I've learned so much about the Atonement of Jesus Christ in the last few weeks. Mostly I've learned how all-encompassing it is (Alma 7:11-13). I've been reading a book called "Believing Christ" and in one part the author explains two means of justification. First "the law", under which we must do everything right and never make any mistakes, under "the law" the only way to receive salvation is by being perfect. As you and I both know, this is completely impossible for any of us because, we're not perfect. "For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God" Romans 3:23. The other way to be justified is by faith in Christ. We turn to him and despite our weaknesses, but because of His perfection, when we join with him, we too, become perfect. The author, Stephen E. Robinson, says "in the New Testament the two means of justification, by law and by faith, are referred to as separate yokes or burdens." p. 44
I began thinking about this. A yoke is "a wooden beam, normally used between a pair of oxen or other animals to enable them to pull together on a load when working in pairs." I thought about this first yoke: us having to be perfect to make it back to our Heavenly Father. Then the second, our faith leads us to join with Christ and thus become perfect. Then I imagined a journey with a far off destination and a heavy load to carry. The first yoke, "the law", is like putting a yoke upon one oxen and then expecting that lone oxen to carry the whole load and go the entire distance. Travel that way is impossible, a yoke can't be worn by one and such a load can't be carried by one oxen alone. The second yoke is when one struggling, imperfect oxen allows himself to be yoked with a perfect, never tiring, full strength oxen. The responsibility of the first oxen is to remain in the yoke, the other oxen will take the weight of the burden and ensure that together, they reach the destination. This is like our journey of life. The destination is the Celestial Kingdom, returning to live with our Heavenly Father, and the load is all the trials, struggles, sorrows, and temptations that come with earth life. We are the first oxen; entirely human, and therefore flawed and imperfect. Our Savior is the second oxen. He has all the perfection and strength necessary for us to return to our Heavenly Father. Our responsibility is to join with Him in covenant and allowing Him to make up for our mistakes and weakness.
"Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage." Galatians 5:1 So often we put pressure on ourselves and believe that we're not good enough, that we need to be perfect, we try to take on the yoke alone. The Lord not only doesn't expect us to carry the load alone, He doesn't want us to. On our own it is not possible, therefore our Savior invites us to come to Him and receive his help and strength throughout the journey.
"For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light" Matt 11:30
I love the war chapters in the Book of Mormon. There are so many things in them that can be applied to our lives today. A few weeks ago one of those life lessons came to me while I was reading in Alma 43. In this chapter the Lamanites are angry at the Nephites go to fight against them. The Lamanites fight stronger than they have ever fought before and the Nephites become very scared and start to flee but their captain, Moroni, reminds them that "they [are] doing that which they [feel] [is]their duty which they owe to their God for ... the Lord has said that: Ye shall defend your families even unto bloodshed therefore for this cause were the Nephites contending with the Lamanites, to defend themselves, and their families and their lands their country and their rights, and their religion." When they hear this the Nephites, "[cry] with one voice unto the Lord their God, for their liberty and their freedom from bondage. And they began to stand against the Lamanites with power; and in that selfsame hour that they cried unto the Lord for their freedom, the Lamanites began to flee before them."
As I read this chapter I felt like this story was in the scriptures for me. The Nephites are righteous, they are doing what they believe is their duty to God. But they still fear and begin to lose the battle. Their righteousness and obedience alone cannot protect them. It's not until they cry unto the Lord- or pray- that they recieve the power to defeat their enemies. I think this part really hit me because this is something that I do so often in my life. I work hard and do what I should but I forget to call upon the Lord in my specific times of need. In the Bible Dictionary under prayer it says "The object of prayer is not to change the will of God, but to secure for ourselves and for others blessings that God is already willing to grant, but that are made conditional on our asking for them." Sometimes we have to ask God for help before He is able to grant it. I know that God loves us and wants to help us in our lives so that we can accomplish our righteous desires. I know that in my quest to achieve those things I should not forget to pray to my Heavenly Father and ask for help. I'm grateful for a loving Heavenly Father, for the ability to pray to Him at any time. I'm grateful for the scriptures and that I can read from them and find answers and direction that I need for my life.