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One of the blessings of the Doctrine and Covenants is that we are told so many marvelous things about Christ. We are alerted to many of these insights by the appearance of the words “I am.” The Doctrine and Covenants uses that phrase one hundred and sixty-one times. In almost every case, those words invite us to prepare to receive biographical information about the Savior.
In the first few verses of section 76, and in another verse near the end, we get a description of the Savior that is unlike any other in the scriptures of which I am aware. We hear the voice of the Lord telling us in the third person what kind of being he is. At the beginning of the section we read:
Hear, O ye heavens, and give ear, O earth, and rejoice ye inhabitants thereof, for the Lord is God, and beside him there is no Savior. Great is his wisdom, marvelous are his ways, and the extent of his doings none can find out. His purposes fail not, neither are there any who can stay his hand. From eternity to eternity he is the same, and his years never fail (D&C 76:1-4).
And near the end of the section, this:
But great and marvelous are the works of the Lord, and the mysteries of his kingdom which he showed unto us, which surpass all understanding in glory, and in might, and in dominion (D&C 76:114).
There are phrases in these verses that provide powerful, unexpected insights about the nature of the Son of God.
“The Lord is God . . .” The clarity of this truth is necessary for a church and a world that even now have not grasped the nature of the Redeemer of the world. He is our Savior, but he is also the God of this world.
Elder Bruce R. McConkie wrote:
Christ-Messiah is God.
Such is the plain and pure pronouncement of all the prophets of all the ages. In our desire to avoid the false and absurd conclusions contained in the creeds of Christendom, we are wont to shy away from this pure and unadorned verity; we go to great lengths to use language that shows there is both a Father and a Son, that they are separate Persons and are not somehow mystically intertwined as an essence or spirit that is everywhere present. Such an approach is perhaps essential in reasoning with the Gentiles of sectarianism; it helps to overthrow the fallacies formulated in their creeds.
But having so done, if we are to envision our Lord’s true status and glory, we must come back to the pronouncement of pronouncements, the doctrine of doctrines, the message of messages, which is that Christ is God. And if it were not so, he could not save us. Let all men, both in heaven and on earth, hear the proclamation and rejoice in its eternal verity: “The Lord is God and beside him there is no Savior” (D&C 76:1) (The Mortal Promised Messiah, p. 98).
“Beside him there is no Savior.” There are no other doors or gates through which we can enter the kingdom of heaven. He is the gate. He is the way. There are no back doors or secret passageways. There are no other names whereby we can be saved (see 2 Nephi 25:20; Mosiah 3:17; 5:8; D&C 18:23; Acts 4:12).
. . . I am the way, the truth, and the life; no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6).
“Great is his wisdom . . .” Doctrine and Covenants 38:1 tells us that Christ “looked upon the wide expanse of eternity, and all the seraphic hosts of heaven before the world was made . . .” He is wiser than we are.
But the Lord knoweth all things from the beginning; wherefore, he prepareth a way to accomplish all his works among the children of men; for behold, he hath all power unto the fulfilling of all his words (1 Nephi 9:6).
He knows everything and applies that knowledge to the affairs of the world so that he can bless the children of God in the best possible way.
“Marvelous are his ways . . .” To marvel means to regard with awe and astonishment. I marvel at the ways the Lord has shaped and directed me as I have tried to walk the strait and narrow path. So many times I might have wandered had the Lord not placed people and events along the path to nudge me in the best direction. I marvel at the beauty and variety of the creation. I have been in awe at the sanctified beauty of a rose after rain. I have marveled at the breathtaking majesty of a summer sunset. I marvel at the divine planning that put Mordecai in the palace of Persia and Joseph in the highest councils of Egypt. I marvel at the unexpected blessings that have brought adopted children and miracle children into the families of my children. Who could have hoped for such things? The Restoration is often described as “a marvelous work and a wonder.”
“The extent of his doings none can find out.” I cannot imagine an event in which someone would say, “Now I know what the Lord is up to.” I might, if my eyes are sufficiently open, understand one or two of his immediate purposes either by revelation or observation, but I know that I “cannot behold with [my] natural eyes the glory that shall follow after much tribulation” (D&C 58:3).
Paul testified: “Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath bprepared for them that love him” (1 Corinthians 2:9).
Jacob wrote: “How unsearchable are the depths of the mysteries of him; and it is impossible that man should find out all his ways. And no man knoweth of his ways save it be revealed unto him; wherefore, brethren, despise not the revelations of God” (Jacob 4:8).
Job said “[God] doeth great things past finding out; yea, and wonders without number” (Job 9:10).
“His purposes fail not . . .” Can you imagine the Lord scratching his head and saying, “For goodness sake! I had no idea that was going to happen.” Or, “I really thought that would work. Sorry.” As he examines their actions and decisions, the Lord sometimes speaks with his children as though the outcome were unknown or unknowable, but that is never the way things are. Christ knew the brother of Jared could see his finger. He knew Martin Harris would lose the hundred and sixteen translated pages. The truth is reflected in what Nephi wrote:
“But the Lord knoweth all things from the beginning; wherefore, he prepareth a way to accomplish all his works among the children of men” (1 Nephi 9:6).
He knows and controls the end from the beginning. When the Lord says he will do something, you can build your life on it.
“Neither are there any who can stay his hand.” There is no power in the universe great enough to prevent the Lord from accomplishing his purposes.
Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon, thought he could have his way regardless of the power of Israel’s God. When Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were brought before him because they would not worship his idol, he warned them that their disobedience could cause them to “be cast . . . into the midst of a burning fiery furnace.”
And then, knowing of their zeal and devotion toward Jehovah, he asked, “and who is that God that shall deliver you out of my hands?” (Daniel 3:15). Those three young men had a ready answer to his question. They knew that even the most powerful monarch on earth could not stay the hand of the Lord or prevent the accomplishment of his purposes. They said, “If it be so [if we go into your furnace, and if he wants to], our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king” (Daniel 3:17).
In section 1 of the Doctrine and Covenants, the Lord said it this way:
“What I the Lord have spoken, I have spoken, and I excuse not myself; and though the heavens and the earth pass away, my word shall not pass away, but shall all be fulfilled, whether by mine own voice or by the voice of my servants, it is the same” (D& C 1:38).
The Doctrine and Covenants is filled with promises made by a Being with the will and the ability to keep them all. Enos told us that God is a God of truth and cannot lie (Enos 1:6). When he makes a promise, he keeps it. No power in this universe can prevent God from doing what he says he will do.
“From eternity to eternity he is the same . . .” I wish I was the same from day to day. I am a nice person most of the time, but if I have a bad headache or a hangnail, and someone cuts me off in traffic . . . I learn that there are unseen facets to my personality. But he never changes. If he rewards a certain behavior this week, he will reward it next week and in one thousand weeks. The doctrines and truths that got Adam into heaven will work for us.
“His years never fail.” An orthodontist implanted a tooth in my mouth a few years ago. For some reason, the implant got infected. I visited with the doctor frequently for months, experiencing periods of relief and periods of discomfort. When the pain flared up last time, I called his office to make an appointment for additional treatment. He had retired! I had to find someone else to treat my problem.
Christ will always be there. Retirement is not on the agenda of this eternal, exalted being. I love this phrase from Habakkuk. “The Lord is in his holy temple: let all the earth keep silence before him” (Habakkuk 2:20). I am not going to seek him some day—call for help and needed blessings—and learn that he is on sabbatical, or that he has left the business, or that he is no longer available for problems like mine. Habakkuk wanted us to understand that our Savior is in his office in the holy temple and we ought to “be still and know that [he is] God” (Psalm 46:10; D&C 101:16) and that we can always find him there.
“Great and marvelous are the works of the Lord.” We are told this near the end of the section, in Doctrine and Covenants 76:114. The declaration here makes me think of Job 38 and 39. We do not know how to tip over the bottles of heaven to bring rain or snow, nor how to send lightning bolts and organize thunderstorms. We need skill and effort to paint the ostrich or the peacock. We cannot even think about creating such things. I love puppies and butterflies, but I have never made any. I have photographed a thousand flowers and perhaps picked that many as well. I have planted them and nourished them and loved them. But I have never created one. Great and marvelous indeed are his works.
“The mysteries of his kingdom . . . surpass all understanding in glory, and in might, and in dominion.” Who has ever discovered the outside curtains of eternity or the edge of the intelligence of God? Who gives orders to Orion or drinks from the Big Dipper? Who can offer his offspring what God offers his children? We are unable to do what he does or even to understand what he does. Our most glorious inventions are toys for the nursery in the everlasting dominions of God.. I can turn on my cell phone and talk to Europe, but I can kneel by my bed and open my heart and talk to Kolob. Our most stunning scientific discoveries are curriculum for the preschools of God’s glory.
There are no similes or metaphors that allow us to make meaningful comparisons with the intelligence and majesty of God. We describe him with words and phrases that focus on some of his most evident qualities, but we lack the capacity to capture who and what he is with our words and thoughts. Abraham heard the Lord say that even though there are variations in the intellectual capacity of mortals, some of whom shine like stars on the horizons of our understanding, “I am the Lord thy God, I am more intelligent than they all” (Abraham 3:19).
There are some mortals we hold in deepest reverence—men and women whose light casts a glow over all around them—who deserve our purest reverence and highest gratitude. There are those whose sacrifices and examples have changed the world and improved the lives of multitudes. But there are none like the Lord. Even all together, they are not like the Lord.
Isaiah wrote words he heard the Lord say: “I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me” (Isaiah 46:9).