Wednesday, June 17, 2009

...persuading them to look forward unto the Messiah, and believe in him to come

A few days ago I was reading in Book of Mormon and came across a passage that stuck out to me. I’ve read this verse multiple times and have marked it and noted it and this time I gained yet another insight. The verse is Jarom 1:11 and it reads:

Wherefore, the prophets, and the priests, and the teachers, did labor diligently, exhorting with all long-suffering the people to diligence; teaching the law of Moses, and the intent for which it was given; persuading them to look forward unto the Messiah, and believe in him to come as though he already was. And after this manner did they teach them.

In our day and age, many seek signs or proof that something exists. We want to know with a surety that something is real and true or fake and false. Money is poured into science and the proving of theories and principles. Think about it, this principle is true for all of us; when something extraordinary or abnormal happens, we say, “no way, I don’t believe it! I have to see this.” While some of the interest to see before we can believe stems from mere curiosity and excitement, we can also be skeptical and untrusting of the unknown and unproved.

Jesus Christ atoned for our sins that we may become clean and return to live with Him, our Father in Heaven, and our families forever. God created an entire plan for us to come to earth, gain bodies, have the chance to learn, grow, be tried and tested, repent, and gain eternal life. Now, the atonement has already happened; Christ came to the earth two millennia ago and bore our griefs and carried our sorrows. We have the words of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John and others in the New Testament who were present as the events of the Savior’s life transpired and words of others who saw the birth, life, atonement, and death of the Savior in vision (see 1 Nephi 11; 2 Nephi 10:3; Alma 7:9-16; Helaman 14).

Some would say that the words of the prophets in the Bible, in the Book of Mormon, and those in our day are enough; that the scriptures and words of modern-day prophets are sufficient proof that the atonement really happened and that Jesus is the Christ. Yet others are more skeptical and require more proof, a sign from God almost. In our day, we have “proof” through the histories in the scriptures and the testimonies of living apostles and prophets that Jesus is the Christ, that He came and atoned for our sins, and that if we repent we can become clean and inherit the kingdom of God and people still don’t believe.

With all of this in mind, let’s go back to the verse in Jarom. Think about the people that Jarom, Moses, John the Baptist, and others taught. As I read the above-quoted verse, I thought about how much harder would it have been for the people who lived before the Messiah to bank on salvation from a sacrifice that hadn’t even been made yet. The people had to look forward unto the Messiah, without signs and proof, and simply live by faith and hope. We have records of the atonement and we must develop faith and a testimony strong enough to believe that it happened. They had only the words of the prophets that the atonement would happen sometime or another in the future, long after they had died, and would somehow take effect in their lives.

The Lord requires us to walk by faith and not by sight (see 2 Corinthians 5:7) and gives us signs and witnesses only after a trial of our faith (see Ether 12:6). Often these signs aren’t angels or great manifestations but simply a gentle, confirming witness from the Spirit that what we are doing is right or what we believe is true. Living by faith instead of seeing isn’t easy, but the rewards of such a lifestyle have wonderful eternal consequences. Signs do not convert. They did not convert the children of Israel as Moses led them around the wilderness for 40 years and they do not convert us in our day. Faith is where it’s at, the people of the Old Testament and the first part of the Book of Mormon needed it because Christ hadn’t come yet. We need it even though He’s come and we have record of it. The Spirit confirms to every sincere, searching soul that Jesus is the Christ, the son of the Living God (see Moroni 10:3-5). Remember, ask and ye shall receive, knock and it shall be opened unto you (link). Our proof is the whisperings of the Spirit and the visible results of a righteous lifestyle.

Christ lives and loves us. He did come, the people in Jarom’s day and many others before the meridian of time believed, acted, and will receive salvation through the atonement, and many after have believed and acted and do believe and act and will receive salvation through the atonement. Ours is the choice to find out how the atonement can and will help us. Ours is the choice to hold onto that which we can touch and see or to let go and be set free by that which we can know through faith.