When we receive a patriarchal blessing early in life we are too inexperienced to even imagine the possibilities of the words -- the breadth and depth of human experience we might encounter in our lives. If Heavenly Father is more interested in our growth than in our comfort, the door is wide open to what he may find acceptable for our eternal benefit.
Maybe, in our briefings about mortality, it was the specter of such extreme possibilities that frightened a third of God’s family to support Satan’s plan for “safety” and rebel against God.
I have been counseled to learn the principle of repentance, which so many fail to understand. The Gospel which we have embraced requires strong faith and true repentance and is a Gospel of love and forgiveness. As we love our fellowmen and forgive and see the virtues in them we are then prepared to reach out and redeem to a great degree many who have fallen by the wayside. After all, when we are in the service of our fellow beings we are only in the service of our God.
I had no idea when I received this counsel in my patriarchal blessing that I would be working with men and women whose lives the Lord had permitted, dare we say designed, to span such an extended range of experiences. (See My Church Calling - Prison Ministry)
I have a hard time believing that our lives are just a crapshoot of possibilities. Recall this scripture from the Book of Mormon:
27 And 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. (Ether 12) (Emphasis added)
And this also from Mosiah:
19 For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticing of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father. (Mosiah 3:19) (Emphasis added)
Also, I had no idea that my path to fully appreciate and work with people who struggle would include life-long ADD and depression, including hospitalization on a psychiatric unit, in addition to having to learn the principles of strong faith and true repentance in my own life.
So in this context I offer you the following quote which I’ve carried in my wallet for many years:
“It is my hope and my belief that the Lord never permits the light of faith wholly to be extinguished in any human heart, however faint the light may glow. The Lord has provided that there shall still be there a spark which, with teaching, with the spirit of righteousness, with love, with tenderness, with example, with living the Gospel, shall brighten and glow again, however darkened the mind may have been. And if we shall fail so to reach those among us of our own whose faith has dwindled low, we shall fail in one of the main things which the Lord expects at our hands.” –J. Reuben Clark (October General Conference, 1936)
We celebrate the birth of Christ because it heralds his death and resurrection and the resulting great blessings for us and those we love. Enoch expressed it wonderfully:
45 And it came to pass that Enoch looked; and from Noah, he beheld all the families of the earth; and he cried unto the Lord, saying: When shall the day of the Lord come? When shall the blood of the Righteous be shed, that all they that mourn may be sanctified and have eternal life? . . .
47 And behold, Enoch saw the day of the coming of the Son of Man, even in the flesh; and his soul rejoiced, saying: The Righteous is lifted up, and the Lamb is slain from the foundation of the world; and through faith I am in the bosom of the Father, and behold, Zion is with me.(Moses 7:45, 47) (Emphasis added)
So this Christmas let’s especially celebrate the gifts of faith and repentance and forgiveness that we find under the beautiful tree of Christ’s Atonement.