Ever feel lost, even to God? Have you ever wondered if, in your sinful and fallen state, He even knows where you are? Here are some thoughts based on an October, 2021 talk given by Susan H. Porter, First Counselor in the Primary General Presidency.
Sister Porter begins her talk with some assertions about the difference it makes in our lives when we find and recognize God’s love for us. All quotes are from her talk, unless otherwise stated.
When you know and understand how completely you are loved as a child of God, it changes everything. It changes the way you feel about yourself when you make mistakes. It changes how you feel when difficult things happen. It changes your view of God’s commandments. It changes your view of others and of your capacity to make a difference.
She follows with a reference to Nephi’s vision of the tree of life his father saw. The angel asked Nephi if he understood what the condescension of God was. Nephi didn’t know what it was, so the angel showed him a demonstration of God’s condescension.
The prophet Nephi was shown in a vision the most powerful evidence of God’s love. Upon viewing the tree of life, Nephi asked to know the interpretation thereof. In answer, an angel showed Nephi a city, a mother, and a baby. As Nephi looked upon the city of Nazareth and the righteous mother Mary, holding the infant Jesus in her arms, the angel declared, “Behold the Lamb of God, yea, even the Son of the Eternal Father!”
At that sacred moment, Nephi understood that in the birth of the Savior, God was showing forth His pure and complete love. God’s love, Nephi testified, “sheddeth itself abroad in the hearts of the children of men.”
We can picture the love of God as light emanating from the tree of life, shedding itself abroad over all the earth into the hearts of the children of men. God’s light and love permeate all His creations.
For a further discussion on the condescension of God, I refer to you the following article from the study of the Book of Mormon.
Where is it?
Sister Porter says that in the vision, the light of God’s love shed itself over the whole world. She then pointed out something I had never considered before. We usually think that only those who have made their way to the tree by way of the iron rod ever taste of the love of God, but she points out the real truth.
Sometimes we mistakenly think that we can feel God’s love only after we have followed the iron rod and partaken of the fruit. God’s love, however, not only is received by those who come to the tree but is the very power that motivates us to seek that tree.
That statement got me thinking about the vision as a whole. Lehi/Nephi’s vision describes some pretty dark and unpleasant places. There is the great and spacious building, the river of filthiness, mists of darkness, and an awful gulf separating the righteous from the wicked. Since God’s love sheddeth itself abroad on the children of men, that means that God’s love is everywhere, not just at the tree of life. True, the purest form of His love can be found by those who have kept His commandments and have tasted of the fruit of the tree, but His love can be found anywhere and everywhere.
In the vision this means that those drowning in the river of filth can be enticed to leave the river and come to the rod of iron to experience more of the love of God they have already felt. Those in the great and spacious building are not inevitably stuck there if they recognize His love and wish to leave. This opens a whole world of possibilities for people to learn, grow, and change. The vision does a remarkable job of teaching us the basics, but when we apply the principles found within the vision we can see that God doesn’t just love those at the base of the tree, but all others as well.
Now think of your life, or that of a friend or loved one who has strayed from the gospel message. It doesn’t matter where you or they are, God’s love is there. It can be felt through the bearing of a testimony, a tender action, through prayer, service, or a number of other ways. His love needs a catalyst to be felt, and most generally that catalyst is us. It is through those who are already covenant makers and keepers that God is able to help His children feel His love and receive the invitation to come to the tree or to the waters of baptism. It is also through His direct intervention in their lives, often because of the prayers of others, that He is able to bless someone who is currently lost. And it isn’t just those in His earthly kingdom who are able to help others feel God’s love. Anyone who seeks to do good will have the blessing of the Holy Ghost. He will work with them and guide them towards the kingdom of God as long as they will listen to His voice.
Elder John H. Groberg said this about God’s love in a 2004 Conference talk.
I testify that when we are ready, His pure love instantly moves across time and space, reaches down, and pulls us up from the depths of any tumultuous sea of darkness, sin, sorrow, death, or despair we may find ourselves in and brings us into the light and life and love of eternity.
I recommend reading Elder Groberg’s entire talk. It is very inspiring and uplifting.
The tree of life may be a representation of the love of God, but God’s love is not, and never has been restricted to a specific time or place. It is everywhere at all times. No matter what we have done, or what we are doing right now, His love can find us. And just as wonderful, we can bring His love to those around us. We can be responsible for helping others feel and experience God’s love for them. We have made covenants to do so.
Feeling God’s love wherever we are means that we can take His love and influence with us into prisons, to skid row, to a neighborhood block party, to those of other faiths, to family members, to anyone. For it doesn’t matter where we are, if we seek to share and express God’s love for His children, doors will open for us to do so. We share it then nurture and encourage those with whom we have shared His love to help them find the path that leads to the tree where they can experience His love in a much purer and more intense way. This is the covenant path.
God’s love for us is not based on our financial portfolio, our skin color, country of origin, the century in which we are born, nor the fame or obscurity we enjoy in this life. His love for us is based on each of us being His child. Parents don’t need their children to qualify for their love, that love is given freely and without reservation, no matter where their child is, and how that child is behaving at the moment. To Him, our very existence is reason enough to love us infinitely, and without reserve.
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