Sunday, December 28, 2008

All things made up

Over the past few days, I've been attempting to reconcile some ideas that, while not completely contradictory, are not wholly amicable in their exchange. I believe that we each enter into this world with certain deprivations, predilections, and weaknesses. One may be predisposed to drug abuse, while another - who has no affinity toward drug use - is predisposed to cheating. Some of these tendencies may be more intense than others, some more difficult to overcome, some more serious in consequence. Whatever the predisposition, we each have things that, if we are to return to God, must be confronted and overcome. Some people are able to overcome their deprivations or weaknesses in this life through what may be a passing (though difficult) trial. Others, like Paul, are unable to extinguish these predilections and must live with their "thorn[s] in the flesh." Their lot is to endure through the constant reminders of weakness and imperfection, through the incessant bombardment of temptation.
We have been taught that the Lord "will be merciful unto [our] weakness," (D&C 38:14) that "such mortal allotments will be changed in the world to come," (Neal Maxwell) and that all we lack will be made up to us in the world to come. My question is, to what extent do these promises hold true? Is it only to faithful members that such promises are extended? Is faith prerequisite to having all things made up to us hereafter?
I firmly believe in the Atonement's power to facilitate change, to enable, to provide mercy, and to fill us with what we lack - to make up for what we cannot ourselves do. The Atonement has power to help us confront both our fleeting trials and our thorns in the flesh. Through the Atonement we can be made whole, perfect, sanctified. The injunction is to come unto Christ to receive that perfection, which brings me to faith. Faith is the first principle of the gospel, and to access the Atonement we must have faith, right? As Moroni tells us, we need to "come unto Christ, and be be perfected in him, and deny [ourselves] of all ungodliness; and if [w]e shall deny [ourselves] of all ungodliness, and love God with all [our] might, mind and strength, then is His grace sufficient for [us], that by his grace [w]e may be perfect in Christ."
My concern is for those who lack that faith - those for whom having faith is their thorn in the flesh. I know many people who have exerted their souls to believe in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In many ways, I believe that they have poured more effort into obtaining this belief and faith than I. Yet, in the end, they have decided that they are unable to believe. I have seen and heard of people who have wept, truly wept, because they have tried desperately to believe and cannot. They want to believe yet they cannot. I have wondered lately where these people stand. Is this sort of deprivation something that will be made up to them? Will they be able to have this gift hereafter? Or, because faith is so necessary to everything else, because it is the foundation for all of the gospel, will they have missed the opportunity to pursue actions that stem from faith? Ordinances that are necessary for salvation require faith, and we are told that this life is the time to make those choices. This life, after all, is the time for our probation, and we should not delay in seeking God. I want to believe that they will have the opportunity to find that faith even though they haven't been able to overcome that deprivation in this life.
I believe that just because I cannot explain something, does not mean that it cannot be explained (Neal Maxwell). Elder Maxwell said, "Meekly borne, however, deprivations such as these can end up being like excavations that make room for greatly enlarged souls. Some undergo searing developments that cut suddenly into mortality’s status quo. Some have trials to pass through, while still others have allotments they are to live with... Suffice it to say, such mortal allotments will be changed in the world to come." Joseph Fielding Smith said, "The Lord will judge you according to the desires of your hearts when blessings are withheld in this life." I do believe these things. I just don't know how to reconcile.


Anonymous said...

I've been thinking about this post since the moment I read it (shortly after you put it online). It's complex and challenging, and makes some great points about faith and spirituality.

I've been wondering for quite some time about an issue that's perhaps parallel to the one you write about. Why isn't God's message to mankind (the good news of the gospel) so much clearer? I mean, no one religion occupies the hearts of a majority of the inhabitants of the earth. If a testimony of God's word is so extremely important, why didn't God create a world/culture/technology that could reach broad and deep into humanity? So many people live and die without even knowing who Christ is, not to mention those who live and die without knowing about the Restoration. That seems to be problematic to me.

One thing that has stood out to me over the years—something that I cling to very tightly at times—is a quote from Preach My Gospel that my mom pointed out. My mom lived in the Philippines for several years, and seeing the poverty and disease had a deep impact on her. During her study of Preach My Gospel she read:

All that is unfair in this life shall be made up for by the atonement of Jesus Christ in the next.

Something like that. I think/want/hope the same principle to apply to matters of faith and spirituality. Whatever might be deficient in this life can be made more than sufficient (if not here then in the next life) through the atonement of Christ.

Just some thoughts.

Destiny said...

Thank you for this post. This has been on my mind for a while. I have wondered if the choices we make it leads us to question our faith,or if it is the lack of faith that causes us to make the choices we do. Some people will search harder than I ever will and they will not have any confirmation of the truthfulness of the gospel. I don't understand why it has to be so hard for some people, why they have these enormous trials in their lives.

I know God knows our hearts, and knows us well enough to know what we need and in his plan it will make sense, but it doesn't to me at this time. If everyone has an equal chance to accept the gospel, it sure doesn't seem like it to me. I realize that this is my very limited view at this plan and I do have faith it will work out, but I cannot understand the logistics of it.

Annie Iden said...

Heather... I found your blog on facebook and have enjoyed reading it. I know this post is "old" but I had to comment... When I read it, these quotes came to mind.

"God, the Father of us all, uses the men of the earth, especially good men, to accomplish his purposes. It has been true in the past, it is true today, it will be true in the future.

"'Perhaps the Lord needs such men on the outside of His Church to help it along,' said the late Elder Orson F. Whitney of the Quorum of the Twelve. 'They are among its auxiliaries, and can do more good for the cause where the Lord has placed them, than anywhere else. . . . Hence, some are drawn into the fold and receive a testimony of the truth; while others remain unconverted . . . the beauties and glories of the gospel being veiled temporarily from their view, for a wise purpose. The Lord will open their eyes in His own due time. God is using more than one people for the accomplishment of His great and marvelous work. The Latter-day Saints cannot do it all. It is too vast, too arduous for any one people. . . . We have no quarrel with the Gentiles. They are our partners in a certain sense.'" (Conference Report, April 1928, p. 59.) Ezra Taft Benson, Ensign, July 1972.

"Many of the most important deprivations of mortality will be set right in the Millennium, which is the time for fulfilling all that is incomplete in the great plan of happiness for all of our Father's worthy children. We know that will be true of temple ordinances. I believe it will also be true of family relationships and experiences. (Dallin H. Oaks, "The Great Plan of Happiness," Ensign, Nov. 1993, p. 75)

"Another idea that is powerful to lift us from discouragement is that the work of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, "to bring to pass the … eternal life of man" (Moses 1:39), is an eternal work. Not all problems are overcome and not all needed relationships are fixed in mortality. The work of salvation goes on beyond the veil of death, and we should not be too apprehensive about incompleteness within the limits of mortality." (Dallin H. Oaks, "Powerful Ideas," Ensign, Nov. 1995, p. 26)