I’ve talked before about how sometimes we know something intellectually, but then something happens and we suddenly know it at a deeper level – like we now know it spiritually. We might call it revelation, or pure knowledge, but I’m sure we’ve all felt it at one time or another. Yesterday, I was sitting in church, in the choir seats looking out on the congregation, and it suddenly dawned on me, at this level of pure knowledge, how much all of us desire joy. We desire it at the core of our existence, obviously because we were created that we “might have joy” (2 Nephi 2:25). We are born with this desire for the “Joy of Christ” much as we are born with the “Light of Christ”. It is as much a part of our nature as children of God as is the desire to have a relationship with our Heavenly Father, or as is the desire to live righteously. We become lost when we don’t know how to find it, and we strive to fill that desire with false substitutes – which substitutes are made readily available by Satan.
Today, again while sitting (do I see a pattern emerging here?), but this time on an airplane, watching people board, I recalled the many times I’ve been encouraged to strive to be able to see all of God’s children as He sees them; as people with divine potential, who chose at one time to follow Christ, and who were once valiant in the faith, even if they are less so now because of the blindness lowered upon us in the telestial existence. I don’t know about you, but I find this a truly daunting task; a standard I have never been able to achieve, and of which I fall woefully short of. Yet, I equate this ability to see all God’s children as He sees them with the attribute of Charity, and we have been told repeatedly that unless we have Charity, we are nothing. (1 Corinthians 13:1-2, Moroni 7:46)
These two revelations came so closely together that I wasn’t through pondering one before the other came, and it was from this combined pondering that the real revelation came – the one that will likely change my life forever. I have spoken of two celestial gifts – the gift of the Joy of Christ and the gift of Charity – which I find myself striving to achieve because I consider them gifts that are so essential to my exaltation that I have begun to crave them, and to recognize that I am craving them. I want them badly to be part of who I have become and will become. I want them because they must be part of the Celestial me. The Lord, in His perfect timing, recognizing that I was ready to receive further light and knowledge (D&C 50:24), then explained to me that I am not expected to strive and achieve these things on my own, by the force of my own will or discipline. Such efforts are doomed to failure, because these are celestial attributes that cannot be achieved in this telestial existence except through the power of the atonement. In other words, I must ask, and if I ask I will receive, but I cannot demand. I also must “become” such that I wanted these things badly enough to ask; and I must humble myself enough to realize that I could never develop these attributes on my own.
This experience now takes me back to another quest, another desire, another craving (craving might sound overly carnal, but I think it clearly communicates that this is a basic need, a basic desire, albeit it on a spiritual rather than carnal level) …and yet another level of understanding that I received recently. It has only been in the last 3 months or so that I have come to understand that there is little I can do to make myself worthy to receive a visitation from the Savior. I can continue to listen for His voice and become completely obedient; but even this obedience must come from a desire to be obedient, not from a desire to see His face. I cannot will myself to become more obedient, I must simply become more obedient by shedding fear and pride and honoring my true nature. My obedience must come from my growing love for my Savior, from my recognition that it is precisely that obedience that fills my soul with the Joy and Charity that I crave. I feel that I have received a promise that my visit will come – that I will see His face in this life and that I will feel of His overwhelming love, but it has been made clear to me – peacefully so – that, while I am on the right path, it will come in the Lord’s time and in His way, according to His wisdom. In other words, I need to relax and be. Again, it will only come through the atonement, in response to my asking, seeking, and knocking; and not through any self-validating effort on my part. No matter how much I would like to work at perfecting myself, no matter how much I would re-make myself in His image, it is only through His love, of which the atonement is an eternal and supreme manifestation, that I can realize (not achieve) these blessings.
So, I have received, and now share with you, three witnesses of 3 blessings:
– the witness that we can see the face of the Lord in this life, but that we can only receive that blessing by becoming organically filled with love for Him, and allowing that love to manifest itself through our obedience, and that when that experience comes, we will receive the blessing of feeling the unrestrained power of His love.
– the witness that we all desire the “Joy of Christ” as part of our nature as Children of God; that we can spend our whole lives chasing after substitutes; but only by recognizing this as part of our nature; by recognizing that these substitutes are mere shadows of the real thing; and by learning that this Joy comes only from the Lord Himself, through His atonement, can this blessing be realized by first asking in humility and love and then accepting it with supernal gratitude.
– the witness that Charity, the pure love of Christ, without which we are but as brass and cymbals (1 Corinthians 13:1), is the outpouring of that love unto others; is the virtue by which we truly become one with Christ, who received His fullness directly from the Father; and is the crowning blessing granted exclusively through the power of the atonement.
I further submit for your consideration that this trinity of blessings – the Savior’s love, the Joy of Christ, and Charity – each only granted and realized through the Lord’s love and mercy and never achieved through our own efforts – constitutes the fullness that Christ Himself received during his mortal sojourn (D&C 93:12-13); and that realizing these blessings is the purpose and fulfillment of our mortal existence. I believe this is truth, so much so that I choose henceforth to pattern my life after it – at least until the Lord reveals something different, or perhaps even something greater. I pray that we all will realize this fulfillment by experiencing the Savior’s Love, finding the Joy of Christ, and becoming Charity.