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Editor’s Note: Our friend and longtime Meridian writer Larry Barkdull passed away. To remember and honor him this is one of a series of his past articles that we are republishing regularly.
If the scriptures teach us anything, they teach us that Israel’s God will not let Israel go,[i] despite her bouts of waywardness. The Lord is always reaching out to her. Robert L. Millet surmises rightly, “What is true of a nation is equally true of individuals. Few of us in this life will, through our sins, place ourselves beyond the pale of saving grace.”[ii]
Can we imagine that the Savior, innocent of sin, who had assumed the staggering weight of the demands of justice until vessels broke and blood seeped from every pore of His suffering body, who had submitted Himself to brutal beatings, to unconscionable humiliation, to arrogant injustice, to the torture of a thirty-nine-lash scourging,[iii] to the horror of being stripped and stretched violently upon a cross, to being victimized by brutish soldiers who drove thick spikes through His palms, wrists and feet, to suffering the blinding pain of being raised up to hang, full-body weight, from those spikes until He allowed death to overwhelm Him-can we imagine that after the Redeemer had paid that immeasurable price to ransom every individual, that He would lose interest in a sinner, give up, or stop short of His rescuing effort?
“Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God.”[iv] Just how valuable is one wayward soul? Jesus answered: “Are not five sparrows sold for two farthings, and not one of them is forgotten before God? But even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not therefore: ye are of more value than many sparrows.”[v]
How could the worth of “many sparrows” compare to the worth of one child of God? Moreover, if God’s attention is drawn to individual birds, is it not much more riveted upon his children? “Are ye not much better than they?”[vi] Elder Neal A. Maxwell said,
Fortunately, God is preoccupied with His children. We (and what we may become) are His work and glory. (Moses 1:39.) All that He does is for our benefit. (2 Ne. 26:24.) As George MacDonald said of God, He lays no plans irrespective of His children.’ “Worlds and suns and planets,” wrote MacDonald, are but “a portion of His workshops and tools for the bringing out of righteous men and women to fill His house of love.”[vii]
The same God that placed that star in a precise orbit millennia before it appeared over Bethlehem in celebration of the birth of the Babe has given at least equal attention to placement of each of us in precise human orbits so that we may, if we will, illuminate the landscape of our individual lives, so that our light may not only lead others but warm them as well.[ix]
Further, Elder Maxwell said,
The Prophet Joseph Smith declared that God, before [the earth] rolled into existence…contemplated the whole of the events connected with the earth…. [God] knew…the depth of iniquity that would be connected with the human family, their weakness and strength . . . the situation of all nations and…their destiny…and [He] has made ample provision [for mankind’s] redemption’” (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith…220). We imperfect parents are part of God’s “ample provision.” We do our best to shine and serve in our assigned orbits, knowing, as Elder Maxwell concluded, “that we are encircled in the arms of [His] love’ (D&C 6:20).”[x]
Comparing the Stars to the Children of God
Elder James E. Talmage said, “What is a man in this boundless setting of sublime splendor? I answer you: Potentially now, actually to be, he is greater and grander, more precious in the arithmetic of God, than all the planets and suns of space.”[xi]
Explicating that idea, one of the finest representations of God’s individual concern for His children is found in the vision given to Moses in the Pearl of Great Price.[xii] “Caught up into an exceedingly high mountain, [Moses] saw God face to face, and he talked with him.”[xiii] In the vision that followed, God promised Moses that he would be allowed to see much of the workmanship of God’s hands. As we shall see, God would draw a comparison between heavenly orbs and His children. Moses would need to remember this comparison in order to grasp the vision’s significance.
God began by saying, “Behold, thou art my son . . . and thou art in the similitude of mine Only Begotten. . . . And now, behold, this one thing I show thee.”[xiv] The “one thing” the Lord showed Moses was this world. “And it came to pass that Moses looked, and beheld the world upon which he was created.”[xv] Moses would soon come to understand the symbolism of this vision-God was going to compare the heavens to His children; or in this case, God was comparing this one world with His one special son-Moses.
Then God opened Moses’ eyes so he could see as God sees: “Moses beheld the world and the ends thereof, and all the children of men which are, and which were created; of the same he greatly marveled and wondered.”[xvi] That is, Moses saw the beginning and end of the world’s creation, including every soul that had lived or ever would live. Suddenly, the “one thing” was something of incredible potential. No wonder, then, that Moses “greatly marveled and wondered,” completely astonished at the possibilities of the one.
After the vision closed, and God left Moses to himself, Satan confronted him. Moses detected the devil, and having overcome him by the name of the “Only Begotten,” Moses called upon the name of God and experienced a second vision.[xvii] Once again, God drew individual attention to Moses-the one-whom God now blessed with assurance of exaltation: “Thou shalt be made stronger than many waters: for they shall obey thy command as if thou wert God. And lo, I am with thee, even unto the end of thy days; for thou shalt deliver my people [Israel] from bondage.”[xviii]
Note that this level of sanctification afforded Moses great strength to do the work of God and extraordinary power in using the name of Jesus Christ. Moses was also blessed with the personal ministration of Jesus Christ (the Second Comforter), and he was given power to deliver others-such is important knowledge for parents who strive to sanctify themselves to bless their children.
This additional endowment of power opened the way for Moses to receive a heightened endowment of knowledge-the second vision. During the course of that vision, Moses once again was afforded a view of this one world.[xix] “And it came to pass, as the voice was still speaking, Moses cast his eyes and beheld the earth.”[xx] The metaphor had not changed-one heavenly body as compared to one son.
However, in this second vision of the world, God opened Moses’ eyes to see the world much more deeply than before; now Moses was able to intimately perceive both the world and all the souls that would inhabit it, even to the sub-atomic level: “[Moses beheld] all of it; and there was not a particle of it which he did not behold, discerning it by the spirit of God.”[xxi] Moses now perceived that the one was more than a creation of infinite possibilities; it was highly complex and multi-dimensional-something that only God could create, a wonderful creation of astounding beauty, balance and harmony.
The vision contained other significance. As Moses gazed into the universe and contemplated this world, he marveled that the number of God’s children who populated this earth were as numerous as the “sand upon the seashore.”[xxii] Whereas the symbolism had been one son [Moses] compared to one earth, the new comparables were numerous children compared to numerous stars and numerous grains of sand. Then the vision expanded. God drew back the curtain so that Moses could see much of the universal workmanship of God’s hands. Moses beheld “many lands; and each land was called earth” and “inhabitants” on those earths-“worlds without number.”[xxiii] Moses must have begun to feel quite insignificant. How did he fit into an expanding universe that was comprised of creations “without number”?
Worlds without Number
To understand the significance and vastness implied by the term without number, let us examine what we know about the heavens. In 1983, even before the Hubble telescope and modern computer technology, we knew that the universe was immense; for instance, The National Geographic Society published a mind-boggling article and map of the known universe.[xxiv]
Our solar system, the editors explained, has a radius of about 3.7 billion miles or .000016 light years. A light year is the distance light travels at-186,000 miles per second for a year, or 5,878,625,373,183.61 miles. Almost 6 trillion miles!
Our solar system resides in the Milky Way Galaxy, which, by some estimates, has as few as 100 billion or as many as one trillion stars like our sun. Our solar system’s neighborhood-the twenty closest stars-has a radius of 20 light years, and this little neighborhood of stars lies on the outskirts of the vast Milky Way Galaxy, which has a radius of 50,000 light years. To grasp the immensity of our galaxy, the sun, traveling at 220 kilometers per second, makes one revolution around the center of the galaxy every 230 million years!
As enormous as these numbers are, the Milky Way Galaxy is a drop in the universal ocean. The Milky Way Galaxy resides in a “local group” of twenty nearby galaxies of like size. The radius of our local group is two million light years.
Local groups congregate in “local superclusters,” which are the largest known celestial formations. Each “local supercluster” can be comprised of thousands of member galaxies. The local supercluster in which we reside has a radius of 75 million light years. As incredible as this fact might seem, our local supercluster is but a mere speck in the known universe. And there is no visible end.
Twenty years ago, scientists noted myriad “specks” at the far reaches of space. With improved technology, these specks have now been identified as numerous super clusters. “And,” as Enoch observed in his visionary experience, “[God’s] curtains are stretched out still.”[xxv] If by means of modern telescopes we are able see to this extent, imagine what Enoch and Moses were able to see by the power of God! And yet God had to limit Moses’ vision in order to keep him in the flesh.[xxvi]
As we shall see, Moses’ experience has a direct application to parents as they work with their children.
It All Comes Down to One
Struggling to take it all in, “Moses called upon God, saying: Tell me, I pray thee, why these things are so, and by what thou madest them?”[xxvii] That is, why do you create all these stars and by Whom do you create them?
God postponed the answer. “For mine own purpose have I made these things. Here is wisdom and it remaineth in me.”[xxviii] Nevertheless, God was willing to tell Moses by Whom He made these things: “And by the word of my power, have I created them, which is mine Only Begotten Son, who is full of grace and truth.”[xxix] All the heavens were and are made by Jesus Christ! “And worlds without number have I created; and I also created them for mine own purpose; and by the Son I created them, which is mine Only Begotten.”[xxx] Jesus Christ is the Creator of the Father’s universal architecture.
Now God did something very important, which was an essential lesson to Moses and should be to us-God brought Moses’ attention back to the one-this earth.[xxxi] Despite the fact that there are innumerable worlds and innumerable inhabitants on those worlds, God’s attention is on the one. Moses seemed content (perhaps relieved) to receive what God now wanted to reveal to him, and he began to press God for more information about this one earth. God had told Moses by WhomHe accomplished His universal designs, but God had not yet told Moses why He did these things. To answer the prophet, God reviewed what He had shown and taught Moses so far: The one earth is a valuable and complex creation, and although it resides among numberless creations in the universe, God knows it intimately.[xxxii] God knows each of his creations intimately-“they are mine.”[xxxiii]
Now God was ready to reveal to Moses the Why–God’s grand secret, the reason why he creates and the foundation purpose of existence: “For behold, this is my work and my glory-to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man.”[xxxiv]
Do you see what He is saying? It all comes down to the one-one person. Although God makes stars, they are not His primary occupation; He is in the business of redeeming His children. All creation points to the rearing and redemption of the one; everything that God does is for the one. He said, “Remember the worth of souls is great in the sight of God.”[xxxv] One redeemed soul has the potential of becoming like God, a creator of infinite creations and the parent of infinite beings. God simply does not create anything, let alone children, with the expectation of failure.
What does this means for parents of wayward children? God is completely dedicated to His work, While nothing trumps agency, when it comes to reclaiming and redeeming His children, there is simply no one better than God. Utilizing His complete arsenal of perfections-knowledge, power, love, etc.-He foresees every child’s situation, provides for a Savior and a saving solution, endows that solution with power, and sets out in love to assemble every resource in heaven and on earth to rescue the one.
This is the God we believe in. This is the God of Adam, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Moses, and Joseph Smith, and this is the God of whom President Gordon B. Hinckley bore testimony:
I want everybody in this hall tonight to realize that you each heard me say to you that I know that God our Eternal Father lives. I know that He lives. I know that He is a being of substance. I know that He is the great God of the universe. I know, however, that I am His child and that you are His children and that He will listen to and hear and answer our prayers.[xxxvi]
With this confidence, President Hinckley was able to declare with prophetic authority, “We are winning, and the future never looked brighter.”[xxxvii] How could he say this unless, with a prophet’s view, he could see victory where now we might be anticipating defeat? President Hinckley’s counsel was to follow the example of Moses-to move forward in faith, as did Moses toward the sea with the confidence that as we do so, it will likewise part before us.[xxxviii]
With that faith in the God of Israel, in Jesus Christ, who paid such an enormous price to rescue the one, we press forward toward our imposing sea with a “perfect brightness of hope,”[xxxix]and we expect, as did Moses, that it will part and the God of Israel will save the wayward one. Our God is this same God of Israel who promised to “wipe away all tears,”[xl] and to comfort all “them that mourn in Zion, to give unto them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness.”[xli]
Attesting to this very fact, President James E. Faust wrote,
We find solace in Christ through the agency of the Comforter, and the Savior extends this invitation to us: “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28). The Apostle Peter speaks of “casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you” (1 Pet. 5:7). As we do this, healing takes place, just as the Lord promised through the prophet Jeremiah[,] when He said[,] “I will turn their mourning into joy, and will comfort them, and make them rejoice from their sorrow. . . . I have satiated the weary soul, and I have replenished every sorrowful soul” (Jer. 31:13). And in the celestial glory, we are told that “God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain” (Rev. 21:4). Then faith and hope will replace heartache, disappointment, torment, anguish, and despair, and the Lord will give us strength, as Mormon said, that we “should suffer no manner of afflictions, save it were swallowed up in the joy of Christ” (Alma 31:38).[xlii]