Thursday, December 28, 2006

The Father and the Son

Certainly, knowing that we are children of God explains why our Heavenly Father does what He does. How else could He send His Only Begotten Son to suffer, bleed, and die for us? And why else would He, time after time, “gather [us] as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings”?(3 Nephi 10:4-6.) And how else could He look on our iniquity and “spare [us] a little longer” (Jacob 5:50-51) hoping that we will repent and return to Him. After all, our time on Earth is but a “twinkling of an eye” to God, and the veil doesn’t retard His memories of our lives with Him in our heavenly home.

If we could glimpse, for a moment, our lives in our heavenly home, we would lose all desire to sin. But for us to keep our second estate and prove that we will keep all of God’s commandments simply because we trust and love Him, our first estate must remain a mystery to us. Thankfully, the scriptures and modern prophets under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost have given us glimpses of the premortal existence. Jeremiah learned that before he was formed in the womb, God knew him and called him to be a prophet. (Jeremiah 1:5) Abraham saw the spirits who lived with God before the world was created. (Abraham 3:22.) Moses saw the council in which we were all present when Heavenly Father presented the Plan of Redemption and when we accepted Jesus as our Savior. (Moses 4:1-4.) Modernly, President Ezra Taft Benson taught, “Nothing is going to startle us more when we pass through the veil to the other side than to realize how well we know our Father and how familiar his face is to us." (Jesus Christ—Gifts and Expectations,” Speeches of the Year, 1974, 1975, 313.) We lived with God for a long time before we came here, and all He wants is for us to come home.
You and I have felt Heavenly Father’s desire for us to come home. I feel it as I search the scriptures and when I pray, not some superficial prayer, but prayer which necessitates “groanings” because words fail to express what I feel. Maybe a particularly beautiful piece of music, a sunset, or the birth of your child made you “long for home.” (Phillip Paul Bliss, “More Holiness Give Me,” Hymns, 131.) There are many ways that we feel Heavenly Father calling to us, but because He loves us, He will never force us to come. He loves us too much.
Heavenly Father’s plan is a plan of growth. Imagine receiving all that He has as we are right now! (See D&C 84:38.) The roots of Divinity would certainly overcome the tender branches of our capacity. (See Jacob 5:65.) Thus, He must nurture us as we cultivate our talents, attributes, and abilities to become “even as [He] is.” (3 Nephi 27:27.)
And Father sent a master Gardener to bring us into His garners. (Jeffery R. Holland, “Missionary Work and the Atonement,” Ensign, Mar. 2001, 15.) After all, the angels had good reason to sing that first Christmas night. In a vision explaining his father’s dream of the tree of life, Nephi saw the “most beautiful and fair [of] all virgins” holding the Son of God. (1 Nephi 11:15-22.) Instantly, Nephi recognized that the tree of life symbolized Christ and knew that the baby born in Bethlehem was the embodiment of God’s love for His children. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16.)
And God’s love abounded as Jesus walked among men. As Jesus healed and served, He testified that He merely did the works of the Father. (John 14:10.) That is, if Heavenly Father had been in Roman-occupied Jerusalem, He would have healed the sick, raised the dead, caused the blind to see, and lifted the sinner. For it was “God’s love [Jesus was] showing [us].” (Jeffery R. Holland, “The Grandeur of God,” Ensign, Nov. 2003, 72.) The same sorrow which filled Jesus as He lamented over Jerusalem filled Heavenly Father, as did the same compassion which Jesus showed to sinners, even to a woman caught in adultery. How can we imagine a stern and unforgiving God when He refused to condemn one guilty of the heinous sin of adultery? (See John 8:1-11.) True, God cannot “look upon sin with the least degree of tolerance,” and “no unclean thing can dwell in the presence of God.” But He wants us to repent of our sins, and when we do, immediately, He will extend the blessings of the plan of redemption to us until “He takes us on His shoulders and casts our sins behind His back.” (Alma 34:31; Holland, The Grandeur of God, 73.)
Thus the greatest manifestation of God’s love for us was the offering of His Son as the “great and last sacrifice” for sin. (Alma 34:10,13-14.) None of us compared to Christ premortally. The prophet Joseph Smith taught that many years will pass after our deaths and resurrection before any of us attain perfection. (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith [1976], 348.) Yet Jesus continued “from grace to grace” (D&C 93:14) until He attained Godhood many billions of years ago, enabling Him to create all things. (Moses 1:32-33.) Despite His premortal perfection, Jesus yielded Himself as a willing sacrifice to the will of the Father. No one deserved greater praise, glory, and honor. Yet no one suffered more. (D&C 19:15-18.) Still, to glorify the Father and to exalt us, Jesus “descended below all things.” (D&C 122:8).
Yes, the angels sang that first Christmas night because over Christ’s manger bed loomed the shadows of Gethsemane’s trees and of Golgotha’s cross. And the silence of that night portended the silence of the empty Garden Tomb.
“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”(Luke 2:14.)
I know that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, who suffered the pains of death and hell to bring us home. And I know that the life and sacrifice of our Savior attest to our Heavenly Father’s love for us.

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