Grace attended her final sacrament meeting in the Ludwigsburg ward yesterday. She goes back to Nigeria not today, but next Monday. I can't believe it is already time for her to go. We visited her this last week, and the elders came, albeit on Austausch. So Grace got to know a new elder, Elder Jensen. However, when he introduced himself, Grace said, ''Jensen?? Jen is a girl's name. Johnson. Johnson is a boy's name. I will call you Son Johnson.'' And so it was. We sure are going to miss Grace. Her faith and wit are one-in-a-million. I am so grateful for the opportunity I had to meet and learn so much from her. She is going to do great things in bringing more people to Christ in Nigeria.
In my personal study this week, I learned a lot about self-mastery, mercy, and the atonement. I read a few different talks, and one of them is called ''The Justice and Mercy of God'' by Elder Jeffrey R. Holland. At one point, he says, ''I know it isn't easy to go back and undo and make a new beginning, but I believe with all my heart that it is easier and surely more satisfying to begin anew than to go on and try to believe that justice will not take its toll.''
He then quotes C.S. Lewis, who said: ''I do not think that all who choose wrong roads perish; but their rescue consists in being put back on the right road. A [mathematical] sum [incorrectly worked] can be put right: but only by going back till you find the error and [then] working it afresh from that point, never by simply going on. Evil can be undone, but it cannot ‘develop’ into good. Time does not heal it. The spell must be unwound.''
I made a lot of thoughts about those two ideas. I thought about my high school math teacher, and how she would give us five points for each math problem. She required that she see our work so that if we made a small mistake at the beginning, resulting in a wrong answer at the end, we wouldn't lose all credit, although all of our other work may have been right. I thought about how in order to really have a perfect test, we do need to go back and correct every little error. I also recognized how it is impossible to go back and completely correct every little error, especially in sins that involve others. But that is where the atonement comes in. Because of the atonement of Jesus Christ, He can go back and correct our mistakes for us. It really will be as though the mistake never was made. We are promised that when full repentance is made, ''Behold, he who has repented of his sins, the same is forgiven, and I, the Lord, remember them no more.''
I also read a talk from Brad Wilcox called, ''His Grace is Sufficient.'' In this talk, he compares the atonement to piano lessons. When a kid takes piano lessons, it is not expected to pay its mom back. What does the mom expect then? She expects that the kid practices. Although practice does not repay the debt, it is how the kid shows gratitude that the mother paid the price. And the mom has joy in which she sees her kid improve. And the kid can only improve when it practices. Elder Dallin H. Oaks said, “The repenting sinner must suffer for his sins, but this suffering has a different purpose than punishment or payment. Its purpose is change.” Later in the talk, Brad Wilcox says, ''When a young pianist hits a wrong note, we don’t say he is not worthy to keep practicing. We don’t expect him to be flawless. We just expect him to keep trying. Perfection may be his ultimate goal, but for now we can be content with progress in the right direction. Why is this perspective so easy to see in the context of learning piano but so hard to see in the context of learning heaven?'' I thought also about how that really is our ultimate goal, perfection. But we can't be perfect. ''...unless [we yield] to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and [put] off the natural man and [become] a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and [become] as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon [us], even as a child doth submit to his father.'' This is where the self-mastery came in. That is what our ultimate goal is then. Self-mastery. For when we achieve self-mastery, we would then be perfect. President Uchtdorf gave a talk called, ''On the Wings of Eagles.'' In it, he quotes an unknown author who said, ''The greatest battle of life is fought out within the silent chambers of the soul. A victory on the inside of a man’s heart is worth a hundred conquests on the battlefields of life. To be master of yourself is the best guarantee that you will be master of the situation. Know thyself. The crown of character is self-control.'' At another point in the article, President Uchtdorf said that if we want to change the world, we must first change ourselves. Isn't that what we are all trying to do? Are we not all trying to do something to change the world to be a little better? Our purpose as missionaries is to invite others to come into Christ wherein we help them to develop faith in Jesus Christ and understanding of His Atonement. But one cannot teach others about how that works, unless he himself knows. God has invited us to ''fly with the eagles, not scratch with the chickens.'' We can only do that as we work on one little math problem at a time. Once we perfect that, move on to the next thing that may be holding you back. This is where the scripture from the title comes in. In Hebrews 12:1, we read, ''Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us.'' President Uchtdorf once said that in patience we win mastery of our souls. I guess that's the hardest part. Not getting frustrated or bored or annoyed or discourage because the race against sin isn't over yet. Keep running! The race will be so much better if we run the whole time, as oppposed to walking a kilometer of it. But if we do walk, that's okay, too. It's always possible to start running again. That's why the atonement is so important. God knew we wouldn't be able to run the whole time in the right direction. Isn't it wonderful to know that we can still return home, spotless?
I know this church is true. There is no other explanation for the miracles I have seen. I am everyday so grateful that I have this chance to share the peace the gospel brings with others. Elder Holland said, ''Inherent in all of this is a rather simple definition of the gospel, at least when considered in its essence. The word gospel as we use it in English comes down to us through early scriptural language which meant literally “good news” or sometimes “glad tidings.” The “good news” was that death and hell could be escaped, that mistakes and sins could be overcome, that there was hope, that there was help, that the insoluble was solved, that the enemy had been conquered. The good news was that everyone’s tomb could one day be empty, that everyone’s soul could again be pure, that every child of God could again return to the Father who gave them life.'' Now what will you do about it?
Sister Stephanie Reid