Of what are you afraid?”
Rick thought of that morning with Carol. “Of my own sinfulness,” he said. “Of the pull of the darkness within me. I’m afraid I won’t be able to sustain the change you are talking about.”
“You won’t be able to, Ricky. Only One can sustain that change. If you remember that, your continued failures will lead to your salvation, and to the salvation of your marriage. In humility, you will ever return to the Lord. And being keenly aware of your own sins and shortcomings, you won’t demand perfection of Carol either.”
Grandpa Carson looked tenderly at Rick.
“Don’t misunderstand, Son. The Lord does not give you a new heart only once. He gives you a new heart every time you come to him repentantly, in faith, believing that you will receive. We need the gift of a new heart every day.”
“But will I be able to do that, Grandpa?” Rick whispered. “That’s what has me worried.”
“Do you recall in the Book of Mormon the people who were known as the people of Anti-Nephi-Lehi’ or the people of Ammon’?”
“Yes. They were the Lamanites who accepted the gospel during the years the sons of Mosiah spent among them, preaching.”
“That is correct. And after their conversion,” Grandpa continued, “they each asked the same question you are now asking of me: How can I be sure that this mighty change within me will last?’ They too were afraid. The reason they were afraid was that, like you, they knew their histories too well. They had been a war-mongering people that had delighted in shedding the blood of their enemies, the Nephites. For this they had sorely repented, and the Lord had cleansed and given them new hearts. But they worried that they might stumble and darken their hearts with the sins that had darkened them before. Since it has been all that we could do,’ their king declared to them, to repent of all our sins and the many murders which we have committed, and to get God to take them away from our hearts, . . . let us retain our swords that they be not stained with the blood of our brethren.’
“And then do you remember what they did?”
Rick couldn’t. “No,” he finally said.
“The scriptures record that they gathered all their weapons of war and then, as a people, buried them deep in the earth and covenanted with God and with each other that they would never take them up again.”
Grandpa Carson looked at Rick. Why do you suppose they buried them deep’ in the earth, Ricky? Why wasn’t a shallow grave sufficient?”
“They probably were worried again by their history. If the grave was shallow, in a pinch they might have become tempted to take up their weapons in violation of the covenant they had made and risk a return to their old ways. They probably didn’t want to take that chance.”
“Exactly. And as things happened, they would have soon been so tempted. For their own people, the Lamanites, later came to war against them in order to destroy them, and the scriptures tell us that on one occasion they were about to take up their weapons of war’ in response. Good thing they were buried deep. Friends who knew of their history and of the covenant they had made to keep their hearts clean forbade them from doing it, and these friends, along with two thousand sons of the people of Ammon, took up arms to protect them. These defenders had not in the past been corrupted with delight in the shedding of blood. They therefore were able to take up arms with the blessing of the Lord when war was thrust upon them, in order to protect their liberties, their families, and their faith – and to seek the same protections on behalf of the people of Ammon.
“One of the most touching stories in all of scripture is the story of how many of their brethren, the Lamanites, were themselves converted to the Lord when the people of Ammon would not take up arms against them.”
Grandpa Carson paused to give Rick time to ponder the story.
“Hearkening back to the story of these people, at the end of the Book of Mormon the prophet Mormon declared: Know ye that ye must come unto repentance, or ye cannot be saved. Know ye that ye must lay down your weapons of war, and delight no more in the shedding of blood, and take them not again, save it be that God shall command you.’
“Ricky, your problem has not been delight at the shedding of blood, but you have had other weapons in your marriage and have delighted in other sinful things. You wield cold silence. You complain. Your tongue has become sharp. You carry an air of superiority. No weapon is as devastating in a home as a heart that has stopped loving. There are other sins in your life too, not necessarily directed at Carol, that have held you captive.”
Rick couldn’t argue any of this and no longer had the desire to anyway.
“About these sins that have taken root in your soul, the Savior said, I give unto you a commandment, that ye suffer none of these things to enter into your heart; for it is better that ye should deny yourselves of these things, wherein ye will take up your cross, than that ye should be cast into hell.’ The Lord isn’t saying that it will be easy, Ricky. In the beginning, he says, pulling free from the sinfulness that has kept us bound may well be like taking up a cross and carrying it on our backs. But by that image he reminds us that we are not in this alone and that we do not have to carry it forever, for One will take it from us and, with it, the burdens that weigh us down.”
Grandpa Carson smiled kindly, yet gravely, at Rick.
“If you are worried about falling back into sin and the captivity that has held you fast,” he continued, “and you do well to worry, then I would invite you to learn from the people of Ammon. Learn to bury your weapons of war – your sins – down deep, too deep to be retrieved when you might be tempted. And then covenant with God, Carol, and any others toward whom you have wielded those weapons, that you will never take them up again. And ask them to help you to keep this covenant.”
His grandfather looked at him solemnly. “Will you agree with me that you will do this?”
“Yes, Grandpa, I will.”
“Do this, Ricky, as the scriptures teach, with all the energy of your heart,’ and you will be filled with the Lord’s love – the love that never faileth.”
“Okay, Grandpa,” Rick said earnestly, but still with trepidation. “I’ll try.”
“It’s okay, even wise, to be afraid, Ricky. You should fear sin with all your soul, for it is the freedom of your soul that is at stake. To those who fear as they ought – like you do, like the people of Ammon did – the prophets declare: Be watchful unto prayer continually, that ye may not be led away by the temptations of the devil, that he may not overpower you, that ye may not become his subjects, and be led away captive by him.
‘ Arm yourself through prayer, Ricky. You are vulnerable. We all are. Let your desires for the Lord be your shield.”
Rick took in a deep breath and looked up at his grandfather. For the first time during their meetings together, Rick felt real conviction – not the cocky confidence that covers and blinds one to sin, but rather the humbling recognition that sin is at the door, but that there is One more powerful than sin that guards the way if we will let him.
Grandpa gave Rick an encouraging smile. “I mentioned that the Lord granted me a gift during that critical week of my life. He allowed me to see the light that was shining from men.”
“It is a gift I have received again since passing into this life, and I have come to know that light – or glory’ – is the most distinguishing characteristic of man. I have seen Carol as she is, Ricky, in the fullness of her glory. You married a woman who is noble and great. You once knew this well, and still do, although you have too often forgotten it. But believe me when I tell you, you have hardly known a fraction of the truth concerning her. One day you will see her as she is, and on that day, you will be forever grateful that you heeded what you have written on that paper in your pocket.”
Rick touched his hand to his hip pocket and felt the bulge of the paper within it.
“God bless you, my son. May you give away your sins to know him. And to know Carol.”
At that moment, the darkness of the night evaporated in a sea of light. Rick found himself sitting on the kitchen floor, his back to the cabinets, as he had been when his grandfather had first appeared at the kitchen table, this too having been a dream or vision. The paper of summary points was still in his hand.
He read what he had written once more. As he did so, he realized it was incomplete.
All of this is possible, he thought, only because the Lord claimed our sinful hearts as his own, laid himself bare before the forces of evil, and through an eternity’s worth of faithful suffering broke the chains of captivity for all who come to him with a broken heart.
Rick looked heavenward, his soul overflowing with gratitude. As he did so, his thoughts turned (or were turned) to Carol. She was upstairs – in pain, likely crying. How sorry he was, now, for everything! And how petty his complaints now seemed.
He rose to his feet and quickly climbed the stairs. Unlike earlier that morning, his desire for her grew with each step. He had weapons to bury, covenants to make, and a bride to take into his arms.
He had never felt so unworthy of her love.
And for just that reason, he had never been so likely to receive it.