The Lord is merciful. Everyone knows this and everyone, including the non-religious, shout it from the house tops. Those shouting about mercy declare that we are okay; we are enough; who we are today is good, and Jesus will take care of the rest later. This teaching contradicts scripture and keeps us from Christ’s true mercy.
I read a comment once that said something like this: the Church wants to change these people as if there was something wrong with them. God loves them and He made them that way, they do not need change. They need acceptance.
And I thought, yes, that is it. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is about change. It’s about becoming—becoming like God. When we think and do things that are contrary to the character of God, we sin. Jesus Christ came to redeem us from those sins. He came to change our hearts, our actions, and ultimately our minds.
Most of us would like to ask for allowances and give justification for our wrong doings. We will even go as far as to call justification love. We’ll say we love someone because we accept them for who they are. Christ does not accept us for who we are. He tells us to “go and sin no more”. (John 8:11)
When we justify our sins, when we say there is nothing wrong with us, we shortchange ourselves. By justifying our sins, we never fully come unto Christ—we don’t completely yoke ourselves to Him, and He cannot extend the fullness of His atoning power to change us from our carnal state. We cannot receive of His offering of change if we will not admit first, we sinned; and second, we need to change.
Sin leaves our souls broken. Sin hurts. When we sin, we sorrow. As mortals, we tend to excuse ourselves as a balm for the sorrow our sins left. We will say, I am this way, or I did this because of my upbringing, or my genetics, or because of the people around me. We want to place the blame of our shortcomings on anything but ourselves. We want to extend mercy to ourselves without repentance.
The scriptures teach, we cannot be saved in our sins. The Lord’s mercy does not allow us to justify our sins now, or to take them to heaven later. True mercy is about change. Through His atonement, the Savior offers to change us from our carnal state. He offers to completely rid us of all sin. That is where His mercy and His love lie.
Jesus Christ declared:
28 Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.
29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. (Matt 11: 28-29)
What does Christ give us rest from? He comforts us, yes, but true rest is found in a remission of our sins. As we gain a remission of our sins, we are changed. Christ changes us. He changes our hearts and our minds and brings us to a point where we no longer have a desire to sin. That is true and beautiful, loving, kind mercy.
Once we repent, once we give our whole selves to Christ and allow Him to change us, then we will see His true mercy. Real change that comes through the atonement feels so much better than the acceptance or justifications we want to offer ourselves. It’s a wonderful thing to say, “I did this. It was my fault. I made those choices. They were wrong. I am sorry, and I want to change,” and then a year or more later to look back and remember our sins and to know that we have changed and are better. It’s so wonderful to recognize the healing and beautiful mercy of the Savior. We are born to be so much more than we are right now. We are born to change. We are children of Heavenly Parents. We are born with the potential to have the same characteristics as God. All we need to do is confess, yoke ourselves with Christ, and be changed through His power.
We need to be like King Lamoni’s father, who after talking to Aaron about the Savior and redemption, prayed and declared, “if thou art God, wilt thou make thyself known unto me, and I will give away all my sins to know thee.” (Alma 22:18)
Elder D. Todd Christofferson taught:
The gospel of Jesus Christ opens the path to what we may become. Through the Atonement of Jesus Christ and His grace, our failures to live the celestial law perfectly and consistently in mortality can be erased and we are enabled to develop a Christlike character. (D Todd Christofferson, Free Forever, to Act for Themselves, Oct 2014).
Let’s stop shortchanging ourselves. It is true. The Church, or rather the Savior, wants us to change as if something is wrong with us. Because something is wrong with us. It’s called sin. Because God loves us so much, He sacrificed His perfect Son to help us change, and that is true mercy and true love.
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