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Editor’s Note: A previous version of this article appeared on Meridian last week, but was misattributed to a different author. We are thrilled to be publishing new “Letters from the Coast” by Anne Perry once a month. Be sure to check back and watch for her pieces which are always wonderful and enlightening.
Last month I had the privilege of teaching the Sunday School class on the first principles of the Gospel—faith, repentance, baptism and the laying on of hands for receiving the Holy Ghost. One can learn marvelous things from attending a class, but they pale beside what we may learn from studying to teach it, and gathering all ones deepest thoughts over a week or more.
I thought more closely what to say about faith, what thoughts had come during recent trials. We all have them from time to time. Surely that is what life is for. Faith should be far more profound than simply to believe that God exists. It needs to be a living conviction that He does, and is the Creator of the universe, from the infinity of the stars, the darkness and the light, evolving recreation of matter, to the smallest particles that we see with an electron microscope—and all that lies in between. Add to that, life itself and everything that has life in its multitudinous forms, the physical and the spiritual.
We must believe with a certainty that God is never wrong. If He seems to be, then either we have been misinformed, or we misunderstood, or we have only part of the picture. There are so many things that we do not yet have the knowledge to understand. We cannot grasp some things until we have years of physics or chemistry, or mathematics. Such is the wisdom of life. We would make nothing of the answers without experience and study.
And language changes over the years. Words gain different meanings. There are well-meaning mistranslations. We see what we expect to see.
But God is not wrong! He knows us far better than we know ourselves. He wants us to succeed, long term. What is good for a day, or a year, may not be good forever.
He does know how we feel. We tend to imagine that He is so far above and beyond us that He has no real idea of how lost of how hurt we can feel, how alone, how acutely failure after failure can wound us, or how exhausted we can be.
Yes, he has! I think we forget the lines that say it all—‘As we are, God once was, As God is, we may become!’ He has passed this way. He knows every step, every pebble, slippery patch, and pothole in the road.
He wants us to succeed. But not just today, forever.
That is the faith we should be working towards.
But he is bound by the laws of eternity, as the whole of creation is. If He were to break them, He would cease to be God, and creation would fall apart. He wants us to succeed, to gain and keep all joy. But there is no easy path to that. The illusion that there is was the Adversary’s best lie.
That is the faith that moves mountains, that heals bodies and souls. That is the faith Christ spoke of again and again when He said ‘Thy faith hath made thee whole.”
Repentance; a big subject. Not just a matter of repenting the easily recognizable sins, although they must be faced, acknowledged and set right or as right as possible. That comes before baptism and with baptism they are washed away. We must accept that, otherwise we are denying the Atonement of Christ, denying who He is.
And just as Christ can forgive us, so does he forgive everyone else.
Is it imaginable to say, ‘I know God has forgiven you, but I won’t’. It would be laughable, if it were not the blackest tragedy. Forgive as ye would be forgiven. How often have we heard that? He means it.
What about ongoing repentance? What does that mean? I don’t think we commit major sins every week, but most of us do not do all we could to keep the great commandments upon which all the rest depend—Love God with all your heart, and you neighbor as yourself. And our neighbor is everyone. Not just those who are easy to like, but particularly those who are all but impossible to like. It is forgiving everyone, not just some, and not just when they are sorry.
It is taking every chance to help, to encourage, to listen to someone’s trouble, ease someone’s loneliness or guilt. Celestial is not just ‘good enough’, it is the very best you can be, the most generous in judgment, the quickest to help, the first to praise.
We won’t succeed every day, but we must not grow tried of trying. That is what life is about.
A chance taken is a joy, a chance missed is to have been less than we could have been. There is a long time to better, but there is not forever. Most of us do not commit great sins, just small opportunities overlooked because we were self-absorbed, self-righteous, judgmental, too comfortable in our own sphere to risk stepping out of it, too busy to see that someone needed a kindness. In fact, we passed by on the other side!
I will do better next time. That is part of my baptismal covenant, and I know for certain that the Holy Ghost will prompt me, if I am listening, and willing to act. The question is, am I listening? He is there, but speaking softly.
As I listen to myself saying all of this, it applies to me! It applies to everybody.
I feel thankful to God for so many ‘todays’. I wish you all many ‘todays’ filled with renewal and faith.