(Continued from last week…)
In review, recapping The Nature of Certain Things, part 1, part 2, and part 3, the nature of mortal man is that we are all fallen, all broken, all black sheep, who are prone to wander off and get lost. Our precious Lord, in order to rescue us, must leave His world, and come into this wilderness in search of us. Our spiritual troubles compound when we start to think we are not lost, that we are among the ninety and nine white sheep who need no rescue. According to the Prophet Joseph Smith, when Jesus gave the parable of the lost sheep, it was directed at the Pharisees and Sadducees who despised sinners and criticized Jesus for associating with them. Joseph taught that Jesus was, in essence, saying to them, ‘I am come to save those who are lost. You Pharisees and Sadducees think you are so ‘found,’ so safe in the sheepfold, so righteous; therefore, you will be damned and cannot be saved. You are always comparing yourselves to others: “Great me, little you!”’
No wonder there is so much more joy in heaven over one black sheep who knows he’s lost and gets found, than over ninety and nine persons who think they are so righteous, so white, so worthy, they need no saving. Jesus also gave this parable:
“Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican.
“The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.
“I fast twice in a week, I give tithes of all that I possess.
“And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.
“I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other” (Luke 18: 10-14).
Justified means to be made righteous in the Lord’s eyes.
The nature of worthiness is that we are all unworthy before God, and our unworthiness should be acknowledged.
The nature of righteousness is not about the abundant volume and variation of our good works, but is so connected with our intent, or the ‘why’ behind those works.
So, my fellow black sheep—children of the Most High—let’s not focus on the works, but let our focus be on our love for the Lord; and I guarantee you, we will do the works because of that honest, grateful love. Don’t be preoccupied with whether you are doing enough of your family history, or enough missionary work, or if you’re attending the temple enough. Rather, be preoccupied with whether you love the Lord with a love that’s deep enough and sincere enough; with a heart that is full, and drawn out in adoration for Him. Ask yourself if you truly feel to “render all the thanks and praise which your whole soul has power to possess, to that God who has created you, and has kept and preserved you, and has caused that [you] should rejoice” (Mosiah 2: 20, emphasis added). If you come to feel this way, then I tell you, you will do the works! Nothing will be able to keep you from doing the works; and they will be the works of righteousness, whether they be great or small. Remember, a widow’s mite—whether in money or service—given with real intent and love for the Lord adds more to the heavenly kingdom than all the magnificent treasures and gifts cast in without love and full purpose of heart. To these, Jesus will say: “You never knew me.” No wonder our Savior taught in prayer that this is life eternal, that we might know the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom He has sent. (See John 17:3, emphasis added.) Knowing Them is loving Them. And loving Them changes everything for us.
Now, this does not mean—I repeat, this does not mean!—that we should wait until we know and love the Lord before we will go out and do anything that’s good. I have heard people say that they don’t want to be a home teacher because they don’t want to be assigned to love someone. It doesn’t feel honest to them. They feel like they’re pretending to care and they don’t like it. And I commend them for their integrity. But I also say to them that they are focusing on the wrong person. How do they feel towards the Lord? Do they love Him? Do they care for Him and His feelings? Home teaching is His program for the watch-care of His little ones, that they might be remembered, and nourished, and kept in the right way. If you and I really love the Lord, then we will want to help Him take care of His children, whether we know them or not. We will be the day care that He can count on. In this way, it becomes about Him and not about us. It becomes about His heart bursting with love for His family, and our desire to bring joy to that heart of His.
Because of the veil, this is an attitude that is difficult to hold on to. But that is one of the purposes of the journey of our lives—to grow to this celestial view and let it become the motivating cause for everything we do. And the truth is, the more we do out of love for our Lord, the more we will feel a genuine love for our fellowmen, friend and stranger alike.
We are, each one of us, that little lamb He seeks to rescue. May we remember our unworthiness before Him; and may we come to know Him, and love Him in such a way that we will never hear those words from His lips: “Ye never knew me; depart from me ye that work iniquity.”