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His Relentless Redemptiveness Exceeds My Recurring Wrongs

Aloha, Brothers and Sisters. It is a pleasure for me to be with you today. I love BYU Hawaii. The lush beauty of Laie is an incredible contrast to the harsh deserts of my home in Las Vegas. More important to me than the beauty of this place, is the spirit that I feel when I am here. This is a place of peace.

I believe the spirit that is so abundantly available here at BYU Hawaii is a testimony of your goodness and righteous efforts to be here and the goodness and sacrifices of the saints that have preceded us in beautiful Laie.

You are a very diverse group. You come from more than seventy different countries and every populated continent on the earth. Forty percent (40%) of you are international students. Thirty-eight percent (38%) of you are returned missionaries, and fifty-percent (50%) of all international students are returned missionaries. That is fantastic!

I am sure that many of you have worked very hard and sacrificed greatly so that you might be here. No doubt, among those in this room, there are many powerful stories of conversion and examples of the workings of the hand of our loving Heavenly Father.

The theme of my talk today is taken from an address given by Elder Neal A. Maxwell of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles. Speaking of the Savior, he makes the following statement:

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"I thank him for helping me, even forgiving me, when I fall short, when I testify of things known but which are beyond the border of my behavior, and for helping me to advance that border, bit by bit. His relentless redemptiveness exceeds my recurring wrongs."  Elder Neal A. Maxwell

I have felt very deeply that I need to focus my thoughts today on the second sentence of Elder Maxwell's statement: "His relentless redemptiveness exceeds my recurring wrongs." 

Please allow me to tell you a story about my family. As my wife, Karen, mentioned, we have been blessed with four sons and one daughter whom we love very, very, much. Our children are very close in age. When Clay, our youngest, was born, our four other children were ages two, three, four, and five. Karen was a very busy mother.

When Clay and Sid were two and four years old, our family was invited to a friend's home for a barbeque. It was held in their backyard which was nicely landscaped and contained a large swimming pool. As we were seated for dinner on the patio, Sid and Clay removed their sandals to dangle their feet in the water near the pool steps. Soon they started to argue and all too predictably Clay began to complain that Sid had done something to annoy him. Karen got up from her seat and went over to Sid and scolded him by whispering something in his ear.

Our visit with our hosts continued for a few more minutes when Karen suddenly jumped from her seat, and in what seemed like one sweeping movement, ran to the pool and then leaped in fully clothed. She scooped Clay from the bottom and brought him back to the pool's edge. Karen had our baby above the water's surface so fast that I am not sure if he even realized that breathing under water was going to be a problem.

Soon it was apparent that Clay was OK and not the least upset by his walk on the bottom of the pool. At this point, Karen turned to Sid and firmly demanded, "why didn't you help your brother?"  Then, with all the frustration that a four-year old could muster, he glared at her and said, "You, told me not to touch him!" 

I suspect that there have been times in all of our lives when our actions toward our Heavenly Father have been very similar to my four-year old son's actions... 22 years ago. Maybe you haven't been as openly defiant with the Lord as my son was with us, but haven't we all delayed repentance or stalled making a necessary commitment to obedience? Why do we do that? We know that our Heavenly Father loves us. So why are we sometimes defiantly selective about our obedience or even openly rebellious in the use of our free agency?

We are all loved equally and completely by our perfect Father in Heaven. His love for us is unconditional. He has not and will not reject us because of rebellion or disobedience. He will never give up on us. He stands with open arms waiting to embrace us. Certainly justice cannot be denied. However, the Plan of Salvation, authored by our Father in Heaven, has prepared a way for justice to be satisfied through the Atonement of Jesus Christ and for our sins to be washed away.

Please consider the following two statements about the love of our Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ.

In a discourse recorded in the November 2009 issue of the Ensign, Elder Dallin H. Oaks of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles stated; (display on screen) "The love of God does not supersede His laws and commandments, and the effect of God's laws and commandments does not diminish the purpose and effect of His love" .

Remember that while justice must be satisfied, our loving Father in Heaven has prepared a way for our debts to be paid. Our participation in the Plan of Salvation will allow his mercy and love to reclaim us. 

The second statement that I ask you to consider is by Elder Neal A. Maxwell. Talking specifically of the Savior, Elder Maxwell said, (display on screen) "I am stunned at His perfect, unconditional love of all. Indeed, I stand all amazed at the love Jesus offers me"  (Maxwell,  Ensign, December 2007).

Let me share with you a story from the Book of Mormon that I believe illustrates the depth of love and long-suffering of the Lord. It is the story of the Brother of Jared and a brief history of the Jaredite nation found in the Book of Ether.

The first event that we read about the Brother of Jared is during the building of the great Tower of Babel. This is when the Lord had confounded the languages of the people. In earnest prayer, the Brother of Jared asked Heavenly Father not to confound his language, and that of his family, extended family, and friends. They were all granted those blessings.

Later, the Brother of Jared prayed and asked if the Lord would direct them to another land. In answer to that prayer, he was instructed to gather his family and friends and their families to go into the valley, "northward" . The Lord told the Brother of Jared that when they arrived in the valley that He, the Lord, would meet them and go before them into a promised land. When they arrived in the Valley northward, the Lord was in a cloud and He spoke with the Brother of Jared. Later, as the Jaredites traveled, they were regularly visited by the Lord as He led them continually and gave them directions. After a lengthy journey, the Lord finally brought the Jaredites to that "great sea that divides the lands" .

The Jaredites and the Brother of Jared, in particular, had enjoyed incredible spiritual experiences to this point in time. The Brother of Jared had received direct answers to his prayers. He talked with the Lord and heard His actual voice, while the Lord remained in a cloud. Also, the Jaredites had been continually led and directed by the Lord in their travels towards the promised land.

After all these travels and blessings, the Jaredites arrived at shore of "the great sea that divides the lands" . Upon their arrival, the Book of Ether tells us that the Jaredites dwelt there in tents for four years.

This is a very curious time for the Jaredites to stop their journey. The Lord told the Brother of Jared that he would lead them to a promised land. The Brother of Jared had to know that the seashore was merely a point along the way in his journey that he had not yet finished. So why did he stay on the beach for four years? Why didn't the Brother of Jared actively prepare to cross the seas?

There are some who theorize that the Jaredites were afraid to cross the seas. We have no way of knowing whether the Jaredites were afraid to continue or if they just simply became comfortable at their location. Perhaps it was a combination of both. It is possible that where they were was a place like Laie, a place so beautiful that the Jaredites didn't want to continue to the Promised Land as commanded. After all, the Lord had brought them to this spot, and perhaps it was a wonderful place. They possibly felt that there could never be any place more comfortable and beautiful than their beach location. Did they really need to continue on into the unknown?

Whatever their reasons may have been, the Jaredites stayed in tents on the seashore for four years. According to the Book of Ether, it was during this time that the Brother of Jared stopped praying. Was he afraid to go before the Lord because he knew that he wasn't being obedient? We don't know. The Book of Ether is silent to this fact. It is probably very difficult for us to understand why a prophet, who had heard the very voice of the Lord and had been given specific travel instructions, would not remember to pray.

Yet, somehow and for some reason, maybe fear or rationalizations due to his state of comfort, the Book of Ether tells us that the Brother of Jared did not remember to call upon the name of the Lord.

Due to the long-suffering, love and patience of the Lord, the Brother of Jared, a prophet with a mission incomplete, was allowed to sit on a beach for four years and make no progress.

Then in Ether chapter 2:14 we read: (display on screen) "And it came to pass at the end of four years that the Lord came again unto the Brother of Jared, and stood in a cloud and talked with him. And for the space of three hours did the Lord talk with the Brother of Jared, and chastened him because he remembered not to call upon the name of the Lord" .

Can you imagine what it must have been like for the Brother of Jared to be chastened personally by the Lord? What must it have been like to talk with the Lord for three hours?

In verse 15 we read: (display on screen) "And the brother of Jared repented of the evil which he had done ..." 

After this chastening and repentance, the brother of Jared fulfilled the commandments of the Lord by building the barges to cross the sea. Later, as he went before the Lord with his solution for the darkness within the barges, the Brother of Jared enjoyed the marvelous experiences of seeing the spirit body of the Lord and a vision of all the inhabitants of the earth. As Moroni writes in Ether 3:19: (display on screen)" and he had faith no longer, for he knew, nothing doubting." 

What a powerful lesson we can learn from the Brother of Jared. Here we have the story of a mighty prophet, loved deeply by the Lord, who fell away, at least to a degree, and then repented and returned to the Lord to serve as an even greater prophet.

Former United States president, George W. Bush, recently published his autobiography entitled, Decision Points.

In his book, it is evident from the way President Bush writes about his parents that he loves them very much. Referring to his early adulthood, he noted that the lifestyle he had adopted was regrettable. He decided that he needed to change his life and details the patience and support of his parents and wife.

I relate this to you to put into context an extremely profound statement that President Bush makes about his parents' love for him. He writes: (display on screen) ." .. when you know you have unconditional love, there is no point in rebellion and no need to fear failure" .

When we are commanded by the Lord to do something that we may consider to be difficult, we can count on His love for us, and accordingly, there really is no point in rebellion and we certainly do not need to fear failure.

I would like to share another story from the Book of Mormon that includes elements of both fear and rebellion.

When Lehi and his family left the Valley of Lemuel, they began what would become an eight-year journey through the wilderness to the land Bountiful. 
The sons of Lehi had already obtained the brass plates in accordance with the commandment of the Lord and brought them to their father. Ishmael's family joined Lehi's family in the wilderness and his daughters married Lehi's sons. The voice of the Lord spoke to Lehi in the night and commanded him that they should begin their journey into the wilderness. They gathered provisions from the valley of Lemuel and received the Liahona which contained the spindles that pointed the direction to go. Nephi says that they then traveled for many days. Getting rest at different locations, they also hunted for food with bows, arrows, stones, and slings.

At one of their stops to rest and obtain provisions, Nephi went hunting for food and broke his bow. At the same time his brothers' bows were somehow rendered useless because as Nephi describes it, "their bows lost their springs" . They returned to their families with nothing and they all suffered due to hunger.

It was at this point that Laman and Lemuel and the sons of Ishmael began to "murmur exceedingly, because of their sufferings and afflictions in the wilderness."  Then, Nephi tells us, that even his father, Lehi, began to "murmur against the Lord his God" . Imagine that sweet, loving father Lehi who had received many revelations from the Lord. He had become so physically exhausted, mentally discouraged and fearful of failure, that he murmured against the Lord his God.

Nephi says nothing about how he felt regarding his father murmuring. It must have been very painful and perhaps even confusing to him. Remember it was his father, Lehi, who had motivated Nephi to take the actions resulting in many spiritual experiences. Perhaps with sorrow, Nephi recalled when his father instructed him and his brothers to return to Jerusalem to obtain the brass plates, as commanded by the Lord. Lehi said, "Therefore go, my son, and thou shalt be favored of the Lord, because thou hast not murmured." 

No matter the magnitude of sadness and discouragement Nephi must have felt, he said many things to his family using the energy of his soul.

Nephi tells us that after his family had humbled themselves, he made a new bow and arrow and went to his father and asked, "Whither shall I go to obtain food?"  
I think that is very significant because Nephi showed his father that he still respected him, dearly loved him, and had faith that he could still receive revelation. From this action I believe Nephi demonstrated that he was an incredibly humble and loving son.

Lehi went to the Lord in prayer and then the voice of the Lord came to him. He was truly chastened because of his murmuring. Nephi said of his father, ." .. he was brought down into the depths of sorrow" .

After this, the voice of the Lord told Lehi and his family to look upon the Liahona to observe what was written on it. Nephi does not tell us what was written, but he says that his brothers and father read the writing and feared and trembled exceedingly. The spindles on the ball then directed Nephi to a location where he was able to obtain food for his family.

This is another remarkable example of a blessed prophet who stumbled, repented, and returned to the favor of the Lord. In Lehi's last words to his children just before his death, he said, (display on screen) "But behold, the Lord hath redeemed my soul from hell; I have beheld his glory, and I am encircled about eternally in the arms of his love."  2 Ne 1:15

Now please return with me to the title of this talk, Elder Maxwell's statement, "His relentless redemptiveness exceeds my recurring wrongs." 

If I could simplify Elder Maxwell's eloquent prose into my own words, I would restate his phrase in this way - - (display on screen) Through the cleansing of the Atonement we can never go so far away from the Lord that He will not accept us back. And no matter how many times we fall, He is willing and able, if we will allow him, to lift us up.

With regard to Father in Heaven's unconditional love for us, President Bush was right when he wrote, "there is no point in rebellion" .

It is my hope and my prayer, that no matter where we may be in our relationship with our loving Father and his Son, Jesus Christ, that we find it appropriate for us to exclaim with Elder Maxwell; "I am stunned at His perfect, unconditional love of all. Indeed, I stand all amazed at the love Jesus offers me" .

In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.