Thursday, August 4, 2011

A Heavenly Gift

Anyone who has read the Book of Mormon: Another Testament of Jesus Christ has read that "faith is not to have a perfect knowledge of things; therefore if ye have faith ye hope for things which are not seen, which are true" (Alma 32:21). The prophet Moroni defined faith the same way. He said, "faith is things which are hoped for and not seen" (Ether 12:6). Moroni continues to say that faith is not verified until it is tried, but promises that those who persist in faith may partake of "the heavenly gift".

The gift to which Moroni refers can be found in a story told by Bishop Richard C. Edgley in 2008. Bishop Edgley told of meeting a Jewish coworker who had survived a Nazi concentration camp for the duration of World War II. As the Jewish man finished telling of his experiences of being torn from his family by Gestapo and enduring the atrocities of the camp, he paused for a moment, then asked Bishop Edgley, "Do you know what the most powerful force in the world is?"

Bishop Edgley recounts:

Without hesitation I answered, 'Love. Love conquers all. If only your persecutors had love for you and for their fellow man, you would not have suffered as you did.'

He responded, 'No, it is not love. All those years I was in the concentration camp, I had love. I had love for my mother, father, and sister. I had love for my grandmother. But that love did not sustain me. It did not keep me alive.' And then he said, 'Hope. Hope is the most powerful force. It was hope that kept me alive. It was hope that I would survive. It was hope for freedom. It was hope that I would someday be reunited with my loved ones" (BYU, 4 November 2008).

Ether taught that hope is the fruit of faith. He taught that "whoso believeth in God might with surety hope for a better world". In turn, he continues, hope anchors the souls of men, making them, "sure and steadfast, always abounding in good works, being led to glorify God" (Ether 12:4).

Hope is the heavenly gift to which Moroni referred. The Atonement, he explains in Ether 12, "prepared a way that others might be partakers of the heavenly gift", or in other words, "that they might hope for those things which they have not seen" (Ether 12:8).

Before we can hope for something we have not seen, we must first believe in things we have not seen. Primarily, we must believe in Christ, the Son of God and our Savior, whom most of us have not seen with our physical eyes. Moroni reminds us that Ammon believed in missionary successes he had not yet seen, Alma and Amulek believed God could deliver them from prison before it crumbled to the earth, and the brother of Jared believed Mount Zerin could be moved by priesthood power before it was removed.

Because of the Atonement of Jesus Christ, Moroni continues, we "may also have hope, and be partakers of the gift, if ye will but have faith" (Ether 12:9). If we will believe it, and begin to act upon that belief, we may enjoy the gift of hope in things we have not yet seen-- rightly called a gift because it is neither earned nor deserved, but given by the grace of God as gift that we may have joy (see 2 Nephi 2:25).

We may have hope to live with God and our eternal families. We may have hope for a stronger testimony of a gospel principle. We may have hope for a better relationship with a loved one or a better job to provide for our families and the poor among us. We may have hope to endure a trial or to accomplish a great task. Because of the Atonement, we can have hope in all things if we will first have faith in its possibility.

Bishop Edgley cautioned:

Our hope can become blurred as we live in troubled times. We live in a world today of isms-- agnosticism, secularism, atheism, pessimism, and other isms... We face challenges both economically and spiritually... Perhaps most alarming is a retreat toward a godless society as more people are moving away from faith in Deity and the establishment of basic moral values...

He concludes:

Hope is a most powerful influence in our lives. Yes indeed, we do live in a troubled and challenging world. But we live in one of the greatest periods of time in the history of the entire world... We have every reason to be optimistic and full of hope-- hope for this life, hope for our children, and hope for the eternities to come... 

Our opportunity is not only to move forward with gratitude, faith, and hope; ours is also the opportunity to be carriers of optimism and faith and to spread the hope of the gospel throughout the world. After all, that is what Jesus died for. We can and we do move forward with great faith and assurances.

The Atonement of Jesus Christ is real. Because of His Atonement, each of us can have the heavenly gift of great hope amid uncertainty as we have faith in Christ-- faith that he is who he says he is, and that he can do what he says he can do. We can hope for the light at the end of a tunnel that we cannot yet see; we can hope for the glory of God we cannot yet imagine.

What will you hope for today?

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