Today as my daughter was opening the last of the nativity set, she got baby Jesus to add to the other figures.
As I thought about it, I was reminded from this year’s Christmas devotional where Elder Rasband made the statement about the role of the shepherd as witnesses and as such they were worthy and just.
It occurred to me that there are parallels between those witnesses and the witnesses who testified of the origins (nativity, if you will) of the restoration, represented by the Book of Mormon.
The Book of Mormon had three original witnesses, furthered by 8 additional witnesses. Eleven total to stand with Joseph affirming that they saw the plates from which the Book of Mormon came from.
Christ’s birth was witnessed by three wise men, a number of shepherds, and the old man at the Temple. We don’t know the exact count this comes to and undoubtedly there were others, but there is a simple symmetry there.
In both cases it would be a few years before special witnesses, apostles, would be called–but our Heavenly Father called just men to testify of His divine work, to establish the seeds of faith in an otherwise time of confusion and difficulty, which led to the more formal organization of His work in each given time.
It affirmed for me both of the restoration and the divinity of the Savior. Both have such significant roles respectively in helping us understand the who and why we worship, that God prepared a way by which people could exercise faith in the origins of that dispensation.
In my study of the Book or Mormon, I came across a verse that had special meaning to me as a missionary.
As my last transfer drew to a close, It was naturally to look back and ask, ‘is there more I could have done? How did I do? Was I a good missionary?’
No immediate peace came with such contemplation. I knew my weaknesses and I was afraid that some of them were rather glaring. For example, it bothered me that I never got used to contacting. Everyday was like the first day. It never came naturally. I also had an excellent memory and could easily recall moments I wasn’t proud of.
These weighed on me. I kept working, I kept giving it my best effort, but in the back of my mind these things festered.
It was at some point near the end of my last transfer I read about Alma and the struggles and setbacks he experienced watching the Church under his watch studded a little bit:
And now it came to pass that Alma, having seen the afflictions of the humble followers of God, and the persecutions which were heaped upon them by the remainder of his people, and seeing all their inequality, began to be very sorrowful;nevertheless the Spirit of the Lord did not fail him. (Alma 4:15, emphasis added).
As I was invited at my last zone conference to speak, this verse came to mind while I was on my feet. I quickly realized that this was true for me. Yes, I struggled. Yes, there were challenges. Yes, I made some stupid mistakes. But I never gave up, I kept moving in the right direction. And most importantly, the Spirit did not fail me. I never felt alone, and recognized throughout my mission the Spirit teaching me and teaching others through me.
And if I had the spirit, that means I was worthy. Which was a witness to me that The Lord accepted my efforts.
Sometimes that is still hard for me to remember and focus on. I get impatient with myself, I feel like I should be further along in some categories. Other things don’t come as naturally as I hoped they would and I am painfully aware of where I come up short.
But let all that go for a moment and just focus on having the Spirit. That is the reminder of every sacrament meeting: that The Lord will grant His Spirit to the willing. If we will keep at it, His spirit will sustain our efforts
and help us yield fruit. And then at some future day we’ll peak back over our shoulder and realize just how far we’ve come.
Tonight our son, Kreed, took his first steps. He’s been pretty close for some time now. He’s a professional furniture surfer and enjoys grabbing our legs and following us as we walk. His balance has always been pretty good and he’s pretty tough when it comes to taking tumbles.
What was particularly fun to watch was after he’d taken a few steps, the excitement he got when he realized what he was doing and that he was capable of doing it.
Rewind to earlier today: I was beginning to look at Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Joseph Fielding Smith manual that we’ll be studying in priesthood and relief society in 2014. Chapter One is on our Father in Heaven. Among other points, President Smith taught,
“I feel most assuredly that our Father in heaven is far more interested in a soul—one of his children—than it is possible for an earthly father to be in one of his children. His love for us is greater than can be the love of an earthly parent for his offspring”
Connecting the two experiences, my thoughts have turned to what it must be like for our Father in Heaven when one of us as His children, start to get it. We’ve been crawling around for so long, and we start to stretch our legs. We start to stand up straight, and we start to take steps toward Him.
And as we do that, we come to the realization that something new and exciting is before us. There’s a world of possibilities unlocking before our eyes. And with each step, our Father watches on, ever encouraging and extending His grace and support.
Understanding that, a few applications come to mind:
- Never be discouraged. Weakness and struggle is part of the growing up process.
- Don’t be afraid of failure. As children of God, we have the potential to do what God asks us to do, it just might take us time to grow into that which we’re promised.
- The Lord will provide opportunities and experiences that will help us grow but it’s ultimately up to us to take the steps.
As we were walking to Church we crossed paths with some friends from the ward. They got a kick of Olivia’s commentary on the walk:
“Icky Water,” referring to the stale puddle on the sidewalk.
“Come on, Daddy. Let’s go to Church,” she reminds as we’re about half way there.
When she saw the Church, her excitement came out in something like:
“The Church! I see it! The Church!”
Our friend commented, “Gee, I wish I felt that way every time I went to Church”
We joked a little bit about it: “Sacrament is about to start! Wahoo!”
“Yes, lesson time!”
Which really got me thinking about how I approach Church in general. In recent years, especially with the effort involved to get two small kids out the door, sometimes there’s a little dread and trepidation getting out the door.
It was good reminder to put off the natural man through the atonement of Christ and become as a little child, humble, meek, willing (see Mos. 3:19).