Neal A. Maxwell, “Encircled in the Arms of His Love,” Ensign, Nov 2002, 16
Perplexing things will still happen, but, like Nephi, we can still know that God loves us, a … fact which can and will sustain us through so much!
In the churn of crises and the sinister swirl of global events, true disciples will maintain faith in a revealing, loving God and in His plan for redeeming His children, which plan is the why of all that God does! (see Moses 1:39). Furthermore, God’s character, as revealed to us, tells us that He has the cosmic capacity to ensure that He really is “able” to do His immense work (see 2 Ne. 27:20–21; Joseph Smith Translation, Isa. 29:22–23).
True disciples will also maintain faith in His atoning Son, Jesus Christ, and, by being “converted unto the Lord” (3 Ne. 1:22), will be steadily undergoing a happy and “mighty change” (see Mosiah 5:2; Alma 5:12–14).
Actually, brothers and sisters, Jesus is already victorious in the greatest battle anyway: “In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33; emphasis added). The Atonement was accomplished, bringing a universal resurrection to billions and billions, lifting all from the grave—regardless of how and when we got there! Therefore, on a clear night, though we see stars of incomprehensible longevity, they are not immortal. But, thankfully, we are!
Likewise, “true believers” (4 Ne. 1:36) will maintain faith in the latter-day Restoration with its empowering visitations, its prophets and apostles, and its “plain and precious” scriptures (1 Ne. 13:29). The gospel’s first principles surely fit the last days.
Ironically, as the restored Church comes “out of obscurity,” what seem to be stern challenges will actually disclose further the distinctiveness of the Church (D&C 1:30). Nevertheless, matching our behavior more closely with our beliefs will bring relentless reminders about the ongoing duties of discipleship.
The restored gospel is buoyant, wide, and deep—beyond our comprehension. It edifies, whether concerning divine design in the universe or stressing the importance of personal chastity and fidelity. Only meek disciples can safely handle such a bold theology.
With scriptures to anchor and reassure us, we, too, can “look unto God … and he will console [us] in [our] afflictions” (Jacob 3:1; emphasis added).
We, too, can be “supported under trials and troubles of every kind, yea, … he will still deliver [us]” (see Alma 36:3, 27; emphasis added).
Enoch wept over the wickedness in his time, and, at first, “refuse[d] to be comforted” (see Moses 7:4, 44). But then came revelations, successively showing Jesus redeeming the world, the latter-day Restoration, and the Second Coming. Enoch was told to “lift up [his] heart, and be glad” (Moses 7:44). The doctrines and revelations can likewise lift us—even amid “wars and rumours of wars” (Matt. 24:6; Mark 13:7; see also 1 Ne. 12:2; Morm. 8:30; D&C 45:26). Thus we need not grow weary in our minds (see Heb. 12:3; D&C 84:80).
Our discipleship need not be dried out by discouragement or the heat of the day, nor should dismaying, societal symptoms “weigh [us] down” (Moro. 9:25), including “in-your-face,” carnal confrontiveness (see Alma 32:38).
We may shrink from some things in the current human scene, but Jesus did not shrink in Gethsemane nor on Calvary. Instead, He “finished [His] preparations unto the children of men” (D&C 19:19).
Regarding trials, including of our faith and patience, there are no exemptions—only variations (see Mosiah 23:21). These calisthenics are designed to increase our capacity for happiness and service. Yet the faithful will not be totally immune from the events on this planet. Thus the courageous attitudes of imperiled Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego are worthy of emulation. They knew that God could rescue them. “But if not,” they vowed, they would still serve God anyway (see Dan. 3:16–18). Similarly, keeping the unfashionable but imperative first and seventh commandments can reflect the courage which three young women displayed anciently; they said no with their lives (see Abr. 1:11).
Therefore, we can be troubled on every side, but nothing can really separate us from the love of Christ (see 2 Cor. 4:8; Rom. 8:35–39); worldly anxieties are not part of being “anxiously engaged” (D&C 58:27). Even so, as Peter urged, we can and should cast our cares upon the Lord, because He surely cares for us! (see 1 Pet. 5:7). Oh, brothers and sisters, the awaiting emancipation of such trusting surrender!
As to remedying our personal mistakes, we face no hindering traffic jams on the road of repentance. It is a toll road, not a freeway, and applying Christ’s Atonement will speed us along.
There may need to be plain-speaking Jethros in our lives to stretch us (see Ex. 18:14–24) or moments of stark realization, as with the original Twelve, who rightly concluded: “Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life” (John 6:68).
Besides, unless we are filled with resolve, what will we say to the heroes and heroines of Martin’s Cove and the Sweetwater? That “we admire you, but we are reluctant to wade through our own rivers of chilling adversity”?
Brothers and sisters, by divine appointment, “these are [our] days” (Hel. 7:9), since “all things must come to pass in their time” (D&C 64:32). Moreover, though we live in a failing world, we have not been sent here to fail.
Recall the new star that announced the birth at Bethlehem? It was in its precise orbit long before it so shone. We are likewise placed in human orbits to illuminate. Divine correlation functions not only in the cosmos but on this planet, too. After all, the Book of Mormon plates were not buried in Belgium, only to have Joseph Smith born centuries later in distant Bombay.
The raising up of that constellation of “wise” Founding Fathers to produce America’s remarkable Constitution, whose rights and protection belong to “every man,” was not a random thing either (see D&C 101:77–78, 80). One historian called our Founding Fathers “the most remarkable generation of public men in the history of the United States or perhaps of any other nation” (Arthur M. Schlesinger, The Birth of the Nation , 245). Another historian added, “It would be invaluable if we could know what produced this burst of talent from a base of only two and a half million inhabitants” (Barbara W. Tuchman, The March of Folly: From Troy to Vietnam , 18).
Yet some still settle for an inconsistent or incapable god. Laman and Lemuel, for instance, were aware of ancient Israel’s miraculous rescue from Pharaoh’s mighty armies, but they murmured and were intimidated by a mere, local Laban. We can be so provincial and so self-concerned. God, who oversees the interlacings of galaxies, stars, and worlds, asks us to confess His hand in our personal lives, too (see D&C 59:21). Have we not been reassured about the fall of one sparrow and that the very hairs of our heads are numbered? (see Matt. 10:29–30; D&C 84:80). God is in the details! Just as the Lord knows all of His vast creations, He also knows and loves each in any crowd—indeed, He knows and loves each and all of mankind! (see 1 Ne. 11:17).
No wonder King Benjamin pleads with us to believe that we do not comprehend all that God comprehends (see Mosiah 4:9). Ignoring the revelations about God’s astounding capacity is like playing aimlessly and contentedly with wooden blocks featuring the letters of the alphabet, without realizing Shakespearean sonnets were created using that same alphabet.
Father Abraham “staggered not” at the divine promise of posterity, because he was “fully persuaded that, what [God] had promised, he was able also to perform” (Rom. 4:20–21). May we be “fully persuaded.”
These words of Anselm are thus such good counsel: “Believe in order to understand,” rather than “understand [in order to] believe” (St. Anselm, trans. Sidney Norton Deane , 7).
Brothers and sisters, though living in a time of commotion, we can stand in holy places and not be moved (see D&C 45:32; D&C 87:8). Though living in a time of violence, we can have that inner peace that passeth understanding (see Philip. 4:7). Perplexing things will still happen, but, like Nephi, we can still know that God loves us, a felicitous and fundamental fact which can and will sustain us through so much! (see 1 Ne. 11:17).
How can we know that God is aware of us and loves us? He tells us by the scriptures—likewise, by our honestly counting the blessings and bestowals of His grace in our lives. Most of all, He tells us by the still, small voice of the Spirit! (see Alma 34:38; D&C 78:17–19).
The “mighty change” required by discipleship may seem roller-coaster like, as soaring revelations bring the gravity of humbling perspective. It was so with Moses, who “fell unto the earth” and exclaimed, “Man is nothing, which thing I never had supposed” (Moses 1:9–10). Then came, however, the divine, reassuring disclosure: “For behold, this is my work and my glory—to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39).
“Mighty” changing, however, is mighty hard work, a labor made more difficult by heeding the unflattering urges of the natural man. Too often our possibilities have been muted by the mundane. We are scarcely ready for the vaulting revelations. Imagine—a spirit portion of each of us is actually eternal and that we were with God in the beginning! (see D&C 93:29, 33).
Of course we cannot fully comprehend all this right now! Of course we cannot know the meaning of all things right now. But we can know, right now, that God knows us and loves us individually!
But, brothers and sisters, what keeps us from knowing and loving Him more? Our reluctance to give away all our sins—thinking, instead, a down payment will do. Likewise, our reluctance to let our wills be swallowed up in His will—thinking, instead, that merely acknowledging His will is sufficient! (see Mosiah 15:7).
The Prophet Joseph Smith declared that God, “before [the earth] rolled into existence, … contemplated the whole of the events connected with the earth. … [God] knew … the depth of iniquity that would be connected with the human family, their weakness and strength, … the situation of all nations and … their destiny, … and [He] has made ample provision [for mankind’s] redemption” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, sel. Joseph Fielding Smith , 220).
Part of God’s “ample provision” consists of imperfect people like you and me, committed to shining and serving in our appointed orbits, knowing all the while that we are encircled “in the arms of [His] love” (D&C 6:20).
In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.^ Back to top