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The “Father of Mercies and the God of all Comfort”

Robert Lund
September 19, 2023 11:15 AM

"Believe that God the father loves you and that he wants you to succeed and that you're here for a divine purpose that even being at Ensign college is part of his purpose for you. Believe that you can go to him in prayer and that He wants to hear from you."
Thank you, Lubasi, for the prayer; and Anderssy, for the testimony. And thank you for choosing to make these devotionals part of your education here at Ensign College.

I pray for the assistance of the Holy Ghost for all of us as I share the thoughts and feelings that have come to my mind and heart in preparation for this devotional address.

Greetings and “Grace be to you and peace from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ. Blessed be God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies, and the God of all comfort” (2 Cor. 1:2–3).

I have always wanted to welcome others in the same way the apostle Paul begins his epistles to the Saints. It is a cheerful greeting. It recognizes God as our loving Heavenly Father, and His Son, Jesus Christ. The greeting also emphasizes the blessings of mercy and comfort that come from Them.

In last week’s devotional, President Kusch and Sister Kusch discussed the updated: Ecclesiastical Endorsements, the Honor Code, and Dress and Grooming Principles. I was edified by their devotional address and hope you will watch it again.

These new standards can help us grow closer to God. [Parenthetically, what a blessing it is to have President and Sister Kusch who our models of capable and trusted disciples of Jesus Christ].

In that press release announcing new standards, Elder Clark G. Gilbert, the CES Commissioner of Education, said: 

“Our goal is that all students and employees feel the love of the Savior, experience the growth from applying gospel principles, and more fully realize the joy associated with being part of a covenant-keeping community.” 

I was touched by the first question of the new Ecclesiastical Endorsement which asks: “1. Are you striving to deepen your testimony of God, the Eternal Father; His Son, Jesus Christ; and the Holy Ghost?” 

Today I want to talk about how we can strive to deepen our testimony of God, the Eternal Father; His Son, Jesus Christ; and the Holy Ghost. 

I. The importance of understanding the true character and attributes of God.

Brother Brian K. Ashton, who was the Second Counselor in the Sunday School General Presidency, now the president of BYU-Pathway Worldwide taught

“Having ‘a correct idea of [Heavenly Father’s] character, perfections, and attributes’ is essential to exercising faith sufficient to obtain exaltation. A correct understanding of Heavenly Father’s character can change how we see ourselves and others and help us to understand God’s tremendous love for His children and His great desire to help us become like Him. An incorrect view of His nature can leave us feeling as if we are incapable of ever making it back to His presence” (Brian K. Ashton, “The Father,” Ensign, Nov. 2018, 93–94).

God loves us and wants us to be happy. I was recently in a training meeting with Elder J. Devn Cornish, an emeritus general authority seventy. Elder Cornish was trying to teach us that eternal life and exaltation is the default for all of God's children, not the exception for a few. Previously in general conference, Elder Cornish taught: 

“[God] will love and correct but never discourage us; that is Satan’s trick. Let me be direct and clear. The answers to the questions “Am I good enough?” and “Will I make it?” are “Yes! You are going to be good enough” and “Yes, you are going to make it as long as you keep repenting and do not rationalize or rebel” (Cornish, Ensign, Nov. 2016). 

Jesus never used His agency to rebel against the Father or rationalize. When Jesus appeared in America He testified: “[I] have glorified the Father in taking upon me the sins of the world, in the which I have suffered the will of the Father in all things from the beginning” (3 Nephi 11:11). 

Elder Cornish continues: 

“The God of heaven is not a heartless referee looking for any excuse to throw us out of the game. He is our perfectly loving Father, who yearns more than anything else to have all of His children come back home and live with Him as families forever. He truly gave His Only Begotten Son that we might not perish but have everlasting life! Please believe, and please take hope and comfort from, this eternal truth. Our Heavenly Father intends for us to make it! That is His work and His glory” (Cornish, Ensign, Nov. 2016). 

The statement: “The God of heaven is not a heartless referee looking for any excuse to throw us out of the game” leaves one with the impression that only a few would be saved; reminds me of an experience that happened to my father.

My father told me when he was serving as director of the Institute in Moscow, Idaho he was invited to serve with two other prominent religious leaders on campus. Now I want to tell this without demeaning any specific religion, so I will just say that one was known by the title “father” and the other as “reverend.” After working together for a year, meeting monthly and praying together, they formed a cordial friendship. It was so effective the University President asked them to serve for another year. At the end of their assignment, they were melancholy about parting ways. But the “father” said it was probably for the best since he and a few others were going to heaven but that my father and the “reverend” were going to burn in hell. The “reverend” quickly responded and said that since God was only going to be saving a few, it would be those in his congregation and that he and my father were the ones that were to burn in the everlasting fires of hell. Then they both paused and looked at my father – excepting that he would tell both of them they were going to burn in hell. The “reverend” said: ‘John where will both of us end up according to your theology’? My father smiled and said told them that they were both good men and striving to live good and honest lives and both would go to a kingdom of glory in the heavens. My father said we believe the God the Father has a plan of salvation, not a plan of damnation. They were both shocked and privately wanted to continue the conversation alone with my father.

Now back to Elder Cornish who said: 

I love the way President Gordon B. Hinckley used to teach this principle. I heard him say on several occasions, “Brothers and sisters, all the Lord expects of us is to try, but you have to really try!” “Really trying” means doing the best we can, recognizing where we need to improve, and then trying again. By repeatedly doing this, we come closer and closer to the Lord, we feel His Spirit more and more, and we receive more of His grace, or help” (Cornish, Ensign, Nov. 2016). 

I testify that Heavenly Father is a God of mercy and a God of comfort. He is full of righteousness, He is filled with holiness and attributes such as love, mercy, and justice. God knows all things (2 Nephi 2:20) and has all power and He is full of goodness. God delights to bless us and comfort us. 

II.  God embodies perfect love and perfect law, both mercy and justice in harmony divine.

Elder Gerrit W. Gong of the Quorum of the Twelve taught:

“By divine love and divine law, we are responsible for our choices and their consequences. But our Savior’s atoning love is “infinite and eternal.” When we are ready to come home, even when we are “yet a great way off,” God is ready with great compassion to welcome us, joyfully offering the best He has” (Gerrit W. Gong, “Trust Again,” Liahona, Nov. 2021)

“President J. Reuben Clark said, “I believe that our Heavenly Father wants to save every one of his children, … that in his justice and mercy he will give us the maximum reward for our acts, give us all that he can give, and in the reverse, I believe that he will impose upon us the minimum penalty which it is possible for him to impose” (Gerrit W. Gong, “Trust Again,” Liahona, Nov. 2021)

I love that idea. That God will give us the maximum reward for our acts and impose the minimum penalty which it is possible for him to impose.

Elder Gerrit W. Gong continues:

“On the cross, even our Savior’s merciful plea to His Father was not an unconditional “Father, forgive them” but rather “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” Our agency and freedom have meaning because we are accountable before God and ourselves for who we are, for what we know and do. Thankfully, we can trust God’s perfect justice and perfect mercy to judge perfectly our intents and actions” (Gerrit W. Gong, “Trust Again,” Liahona, Nov. 2021).

In the Doctrine and Covenants we are given this insight into God’s perfect justice and perfect mercy:

“For I the Lord cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance;

Nevertheless, he that repents and does the commandments of the Lord shall be forgiven;

And he that repents not, from him shall be taken even the light which he has received; for my Spirit shall not always strive with man, saith the Lord of Hosts” (Doctrine and Covenants 1:30).

Be careful of the following deception: sin and temptations are not that serious; or that sin is so tempting that God’s love makes it okay that I continue sinning since He understands me and how hard it is.

The Apostle Paul corrected this false idea and taught us how we are able to bear temptation.

“There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it” (1 Corinthians 10:13).

Like Jesus, we should avoid temptation immediately (see Matthew 4). The moment you feel a withdrawal of the Spirit have the courage to turn off your phone, computer, or television if what is being presented does not meet Heavenly Father’s standards.

Sin and temptation become harder to reject the longer we hang around it and tolerate it. As Elder Neal A. Maxwell of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles taught:

“Of course Jesus noticed the tremendous temptations that came to him, but He did not process and reprocess them. Instead, He rejected them promptly. If we entertain temptations, soon they begin entertaining us!” (Apr. 1987 general conference).

There is always an escape—another choice, another place to go, another thing to do. When all else fails, follow the example of Joseph of Egypt and just run away (see Genesis 39:7–12).

III. God Trusts You

One of the qualities of your generation is the trust that God and His prophets place in you. For example, the new “For the Strength of Youth: A Guide for Making Choices” and the new “Dress and Grooming Principles” show that God trusts you to follow the Holy Ghost to live a higher and holier way. They trust your ability to be able to feel the Holy Spirit and recognize what it is withdrawing from you. Your reliance on the Holy Ghost will continue to guide you into safety and staying on the covenant path. And avoid going down strange paths that leads to sin.

I hope you have had confirming feelings and impressions from the Holy Ghost that help you better understand God’s true character, His love for you and His gratitude for our even-imperfect efforts as we strive to stay on the covenant path. 

IV. God delights to hear from us through prayer; prayer can help us align our lives to God’s will.

From the Book of Mormon we learn: “And again, behold I say unto you that he cannot have faith and hope, save he shall be meek, and lowly of heart” (Moroni 7:43).

Being meek and lowly of heart in our prayers is a key to happiness.

To illustrate this, let me share with you an account I heard from a training broadcast that helped me to reexamine how I pray and what I pray for. My friend, brother Chad Webb gave the following example:

“Celeste is a young mother of three whose baby woke up often, every night. She began to pray that she and her baby could get the sleep they needed But her prayers seemed to go unanswered. [Now substitute here your current concerns and problems . . . missing family and home, no friends, a roommate problems and drama, overwhelmed by homework in CANVAS, etc.] This caused her to want to better understand prayer and why she wasn’t being blessed with relief. She learned from the Bible Dictionary that ‘we pray in Christ’s name when our mind is the mind of Christ, and our wishes the wishes of Christ. … We then ask for things it is possible for God to grant. Many prayers remain unanswered because they are not in Christ’s name at all; they in no way represent His mind but spring out of the selfishness of man’s heart’” (Bible Dictionary, “Prayer”). (Chad Webb, Training Broadcast, June 13, 2017).

“So Celeste decided to make a list of the things for which she had been praying. By making this list, she realized that her prayers primarily consisted of asking Heavenly Father for what she wanted, which was for [God] to change her circumstances. She then decided to make another list, writing down those things that she was certain Heavenly Father wanted for her. Of course the two lists were not entirely incompatible—He loves us and wants us to be happy. But this little exercise teaches an important truth. While she wanted to change her circumstances, [God] wanted to change her. So, she decided to adjust her approach to prayer in order to better align her will with Heavenly Father’s. She wrote: (Chad Webb, Training Broadcast, June 13, 2017).

“’I came up with a little formula to help me in my prayers. It is simply this—whenever you ask for something you want and you’re not totally sure if it’s something God wants for you, tack on the phrase ‘but if not’ and then add something you’re sure God would want for you.

“’For example, [Heavenly Father], please help me get some sleep tonight, but if not, help me to have enough energy to be pleasant and hardworking anyway.’ ‘[Heavenly Father], please bless that my child will get over this sickness and feel better, but if not, help us to trust in Thee and be patient with each other.’ ‘[Heavenly Father], pleaser bless that I will be included in my group of friends, but if not, even if I feel excluded, help me to be kind and generous.’” (Chad Webb, Training Broadcast, June 13, 2017).

She continued:

“I’ve tried this out for about a year now, and I can say my rate of prayer success has skyrocketed. …

“I feel like I’m finally fulfilling the real purpose of prayer, which is not to negotiate my desires, but to align myself with God. …

“An unexpected benefit has been that I don’t fear hard situations or not getting what I want nearly as much as I used to because I’ve seen and felt God answer my prayers – both my desires and my ‘but if nots. ‘” (Chad Webb, Training Broadcast, June, 13, 2017)

Believe that God the father loves you and that he wants you to succeed and that you're here for a divine purpose that even being at Ensign college is part of his purpose for you. Believe that you can go to him in prayer and that He wants to hear from you.

For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.

“Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you.

“And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.

“And I will be found of you, saith the Lord” (Jeremiah 29:11–14). 

God has kind thoughts towards us, thoughts of peace and love. So do those here at Ensign College. President and Sister Kusch pray for you and want you to succeed. So do your teachers and the staff. Most importantly, God the Father, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost our on your side. With Them, this is going to be your best semester ever! This really are days never to be forgotten. In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

About the Speaker

Robert Lund

Brother Robert Lund currently serves as an institute instructor at Ensign College. He has been a religious educator for Seminaries and Institutes for over 30 years. During his career he has worked as the worldwide manager of S&I curriculum and was most recently the Associate Director at the University of Utah Institute of Religion. He received his bachelor’s degree and master’s degree from BYU and then returned to the J. Reuben Clark school of law at BYU to complete a Juris Doctor degree from 1993–1996. 

Brother Lund has served as a Sunday school teacher, stake mission leader, bishop in his family ward, young men president, and in the nursery. He is currently serving as a bishop of the Capitol Hill YSA ward. 

Brother Lund was raised in Olympia, Washington; Mendon, Utah; and Coeur d'Alene, Idaho. After returning from serving a mission in Georgia, he was an instructor at the Missionary Training Center in Provo, Utah. While working at the MTC he fell in love with another MTC instructor Marie Olsen, who had recently returned from serving her mission in Milan, Italy. They were married in the Salt Lake Temple in 1987 and together they have three wonderful children and six adorable grandchildren. His current interests and hobbies focus almost solely on pampering his six grandchildren.
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