A few weeks ago, I attended a “Conversation on Leadership with Elder Bednar.” During this meeting, he extended an invitation: to “sincerely ask in prayer to see yourself as you really are,” and he promised it would be a “painful and reassuring experience.”
In the meantime, I asked. And I’ve learned through scripture, inspiration, and experience somewhat of who I really am. A few scriptures help explain some of what I learned. I’ll quote here just enough to give context and highlight main points.
Moses 1 (v. 2) And he saw God face to face… and the glory of God was upon Moses; therefore Moses could endure his presence… (v. 9) …the presence of God withdrew from Moses… And as he was left unto himself, he fell unto the earth. (v. 10) …it was for the space of many hours before Moses did again receive his natural strength… and he said unto himself: Now, for this cause I know that man is nothing, which thing I never had supposed.
Mosiah 4 (v. 1) …when king Benjamin had made an end of speaking… (v. 2) …they had viewed themselves in their own carnal state, even less than the dust of the earth… (v. 5 – King Benjamin talking) For behold… the knowledge of the goodness of God at this time has awakened you to a sense of your nothingness, and your worthless and fallen state… (v. 11)…I would that ye should remember, and always retain in remembrance, the greatness of God, and your own nothingness…
From Moses and King Benjamin, we learn that we can become aware of our nothingness from the “glory of God” and a “knowledge of His goodness,” In that case, it must be a good thing to know. So, what is this sense of nothingness that we should always remember? In the same meeting, Elder Bednar quoted,
Ether 12:27 And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble…
He pointed out that “weakness” here is singular — referring to our weakness in general. I think our nothingness is who we are without God and without Christ. Here’s my own experience that helped me relate to those described above…
At that same meeting with Elder Bednar, I prayed for and desired to see myself as I really am. The answer confused me… Up until that point, I was gaining personal insights, focused, following the discussion, making connections, feeling uplifted, and feeling “in tune” with the Spirit. Then, relatively abruptly, I felt nothing… I felt to say as Christ did, “Why hast thou forsaken me?”
Gradually, the juxtaposition of these two states helped me learn that so much of who I am is Christ and His enabling power. The ability to focus, to learn, to explain truth, to know who I am, to maintain my testimony, to bear testimony, to think quickly, to have faith, to love — all these things, and many more, are gifts of the spirit that so often accompany me, that are lent to me. Without them I am alone, I am weak, and I am nothing.
As counter-intuitive as it seems, as I come closer to Christ, experience the glory of God, and understand His goodness… I become more aware of my own nothingness. This is, however, by design. In the word’s of another Book of Mormon Prophet:
Jacob 4:7 Nevertheless, the Lord God showeth us our weakness that we may know that it is by his grace, and his great condescensions unto the children of men, that we have power to do these things.
The “these things” Jacob referred to were: receiving revelations, obtaining hope, strengthening our faith, and commanding in the name of Jesus. And I think many more things could fit in “these things.” Referring back to Ether 12:27, the scriptures continues…
…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.
These weak things are the evidences of our nothingness and weakness — everything we can’t do on our own. And when we humble ourselves (become aware of and remember our nothingness), we are blessed with spiritual gifts and abilities to help us become strong.
In seeing my own nothingness, I felt fear. I felt weak. I felt damned in my progression. I felt despair. But I also knew that I can overcome all those things through Christ! And I never want to forget these feelings, because they convince me of God’s power, of His grace, redeeming love, and of the power of His son’s atonement.