Sunday, March 26, 2017

D&C 38:42 -- On Saving Ourselves

"And go ye out from among the wicked. Save yourselves. Be ye clean that bear the vessels of the Lord. Even so. Amen."
Doctrine and Covenants 38:42

The idea of saving ourselves seems strange in some ways because a central idea of the gospel is the atonement, where *Christ* saves us, because we are unable to save ourselves.  Like so many other seeming contradictions in the scriptures though, these ideas work together.

Being saved is more complex than just recognizing Christ's sacrifice, or living a good life, though of course both are important.  And there are also different kinds of saving.  For instance, if we narrow being saved down to just being saved from death, then that is something that Christ did for us... ALL of us, and it isn't dependent on anything else.  We are eternal beings, and Christ overcame death so that all of us can continue to be eternal beings, with our resurrected bodies intact.  However, if we are talking saved as in redeemed from sin, or going to heaven, there are further requirements.  One is, of course, that we have to be willing to let go of our sins and repent.  God isn't going to save us against our wills... part of that is because he values free agency and the whole earthly experience is designed around agency and learning, but another part is just that it doesn't work that way.

Imagine that your dream your entire life has been to win an ice skating medal in the Olympics.  You took some lessons when you were younger, and you can get around on the ice and you enjoy it, but you don't have the skill that it takes to win.  You might have the inherent talent, and with time and lots of practice you could get there, but you are too busy to put in the time... you have a lot of other things going on.  You travel to the Olympics with your family to watch the games, and through a bizarre series of coincidences including a friend's uncle's cousin being on the committee and a flu epidemic taking out the entire ice-skating team of your country, they need someone to skate, and you are asked.  ... You, of course, say yes, because this is part of your dream, but as you walk out on the ice to begin, we are setting up a similar situation to what we often expect God to do for us.  We often expect God to reverse the choices that we have made in life, and act like they never happened, so we can suddenly turn back time and become someone different.  But God doesn't do that.  He can set us back on the path, but he can't learn *for* us.  We still have to repent to get those self-made obstacles out of the way, and then we have to learn the lessons before us.

This doesn't mean that we can't someday become amazing ice skaters in the afterlife, of course... there are plenty of things still to learn and do after this life.  From a parable perspective though, yes, there are consequences to the choices we make in life.  The five foolish virgins arrived too late for the wedding, and they were turned away (Matthew 25:11-12).  They had a limit, and they didn't make it.  Our limit to "save ourselves" is that we have to do it before death.  God makes up for what we can't do ourselves, and he helps us constantly as we go to him for help, but he isn't going to do it for us.  In order to learn to be like God and to be able to dwell in his presence, we have to learn how to save ourselves, including learning to follow God, do as he asks, go out from the wicked, be clean, etc.  Basically how to make good choices, how to love, and how to repent.

That doesn't mean that if we make some mistakes that we are lost or that we should give up.  We can still learn the things we need to do at any age or stage in life, if we repent and make the correct choices.  But God warns us not to stray on purpose, because after that, repentance is harder and sometimes our desire to repent has eroded completely.  We also don't get back all of our opportunities if we stray.  We probably won't get an ice skating medal in the Olympics, for instance, after choosing early in life not to dedicate ourselves to that goal.  But that doesn't mean that we don't have a lot of other opportunities and blessings ahead of us, and new dreams that are just as good, or better, than the things we have lost.

Today, let's remember that "faith without works is dead" (James 2:26), and let's do all we can to save ourselves, and to help the people around us.

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