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Excerpted from a book by Don H. Staheli

Read Part One Here

Satan’s Grasp

In stark contrast to the tenderness of the Savior’s embrace is the awful grasp of Satan. One being could not be more different from another than these two. Though they share a thread of commonality in their beginnings, they could not have walked a more divergent path. Jesus Christ offers to hold us in the arms of His love. What kind of holding does Satan offer?

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Some of the early Nephites, prior to their redemption, felt Satan’s hold and “were encircled about by the bands of death, and the chains of hell, and an everlasting destruction did await them (Alma 5:7)”. Lucifer had them in his awful clutches. He was not just a source of temptation, one who might simply try to tickle their fancy for vice or put a burr under the saddle of their otherwise comfortable lives. Satan was, and is, a mean and evil being whose only satisfaction is in our misery and “everlasting destruction.” What greater contrast could one imagine: “encircled about by the bands of death, and … everlasting destruction” versus “encircled about eternally in the arms of his love (2 Nephi 1:15).”

Some of the scriptural descriptors which pertain to Satan’s holding are: binding chains, dragging, bound down, carried away captive. In a powerful and frightening representation of such hateful bondage, the Lord left no doubt as to the burden of satanic possession. Said He, “It is an iron yoke, it is a strong band; they are the very handcuffs, and chains, and shackles, and fetters of hell (D&C 123:8).”

And how does he bind us? Some seem to go willingly, as they mindlessly follow the philosophy of the natural man or woman. “And behold, others he flattereth away, and telleth them there is no hell; and he saith unto them: I am no devil, for there is none – and thus he whispereth in their ears, until he grasps them with his awful chains, from whence there is no deliverance (2 Nephi 28:22).” The results are the same and none of them pleasant or easy to endure.

By virtue of our mortality, we are susceptible to such evil influence and must beware at all times of its alluring fascination. For each of us there are voids in life. We all have empty places of some sort or another. Some of the gaps we can tolerate without filling. We can just live with them in relative happiness and chronic incompleteness. Others we can fill in a manner that will benefit ourselves and those around us, lessening our pettiness and increasing our capacity to do good. But Satan would have us choose the feel-good method of self-satisfaction, seeking to meet our perceived needs with a reckless lack of concern for the consequences. If we go with that approach, Lucifer will present opportunities for us to alleviate our longing in a manner that may seem reasonable and well deserved for a moment, but will finally be harmful and destructive to our soul.

If the natural woman or man has gotten the better of us and we are spiraling down into the pain ridden pits of the devil’s domain, a literal hell on earth, then we must do all within our power to call upon God and reach up to accept His outstretched saving hand. He will pull us into His embrace as we reject our self-destruction and look to Him to bind up the wounds and fill in the stress cracks which occur in personality and performance.

We can go from “the pains of a damned soul,” “in the gall of bitterness,” to a joy “so exquisite and sweet” (see Alma 36).  We can be released from “the chains and shackles and fetters of hell” to receive the “peace I give unto you.”

Aaron taught the gospel to the father of King Lamoni until he said,

What shall I do that I may have … this wicked spirit rooted out of my breast, and receive his Spirit, that I may be filled with joy … Behold, said he, I will give up all that I possess, yea, I will forsake my kingdom, that I may receive this great joy.

But Aaron said unto him: If thou desirest this thing, if thou wilt bow down before God, yea, if thou wilt repent of all thy sins, and will bow down before God, and call on his name in faith, believing that ye shall receive, then shalt thou receive the hope which thou desirest” (Alma 22:15 – 16).

To remove the evil substitutes for happiness that may have filled the voids in our lives, those things we would give anything to have be rid of, we must humble ourselves, cease our damaging behavior, call upon God and believe in His ultimate love and kindness. Then promised Aaron, and the covenant holds true for us today, “shalt thou receive the hope which thou desirest.” 

The Embrace of Jesus

Available to all, free of charge and there for the asking, is the loving embrace of our Savior Jesus Christ. To Him we can turn at any time, in any place, regardless of all negative considerations. The only qualifying factor is our willingness to “ask with a sincere heart, with real intent, having faith in Christ” (Moroni 10:4). He will then reach out to us through His Spirit in a manner suited to our needs and hold us to His bosom as a rescuing Shepherd. We will feel the tenderness of His acceptance, the warmth of His love and the safety of His deliverance.

The depths of human sorrow cannot take us so low that He is not there to attend. Nor are there heights which He cannot ascend. There are no imaginations of the mind, no calculations of the heart that He cannot sort through and understand.

Consider the rhetorical question of the Psalmist:

Whither shall I go from thy spirit? or whither shall I flee from thy presence?

If I ascend up into heaven, thou [art] there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou [art there].

[If] I take the wings of the morning, [and] dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea;

Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me (Psalms 139:7- 10).


I know He will hold you.

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 Nephi 1:15).

I know you can feel the arms of His love.

Behold, thou art Oliver, and I have spoken unto thee because of thy desires; therefore treasure up these words in thy heart. Be faithful and diligent in keeping the commandments of God, and I will encircle thee in the arms of my love (D&C 6:20).

Not just to Oliver did He speak, but to you and me, also. Read that verse again and this time insert your own name in the place of Oliver’s. Believe it all applies to you as well. I know it does.

Behold, thou art [your name], and I have spoken unto thee because of thy desires; therefore treasure up these words in thy heart. Be faithful and diligent in keeping the commandments of God, and I will encircle thee in the arms of my love.

Perhaps the most tender moment in all scripture occurs in the Garden of Gethsemane following the death and resurrection of Jesus. His three-day mission across the veil had been completed and He was nearly ready, it seems, to return to His Father to report the efforts of His beneficent ministry among the children of men. One thing yet to do – confirm to His earthly followers that He is not dead, but is Risen, as He said He would.

The account of John the Beloved:

But Mary stood without at the sepulchre weeping: and as she wept, she stooped down, and looked into the sepulchre,

And seeth two angels in white sitting, the one at the head, and the other at the feet, where the body of Jesus had lain.

And they say unto her, Woman, why weepest thou?  She saith unto them, Because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him.

And when she had thus said, she turned herself back, and saw Jesus standing, and knew not that it was Jesus.

Jesus saith unto her, Woman, why weepest thou?  whom seekest thou?  She, supposing him to be the gardener, saith unto him, Sir, if thou have borne him
hence, tell me where thou hast laid him, and I will take him away.

Jesus saith unto her, Mary.  She turned herself, and saith unto him, Rabboni; which is to say, Master.

Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God (John 20:11-17).

With one word, her name, Mary was able to turn from her nearly overwhelming grief and receive the Savior once again. Thus we see another instantaneous and miraculous healing. Mary’s empty heart was filled, her desperate mind was calmed and her love was renewed to overflowing.

But our insight into this sacred moment is made all the more meaningful by the Prophet Joseph Smith and his correction of the text. He changed one word. In his inspired translation of verse seventeen he replaced the word “touch” with the word “hold.”

Hold me not; for I am not yet ascended to my Father … (JST John 20:17).

Joseph corrected the noble compilers of the King James Version who had created a mistranslation of the Greek word haptomai. In the Greek, haptomai is not “to touch,” but “to embrace,” and it is not necessarily anticipatory, but can be used as a request to terminate. The injunction of Jesus to Mary may not at all have been a command to leave Him alone, not to touch Him. Perhaps it was a sweet reminder that her tender embrace would have to end so that He could depart to complete His work. It is not unlikely that He had warmly embraced his dear friend and companion and that He was simply suggesting to her that His time with her had come to an end for the moment.

The Savior is never untouchable, but is ever available to all who will reach out to Him to be enfolded in the arms of His love. Surely He extended those arms to Mary. Surely He held her, embraced her, as the writer of the original Greek intended us to know. Surely if we call upon Him He will respond with our name and we will be “encircled about eternally in the arms of his love.”

And remember, “eternally” goes both ways, forward and back. It means we have been and we can always be encircled in the arms of His love.

He was the greatest and became the least so when you feel least you can look to Him and become great.

Again:

Behold, thou art [your name], and I have spoken unto thee because of thy desires; therefore treasure up these words in thy heart. Be faithful and diligent in keeping the commandments of God, and I will encircle thee in the arms of my love.

He says to us what He could not fully say to Mary at the Garden Tomb. To us He implores “haptomai – hold Me, detain Me, keep Me and let Me embrace you – for I have ascended to my Father, and your Father; and to my God, and your God. I have descended below all things and ascended above all things for your sake.”

Even your sake. He did it for each of us, but you must go beyond a sense of the infinity of the Atonement to accept the portion thereof intended for you and you alone. You have the privilege of His embrace. He is not on the cross. He is not in the tomb. He stands looking upon you, saying, “Whom seekest thou?” His whispers your name and waits for you to recognize Him. He wants you to feel His embrace.


 

So, yield to His entreaty. Give in to His love and, please, please say to the Savior, “Just hold me. Tighter.”