Thursday, August 16, 2012

Happiness, Salvation, Redemption, Mercy – Part II

See Part I here.

In my last post, I introduced the idea of seeking the blessings of the atonement in our lives. This is, in my view, the essence of the gospel. King Benjamin talks about retaining a remission of our sins, which happens after we first obtain a remission of our sins, which is only possible through the infinite atonement, offered by our perfect Elder Brother, Jesus Christ. It is a gift which we must claim in order to enjoy its full benefits. (Some benefits, such as resurrection, will accrue to us regardless of our efforts, but the full blessings of the atonement require us to seek them.)

For me, the first leg of the journey is understanding something about God and something about me. I must understand that, as Moses said after his great vision recorded in the Pearl of Great Price, “Now, for this cause I know that man is nothing, which thing I never had supposed” (1:10). King Benjamin said something similar in his great address when he reminds us that we are all beggars before God.

In the language of 12-step recovery, we learn that there are certain things we simply do not control, no matter how hard we try. Among those things are other people, and sometimes even our own weakness as human beings. This is a crucial element of allowing the atonement to work on us, realizing that we are not about changing ourselves, but we are working to change through the atonement. (More on that in the next part of the series.)

At the same time, the things we cannot control are things God could control if He chooses to, because he is powerful enough to do it. (He has told us there are some things He also will not control because he has granted man his agency.)

Moses understood his relationship to God: He was created in the image of God. He was a child a God. And he was allowed by God to see the things he saw. He did not have power in and of himself to do those things, but God did have the power, and God allowed him to do it. When Satan came calling, Moses recognized instantly – despite his recognition that he was nothing compared to God – that he had power over Satan. He recognized that Satan was not a source of light as God was. And he recognized that Satan was not someone he had to listen to. And despite his fear, despite the temptation to do otherwise, he sent Satan packing. Awesome story. Awesome lesson.

In the rooms of recovery, they say, “I can’t. God can. I think I’ll let Him.” It means, I know there are things I cannot control in my life, and as long as I try to control them I cannot find happiness. But God can help me live with what I can’t control, and I can give myself over to Him and find peace, so I think I’ll let God do His job and I’ll do mine.

Of course King Benjamin taught the same lesson a different way. He said the natural man is an enemy to God, and we cannot overcome the natural man unless we submit to the will of God, just as a child willingly submits to his father. If I’m really, really ready to turn my life over to God, then I’m approaching where Moses and King Benjamin say I need to be. Then I’m exhibiting the faith in Jesus Christ that I mentioned in the last installment. Then I’m almost ready to be thinking about repentance. Then I’m beginning to look to Christ so that I can live.

In the next installment, I’ll look at specific things we can do, having really submitted ourselves to the Father, ways we can act in faith that will invite the blessings of the atonement into our lives.

See Part III here.


  1. I have an anxiety disorder, and part of living successfully with it requires me to be comfortable with the fact that no matter how well I plan or how vigilant I am, I can't control everything around me. In learning how to live with having life out of my control, I am learning to be more patient.

    I am learning to take a longer view, instead of only focusing on the moment. I may not be able to change things right now. It may be years before they change in a positive way. I can't control the choices of others, but I can push myself to be happy and calm, in the face of decisions I can't control. I couldn't make that progress without the Atonement.


  2. Julia, it's fascinating to me that what is helpful to you (taking the longer view rather than being in the moment) is what was detrimental to me (living in the future instead of in the now). And yet, the atonement helps us both. Cool.

  3. Certainly the Atonement helps when dealing with day to day things. On days when flashbacks to childhood abuse are overwhelming, it is the "flip side" of the Atonement that allows me to catch on to the me that is now, instead of the young me that my brain and body is responding to. Knowing that the Atonement has helped heal me in the past, gives me strength to believe that it will help me day by day, and someday I will look back at my 30 year old self, and be amazed that I have come just as far as my 30 year old self was from my 12 year old self. Put a little more simply:

    At 12 I was an incest survivor who was so traumatized I stuffed the memories deep inside me. I did not talk about them, and I was sure that I would go to Outer Darkness because I was so filthy and unclean. I spent the next few years not caring what happened to me. Looking back, It wasn't that I was promiscuous, but since I was sure that Christ would find me disgusting, I didn't care what the rest of my life looked like. As strange as it sounds, being raped at 16 was the first step in taking back the control of my body. I had a suicide attempt after the rape, which led to inpatient treatment.

    So, looking back twenty years, I see the way Christ sent the right people to help me understand myself. I accepted that the nightmares and flashbacks were not sent by God to remind me that I was unlovable. When my first marriage was hemorraging at the seams, the right counselor and friends helped me understand that I didn't have to accept emotional abuse.

    As I see the miracles that happened in my life. I learned to recognize that one of the best measuring sticks for whether God finds you acceptable, is whether he trust you enough to act for him as he gives you promptings to help others. I have learned that the flip side of the Atonement, that is wasn't just about forgiving me of my sins. It can also heal the wounds of those who have been sinned against. Such a simple idea, what a powerful thing.

    Many of my family members have turned their backs on me in the last two years. Even when a judge found that there was no evidence that I had hurt my children, and no danger to them, my siblings have still refused to visit my mother, unless she promises that I won't be welcome in her home. My ex is blatantly not following our parenting time agreement, which hurts my children. There are many other large and small hurts over the last two years, and I don't see anything in their actions that suggest that they are likely to change. Still, I have learned that the Atonement works on its own, and that as long as I am worthy and am willing to wait on the Lord's time, that there will be blessings beyond what my mortal brain could guess.

    When I was a teenager, if I had looked at someone experiencing my current challenges, I would have been quick to judge, and written off myself or anyone else, as unworthy of the Atonement. Now, I look at everyone with the same question; What can I do to help Christ, so that this person has the hope that the Atonement can give?

    I desperately need the Atonement in the struggles and sorrows of daily life as a human, but the hope of the Atonement is what lets me survive the daily, and look to the future.

  4. Julia, thanks for sharing your story. Your next to last paragraph aligns nicely with the final installment of this series, coming Thursday.

    And your final paragraph: I think that's a great statement that applies to many of us.