Planting the Word

jesus-christ-art-profile-love-37700-wallpaperIn a famous chapter of The Book of Mormon, the prophet Alma teaches a group of people who have been cast out of their place of worship because of their poverty. To this marginalized group, Alma explains that the quality of their worship has much more to do with the quality of their faith than with the quality of the building in which they worship. He then proceeds, inviting them to reinvigorate their worship, to “exercise a particle of faith” (Alma 32:27), by receiving his prophetic message:

Now, we will compare the word unto a seed. Now, if ye give place, that a seed may be planted in your heart, behold, if it be a true seed, or a good seed, if ye do not cast it out by your unbelief, that ye will resist the Spirit of the Lord, behold, it will begin to swell within your breasts; and when you feel these swelling motions, ye will begin to say within yourselves—It must needs be that this is a good seed, or that the word is good, for it beginneth to enlarge my soul; yea, it beginneth to enlighten my understanding, yea, it beginneth to be delicious to me. (Alma 32:28)

This pattern—of receiving a seed, allowing it space to grow, and then cultivating it if it does grow—has often been presented to me as a blueprint for learning gospel principles. Want to know whether The Book of Mormon is true? Rather than reject it outright, give it a chance, try out the doctrine it teaches, and see whether it blesses your life. Struggling with the law of tithing? Plant the seed by paying tithing, and then look forward to the fruit that that seed will produce. Not sure whether you should go to school in Ohio or in Utah? Pay attention to which of the options enlarges your soul, enlightens your understanding, and begins to be delicious to you—and that’s how you’ll recognize the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

The teachings in Alma 32 are powerful and flexible, applicable to countless situations, principles, and questions. As I write, I don’t mean to diminish that powerful flexibility or to say that we’ve gone off the rails if we’ve used Alma’s seed-planting pattern to strengthen our faith either in general or in relation to a particular principle (because then I’d be as off the rails as anyone I know). However, I’ve recently realized that Alma had something different, something very specific, in mind when he taught the impoverished crowd about seeds and faith. He wasn’t talking about some abstract capacity for belief, nor was he talking about developing enough faith to pay tithing—he was talking about Jesus Christ and about the crucial importance of putting Him at the heart of our faith and worship.

In the thirty-third (and much less famous) chapter of Alma, the gathered crowd asks the prophet how they can begin to plant the word in their hearts, and Alma replies, “[B]egin to believe in the Son of God, that he will come to redeem his people” (Alma 33:22), going on to say in verse 23: “I desire that ye shall plant this word [that is, the Son of God] in your hearts, and as it beginneth to swell even so nourish it by your faith. And behold, it will become a tree, springing up in you unto everlasting life. And then may God grant unto you that your burdens may be light, through the joy of his Son.” Thus, Alma explains that he isn’t talking about planting just any word into our hearts—he’s talking about planting Christ, the very Word that “was with God” and that “was God” from the beginning (John 1:1).

Alma’s clarification, which I’ve somehow missed more times than I’d care to count, pulls faith down from the lofty realm of abstraction and lands it firmly on the rock of the living Christ. In that light, I’ve been learning that faith in general, and my faith in particular, is not just about my attitude towards the unknown, my willingness to believe religious things, or my commitment to attend church regularly—it really is (or should be) about the quality of my relationship with Jesus Christ and my confidence in Him. That kind of faith is not a matter of ideas, doctrines, rites, or politics; instead, it is focused on the Son of God, the Redeemer of all humanity, who entreats, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28). Further, that kind of faith does not just promise new knowledge or even refined wisdom; instead, it offers an Ally, an Advocate, an unfailing Friend. It offers a relationship with the Almighty.

So, with the beginning of a new year, I aim to recommit myself. Rather than commit myself more fully to some particular aspect of the gospel, though, I aim to commit more fully to the One whose gospel it is. I can only begin to guess at what lies ahead, but I trust that, by focusing on “the author and finisher of [my] faith” (Hebrews 12:2), I will find far more than soothing words and compelling philosophies: I expect to find a deeper awareness of God’s love and of heaven’s help as well as an increased capacity to face challenges and to embrace opportunities—for, as Paul wrote long ago, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Philippians 4:13).


The Church of Jesus Christ

go-ye-therefore-and-teach-all-nations-39610-wallpaperSpeaking of an occasionally overlooked aspect of Jesus’ mortal ministry, Elder Tad R. Callister said, “Christ built a home to best accommodate the spiritual needs of His children. It was called His Church.” In addition to healing the sick, teaching the multitudes, and performing other mighty miracles, the Savior established a Church—an authorized organization—in order to provide a spiritual home for His followers, a place where they could receive the word of God through His authorized representatives, worship and serve together, and partake in the sacred rites and ordinances of the faith.

Paul’s epistle to the Ephesians outlines the basic organization and purpose of the Church as Christ organized it:

And he gave some apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and from, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the slight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive. (Ephesians 4:11-14)

Christ’s Church was organized in order to preserve the purity of His doctrine. In His wisdom, Christ knew that differences of opinion or interpretation, human fallibility, or diabolical liars would corrupt or otherwise confuse the truth as He taught it (and the often-corrective nature of Paul’s epistles is evidence to the same). A single, centralized Church operated by authorized apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastors ensured that there would be a place where Christ’s pure doctrine could be found, a place where Christ’s followers could find refuge from faith-destroying philosophies and influences.

Additionally, the Church existed, as Elder D. Todd Christofferson taught, “to create a community of Saints that [would] sustain one another in the ‘strait and narrow path which leads to eternal life.’” That community of Saints (or followers of Christ) was essential to preserving them united in the faith to strengthen and support one another on the path of discipleship. Describing the same Church, which Christ organized among the people of the ancient Americas, the Book of Mormon explains the value of that community of believers this way:

And after they had been received unto baptism, and were wrought upon and cleansed by the power of the Holy Ghost, they were numbered among the people of the church of Christ; and their names were taken, that they might be remembered and nourished by the good word of God, to keep them in the right way, to keep them continually watchful unto prayer, relying alone upon the merits of Christ, who was the author and finisher of the faith. (Moroni 6:4)

Finally, an organized Church was essential as a means of providing and safeguarding sacred ordinances and covenants. In the Gospel of John, the Savior declares, “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:5). In Christ’s view, baptism is an essential ordinance for salvation: a man (or woman) cannot see the kingdom of God without it. Further, the New Testament teaches that there is a valid authority and mode for performing baptism:

And [Paul] said unto [certain disciples], Unto what then were ye baptized? And they said, Unto John’s baptism. Then said Paul, John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on him which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus. When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied. (Acts 19:3-5).

The disciples Paul addressed had been baptized, but not by the authority of Christ’s newly organized Church. Exercising his apostolic authority, Paul administered the ordinance of baptism and the Gift of the Holy Ghost to them.

Ultimately, followers of Christ “strive for conversion…Christ and His gospel, a conversion that is facilitated by the Church,” in Elder Christofferson’s words. By organizing a Church, Jesus Christ essentially fenced off His fold, creating a place of refuge and resort for His flock. Led by Him through authorized representatives who carried His gospel to the nations of the earth (see Ephesians 2:20; Mark 16:15), His Church stood as a gathering place for His Saints, a beacon for all His children.

Easter’s Reality

christus-hand-lds-454936-wallpaper“He is not here,” the angel declared to Mary Magdalene and “the other” Mary: “for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay” (Matthew 28:6). In his declaration, the angel articulated the great Christian hope—that Christ lives and that, through Him, we may also conquer death. But, in pointing the women’s attention to “the place where the Lord lay,” the angel also taught a valuable truth. Jesus Christ had lived and had died, being buried in a borrowed tomb, and the physical spot where He had lain was empty! He had been there, physically, and, just as physically, He had risen, conquering death and fulfilling every jot and tittle of the law (Matthew 5:18). Christ, His gospel, and His saving mission were not and are not merely ideas or abstract ideals—they are reality, physical, particular, and comprehensible. One of the great truths of this Easter season is that the God we worship is not an abstraction, not an esoteric intellectual concept: no, He is a living, physical Being who sent His Son to teach us by actual, physical example.

I think there’s a simple significance to Jesus’ repeated invitation to follow Him. He isn’t asking us to follow an idea or to pursue a philosophy. We’re meant to follow Him—an individual who walked on this earth and did marvelous things for the love of God that was in Him. When He says, “Follow me,” He’s effectively saying, “the works which ye have seen me do that shall ye also do” (3 Nephi 27:21). Christ went about doing good: healing the sick, teaching the ignorant, comforting the distressed, defending the truth, and easing burdens wherever He found them. If we are to be His disciples and truly follow Him, we only need to do the same. Imagine how much more difficult it would be to follow Christ if He had only given us abstractions, concepts, or philosophies: how could we ever know that what we were doing was the true expression of His gospel? But, because Christ taught by the strength of His personal example, we have a clear, accessible model to follow. There is no ambiguity. We, as disciples, are meant to do what He did as He did it.

The testimony of the women, apostles, and others who witnessed the resurrected Christ is a testimony that Christianity is more than just another idea among ideas. Christians do not follow some abstract truth: they follow the One who is “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). Jesus Christ lived nearly two thousand years ago and left a specific, indelible example of how we ought to enact our love for God and for our neighbors. Beyond that, though, He died and rose again on that first Easter morning, showing Himself to be far more than a good and wise man: He is the prophesied Messiah, the Son of God, who holds power over death and sin. And He yet lives, our perfect example and supporter.

This Easter, I am, of course, grateful for the message of hope in the resurrection and redemption that Christ wrought in rising from the tomb. Additionally, however, I am grateful for the security and clarity that come from being able to place my faith in Him, a perfect, unchanging, singular being rather than in a shifting, shapeless abstraction. There is power in following the living Christ, in emulating the practical reality of His example. He lives. Today is the day on which we commemorate that fact. And because He lives, He can teach us, lift us, and invite us unto Him, saying, “Arise and come forth unto me, that ye may thrust your hands into my side, and also that ye may feel the prints of the nails in my hands and in my feet, that ye may know that I am the God of Israel, and the God of the whole earth, and have been slain for the sins of the world” (3 Nephi 11:14).

Perfect in Christ


Some of my favorite verses of scripture are found at the very end of the Book of Mormon. At the conclusion of his record, the prophet Moroni, writes:

Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God. And again, if ye by the grace of God are perfect in Christ, and deny not his power, then are ye sanctified in Christ by the grace of God, through the shedding of the blood of Christ, which is in the covenant of the Father unto the remission of your sins, that ye become holy, without spot. (Moroni 10:32-33)

In particular, I find strength and courage in the phrase “perfect in Christ” for the way that it teaches me about my Savior’s role, about my responsibilities, and about my relationship to Him.

Jesus Christ, as the poet Richard Alldridge put it, “seized the keys of death and hell” by suffering for our sins and sorrows and subsequently dying and then returning as a resurrected being. Because He holds those keys, Jesus Christ has the legal right to set the conditions redemption. He satisfied the law (Matthew 5:17-18) and, therefore, became a new Lawgiver, giving us a law that finds its expression in His gospel and which includes faith, repentance, baptism, and the laying on of hands for the Gift of the Holy Ghost.

Because we are all fated to die and because we all have or will commit sin at some point in our brief lives, we are all disqualified from inheriting a place in the kingdom of our Father in Heaven (Alma 11:37). No amount of effort on our part can secure our salvation. However, Jesus Christ paid the price and has set the terms for receiving His saving grace.

My efforts, then, are not valuable because they perfect me and lead me to salvation—they are valuable because they bring me into a covenant relationship with Christ. That covenant relationship is at the heart of these two verses from the Book of Mormon. Their basic claim is that if we eschew evil and live with love for God, Christ will forgive our sins, sanctify us, and qualify us for salvation in the Kingdom of God. Conversely, no matter how much good we manage do on our own, our efforts are insufficient if we are not bound to Christ in that covenant relationship—for “we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do” (2 Nephi 25:23).

The law that Jesus satisfied is a law of strict justice, a law that would have condemned each of us to an eternity far from the presence of our Father in Heaven. But, because Jesus satisfied that law of justice, we have access to mercy and to the hope that, as we follow Christ’s guiding counsel, He will qualify us for salvation on the strength of His merits. He has paid the price, and because of that, we all can have the hope that Elder J. Devn Cornish expressed when he said:

I witness to you that if you will really try and will not rationalize or rebel—repenting often and pleading for the grace, or help, of Christ—you positively are going to be “good enough,” that is, acceptable before the Lord; you are going to make it to the celestial kingdom, being perfect in Christ; and you are going to receive the blessings and glory and joy that God desires for each of His precious children—including specifically you and me.

As I Have Done

young-adults-serving-1154923-wallpaperEarly in the Book of Mormon, the prophet Nephi receives a vision of Jesus Christ’s mortal ministry, seeing, nearly six hundred years before His birth, the life that Jesus was to lead. Nephi wrote:

And I beheld that he went forth ministering unto the people, in power and great glory…. [A]nd I beheld the Lamb of God going forth among the children of men. And I beheld multitudes of people who were sick, and who were afflicted with all manner of diseases, and with devils and unclean spirits…. And they were healed by the power of the Lamb of God; and the devils and the unclean spirits were cast out. (1 Nephi 11:28, 31).

In addition to the many sermons that Jesus gave, the many parables that He delivered, and the many miracles that He accomplished, Jesus demonstrated a life of service—healing, blessing, and lifting all those that He encountered. As the ancient apostle Peter put it, Jesus “went about doing good” (Acts 10:38), setting an incomparable example of love and kindness.

Speaking of Jesus’ example, President Dieter F. Uchtdorf said, “When I think of the Savior, I often picture Him with hands outstretched, reaching out to comfort, heal, bless, and love. And He always talked with, never down to, people. He loved the humble and the meek and walked among them, ministering to them and offering hope and salvation.” Everywhere He went, the Savior left people better than He found them. That pattern of lifting all those He met, President Uchtdorf went on to say, “is what He would be doing if He were living among us today; and it is what we should be doing as His disciples.”

Indeed, all that Jesus did, in addition to being an expression of love for those He lifted, was an example for us to follow, a model of true Christian living. He said as much to His disciples near the end of His mortal ministry: “For I have given you an example, that ye should do as I have done to you” (John 13:15). Thus, if we are to count ourselves true followers of Christ, we ought to be anxiously engaged in doing good, in lifting and in loving those around us. Attending church isn’t enough, owning a Bible isn’t enough, having good feelings about Jesus isn’t enough—if we only embrace the precepts of religion without adopting the lifestyle of love and service that religion requires, we are only living with partial faith. Jesus’ ministry was not limited to good ideas—it was substantiated by good actions. If we are to truly follow Christ’s example, our actions must reflect our faith. As James puts it, “I will shew thee my faith by my works” (James 2:18).

We, as Christians, have a sacred charge to follow the example of the Savior and to go about doing good, leaving everyone that we meet better than we find them. The exact nature of our personal ministries will vary depending on our circumstances, but the purpose—the Christian love—that motivates our ministry will be the same. Speaking of that central responsibility to reflect Christ’s love in our lives, President Uchtdorf encourages us to action, saying:

I hope that we welcome and love all of God’s children, including those who might dress, look, speak, or just do things differently. It is not good to make others feel as though they are deficient. Let us lift those around us. Let us extend a welcoming hand. Let us bestow upon our brothers and sisters in the Church a special measure of humanity, compassion, and charity so that they feel, at long last, they have finally found home.

Every individual we meet on this journey of mortality is a child of God, a soul of infinite worth and eternal potential. With the eye of faith, we can see others’ true worth—and by the power of faith, we can act in order to confirm others’ worth and lift them, wherever they stand. Jesus lived and died to prepare a place for all of God’s children in our heavenly home. We can follow His example of love by making sure that we help God’s children to feel at home, to feel that they are a valued part of God’s eternal family.

The Promised Savior

nativity-1168845-wallpaper Amid the great sorrows and undeserved suffering recorded in the Bible (see, for example, Hebrews 11:36-38), the God of Abraham promised His children a deliverer, a savior, whose name would “be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6). Of course, it was kind of God to promise relief to His struggling children—but He did not just offer encouraging words. God kept His word and sent His Son. During the Christmas season, we celebrate the arrival of the promised Savior.

At the beginning of His ministry, Jesus stood in a Nazarene synagogue and read from a prophecy—a promise—made by God through Isaiah:

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, to preach the acceptable year of the Lord. (Luke 4:18)

Jesus then sat down and declared, “This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears” (Luke 4:21), announcing that the Savior had come and that, with His arrival, promised deliverance, relief, and salvation were close at hand. Indeed, throughout His ministry, Jesus relieved the suffering, liberated the captive, preached the gospel, and healed the brokenhearted, fulfilling the many promises which God had made centuries before. Ultimately, Jesus gave His life at Golgotha and then rose  from the tomb, liberating all from the despair of death, a triumph that Paul celebrated when he exclaimed, “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?” (I Corinthians 15:55). Surely, where God promised a Savior, He also provided one, showing His people in every age that He keeps His promises and provides for His children.

Of course, the coming of a Savior doesn’t mean that we live in a world without adversity or suffering. At times, we may cry out, like John A. Widtsoe, “How long, O Lord most holy and true, / Shall shadowed hope our joy delay?” (Hymns, No.126). Perhaps because of a spoiled relationship, a lost job, a chronic illness, a lost loved one, or a persistent character flaw, we may find ourselves wondering how a loving God could ever have allowed us to fall into misfortune. However, we can find comfort and courage in the still-binding promises that God has made to us through His Son: “I will not leave you comfortless” (John 14:18); “[B]ecause I live, ye shall live also” (John 14:19); “Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3); “Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy” (Matthew 5:7).

Around two thousand years ago, the promised Savior was born. That Savior came because God knew that we would be living in a challenging, adverse world. He knew that injustices would arise, that we’d hold ourselves back by our own weaknesses, and that sickness, sadness, and death would surround us during our lifetimes. But He also knew that He wanted us, His beloved children, to live with Him throughout the eternities, so He promised us a way to overcome the world, a Savior to lift us above the trials of mortality and to carry us to our heavenly home—and He has honored that promise. Jesus Christ is the promised Savior, the One through whom our Heavenly Father will keep all His promises. This Christmas, let us rejoice in the knowledge that God sent His Son, our loving Savior, and let us celebrate too the many inspiring promises He has made to us and that we know He will surely keep. Because we know that God is a keeper of promises, we can let go of our fears and uncertainty and, instead, go forward in faith, confident that His marvelous promises will all be fulfilled.

Let Not Your Heart Be Troubled

jesus-christ-last-supper-apostles-157161-wallpaperHours away from the suffering, betrayal, abuse, and false accusations that would lead to His crucifixion, Jesus gathered with the apostles in Jerusalem. The weight of every sin, every heartache, every doubt, every fear, every sickness, and every injury from the dawn of creation to the end of days loomed, monolithic, on Christ’s horizon. He had dismissed Judas the traitor and had told the remaining eleven apostles that they could not follow Him where He was headed (John 13:27, 33). Surely, on the edge of the universe’s most ardent crucible, He could have taken the opportunity to ask His friends for their help. He was about to suffer on their behalf—didn’t He at least have the right to count on their sympathy and support?

However, at a moment when any mortal care should have been completely eclipsed by the horrors that awaited Him, Jesus told His closest disciples, “I will not leave you comfortless” (John 14:18). Those eleven men, at the frontier of a new religious movement, were hours away from losing their leader, from being lost into a viciously unsympathetic world, from facing uncertainties and sorrows that they did not yet comprehend. Their coming difficulties—infinitesimal next to the Savior’s—were, nonetheless, poignant and real to Him. “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you,” Jesus said, setting aside His own concerns. “Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27).

Jesus’ hour had come, but the heavy burdens that He was about to bear did not make Him aloof to the burdens of His friends. In a gesture of incomparable compassion, He eased their fears, offering peace to their souls and teaching us that He will do the same for us. Even when it would have been justified, Jesus did not look away from His disciples’ troubles—and there is nothing that could convince Him to look away from ours. Through His miraculous, compassionate, and perfect love, we are somehow central to all that He does, and He is eager to see us through the troubles that we face.

Often, I look to the future with a troubled heart. Perhaps like the ancient disciples, I see only my own uncertainties. How can I make time to achieve my goals? How can I use my skills to establish a career in order to support a family someday? How can I navigate the nuanced ambiguities of emotion and commitment that lead to marriage (so that there’s a family to support someday)? How can I be sure that any of what I’m doing today will get me where I want to be tomorrow? The worries and questions badger me so insistently at times that they seem to overpower the still, small voice of the Messiah who promised, “I will not leave you comfortless,” leaving me to forget His injunction neither to fear nor to let my heart be troubled.

Speaking of that injunction, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland said, “That may be one of the Savior’s commandments that is…almost universally disobeyed; and yet I wonder whether our resistance to this invitation could be any more grievous to the Lord’s merciful heart.” If the Savior can set aside His cosmic concerns to help us with our mortal discomforts, shouldn’t we be able to set aside our passing worries in order to accept His help? Surely, He wants to help us, to comfort us, but He is restrained when we are unwilling to let Him work in our lives.

Though my worries can sometimes speak louder than divine reassurances, there have been times when I’ve managed to silence my fears and trust in Christ’s care—and peace and courage have always come. When I think about the things that must be on the to-do list of the Almighty, it leaves me awestruck that I could have a place on it, that He would have time and care enough to help me work out my little, frustrating puzzles. That isn’t because I’m exceptional in any way, though: it’s because He is. His compassion and patience are so great that He will give peace to those who ask it and comfort to those who need it. He promises us that unfailing compassion, accessible whenever we need it, if we will just trust Him enough to set our fears and troubles at His feet.

Jesus Wept

mary-martha-lazarus-1104310-gallery“Now Jesus loved Martha, and her sister, and Lazarus,” the Gospel of John tells us (John 11:5), so, when Martha and Mary sent Him word that their brother, Lazarus, was gravely ill, they must have expected that He would have come right away in order to perform a miracle, in order to heal their brother and stabilize their lives. Jesus, however, did not come—not right away. Instead, He said, “This sickness is not unto death, but for the glory of God, that the Son of God might be glorified thereby,” and He “abode two days still in the same place where he was” (11:4, 6).

While Jesus waited, Lazarus died, and his sisters resigned themselves to laying their brother in the tomb. Finally, Jesus made His way to Judæa, where He found Mary, Martha, and many others in mourning.

Martha must have been bewildered at the Lord’s late arrival. Word had been sent to Him in time, but something had delayed Him, preventing Him from saving Lazarus while he yet lived. In her sorrow—perhaps even feeling betrayed by the delay—Martha approached Jesus and said, “Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died” (John 11:21). Martha, however, then asserted her faith that all was not lost, and she led Jesus to her brother’s tomb. At the tomb, Mary fell down at Jesus’ feet and, echoing her sister’s sorrow, said, “Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died” (11:32).

“The sight of the two women so overcome by grief,” James E. Talmage once wrote, “caused Jesus to sorrow so that He groaned in spirit and was deeply troubled.” Indeed, “Jesus wept” (John 11:35), showing us that God—even the Master and Architect of all things—sorrows along with us in our moments of anguish. Jesus knew that He had come to restore Lazarus’ life, but that did not stop Him from comprehending the sorrow of Lazarus’ death or from weeping with those grieving sisters.

Speaking of this sacred, tearful moment, Linda S. Reeves said, “This experience testifies of the compassion, empathy, and love that our Savior and our Heavenly Father feel for each of us every time we are weighed down by the anguish, sin, adversity, and pains of life.” They are not unfeeling arbiters of cosmic justice and order. They are our Father and our Savior, and they love us with such depth that it is impossible for them to ignore our pain. Thus, our tears are not infinitesimal blips on the radars of the universe; rather, they are the tears of a sorrowing daughter or of a discouraged son, tears that can move even the Almighty to weep along with us. As Sister Reeves explained:

[O]ur Heavenly Father and our Savior, Jesus Christ, know us and love us. They know when we are in pain or suffering in any way. They do not say, “It’s OK that you’re in pain right now because soon everything is going to be all right. You will be healed, or your husband will find a job, or your wandering child will come back.” They feel the depth of our suffering, and we can feel of Their love and compassion in our suffering.

Yes, “Jesus wept,” the scriptures say, and in so doing, they teach us that Jesus yet weeps with us when tears rim our eyes. He does not discount our pain because He has the solutions, nor does He dismiss it as the mere pain of mortals. Because He loves us, He feels our pain as we feel it, suffering alongside us—and, because He is God, He brings us solutions, even miracles, when we rely on Him in humble faith.

His Yoke


Recently, I visited a gorgeous garden with a ring of bronze statues at its center, all depicting vignettes of healings, sermons, and other miracles. In the serene beauty of that garden, I eventually came to stand before a representation of Jesus carrying His cross towards Calvary. I was captivated, and I studied the sculpture, the imposing cross, the antagonizing wreath of thorns, the burdened shoulders, the determined, forward posture of the wrongly condemned Savior. The sculpture showed Him bearing—very literally—a weighty punishment for a crime that He didn’t commit, and I started to reflect on all the burdens He has borne for me and for all of us, burdens He didn’t deserve, burdens we couldn’t lift. There, in that garden, I thought about His incomparable love and about the incomprehensible magnitude of His sacrifice—and I felt His reassuring love, reinforcing me against the unyielding pressures of life.

Millennia ago, Isaiah prophesied of the burdens Christ was to carry. He said, “Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:4-5). Isaiah foretold that Christ’s life was to be marked by adversity and struggle. Just as Jesus carried a cross He didn’t deserve, He bore afflictions and sorrows that weren’t His own. Isaiah makes it clear: He was wounded for our wickedness, and He sorrowed for our sufferings.

In a way that I don’t completely—or even mostly—understand, Jesus took our troubles upon Himself so that He could relieve us of their terrible weight. In bearing His cross, He somehow carried ours too, and the result of it is that we don’t need to suffer the weight of our struggles and sins. As a good friend once taught me by his cheery example: why should I suffer all over again if Jesus has already suffered in my place?

However, trouble inevitably befalls us throughout our life. Christ’s suffering, then, isn’t exactly a guarantee that we will slip through life without friction or turbulence but is, rather, a promise that, through Him, we will find a way to transcend the opposition that we meet along the way. In a very real and inexplicable way, Christ didn’t just experience abstract agony: per Isaiah’s words, He experienced our specific and individual heartaches, regrets, headaches, and woes. Because of that, His compassion is perfect, and His desire to help us to overcome opposition is limitless.

Why would He reach out to strengthen us against temptations? Because He knows the pain of temptation, having suffered it Himself. Why would He relieve the critically ill? Because He has felt the terrible discomfort of sickness. Why would He heal the frayed relationship or soothe the wounded heart? Because He has felt the urgent yearning for loving kindness. In some miraculous way, He has, literally, felt the pains and sadnesses that we feel from day to day.

Often, we hear, or perhaps even say, you wouldn’t understand, but that is something we can never tell Christ. Standing in that garden, studying that sculpture of the Savior and His cross, I felt the reality of His compassion more clearly. Beginning now, and in future posts, I hope to explore Christ’s compassion, to explore the ways in which He experienced our sorrows as well as the ways in which He transcended them. Surely, we have in Christ not only a companion in our misery but also a Savior, a rescuer who knows our griefs with intimate clarity and who knows the way out with godly certainty. Indeed, Christ’s yoke was not just to live an exceptionally hard life in order to take away our right to complain. Instead, His yoke was to shoulder our yokes, to share our loads and ease our burdens, and to honor the promise He made when He said that “every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:40).