What magnificent accounts we have read this week in Come Follow Me. We learn of the Savior’s institution of the Sacrament, His admonitions to his disciples, and His prayers and sufferings in the Garden of Gethsemane.
In addition to being edified by these marvelous truths, I have also been made aware of many sorrows borne by those close to me. For me, it was a tender mercy that these tragedies should come precisely when we all stand to be reminded of what the Atonement means to us individually and to the entire human family.
President Dallin H. Oaks taught: “apart from death and sin, we have many other challenges as we struggle through mortality. Because of that same Atonement, our Savior can provide us the strength we need to overcome these mortal challenges.”
In Luke 22:32, Jesus Christ exhorted Peter, “…when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren.”
How are we to be converted, though?
Jesus Christ, as always, gives us the answer. “O all ye that are spared because ye were more righteous than they, will ye not now return unto me, and repent of your sins, and be converted, that I may heal you?” (3 Nephi 9:13)
By diligent, daily repentance we can become converted and strengthened and healed by the Atonement of Jesus Christ.
There are some that have decried the act of love that is calling others to repentance, or in other words “strengthening our brethren”. Those who do so forget that the Savior told us to “…first cast out the beam out of [our] own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote of thy brother’s eye.” (Matthew 7:5).
Certainly, beams and motes are not one-time extractions, they crop up like dandelions.
This can be further illustrated with the instructions given to us by flight attendants, to first put on our own masks, and then help those seated next to us. We are not to simply put on our own masks and wait for the Captain to tell our neighbors how to do it.
There is no greater strength than that which comes from repentance.
We sometimes erroneously, though understandably, think that our sufferings or trials are unique. They are not. Our individual agonies are not even comprehensive in scope.
This is not to dismiss the very real vicissitudes of life for which we all pass. In fact, President Oaks also taught, “apart from what we experience because of our sins…we all experience failure in our personal responsibilities, our family relationships, or our occupations.” We do ourselves a great disservice when, in sadness, we think ourselves alone. Isaiah 53:3 reminds us that the Savior was “a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief“. Better acquainted than we could ever be. Christ himself warns: “…repent—repent, lest…your sufferings be sore—how sore you know not, how exquisite you know not, yea, how hard to bear you know not.” (D&C 19:15)
What a mercy it is that we “know not.”
The Lord continues in verses 16 and 17, “For behold, I, God, have suffered these things for all, that they might not suffer if they would repent; But if they would not repent they must suffer even as I.”
President Boyd K. Packer taught, “He had committed no wrong. Nevertheless, an accumulation of all of the guilt, the grief, the sorrow, the pain and humiliation, all of the mental, emotional, and physical torments known to man–He experienced them all.”
We do not need to suffer needlessly.
Jesus Christ gives us the perfect example of what to do when our hearts ache, whether at grief at the passing of a loved one, or remorse for our own transgressions. “And being in agony he prayed more earnestly…” (Luke 22:44)
When trials arise we must have a more firm hold on the iron rod. Praying, studying the Gospel, and partaking of the Sacrament each week are vital steps that we may not drift away.
In Luke 22:32, Jesus Christ tells Peter that He prayed for him. The Nephites bore a powerful testimony of their own experience in this regard; “…no one can conceive of the joy which filled our souls at the time we heard him pray for us unto the Father.”
Just as we cannot conceive of the pain Jesus endured, neither can we comprehend how truly joyous it is that Jesus Christ prays for us.
Many scoff at the heartfelt expressions of those who offer prayers for those suffering in the wake of tragedy. To them, I say repent.
To all, especially myself, I say, repent, that He may heal us. Repent, that we may be converted.
“Strengthened by the Atonement of Jesus Christ” – Elder Dallin H. Oaks, October 2015
“Converted Unto The Lord” – Elder David A. Bednar, October 2012