When I was a deacon I was conversing with a friend in the hallway when I accidentally uttered “hell” in a non-scriptural context; this was not a common word for me to use and it felt heavy coming out--sure enough a young woman I admired was walking by at the same moment and gasped at my foul mouth. I was devastated and that same night I prayed earnestly for forgiveness and felt the warm embrace the Atonement immediately.
In the context of my adult life I understand that accidentally uttering a mild swear word will not be the worst of my sins but it is in that context that I want to discuss the love of Jesus Christ in our lives.
During the Sunday Morning session of General Conference, President Utchdorf told about the Dresden Firebombing of World War II in which a sprawling ancient city was reduced to rubble in the matter of days and compared it to our own spiritual well being. How many times have we felt our spirit be utterly destroyed by the depths of sin?
I came to BYU in 2004, I had little hope or wish of church activity. Over the next five or six years I attended only enough to maintain my endorsement. I confess at this point I no longer felt any personal connection to the Gospel and I only continued to attend out of a social obligation but generally ignored the standards it involved. It took my heart being broken by a young woman to make me evaluate my life and start to turn it around though I confess it was originally just a design to win the lady back.
President Utchdorf taught: “It matters not how completely ruined our lives may seem. It matters not how scarlet our sins, how deep our bitterness, how lonely, abandoned, or broken our hearts may be. Even those who are without hope, who live in despair, who have betrayed trust, surrendered their integrity, or turned away from God can be rebuilt. Save those rare sons of perdition, there is no life so shattered that it cannot be restored.”
How wonderful and true that statement truly is. Despite my selfish reasons for returning to church activity I still felt the arms of Christ welcome me back because that is how much he loves us. As Elder Gong said “Remember, He knows all the things we don’t want anyone else to know about us—and loves us still.”
A cousin of mine was recently married to a family friend and a few of us remarked on his amazing transition. While he was always a good man he enjoyed many things the world had to offer and often scoffed at the idea of faith until he started dating his now wife. Their dating involved him attending church with her and her daughter with no other expectations but he soon found that just that simple act was enough to pierce his skepticism to the point that he now openly exclaims his love for Christ and the Atonement.
This process of course is not single occurrence but constant; even the Prophets both ancient and modern had to seek out our Lord’s forgiveness for we are all frail mortal beings in this life. To assist with this weakness the Lord has given us the ordinances of the Gospel to give us strength.
In the Saturday Afternoon session of General Conference, Elder Bednar touched upon several of these but I would like to focus on two specifically: the Sacrament and the Temple.
Bednar taught: “The ordinance of the sacrament is a holy and repeated invitation to repent sincerely and to be renewed spiritually. The act of partaking of the sacrament, in and of itself, does not remit sins. But as we prepare conscientiously and participate in this holy ordinance with a broken heart and a contrite spirit, then the promise is that we may always have the Spirit of the Lord to be with us. And by the sanctifying power of the Holy Ghost as our constant companion, we can always retain a remission of our sins.”
In a recent training we were taught by the leaders of the Church about the essential nature of the sacrament and how special it is that we are able to partake of such a sacred event every week. It reminds me of how every one of us is inherently a sinner yet we all come to warm ourselves together in Christ’s love as we pray to “keep His commandments which he has given [us] that [we] may always have His spirit to be with [us].”
It is in the context of our fallen state that I find the doctrine of the Temple so comforting because it offers us a way to not just repair our spirits but also to lift them up higher than otherwise possible.
I liked the scripture in Isaiah that was recently used in reference to the new City Center Temple here in Provo. “...Appoint unto them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they might be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he might be glorified.”
This echos Utchdorf’s comparison to the rebuilding of Dresden; the Lord will not just rebuild us, but will give us beauty for ashes, joy for mourning, and praise for heaviness.
It has been five short years since I have returned to the Church in sincerity and in that time I have seen miracles happen in my life as the Lord has fulfilled his promise in Ether 12:27 “if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.”
The Gospel is one of hope and I hope that I (or more likely the Spirit) has communicated that effectively. I would like to close with my testimony that this Church is true, it is led by a true Prophet, it was restored by a true Prophet, the Book of Mormon is a true book, and that Christ suffered, died and was resurrected for us. To quote the Prophet Joseph Smith “Brethren [and sisters], shall we not go on in so great a cause? Go forward and not backward. Courage, brethren [and sisters]; and on, on to the victory!”
I pray for you all and I hope you pray for me.
In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.