At the end of the day, when I am tired and ready to relax, the idea of grabbing my scriptures actually sounds inviting, wonderful even! Rather than think, "Oh, I'll fall asleep if I try to read now," I have found myself thinking, "Oh, that sounds so good right now!" When I have a few quiet moments in the middle of the day, I grab my Book of Mormon, sit in my comfy chair by the window, and read.
Today while I sat in that big comfy chair, Sophia looked at me and said "Mom, will you help me?" Then she grabbed her own little copy of the Book of Mormon, wiggled her little tush right in next to my not-so-little tush, and with a highlighter in hand said, "I'm going to do what you do, Mom. Will you help me?" I had to smile, then I had to hold back the tears as I realized the fulfillment of my own patriarchal blessing happening right before my eyes. What a blessing! What a blessing it has been to read my scriptures every day, and to let my children see the value in that time spent in the pages of the Book of Mormon.
In these chapters today, Helaman 9-16, something wonderful happened for me. As I read, I recognized principles that I had read earlier in Alma. I wasn't sure what chapter I had read it, and my underlining and markings were not specific to this particular principle. But I kept reading, hoping I would remember something to help me find the reference. Then, just a few chapters later, it came. One word led me to find what I was looking for--restore. I quickly flipped to the index, scanned through the list of references for the word restoration/restore, and there it was: Alma 41. I remembered what I had thought when I read these scriptures the first time, then after reading Helaman 12, 13 and 14, those thoughts were brought back to me again (since it was so recently that I read them!) and I made a connection that I have been trying to find since high school:
If I had known these scriptures, and fully understood these principles when I was seventeen years old, I would have been able to bear this testimony when I needed it:
It is true, ultimately we are saved by grace. It is through the grace of God that we are given the atonement of Jesus Christ and allowed the opportunity to repent. But while God is a merciful God, he is also a just God. And "the work of justice could not be destroyed; if so, God would cease to be God." Thus, we must still work out our own salvation--a salvation that is only possible through the Savior, but a salvation that meets the requirements of a God bound by eternal laws. Thus we must place an emphasis on our works. From the scriptures we understand that through Christ we will be saved, both spiritually and temporally. Through resurrection, our spirits will be restored to our bodies. But in order for us to be restored to our home with God, our spirits must be restored to a nature that is not contrary to the nature of God. The meaning of the word restoration is to bring back to it's natural state. So if a man does evil, he will then be restored to his natural state of iniquity. If a man does good things, righteous and just things, then he will be restored to his natural state of righteousness. "And may God grant, in his great fulness, that men might be brought unto repentance and good works, that they might be restored unto grace for grace, according to their works (Helaman 12:24)."
"And now remember, remember, my brethren, that whosoever perisheth, perisheth unto himself; and whosoever doeth iniquity, doeth it unto himself; for behold, ye are free; ye are permitted to act for yourselves; for behold, God hath given unto you a knowledge and he hath made you free.
He hath given unto you that ye might know good from evil, and he hath given unto you that ye might choose life or death; and ye can do good and be restored unto that which is good, or have that which is good restored unto you; or ye can do evil, and have that which is evil restored unto you." (Alma 14:30-31)
Yes, through the grace of God we are saved. He has given us the atonement, by which is the only way we can obtain a remission of our sins and a restoration of our bodies and our spirits. But that is not the end of the story. We are not finished once we confess our sins and pledge our faith to Christ. We must do good and become righteous, so that we can be restored to that measure of righteousness when the power of the atonement and resurrection is brought upon us.
This is the testimony that I knew in my heart but could not find the words to explain to my high school English teacher over ten years ago. He questioned me about the emphasis our church placed on good works, saying that we did not fully accept Christ because we do not believe we are saved by His grace. I knew this teacher was wrong, but I didn't know how to tell him the truth--I didn't know how to explain the complexities of such a gospel topic. Now I do. Now I think I could have that same conversation with him and, with the help of the scriptures, explain to him why we believe what we believe and why we do what we do--it's because of the Book of Mormon! It's because of the fulness of the Gospel of Jesus Christ! We have it! We know it! And we are trying to live it!
I am so grateful for this time in my life where all of these things are coming together. This challenge has come at the moment when I needed it the most. It has not been easy, and yet, is it hard to accept such blessings? No. The difficulties of finding time and energy and brain power to devote to such a study of the scriptures gets easier each day. Not because there is less going on or fewer distractions, but because my desire grows stronger and my faith increases. The blessings are very real to me.