Friday, March 11, 2016

February 28 (Plan of Salvation) and March 6 (The Atonement)

Yes, I've really fallen behind. Sorry.

But, well, these lessons all combine really, really well. Because, well, the Plan of Salvation won't work without the Atonement, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

We chose to come to this mortal experience on Earth so that we can learn and develop those attributes and have these experiences that will help us learn, grow, and develop into our potential. We wanted to be able to become like our Heavenly Parents. We couldn't do it any other way.

We were sent here, as mortals, passing through a veil of forgetfulness which removed our memories of our heavenly home and all we knew there, so that we could be fully tested. We chose this. It will be worth it.

But, we knew that we would sin, that bad things would/could happen ... that there would be death, sadness, temptations to withstand, sin to repent of when we don't withstand these temptations, pain, sickness (physical, mental, and spiritual), loneliness, obstacles ... and these would come regardless of whether we asked for them or if they were trials selected just for us to help us grow and develop or if they were byproducts brought about by the choices of others ... since they would have their agency, too.

We have the gift of agency ... it's about the most important gift we've been given (our physical bodies are right up there, too).
To protect our agency, Heavenly Father prepared this wondrous plan to cover all eventualities and possibilities. It allows us all to use our agency -- to act/to choose, instead of being acted upon.

Elder David A. Bednar tells us, in his October 2006 Conference talk, And Nothing Shall Offend Them:
As sons and daughters of our Heavenly Father, we have been blessed with the gift of moral agency, the capacity for independent action and choice. Endowed with agency, you and I are agents, and we primarily are to act and not just be acted upon. 

We get to choose how to react to situations. That's a huge gift.
We can CHOOSE to give in to temptation or to overcome it.

That is a HUGE gift.
Agency is vital.

So is the Atonement.

It's almost easier (at least for me. Maybe it's not the same for everyone else) to understand that because Jesus died on the cross, though he didn't have to -- he chose to do it for us -- and then rose from the grave as a glorious, resurrected being, we also ALL will be resurrected. Our bodies and spirits will be joined together as complete souls, never to be separated again. This is a gift that is certain. We will have perfected bodies ... and, I think, that we will have a more full appreciation of what a wonderful gift our bodies are.

But, in the simplest phrase, Jesus's death and resurrection = EVERYONE overcomes physical death.
No matter how righteous or sinful one may have chosen to be, everyone gets this blessing.
Heavenly Father and Jesus love us. They want good things for ALL their children (and remember, through His mission here on Earth, Jesus adopted all of us. We are His children, as well.)

But, as much as Jesus suffered as he was on the cross, he suffered even greater things as he prayed and suffered for us in Gethsemane's garden.

(Interesting fact: Gethsemane translates to "oil press." Olives are pressed/smashed to release their oil. Christ's experience, suffering under a crushing load of the effects of sin, of pain, of all the sickness of body and spirit, all emotion, ... EVERYTHING EVER FELT BY ANY MEMBER OF ALL HUMANKIND so that He would understand PERFECTLY how we feel at any time ... it's like oils being crushed. Oils are released from the fruit, rather like how Christ suffered so much that "his sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground." Luke 22:43-44 tells us about that suffering AND that he suffered so that an angel was sent to strengthen him. King Benjamin [Mosiah 3:7] tells us that this was much more than any mortal being could bear.)

Remember how I keep mentioning that Jesus and Heavenly Father know us better than we know ourselves? That they understand us more than we understand ourselves? ... There's a reason for that. Because they've BEEN THROUGH ALL OF WHAT YOU OR I OR ANYONE has gone/is going/will go through.

It is an awe-inspiring and rather-unfathomable realization to reach. Jesus knows all our trials, all our pain and suffering, because he's FELT it, too. He's gone through it with you, for you ... because He LOVES you so, so very much. So much bigger and wider and deeper and larger than we even have words for. Because He KNOWS how important you are to Him and to your Heavenly Parents.

He was willing to pay any price for you.
Also, be aware that he was willing to pay any price for EVERY PERSON who was ever to be born or ever will be born. All people. Even the ones who don't seem to appreciate this huge gift. Even the ones who make it very difficult to love. Even the ones who choose, willingly, to hurt others ... because they, too, are our Heavenly Father and Mother's children. They love them, too.

This suffering that Christ underwent for us, as told in Doctrine and Covenants 19:16 and 18, was so that, IF WE CHOOSE TO REPENT, He will shoulder the whole load. He will take all our suffering, our pain, everything ... if we will just humble ourselves and choose to hand it over.

He is waiting, always at the ready, to accept our broken hearts and contrite spirits and give us wonderful things in return. He will alleviate (that means lighten) our pain and suffering. He will give us joy. He will enable us to bear our loads here.

Isaiah, whom my Institute teacher, Brother Dale Kirby called a "poet-prophet," stated it beautifully when he preached in Isaiah 61:3:
"To 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."
When we are mourning (wearing ashes and sackcloth was, in Biblical times, an outward show of grief), Christ will give us BEAUTY -- he'll put the colors back into our world.

He will, when we mourn/are sad, give us the ability to have JOY ... not just in the life to come, but NOW. Because, as President Uchtdorf told us in the October 2015 General Women's Meeting (part of General Conference, "Now is a part of eternity."

When we are heavy in spirit or unable to physically handle what's on our plate, He will enable us to have gratitude, faith, and perseverance enough that we can praise Him and His infinite goodness, that we will glorify our Heavenly Parents, their plan, and their love for us.

As I've typed this, one of the hymns has been echoing in my head ... because music is a wonderful teaching tool.

So I will close with the lyrics to How Firm a Foundation:

1. How firm a foundation, ye Saints of the Lord,
Is laid for your faith in his excellent word!
What more can he say than to you he hath said,
Who unto the Savior for refuge have fled?
2. In ev'ry condition--in sickness, in health,In poverty's vale or abounding in wealth,At home or abroad, on the land or the sea--
As thy days may demand, so thy succor shall be. 
3. Fear not, I am with thee; oh, be not dismayed,
For I am thy God and will still give thee aid.
I'll strengthen thee, help thee, and cause thee to stand,
Upheld by my righteous, omnipotent hand. 
4. When through the deep waters I call thee to go,The rivers of sorrow shall not thee o'erflow,For I will be with thee, thy troubles to bless,
And sanctify to thee thy deepest distress.
5. When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie,
My grace, all sufficient, shall be thy supply.
The flame shall not hurt thee; I only design
Thy dross to consume and thy gold to refine. 
6. E'en down to old age, all my people shall prove
My sov'reign, eternal, unchangeable love;
And then, when gray hair shall their temples adorn,
Like lambs shall they still in my bosom be borne.
7. The soul that on Jesus hath leaned for repose
I will not, I cannot, desert to his foes;
That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake,
I'll never, no never, no never forsake!
Take strength and courage from how much you are loved, valued, and looked after through the Atonement of Christ (as well as all the other many, many blessings with which God blesses you on a daily basis). Know that you are precious in His sight. No matter how things may go, you Heavenly Parents and Saviour want you back. They will always love you perfectly.

Take that strength and courage ... and go be awesome.
      Love,
            Sister Cox


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