This week I was asked to give a talk in my ward—my local congregation of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints—about the Book of Mormon and the impact it has had in my life.
The past few years have been the hardest in my life, and I’ve needed more support, guidance, and love from my Heavenly Father than ever before. He’s provided all those things in many ways—sometimes through amazing friends and family, or the perfect job at the perfect time, or a smooth run through a particularly sticky process. He has also sent that guidance and love through verses and teachings in the Book of Mormon.
I’m going to discuss a few of the principles and verses that have been most meaningful to me in the past few years.
Different Stories, One Faith
One of the things that I love about the Book of Mormon is that it shows so many different life experiences for people of faith. Very few of those discussed in the Book of Mormon come to Christ and the gift of his love the same way.
Alma the Elder was raised in an environment of wickedness and corrupt interpretations of scripture. Before Abinadi preached his final sermon, Alma was a priest, but not one who ever fulfilled his responsibilities to the people within his stewardship. Yet as soon as he had a moment of true conversion, he acted upon it. In Mosiah 17:2 it says, “And he was a young man, and he believed the words which Abinadi had spoken, for he knew concerning the iniquity which Abinadi had testified against them; therefore he began to plead with the king that he would not be angry with Abinadi, but suffer that he might depart in peace.”1 He was ignored and thrown out of his city, but instead of rescinding what he’d said, he embraced the new path he’d chosen. He wrote the words of Abinadi and began to truly minister as a priest and a teacher to those around him.
King Lamoni grew up without the gospel, without a knowledge of the true nature of God and the love of Christ. He mistreated those he governed, going so far as to execute his innocent servants when his citizens stole from his flocks. But when he received his first taste of truth, he completely changed his life.2
Enos’s deepest conversion didn’t come until he was grown3; the young warriors of Helaman gained their faith in their youth.4 Alma the Younger grew up surrounded by teachings of the gospel5; Abish carried her faith hidden among the Lamanites for years.6
No matter where they started, where they wandered, whether they were rich or poor or had families full of testimony or a community full of doubt, all of them were blessed, loved, welcomed, and redeemed by Christ. The longer I live, the more I know that none of us have the same story. But we all belong to the same family, we are infinitely loved by our Heavenly Parents and Christ, and we can all follow the covenant path to eternal progression, to that Tree of Life with the gift of Christ’s love and Atonement. We may move in fits and starts, we may wander down a detour or stop dead in our tracks. None of that changes the open invitation we have from Christ.
People Are Worth Your Charity
Christ’s invitation to all of us is rooted in love, and the Book of Mormon constantly reminds us of that. In 3 Nephi 9:22, Christ says, “Therefore, whoso repenteth and cometh unto me as a little child, him will I receive, for of such is the kingdom of God. Behold, for such have I laid down my life, and have taken it up again; therefore repent, and come unto me ye ends of the earth and be saved.”7
In my adult life, I’ve become more and more aware of how deeply we can and do hurt our fellow children of God. We break our promises; we keep blinders on and avoid seeing anyone’s pain but our own; we’re selfish and weak. We fall short because we are insufficient and small and full of fear.
And yet Christ says, “for such have I laid down my life, and have taken it up again.” For every selfish, cruel, fearful, weak, and broken person in this room and the whole world over, Christ laid down his life and took it up again. As we are told in Alma 7:12, he took upon him our infirmities, that his bowels may be filled with mercy, according to the flesh, that he may know according to the flesh how to succor his people according to their infirmities.8
Our infirmities do not take away from our value in the eyes of our Heavenly Parents. Even though we all have within us the natural man, “an enemy to God,”9 for such has Christ laid down his life and taken it up again. Because each of us also has within us the light of Christ.
In the premortal life, Lucifer saw our infirmities and saw us as infinitely broken and incapable of progressing through Heavenly Father’s plan. Christ saw our infirmities and our light and believed our Father’s plan was right, that we needed help, but that we were worth it.
This scripture from 3 Nephi has been truly meaningful, healing, and empowering for me. He believes that each and every one of us is worth the effort of loving, caring for, looking after, and knowing for all eternity. And he knows, better than any of us, the depths of our infirmities—he’s felt all the pain and suffering that come from those infirmities. And if he can know our frailty so well, if he can have felt every single thing every single person has done to hurt someone else and can still love each and every one of us …
Then maybe I can try. Maybe I can ask him to help me see the light in those around me. I can ask him to help me to see the needs of others that I can fill. I can ask him to help me see into my own blind spots and make amends for pain I’ve caused and to find forgiveness for those who have hurt me. On days when I find myself spiraling and seeing people only through the lens of their darkness, I try to remember, for such he has laid down his life and taken it up again, and I should look for the reasons why each of us is eternally, infinitely valuable to him.
And when I remember that, I try to turn it into action. He laid down his life; maybe I can muster a smile instead of a glower. He laid down his life; maybe I can spend five minutes writing a kind note. He laid down his life; maybe I can breathe and count to ten before I let the emotions of the moment dictate how I react to a beloved, precious child of God.
Elder Jeffrey R. Holland said, “Let people repent. Let people grow. Believe that people can change and improve. Is that faith? Yes! Is that hope? Yes! Is that charity? Yes!”10
Courage to Hope
In Moroni 7, Moroni records when Mormon taught that faith, hope, and charity are the central anchors and effects of true conversion to the gospel, true progress in our Heavenly Father’s plan.11 In the past two or three years, hope has been something I have really struggled with. I’ve had to rewrite the dreams I had for my personal and family life; I’ve watched the world at large persist in being divisive, hateful, and angry. And I have often failed to hope.
Hope used to come easy to me. I could easily believe the best of people, and it wasn’t hard to believe that everything would all work out in the end. It’s a lot harder for me now. Some days I can’t do it at all.
But in Ether 12 it says, among other things. “Wherefore, whoso believeth in God might with surety hope for a better world, yea, even a place at the right hand of God, which hope cometh of faith, maketh an anchor to the souls of men, which would make them sure and steadfast, always abounding in good works, being led to glorify God. […] Wherefore, ye may also have hope, and be partakers of the gift, if ye will but have faith. […] my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.”12
I found myself reading this chapter on a whim about five months ago, and these verses really resonated with me, especially “whoso believeth in God might with surety hope for a better world.” I do believe in God. My faith rises and ebbs in strength, but it’s never not there. And the word of God says that if I believe, I can hope, and that hope can be an anchor for my soul. In the moment that I read those words, I felt the Spirit testify that those words were true not just for some people, but for me, specifically. They were (and are) true about all my fears about being a parent, the world I’m raising my kids in, trust, and all the other things I get neurotic about.
So I try harder to hope. When I see a situation in front of me and I see the good and the bad, I ask myself, “If I had a sure hope for a better world, what would I be willing to do?” And then I try the best I can to do that thing. And it’s gotten a little easier to hope. On days when I find myself slipping, I reread those verses, and I revisit the journal entry I wrote when those words came to me right when I needed them. And then I try again to hope.
I think hope used to come easily to me because I was a little naive. I thought I was an exception to the rule that this life is a test. I thought I was exempt from certain types of heartache. I didn’t know how easily so many things can go wrong.
Now I know. And I still try to have that anchor of hope. And it means more now than it did. Hope used to be a ground state of being for me, but now it’s a choice. It’s a radical act of faith, and I feel a little bit brave every time I choose hope.
I used to feel hopeful and safe because I thought I understood the shape of my future, and I liked the shape of it. Now I know that whatever plans for the future I make, it’s entirely possible I’ll need to scrap them and start over time and time again. But I try to remember to hope. In the hymn “Lead Kindly Light,” it says, “Keep thou my feet; I do not ask to see / The distant scene—one step enough for me.”13 I used to need to see—or believe I saw—the distant scene for me to have hope. But now when I strive for that surety of hope, it gives me a glance of one step and helps me find the courage to take it.
So that’s what the Book of Mormon has given me in the last couple years. It’s given me comfort that no matter our story, we can all come unto Christ. It’s given me the charity to remember that people are worth it—“it” in this sentence meaning all the effort, heartbreak, personal growth, forgiveness, and love we have to muster to get along. And it’s given me the hope I need to put one foot in front of the other on the path Christ walked. I don’t always move quickly, and I have my share of detours, but hope is keeping me moving and helps me course correct when I drift too far.
I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
- Mosiah 17
- Alma 17–19
- Enos 1
- Alma 56
- Mosiah 27:8–10
- Alma 19:16–17
- 3 Nephi 9
- Alma 7:12
- Mosiah 3:19
- Holland, Jeffrey R. “The Best Is Yet to Be.” Ensign, January 2010, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
- Moroni 7
- Ether 12:4, 9, & 27
- Newman, John Henry, & John B. Dykes. “Lead, Kindly Light.” Hymns #97. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints