I’ll go backwards in this post, and first share some highlights… Tuesday I did an escape room for a friend’s birthday party :)
And Saturday, I did everything! Volunteered with the Magic Yarn Project, got lunch with long-time friends, walked the Provo River Trail with Danny and Sarah, got dinner with Em…
…and worked on my talk in the evening. Which brings me to…
If you’re in for the long haul in this post (5-10 minute read), my HWN recently was pondering on missionary work, or rather “missionary joy.” We had the full time Elders in our ward on Sunday, and the bishop asked me to speak as the Ward Mission Leader. I ended up with only a few minutes as the last speaker, and shared a portion of my talk, but here’s what I had prepared :)
Two years ago on Easter Sunday Elder Holland shared his testimony that:
“…today we celebrate the gift of victory over every fall we have ever experienced, every sorrow we have ever known, every discouragement we have ever had, every fear we have ever faced.”
What are your personal falls? Your sorrows, discouragements, or fears? Think about those… My goal for us today is to experience a taste of Christ’s gift of victory over them. Think about where you’d like to see that gift in your life. In work? In school? In dating? In your calling? In your character, conduct, or behavior? Elder Holland testified that Christ has given us the gift of victory over each of these. So let’s receive that gift :) and then maybe help others do the same.
In this same talk, Elder Holland told the story of two brothers, free-climbing a steep cliff in Southern Utah. It came to a point where the older brother (John) was able to hoist the younger (Jimmy) over the final overhanging ledge, but could not reach it himself. He asked Jimmy to search for a nonexistent tree branch, intending to attempt a vertical jump while Jimmy was away — “the least I could do” John thought “was make certain my little brother did not see me falling to my death.” He continued:
“Giving him enough time to be out of sight, I said my last prayer—that I wanted my family to know I loved them and that Jimmy could make it home safely on his own—then I leapt. There was enough adrenaline in my spring that the jump extended my arms above the ledge almost to my elbows. But as I slapped my hands down on the surface, I felt nothing but loose sand on flat stone. I can still remember the gritty sensation of hanging there with nothing to hold on to—no lip, no ridge, nothing to grab or grasp. I felt my fingers begin to recede slowly over the sandy surface. I knew my life was over.”
About a year and half ago, this story brought me to tears. As I listened to it on a drive to work I realized how it accurately reflected some of my feelings.
I had become very interested in a girl I’d taken on several dates, and worked up the courage to tell her that. She let me know she didn’t reciprocate the feelings. What made things harder for me at the time, was that she told me had I shared those feelings even a few weeks earlier, she would have been delighted… Circumstances had changed though, and I was too late.
I was devastated… I felt cheated. I remember writing in my journal I wanted the world to know and tell me my life was unfair. My decision to share my feelings was my metaphoric jump that extended my arms above the ledge — frightening, difficult, and essential. And with her response, I felt like John… I was falling, sliding down a ridge with nothing to grasp.
Continuing with Elder Holland’s recap of John’s story, when John was sliding off the cliff, he said:
“…then suddenly, like a lightning strike in a summer storm, two hands shot out from somewhere above the edge of the cliff, grabbing my wrists with a strength and determination that belied their size. My faithful little brother had not gone looking for any fictitious tree branch. Guessing exactly what I was planning to do, he had never moved an inch. He had simply waited—silently, almost breathlessly—knowing full well I would be foolish enough to try to make that jump. When I did, he grabbed me, held me, and refused to let me fall. Those strong brotherly arms saved my life that day as I dangled helplessly above what would surely have been certain death.”
Against the background of this story, Elder Holland testified that “Jesus Christ, the Only Begotten Son of God, suffered, died, and rose from death in order that He could, like lightning in a summer storm, grasp us as we fall…” More immediately his strong brotherly arms can grant us resurrection from symbolic death (in my case, what seemed to be emotional death). They grant us…
“…victory over every fall we have ever experienced, every sorrow we have ever known, every discouragement we have ever had, every fear we have ever faced.”
It was the older brother John’s choices that led to his fall. And it was my choices that led to my fall. In each of these cases, the fall was halted by a rescue freely given.
After my symbolic fall, I still felt like I was hanging over the edge, but I saw evidences of Christ’s strong brotherly arms keeping me from falling. One evidence was feeling Christ reach out to me that day a year and a half ago through the words of this story. The circumstances of my life hadn’t changed — I was still dangling over the edge — but the internal integrity of my ego had. I felt hope where there was previously a black hole, and faith where there was despair. In hindsight, I can see where Christ lifted me up the metaphoric cliff over the following days and weeks.
Have you thought more about your falls, sorrows, discouragements, or fears?
I hope you can experience Christ’s gift of victory in that regard. I’m grateful He has offered me this gift so many times in my life, and I know He can give it to you too.
What fascinates me about gifts in general, and in particular about Christ’s gift of victory, is that gifts are free. If they weren’t, they wouldn’t be gifts — they’d either be purchased or stolen. By definition gifts are unconditional. They can’t be earned and they can’t be un-earned — we can’t deserve a gift and we can’t disqualify ourselves from a gift that’s already given.
The thing that is conditional with gifts is receiving. It’s conditional upon our agency. I could try as hard as I want to give you a million dollars, but if you don’t accept it, I can’t give it. I could mail it to you, and you could mail it back unopened. I could put it in your hand, and you could drop it on the floor. I could hide it in your pocket, and you could put it through the wash. I could even venmo it to you, and you could just send it back, or leave it in your account untouched. If you don’t want to receive my million dollars, I can’t give it.
It’s the same way with Christ’s atonement — his gift of victory over our falls. Christ says:
“Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.” (Revelation 3:20)
No matter how long or hard he knocks, Christ can’t come in unless we open the door. In this regard, Elder Christofferson taught:
“God’s love is infinite and it will endure forever, but what it means for each of us depends on how we respond to His love.” (Abide in my Love)
It depends on our choosing to receive it.
I recently read about the Nephites who listened to King Benjamin teach about Christ. After they cried aloud for the atonement to have effect in their lives,
“…the Spirit of the Lord came upon them, and they were filled with joy, having received a remission of their sins, and having peace of conscience, because of the exceeding faith which they had in Jesus Christ who should come…” (Mosiah 4:3)
They received Christ’s gift of victory over their falls. What are we going to do to receive Christ’s gift of victory over our falls? I hope you’ve maybe felt some of that today, and that you’ll continue to seek it.
A second hope I mentioned towards the beginning of my talk was the hope that we help others receive this gift as well. Some people who desired this were those taught by Alma the elder at the waters of Mormon. He taught them there about “repentance, and redemption, and faith on the Lord” (Mosiah 18:7). Then, after referencing the goals to “bear one another’s burdens… to mourn with those that mourn… and comfort those that stand in need of comfort…” (Mosiah 18:8-9), “they clapped their hands for joy, and exclaimed: This is the desire of our hearts” (Mosiah 18:11). And I imagine they went on to act on that desire.
I know that Christ can give us the gift of victory over any fall or failure we experience. Let’s receive that gift! And as we do I know Heavenly Father can also lead us to others who need this gift. Let’s help them find it!
When presented with questioning and doubting brothers, Nephi promised:
If ye will not harden your hearts, and ask [God] in faith, believing that ye shall receive, with diligence in keeping my commandments, surely these things shall be made known unto you.” (1 Nephi 15:11)
The “things” they wanted made known unto them were the mysteries of Lehi’s dream. In the context of my talk, the “things” I hope are made known unto us are who we can share the gift of Christ’s victory with, and how.
I know it’s possible :)
In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.