The Sunday before Christmas, I spoke in Sacrament meeting. My topic was hope, one of the Christ-like attributes included in Preach My Gospel. I thought I’d take the opportunity to share what I learned.
There’s a poem that my mom loves, and shares every so often, called Walking With Two Sisters, written by Larry Hiller:
Faith walks before me,
Holding up her lamp
As I try not to stumble in the ink-dark hours before the dawn.
Her light illuminates
One step and then another.
Beside me, Hope, arm linked with mine, encourages and steadies.
Sometimes in the tedium,
Distracted by the pain,
My mind begins to wander, then my feet. I hesitate.
Unsure, I look to Hope.
Her hand takes mine.
The touch reminds me of another hand held out to me,
One pierced and scarred
Yet oh so tender
Lifting me and blessing me when I had fallen and despaired.
I move ahead
Buoyed up by Hope, who sees the end with perfect clarity.
(Ensign, June 2009)
Preach My Gospel says, “Hope is an abiding trust that the Lord will fulfill His promises to you. It is manifest in confidence, optimism, enthusiasm, and patient perseverance. It is believing and expecting that something will occur. When you have hope, you work through trials and difficulties with the confidence and assurance that all things will work together for your good. Hope helps you conquer discouragement. The scriptures often describe hope in Jesus Christ as the assurance that you will inherit eternal life in the celestial kingdom.”
Elder Neal A. Maxwell called it the “ultimate hope”: “It is tied to Jesus and the blessings of the great Atonement, blessings resulting in the universal resurrection and the precious opportunity provided hereby for us to practice emancipating repentance, making possible what the scriptures call ‘a perfect brightness of hope’. … Such ultimate hope constitutes the ‘anchor of the soul’ and is retained through the gift of the Holy Ghost and faith in Christ.”
We have a hope of eternal life, and during the season of Christmas, especially, we are reminded of it. Jesus Christ is that hope. In premortality, long before this world was formed, Heavenly Father presented his plan of salvation, which would “bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man”. He knew that, because we had been given our agency, we would eventually make mistakes and need a mediator between us, to help us return to the path back to Heavenly Father. We would need a Savior. Jehovah, God’s firstborn in the spirit, was chosen, and he came to earth, to Mary of Nazareth and her espoused husband Joseph, to “take upon Him the sins of the world”.
President James E. Faust said, “The unfailing source of our hope is that we are sons and daughters of God and that His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, saved us from death’ (“Hope, an Anchor of the soul,” Ensign, Nov. 1999)
During his ministry, Jesus taught, “I am the Way, The truth and the life: no man cometh unto the Father but by me.” ~ John 14:6. In the Garden of Gethsemane, “he offered himself a sacrifice for sin, to answer the ends of the law, unto all those who have a broken heart and a contrite spirit; and unto none else can the ends of the law be answered. (2 Nephi 2:7)”
Hope, then, springs from faith in Jesus Christ, in the gift of His Atonement that encourages all of us to come to Him, to let Him take our sins and cleanse us that we can be pure and whole again, moving closer and closer to returning to Heavenly Father.
Elder David A. Bednar said, “Coming unto Christ is not a single event with a fixed point of beginning or ending; rather, it is a process that develops and deepens during a lifetime. As an initial step in the process, we certainly must obtain knowledge and learn about Jesus and His life, teachings, and ministry. But truly coming unto Him also requires consistent obedience and striving to become like Jesus in our thoughts, motives, communications, and actions. As we ‘press forward’ on the pathway of discipleship, we can draw near unto the Savior with the expectation that he will draw near unto us; we can seek Him diligently with the hope that we shall find Him; we can ask with confidence that we shall receive; and we can knock anticipating that the door shall be opened unto us (see D&C 88:63)” (“Because we Have Them before Our Eyes” New Era, April 2006).
The prophets had “a hope of his glory many hundred years before his coming” (Jacob 4:4). From the time of Adam, they were all blessed with the knowledge of this magnificent gift of God’s Only Begotten Son and his great and last sacrifice for the souls of mankind. In the Book of Mormon, we are promised that “whoso believeth in God might with surety hope for a better world, yea, even a place at the right hand of God, which hope cometh of faith, maketh an anchor to the souls of men, which would make them sure and steadfast, always abounding in good works, being led to glorify God.” Ether 12:4
In one of Mormon’s letters to his son Moroni, he wrote about hope. – “And again, my beloved brethren, I would speak unto you concerning hope. How is it that ye can attain unto faith, save ye shall have hope? And what is it that ye shall hope for? Behold I say unto you that ye shall have hope through the atonement of Christ and the power of his resurrection, to be raised unto life eternal, and this because of your faith in him according to the promise. Wherefore, if a man have faith he must needs have hope; for without faith there cannot be any hope.” (Moroni 7:40-43)
In 1918, Joseph F. Smith had a vision of the spirit world in answer to pondering over a scripture. He said, “As I pondered over these things which are written, they eyes of my understanding were opened, and the Spirit of the Lord rested upon me, and I saw the hosts of the dead, both small and great. And there were gathered together in one place an innumerable company of the spirits of the just, who had been faithful in the testimony of Jesus while they lived in mortality; and who had offered sacrifice in the similitude of the great sacrifice of the Son of God, and had suffered tribulation in their Redeemer’s name. All these had departed the mortal life, firm in the hope of a glorious resurrection, through the grace of God the Father and his Only Begotten Son, Jesus Christ.”
Aaron taught the king of the Lamanites, who asked what he must do to “have this eternal life… [to] be born of God, having this wicked spirit rooted out of [his] breast, and receive his Spirit” (Alma 22:15). He was willing to give up all of his sins, everything he possessed, even his kingdom, to have that joy. But all he had to do, Aaron said, was to “repent of all [his] sins, and… bow down before God, and call on his name in faith, believing that [he would] receive” and he would “receive the hope” that he desired. Once that hope was his, the king sent a proclamation throughout the land, giving Aaron and his brothers and missionary companions the freedom to preach the gospel of Christ to the Lamanites, to build synagogues that the people might worship Christ once they came to know Him and have hope in Him.
Elder Nelson – “Hope emanates from the Lord, and it transcends the bounds of this mortal sphere. Paul noted that ‘if in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.’ Only with an eternal perspective of God’s great plan of happiness can we ever find a more excellent hope. ‘What is it that ye shall hope for?’ asked Mormon. He then answered his own question: ‘Behold I say unto you that ye shall have hope through the atonement of Christ.’ Have you heard the old statement that ‘hope springs eternal’? It can only be true if that hope springs from him who is eternal.”
He goes on to say that “each of us is special, valued, and needed in building the kingdom of God. The adversary is also aware of our worth and will surely taunt us. When Satan’s temptations come our way, we need to remember this counsel from Alma: ‘Humble yourselves before the Lord, and call on his holy name, and watch and pray continually, that ye may not be tempted above that which ye can bear, … Having faith on the Lord; having a hope that ye shall receive eternal life; having the love of God always in your hearts.’
“A more excellent hope is mightier than a wistful wish. Hope, fortified by faith and charity, forges a force as strong as steel. Hope becomes an anchor to the soul. To this anchor, the faithful can cling, securely tethered to the Lord. Satan, on the other hand, would have us cast away that anchor and drift with the ebb tide of despair. If we will cling to the anchor of hope, it will be our safeguard forever.”
As we cling to this safeguard of hope, we’re also encouraged to take the opportunity, wherever we might find it, to share that hope with others. Elder Maxwell said, “Our opportunities for helping others who have lost hope may be no further away than in our own extended families, a discouraged neighbor next door, or someone just around the corner. By helping a child learn to read, visiting a lonely patient in a nursing home, or by simply running an errand for a busy but overwhelmed parent, so much can be imparted to others. Likewise, a simple gospel conversation can impart hope. … Therefore, being blessed with hope ourselves, let us, as disciples, … reach out, including to those who, for whatever reason, have ‘moved away from the hope of the gospel’ (Col. 1:23).”
“Hope maketh not ashamed,” Paul said to the Romans, “because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost with is given unto us.” When he wrote to the Ephesians about the armor of God, he told us to take the “helmet of salvation.” To the Thessalonians, he called it the “helmet of the hope of salvation”.
The world needs to be reminded of this hope. There is so much chaos, so much wickedness, so much sorrow. The world desperately needs this “ultimate hope” found in Jesus Christ.
We have over 88,000 missionaries serving around the world. Patrick will soon be one of that number. For the next two years, he will be serving as a representative of Jesus Christ, bringing the message of eternal salvation, of hope in Jesus Christ, to the people of the Carlsbad California mission.
Elder Ballard once shared a letter from a man who had spent many years lost in drugs and alcohol and had lost sight of that hope, save for a “small flicker of testimony… that Heavenly Father could still love [him],” that eventually led him to repentance. “If there is one thing I have learned,” this man wrote, “it is that no matter how lost you feel, no matter how low you may have sunk, there can be forgiveness and peace. I learned that the further one drifts from the Lord, the harder it is to return to Him and His teachings. But once I opened my heart and called out in prayer to Heavenly Father to help me in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, I came to know the power of repentance and the blessings of obedience to God’s commandments.”
Near the end of his ministry, Jesus offered a special gift: “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid. (John 14:27)” With that peace, given through the gift of the Holy Ghost as our constant companion, He offers eternal hope to us all. Peace in times of trouble, of discouragement, in times of good. “Blessed is the man that trusteth in the Lord, and whose hope the Lord is. (Jer. 17:7)”
As we continue in this Christmas season, our focus comes more and more on Christ and His gift of eternal salvation, of “ultimate hope,” to all who believe. May we carry that hope to our brothers and sisters who need this same hope, not just during Christmas, but year round. Hope springs from faith, and helps us walk by faith, no matter the outcome. Hope, as Hiller said, walks arm in arm with us, “encourages and steadies… [and] sees the end with perfect clarity.”
I know that Jesus was the promised Messiah. I know that He suffered for all, so we wouldn’t have to if we repent and accept His Atonement. I know that we can have that ultimate hope and that promised peace.
In the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.