him’ and how all things, even the sins of others, ‘shall work together for good to them that love him.’ ”
-- Hannah Whitall Smith


(Rom 8:31 KJV) What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?

(Rom 8:32 KJV) He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?

“All things whatever, in heaven and earth, are not so great a display of God's free love, as the gift of his coequal Son to be the atonement on the cross for the sin of man; and all the rest follows upon union with him, and interest in him. . . . He that has prepared a crown and a kingdom for us, will give us what we need in the way to it.” -- Matthew Henry

(Rom 8:33 KJV) Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth.

(Rom 8:34 KJV) Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.


(Rom 8:35 KJV) Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress [trouble or calamity], or persecution, or famine [lack of food], or nakedness [lack of clothing or shelter], or peril [any kind of danger], or sword [threat of violent death]?

(Rom 8:36 KJV) As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.

(Rom 8:37 KJV) Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors [not just enduring; not just overcoming; not just victory, but overwhelming victory] through him that loved us.

(Rom 8:38 KJV) For I am persuaded, that neither death [humanity’s most universal and dreadful fear], nor life [with all its challenges and trials], nor angels, nor principalities [earthly authorities of any kind], nor powers [Satan and his hosts], nor things present [our current trials, concerns and fears], nor things to come [worries about the future],

(Rom 8:39 KJV) Nor height [however high we may be, either physically or in whatever success or accomplishment we achieve], nor depth [however low we may be, either physically or in terms of our losses or failures], nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.


God lives. His love for us is eternal and unchangeable. It will never fail us, but instead assures us that nothing happens that is outside His eternal purpose of our eternal life and exaltation, or beyond the power of His sovereign grace. We can be assured of all of this because of the life, ministry, atoning death and resurrection of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

I know that He lives, for I have come to know Him. He has restored His Gospel in its everlasting fullness. This is His Church, led by His living Prophet.

The Lord Is Able to Do All Things According to His Will -- 1 Nephi 7:12

This post covers the third aspect of the will of the Lord -- His Permissive Will. I write this with some concern: this discussion is of theology and doctrine. As you will see as you read, this is not a subject that should be taught, by itself, in the context of trying to comfort those enduring grief, loss or despair. By itself, the Permissive Will of God can seem to portray Him as merciless and uncaring. It is critical, therefore, in applying this teaching to those who suffer, that the doctrine of God's Providential Will (the subject of a later post) be included as well.

The Permissive Will of God is explained simply: it is that which God permits or allows to happen, but which He does not otherwise cause. The concept of the Permissive Will arises from three great truths that are taught so clearly in Scripture that we cannot cite all of the references. These truths are: (1) that God is omniscient, so that He knows in advance (from our perspective) everything that is going to happen; (2) that God is omnipotent, so that He could prevent any particular event from occurring; and (3) that God is infinitely kind, loving and merciful, so that His goal is to bring about the greatest joy for each of His children. It involves the ancient and continuing questions: Why do bad things happen to good people? Where is God when appallingly terrible things happen? Why was there a Holocaust? Why did 9/11 happen? Why do tens of thousands of children die every day from disease and famine? Of these things and of everything else that occurs, the Scriptures require us to acknowledge that it is, at a minimum, in accord with the Permissive Will of God.

The teachings of Scripture also outline for us three principles that seem to apply to God's decision whether to allow a particular event to happen. (1) God is fully committed to honoring human agency or freedom of choice. He does not force any of His children to choose either good or evil. He always allows each person to choose how that person will act, even if that decision may have a devastating impact on others. (2) God has established a physical world that is governed by natural law. To teach His children the crucial lesson that breaking or keeping such laws has necessary consequences, He generally does not intervene in the operation of natural law. (3) Finally, and most importantly, God's infinite compassion and mercy require Him to use His unlimited power always to bring good out of evil. God does not allow any event to occur unless, somehow, someday, it will yield an eternal benefit to someone. This last principle is the overriding one. God may allow someone to chose evil, but may intervene to limit the effects of that choice. God may allow nature to take its course, even as He directs the track of the storm.

This can be a hard doctrine, especially if it is not considered at the same time as the doctrine of God's Providence. Yet, if we can learn it during relatively good times, it can be a great comfort in the times of trial. It assures us that the calamity that is a surprise to us is not a surprise to Him. It also teaches us that if God has allowed it to happen, He already knows how it can be turned to a good purpose.

Such is the understanding that inspired 18th century English poet, William Cowper, to write one of the greatest expressions of faith ever put on paper. Cowper suffered throughout his life from severe depression and attempted suicide several times. Having passed through such darkness into one of the brighter periods of his life, he wrote:

God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants his footsteps in the sea
And rides upon the storm.

Ye fearful Saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy and shall break
In blessings on your head.

His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding ev’ry hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flower.

Blind unbelief is sure to err
And scan his works in vain;
God is his own interpreter,
And he will make it plain.
{Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never failing skill
He treasures up His bright designs
And works His sovereign will.}
{Blind unbelief is sure to err
And scan His work in vain;
God is His own interpreter,
And He will make it plain.}
Hymns, #285. (The last two stanzas
were omitted from the 1985 LDS hymnbook.)

Monday, December 29, 2008

The Lord Is Able to Do All Things According to His Will -- 1 Nephi 7:12

What is the will of the Lord? People often claim to know what it is, especially when they conclude that the will of the Lord is on their side of some issue. People often wonder whether something tragic is the will of the Lord, whether it be natural disasters, atrocities of war and terrorism, the suffering and death of loved ones, or a host of other sad events. The supposed will of the Lord has been the source of much strife, suffering and bloodshed through the centuries.

As we consider these questions, we must recognize that there are four aspects to the will of the Lord: (1) His Revealed Will; (2) His Sovereign Will; (3) His Permissive Will; and (4) His Providential Will. In this posting, we will consider the first two aspects, namely the Revealed Will and the Sovereign Will.

The Revealed Will of the Lord is, simply, what He has told us that He wants us to do. This is the aspect of the Lord's Will that the Savior taught his disciples on both hemispheres to ask "be done on earth as it is in heaven." (Matt. 6:10; 3 Nephi 13:10). This Will is perfectly followed by celestial beings. Unfortunately, on earth, this Will is most often ignored and disobeyed. As it pertains to the world and to the Restored Church as a whole, we find the Lord's Revealed Will in the scriptures and the instructions of living prophets. As it pertains to the various units of the Church, we find the Lord's Revealed Will in the inspired decisions made by, and inspired callings issued by, those holding the priesthood keys to preside over that unit. Of His inspired priesthood bearers, the Lord has said, "And whatsoever they shall speak when moved upon by the Holy Ghost shall be scripture, shall be the will of the Lord, shall be the mind of the Lord, shall be the word of the Lord, shall be the voice of the Lord, and the power of God unto salvation." (D&C 68:4). As it pertains to individuals, the Revealed Will of the Lord may be found in the answers to fervent prayer, the inspiration that comes as we contemplate the scriptures and the inspired blessings pronounced upon us by patriarchs and other priesthood holders.

Certainly, we cannot say that tragedy and atrocity are part of the Revealed Will of the Lord. In fact, peace, safety and salvation are to be found in following the Revealed Will. "Thus we may see that the Lord is merciful unto all who will, in the sincerity of their hearts, call upon his holy name. Yea, thus we see that the gate of heaven is open unto all, even to those who will believe on the name of Jesus Christ, who is the Son of God. Yea, we see that whosoever will may lay hold upon the word of God, which is quick and powerful, which shall divide asunder all the cunning and the snares and the wiles of the devil, and lead the man of Christ in a strait and narrow course across that everlasting gulf of misery which is prepared to engulf the wicked— And land their souls, yea, their immortal souls, at the right hand of God in the kingdom of heaven, to sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and with Jacob, and with all our holy fathers, to go no more out." (Hel. 3: 27-30). When we strive to be obedient to the Lord's Revealed Will, we have the assurance that we are doing what He would have us do -- and in this there can be deep comfort.

The second aspect of the Lord's Will is His Sovereign Will. The Lord's Sovereign Will includes all those things that, as all wise, all good and all powerful Lord of the universe, He has decreed shall absolutely come to pass. "And all the inhabitants of the earth are reputed as nothing: and he doeth according to his will in the army of heaven, and among the inhabitants of the earth: and none can stay his hand, or say unto him, What doest thou?" (Dan. 4:35). "And from thence, whosoever I will shall go forth among all nations, and it shall be told them what they shall do; for I have a great work laid up in store, for Israel shall be saved, and I will lead them whithersoever I will, and no power shall stay my hand." (D&C 38:33). "How long can rolling waters remain impure? What power shall stay the heavens? As well might man stretch forth his puny arm to stop the Missouri river in its decreed course, or to turn it up stream, as to hinder the Almighty from pouring down knowledge from heaven upon the heads of the Latter-day Saints. (D&C 121:33).

To the extent the Sovereign Will has been made known to the world and to the Church, it relates primarily to implementing the major aspects of the plan of salvation as decreed in the pre-mortal councils in heaven. We see it implemented in the Creation, the Fall, the Atonement and the Resurrection. It includes such things as the restoration of the Gospel in the last days, never again to be removed; the gathering of Israel; the second coming of Christ to reign throughout the Millennium; and the final judgment. These are things that the Lord has told us He is going to do, and there is no power, in heaven, earth or hell, that can alter them.

The Sovereign Will of the Lord is found primarily in the prophecies and promises that appear in the scriptures and the teachings of latter-day prophets. In His introduction to The Doctrine and Covenants, the Lord declared, "Search these commandments, for they are true and faithful, and the prophecies and promises which are in them shall all be fulfilled. What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself; and though the heavens and the earth pass away, my word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled, whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same" (D&C 1:37-38). It was the Lord's Sovereign Will that the Prophet Joseph had in mind when he uttered the famous reassuring words, "The Standard of Truth has been erected; no unhallowed hand can stop the work from progressing; persecution may rage, mobs may combine, armies may assemble, calumny may defame, but the truth of God will go forth boldly, nobly, and independent, till it has penetrated every continent, visited every clime, swept every country, and sounded in every ear, till the purposes of God shall be accomplished, and the Great Jehovah shall say the work is done.”

The Lord's Sovereign Will, as it may pertain to individuals, remains largely unrevealed. There is one aspect of it, however, that does give us comfort and assurance. When we make covenants with the Lord, He promises blessings to us, contingent on our keeping our part of the covenant. When we have done so, however, we have His sovereign promise that the blessings will come. "I, the Lord, am bound when ye do what I say; but when ye do not what I say, ye have no promise." (D&C 82:10). In speaking of those who receive the Holy Priesthood, the Lord promised, "Therefore, all those who receive the priesthood, receive this oath and covenant of my Father, which he cannot break, neither can it be moved. But whoso breaketh this covenant after he hath received it, and altogether turneth therefrom, shall not have forgiveness of sins in this world nor in the world to come." (D&C 84:40-41).

Understanding of the Lord's Sovereign Will strengthens us in times of widespread fear and commotion with the conviction that He is in charge and that, ultimately, nothing can interfere with His plans for the world and His faithful children. As we make covenants with this Sovereign Lord, we stand upon the promise that the blessings will come according to our faithfulness.

We love to hear thy holy word
Proclaimed in latter days.
It lifts our hearts; our souls are stirred
To glorify thy ways.

We love to read thy holy word
With quiet thought and prayer.
Thy Spirit’s whisp’rings we have heard;
We feel thy constant care.

We love to share thy holy word;
Thy gospel we proclaim.
We humbly bear our witness, Lord,
Of thy redeeming name.

We thank thee for thy holy word;
With joy we sing thy praise.
Oh, help us, Lord, to learn thy word
And live it all our days.

Hymns, Thy Holy Word, no. 279.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

How Is It That Ye Have Forgotten? 1 Nephi 7:9--12

How is it that ye have not hearkened unto the word of the Lord? How is it that ye have forgotten that ye have seen an angel of the Lord? Yea, and how is it that ye have forgotten what great things the Lord hath done for us, in delivering us out of the hands of Laban, and also that we should obtain the record? Yea, and how is it that ye have forgotten that the Lord is able to do all things according to his will, for the children of men, if it so be that they exercise faith in him? Wherefore, let us be faithful to him.

In reprimanding his older brothers for their lack of faith, Nephi provides us with four sources of strength when our own faith is weak.

"How is it that ye have not hearkened unto the word of the Lord?" The first help to which we should look is the scriptures themselves. There we read of the promises of the Lord to us and of the way He has sustained His faithful servants in all generations. As we read of the trials of earlier believers, we can gain insight and inspiration to follow in their footsteps. A good place to start would be to review Hebrews chapter 11, where the Apostle Paul lists the great heroes of faith from Abel through the exodus of Israel from Egypt. He then goes on to say:

"And what shall I more say? for the time would fail me to tell of Gedeon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthae; of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets:Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained
promises, stopped the mouths of lions, Quenched the violence of fire, escaped the
edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight,
turned to flight the armies of the aliens. Women received their dead raised to
life again: and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might
obtain a better resurrection: And others had trial of cruel mockings and
scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: They were stoned, they were
sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in
sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; (Of whom the
world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens
and caves of the earth. . . all, having obtained a good report through faith . .
. ." (Heb. 11:32-29)
I refer once again to Matthew Henry's eloquent commentary on this passage:

"We should be pleased to think, how great the number of believers was under the Old Testament, and how strong their faith, though the objects of it were not then so fully made known as now. . . It is the excellence of the grace of faith,
that, while it helps men to do great things, like Gideon, it keeps from high and
great thoughts of themselves. Faith, like Barak's, has recourse unto God in all
dangers and difficulties, and then makes grateful returns to God for all mercies
and deliverances. By faith, the servants of God shall overcome even the roaring
lion that goeth about seeking whom he may devour. The believer's faith endures
to the end, and, in dying, gives him victory over death and all his deadly enemies, like Samson. The grace of God often fixes upon very undeserving and ill-deserving persons, to do great things for them and by them. But the grace of faith, wherever it is, will put men upon acknowledging God in all their ways, as Jephthah. It will make men bold and courageous in a good cause. Few ever met with greater trials, few ever showed more lively faith, than David, and he has left a testimony as to the trials and acts of faith, in the book of Psalms, which has been, and ever will be, of great value to the people of God. Those are likely to grow up to be distinguished for faith, who begin betimes, like Samuel, to exercise it. And faith will enable a man to serve God and his generation, in whatever way he may be employed. The interests and powers of kings and kingdoms, are often opposed to God and his people; but God can easily subdue all that set themselves against him. It is a greater honour and happiness to work righteousness than to work miracles. By faith we have comfort of the promises; and by faith we are prepared to wait for the promises, and in due time to receive them. And though we do not hope to have our dead relatives or friends restored to life in this world, yet faith will support under the loss of them, and direct to the hope of a better resurrection. Shall we be most amazed at the
wickedness of human nature, that it is capable of such awful cruelties to fellow-creatures, or at the excellence of Divine grace, that is able to bear up the faithful under such cruelties, and to carry them safely through all?"
Nephi's second source for strengthening faith is the remembrance of our own experiences. He said to his brothers, "How is it that ye have forgotten that ye have seen an angel of the Lord?" Though few of us have the experience of seeing an angel, most of us can remember spiritual gifts, manifestations and blessings of our past -- times when we have felt the presence and power of the Lord's Spirit, giving us strength again. When our faith grows weak, let us remember those times and find there faith that we can receive again the same blessings.

The third source of faith to which Nephi points us is our prior experience of help and deliverance. "Yea, and how is it that ye have forgotten what great things the Lord hath done for us, in delivering us out of the hands of Laban, and also that we should obtain the record?" Think of what the Lord has already done for you. Remember the prayers that have been answered, the guidance and deliverance that have been provided and the troubles that were erased. Trust that He who has saved you before can save you again.

Finally, Nephi would have us remember the greatness of the Lord who stands ready to help us in times of difficulty. "Yea, and how is it that ye have forgotten that the Lord is able to do all things according to his will, for the children of men . . . ?" Oh, what comfort and courage come from contemplating the Lord's power, knowledge and love! Oh, what assurance is found in knowing that He is unchanging -- that He who has stood by the Saints who have preceded us in every dispensation is the same Savior to whom we look for guidance, deliverance and strength! Our faith in His is rooted in the Plan of Salvation, the central aspects of which are the Creation, the Fall and, most importantly, the Atonement of Christ. As the Prophet Joseph was inspired to declare in Section 20 of the Doctrine and Covenants:

"By these things [modern revelation] we know that there is a God in heaven, who is infinite and eternal, from everlasting to everlasting the same unchangeable God, the framer of heaven and earth, and all things which are in them; And that he created man, male and female, after his own image and in his own likeness, created he them; And gave unto them commandments that they should love and serve him, the only living and true God, and that he should be the only being whom
they should worship. But by the transgression of these holy laws man became sensual and devilish, and became fallen man. Wherefore, the Almighty God gave his Only Begotten Son, as it is written in those scriptures which have been given of him. He suffered temptations but gave no heed unto them. He was crucified, died, and rose again the third day; And ascended into heaven, to sit down on the right hand of the Father, to reign with almighty power according to the will of the Father; That as many as would believe and be baptized in his holy name, and endure in faith to the end, should be saved— Not only those who believed after he came in the meridian of time, in the flesh, but all those from the beginning, even as many as were before he came, who believed in the words of the holy prophets, who spake as they were inspired by the gift of the Holy Ghost, who truly testified of him in all things, should have eternal life, As well as those who should come after, who should believe in the gifts and callings of God by the Holy Ghost, which beareth record of the Father and of the Son; Which Father, Son, and Holy Ghost are one God, infinite and eternal, without end. Amen." (D&C 20:17-28)
Like Nephi, let us find faith and courage in this awesome God and all the blessings He has given us.

Great is Thy faithfulness, O God my Father;
There is no shadow of turning with Thee;
Thou changest not, Thy compassions, they fail not;
As Thou hast been, Thou forever will be.

Great is Thy faithfulness!
Great is Thy faithfulness!
Morning by morning new mercies I see.
All I have needed Thy hand hath provided;
Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord, unto me!

Summer and winter and springtime and harvest,
Sun, moon and stars in their courses above
Join with all nature in manifold witness
To Thy great faithfulness, mercy and love.


Pardon for sin and a peace that endureth
Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide;
Strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow,
Blessings all mine, with ten thousand beside!


(Lyrics by Thomas O. Chisholm, 1923)

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

I Will Go and Do -- 1 Nephi 3:7

I will go and do the things which the Lord hath commanded, for I know that the Lord giveth no commandments unto the children of men, save he shall prepare a way for them that they may accomplish the thing which he commandeth them.

This is one of the most quoted verses in all of latter-day revelation. It is a promise and assurance that are vital if we are to learn to trust the Lord in all things. It is the marvelous assurance that we can do all that the Lord commands us to do.

Nephi was able to express this assurance, not because of his self-confidence or faith in his own power and ability. He trusted not in himself, but in the kindness of an all powerful and all loving Lord, who could equip him to do whatever was required. Nephi still had to choose to obey and to walk in the path of obedience -- but that path and his ability to walk it he knew could only come from God. His faith was the same as that of the Apostle Paul, who proclaimed "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me," (Phil. 4:13) and who exhorted the Saints at Philippi, "Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure." (Phil 2:12-13)

The eighteenth century Bible commentator, Matthew Henry, wrote in respect to this passage:

"We must be diligent in the use of all the means which lead to our salvation, persevering therein to the end. With great care, lest, with all our advantages, we should come short. Work out your salvation, for it is God who worketh in you. This encourages us to do our utmost, because our labour shall not be in vain: we must still depend on the grace of God. The working of God's grace in us, is to quicken and engage our endeavours. God's good-will to us, is the cause of his good work in us."
We know that Nephi was a diligent student of the prophet Isaiah. Perhaps he had taken to heart the words we find in Isaiah chapter 40:

"Hast thou not known? hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? there is no searching of his understanding. He giveth power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increaseth strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall: But they that await upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint." (Isaiah 40: 28-31)
On this famous passage from Isaiah, Matthew Henry also wrote:

"Where God had begun the work of grace, he will perfect it. He will help those who, in humble dependence on him, help themselves. As the day, so shall the strength be. In the strength of Divine grace their souls shall ascend above the world. They shall run the way of God's commandments cheerfully. Let us watch against unbelief, pride, and self-confidence. If we go forth in our own strength, we shall faint, and utterly fall; but having our hearts and our hopes in heaven, we shall be carried above all difficulties, and be enabled to lay hold of the prize of our high calling in Christ Jesus."
As we learn in holy places, the servants of the Lord may always go forth upon His errand with unfailing confidence that what He has commanded shall be done. They need not respond to Him by saying, "I will try," or "I will do my best." They can have full faith that He who commands empowers them to obey and to accomplish.

Let these thoughts comfort and encourage us when we are worn out in His service, or when we feel a command or assignment is beyond our capacity.

Annie Johnson Flint is an example of persistence in working righteousness. Born in 1866, she was left an orphan before reaching age 6. She hoped to be a composer and concert pianist, but these dreams were shattered by arthritis that began to afflict her as a teenager and took away her ability to walk. Later, unable any longer to play the piano, she turned to writing poetry. Eventually, arthritis left her unable to even open her hands enough to hold a pen. She turned to writing on a typewriter, using only her knuckles. Thus, she came to write the encouraging words of the following hymn:

He giveth more grace as our burdens grow greater,
He sendeth more strength as our labors increase;
To added afflictions He addeth His mercy,
To multiplied trials he multiplies peace.

When we have exhausted our store of endurance,
When our strength has failed ere the day is half done,
When we reach the end of our hoarded resources
Our Father’s full giving is only begun.

His love has no limits, His grace has no measure,
His power no boundary known unto men;
For out of His infinite riches in Jesus
He giveth, and giveth, and giveth again.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Leaving It All Behind -- 1 Nehi 2:2-4

And it came to pass that the Lord commanded my father, even in a dream, that he should take his family and depart into the wilderness. And it came to pass that he was obedient unto the word of the Lord, wherefore he did as the Lord commanded him. And it came to pass that he departed into the wilderness. And he left his house, and the land of his inheritance, and his gold, and his silver, and his precious things, and took nothing with him, save it were his family, and provisions, and tents, and departed into the wilderness.

Unless we are careful, we will hurry past this verse and miss its tremendous implications. Various hints are scattered throughout 1st Nephi that Lehi and his family were persons of wealth and prominence. It is likely that the house he left behind was quite comfortable for that time and place. The family probably had servants and enjoyed significant worldly benefits in Jerusalem. But at the Lord's command to depart, Lehi had the tremendous faith to leave that all behind -- and we must not underestimate that sacrifice.

Life for Lehi and his family would never be the same. Instead of a comfortable house, they would dwell in tents in an unforgiving wilderness. Instead of a society in which they enjoyed some prominence, they would be "strangers in a strange land." Instead of being served by others, they would have to work hard merely to carve out an existence. There is no evidence in the Book of Mormon account that, at this point, Lehi knew that they were being led to a land of promise. All he knew was that the Lord had told him to depart into the wilderness and so he departed, leaving behind all he had known and enjoyed. He truly went to the edge of the light and took that great step of faith into the darkness of the unknown future.

What an amazing faith! Lehi literally entirely placed his whole life into the Lord's hands. Moreover, he must have thought about the sacrifice that he was asking of his wife and children in doing so. It is one thing to make a decision to sacrifice your all at the Lord's bidding; it is an entirely different thing to ask those you love to make a similar sacrifice. Did he anticipate that Laman and Lemuel might ultimately fail the test? Was he confident that his wife, Nephi and Sam would remain faithful? Did he ever wonder, years later, if he should have allowed Laman and Lemuel to remain in Jerusalem so their sins might not have been as grievous? We can never know for certain. If Lehi had questions or misgivings at this early point, the record does not mention them. It also appears that whatever fears Lehi may have had did not delay him. Although the text does not expressly say so, it appears that Lehi's obedience was immediate.

Hardly any of us will be called upon to sacrifice as did Lehi and his family. But we must not minimize what the Lord demands of those who would be His faithful people. We must be willing to sacrifice whatever He requires. That demand should give us pause -- it should frighten us. Because only if it does so, have we really understood Christ's call to follow Him. And only if it does so, will we turn to Him with the desire and urgency we need to seek the gift of a faith like that of Lehi. Through the Spirit, He can implant such faith in our hearts if we seek it and allow Him to do so. When Jesus sent away the rich young man, who was sorrowing because he could not bring himself to give his all to the poor, the disciples "were exceedingly amazed, saying, Who then can be saved? But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible." (Matt. 19:25-26)

The well-known 19th century hymn writer, Frances Havergal, penned the following lines -- which we can echo if we allow the Spirit to increase our faith.

Take my life, and let it be consecrated, Lord, to Thee.
Take my moments and my days; let them flow in ceaseless praise.
Take my hands, and let them move at the impulse of Thy love.
Take my feet, and let them be swift and beautiful for Thee.

Take my voice, and let me sing always, only, for my King.
Take my lips, and let them be filled with messages from Thee.
Take my silver and my gold; not a mite would I withhold.
Take my intellect, and use every power as Thou shalt choose.

Take my will, and make it Thine; it shall be no longer mine.
Take my heart, it is Thine own; it shall be Thy royal throne.
Take my love, my Lord, I pour at Thy feet its treasure store.
Take myself, and I will be ever, only, all for Thee.