As we depart childhood and enter adulthood, we start to feel more self-sufficient. We can drive a car, sustain a career, and raise a family. We are adults. If we are not careful, we may think that we are also spiritually self-sufficient. We may believe that we can make ourselves into decent saints and disciples.

In contrast to that modern thinking, King Benjamin talks about our nothingness, worthlessness, and unworthiness (See Mosiah 4: 5, 11). That may feel insulting and diminishing. It may feel like we are of little value and not worthy of God’s love.  Unless we understand Benjamin’s point.

I would that ye should remember, and always retain in remembrance, the greatness of God, and your own nothingness, and his goodness and long-suffering towards you, unworthy creatures, and humble yourselves even in the depths of humility, calling on the name of the Lord daily, and standing steadfastly in the faith of that which is to come, which was spoken by the mouth of the angel. (Mosiah 4:11)

One meaning of our nothingness is that we are powerless relative to “the greatness of God.” But King Benjamin has more in mind. We may think we are capable adults, yet we must “call on the name of the Lord daily.” Only He can redeem us.

King Benjamin wants us to understand that we are little children spiritually. Little children are of immense value, but they are almost completely dependent on the care of their caregivers. As adults, despite our illusion of adequacy, we cannot attain any transformation or glory or redemption without the grace and goodness of the Lord Jesus Christ. So, we are of immeasurable value yet still completely dependent on the grace and mercy of Jesus. We are truly little children.

It is a common mistake in our modern world to dwell on our immense value while ignoring our complete dependence. Maybe the greatest temptation for most of us is spiritual self-sufficiency. “If I set worthy goals and try really hard, I will make it.” King Benjamin confronts that false belief.

Men drink damnation to their own souls except they humble themselves and become as little children, and believe that salvation was, and is, and is to come, in and through the atoning blood of Christ, the Lord Omnipotent. (Mosiah 3:18)

We must become as children and fully acknowledge our dependence on Jesus. As Benjamin’s people comprehended his core message, they made the cry for transformation:

O have mercy, and apply the atoning blood of Christ that we may receive forgiveness of our sins, and our hearts may be purified; for we believe in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who created heaven and earth, and all things; (Mosiah 4:2)

Those should also be the words on our lips. They can transform us just as they did Benjamin’s people.

We cannot be made holy based upon our own finest efforts. No matter how knowledgeable or powerful or determined we are, we are inadequate spiritually. Regardless of how earnestly we throw ourselves into achieving a checklist of spiritual practices or following gospel principles, our own efforts alone cannot save us. We are less  than the dust of the earth. The only thing that can ultimately transform and save us is throwing ourselves on the merits, mercy, and grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Just as a child cries out for sustenance, we cry out for transformation.

As my beloved sister said recently, “Our nothingness is great news!” To the modern ear, that is counterintuitive, even troubling. To the spiritually aware, it is eternal truth. Why is that?

When we recognize our full dependence on Jesus (are humble) and call upon His name (have active faith in Him), and throw ourselves on His merits (repentance), He transforms us. He makes us new creatures in Christ. We attain—by His power—the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.

There is no comparison between the world’s education and His transformation. The world offers something like a second-grade curriculum with workbooks that we complete laboriously. Jesus invites us to study in a Master’s level program, tutored by the creator of the universe who is also willing to allow us to complete all the assignments and take all the tests in partnership with Him.

And moreover, I say unto you, that there shall be no other name given nor any other way nor means whereby salvation can come unto the children of men, only in and through the name of Christ, the Lord Omnipotent. (Mosiah 3:17)

The only way to reach spiritual maturity is through Him. And the astoundingly good news is that He is all in! He is willing to move heaven and earth to redeem us.

We regularly underappreciate what it costs Jesus not only to redeem us but also to sustain us through mortality. We talk often about His infinite and eternal sacrifice to redeem us; we should ever be grateful. King Benjamin takes us to the next level; he helps us understand the daily miracle of His sustaining us in our earthly experience.

I say unto you that if ye should serve him who has created you from the beginning, and is preserving you from day to day, by lending you breath, that ye may live and move and do according to your own will, and even supporting you from one moment to another—I say, if ye should serve him with all your whole souls yet ye would be unprofitable servants. (Mosiah 2:21)

Some day we will comprehend what it cost Him to create this world, furnish it, sustain our mortal activity, and watch over us. And when we do, every knee will bow in humble gratitude!

At such times, we feel that we have won the lottery—the spiritual lottery! We truly cannot say the “smallest part which [we] feel” (Alma 26:16). We sing “Hosannas” to His name!

So, we continue to cheerfully do what we are able to do. We pray, we study, we serve others, and we follow the doctrines of Christ. But we do so not because we can make ourselves new creatures but in order to partner with Him and draw His power into our lives to change our hearts and our souls. We do not imagine that we can become spiritually self-sufficient or that we can save ourselves through our own actions.

As I age, I have a growing awareness that my main job is to relax into Him—to let Him work through me and around me. I am not as much an agent of change as (potentially) a partner in His glorious work. I am grateful.

My newest book, The Compassionate Heart: Uplifting Your Life and Relationships was just released as an eBook. It will be available as an audio book soon. To get the eBook, CLICK HERE

Thanks to Barbara Keil for her insightful contributions to this article.