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J. Lawrence Richards

Healing Through Christ Raises Us to a Higher Level

You look great. This is the start of week two, and you’re back. That’s a good sign. We welcome you here, you’re in a good place, you’re doing the right thing. We’re thankful to the choir, thankful to Brother Craig, thankful to Gregory who spoke, thankful to the prayer that was offered by a newly returned missionary. There’s nothing better than that.

At last week’s new student orientation we asked all of those who were returned missionaries to raise their hand, and it was just astounding. I’d like to know in this larger group how many of you are returned missionaries? Raise your hand.  Now put your hands down, and I’ll ask the question I did to the group last week. All of you who have returned from your mission within the past 12 months, raise your hand. Thank you very much.

I hope your mission stuck. That’s why we sing the song about, “Lord, I Would Follow Thee.” Now I mentioned this last week, and I think I’ll mention it again. You know the story of Peter and the apostles. The Savior had been resurrected and He visited and then left. Peter, along with six other brethren decided to go and do what? They went back to fishing. It had been a good mission—three great years. They knocked on a lot of doors and taught a lot of first discussions. And then the plane landed, they got off the plane, and Peter thought, “Nice ride, but I’m going to go back to fishing.”

And you remember what happened. How was fishing? Not very good—until the Savior came and said to them, “Cast your nets on the other side.” They hauled in 153 fish—they counted them. [See John chapter 21.] Then Peter, recognizing the Savior, jumps out of the boat and swims to shore, while the rest of the brethren bring in the boat.

They have breakfast together. Perhaps the Lord knew their temporal needs in the moment had to be satisfied before they were ready to be fed spiritually. So the resurrected Savior cooked a few fish. Now you remember this is the same Peter who wondered how they would get the money when they got to north of the Sea of Galilee, in Capernaum, and were supposed to pay tribute. Do you remember what the Savior told Peter to do to find the tribute money?

He told him to go down and cast a fishing line into the sea, pull a fish out, and in the mouth of the fish will be the tribute coin. Now what do you think went through Peter’s head? “Really? Really?” But that good missionary did it, didn’t he? And what did he find? The coin.

So what do we take from that story in the life of Peter? When you come to this College and we tell you to shave, you might think, “Really?” Or we tell you sisters that leggings aren’t pants, you might think, “Really?” Or we invite you to come to devotional and walk in the cold for two whole blocks and you think, “Really?” Our answer is, “Yes, really.”

Peter learned something from finding that coin in the fish. It wasn’t convenient, he probably didn’t completely understand the “why” of it, and there were other ways to accomplish his goal. Just like there are other ways to learn about geography or volcanoes or accounting or medical assisting. And there are other ways to learn than doing so with our learning pattern. But we want you to do it this way. “Really?” Yes, really.

In the moment that Peter went and got the fish with the coin, in the moment that Peter jumped off the boat and swam in because he recognized who the Savior was and couldn’t wait to get there, Peter learned.  He learned something while in the process of doing what the Lord asked him to do and in his single-minded rush to be near the resurrected Christ.

In the third chapter of the Book of Acts, Peter and John are on their way to the temple. Who do they find outside the temple? A man who has been there every day. Somebody brings him and puts him there. He was a lame man, wasn’t he? And what does this lame man want? A coin. What does the lame man need? Healing. Now, brothers and sisters, you and I come to this College and we sit in a classroom, and we believe we’re there to get a coin.  We call it a certificate or a degree. We may even call it a great grade on a test. But what we need in that classroom is healing.

What kind of healing? Healing to know who you are, because Satan spends his time telling who you are not. Healing to come to know what your capacities are, that you may fulfill the mission you were sent here to do. Healing that you may feel the Spirit to be healed from the wounds and the transgressions that have happened to you in your life, and the trials and the tribulations, and the hurt. You come to the College, and you sit in a class, or you sit in an institute class, or you sit in a devotional, and you are healed.

Now let me separate healing from being cured. There is a difference. You can be cured and never healed. Think about some of the things you’ve experienced in your life that you’ve gotten past, been cured of. Time has helped you, the Spirit’s helped you, friends and neighbors have helped you. But despite the love and support of others you’ve never really been healed.. At other times, you may be healed but never cured. Most addictions are that way, whether it’s to food or to pornography or to substances. We can be healed but never cured. So we are careful about what we watch, we pick carefully which side of the street we walk down. A recovering alcoholic does not walk past the bar. You don’t do that. You don’t watch TV late at night when you’re tired if there is a risk. You can be healed, but you may never be cured.  In both case, however, you can live a positive, successful, and meaningful life.

So here sits the lame man in front of Peter and John, expecting one thing but needing another. And you may sit in front of a faculty member and expect him to peel back your cranium and pour in life knowledge and textbook knowledge so that you can get the degree. But that’s not what you need. What you need is to learn how to learn.

So the man asked Peter for alms, and what does Peter say? He says, “Silver and gold have I none, but such as I have give I thee,” (Acts 3:6). And He takes him by the hand and he lifts him up.

Have you ever thought about the ability of lifting somebody up?  Can you do it if you’re not standing on higher ground? It would be kind of impossible, wouldn’t it? And so we are here, students, faculty, staff, and administration, to stand on higher ground that we may others lift up. D&C 43:16: “Ye are to be taught from on high (the Spirit)…that you may be endowed with power, that ye may give even as I have spoken.” We stand on higher ground.

In the Church, do we talk about magnifying our calling? Yes. If you were to take a magnifying glass and put it right down on a sheet of paper, right flat, does it do anything to the image? No. In order to magnify what you see, the magnifying glass has to be lifted off the paper. It has to be separated, it has to be set apart. And when it is lifted off the paper, you can see the detail more clearly. You can see the white space on the page between the letters that could be filled. You see the imperfections in the type and printing. Brothers and sisters, you and I have been called and set apart from the world to magnify our callings that we may see them more clearly and fulfill them more diligently.

In the Church, do we talk about the issue of being called and set apart? Yes?  So you come home from your mission and the next thing you want to do is you want to put on a beanie, and you want to grow a beard. And you say to me in the halls, “Well, I forgot to shave.” You come home and you want to look like you did before you left. Like Peter, you want to go back to fishing. Elder Neal A. Maxwell challenged, “For once and for all,” in our lives, he said, “I call upon you to establish your residence in Zion, and give up your cottage in Babylon,” (Elder Neal A. Maxwell, “A Wonderful Flood of Light,” BYU Devotional, March 26, 1989). That’s pretty good advice, isn’t it?

So Peter and John, imbued with the Spirit because of the day of Pentecost and their calling, stood on higher ground and lifted the lame man up, and gave him what he needed, not what he wanted. And the man went away, rejoicing. Was he any richer, physically? No. Was he any richer spiritually? Yes.

Now back to Peter on the shore of Galilee with the Savior and the 153 fish. Breakfast is over, and you know what comes next. It’s that great dialogue, isn’t it? The Savior asked Peter, “Do you love me more than these things?” The boat, the tools of his trade, the net, the fishes, which were the bounty of his temporal efforts. “Peter, do you love me more than the bounties of your temporal efforts?” “Yea, Lord, thou knowest that I love thee.” “Then feed the lambs.” And then he asks, “Peter, lovest thou me?”

“Yea, Lord, thou knowest I love thee.”

“Feed my sheep.” And then, a third time.

As Elder Holland said, that third question may have been especially prickly to Peter because it was not very far in the past that he’d been asked another question three times. And his response then was, “No, I don’t know him.” So now the Savior says, the third time , “Lovest thou me?”  

And Peter says, “Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee.”

“Then feed my sheep.” (See John 21:15-17).

What was the Savior telling Peter? And what is He telling you and me when we come home from our missions? He was telling Peter, “I can produce fish, I just produced 153. I don’t need you to produce fish. What I need you to do is to be my disciple, forever. Forever.”  That was the moment of great decision for Peter.

The Savior says the same thing to us. “I don’t need accountants. I don’t need medical assistants. I need disciples, forever.”

That is my sincere invitation to you this semester. Be his disciple at all times and in all seasons that you may be in. How is your discipleship? You can measure it any way you want. Periodically check and see where your discipleship needs to be strengthened and do something about it.

Now the Lord said, in the book of Ether, 12th chapter 27th verse, that if you come unto Him, He’ll show you your weakness. I invite you to be careful with that word weakness. In the heading, it says “weaknesses,” but in the text it says “weakness.” I invite you to follow all the references to understand the difference between “weakness” and “weaknesses.”  The Lord didn’t put you on earth with an inherent character flaw or weakness. That’s not revealed truth. Your weakness is your physical body and all of the things that come with that and the natural outcomes of this mortal experience. The Lord says, “If you come unto me humbly, I’ll show you your weakness, that it may be made strong.”

So you ask, “How’s my discipleship?”  If you’ve got a weakness, He says, “I’ll make it strong.” One of the ways He’s made it strong is to give you a spiritual gift. Where do you find your spiritual gifts? Your patriarchal blessing is a great place to start; every patriarchal blessing has at least one, I promise you that. The Lord gave you spiritual gifts to come here to earth to leverage them to accomplish the mission He’s set you out to accomplish in your life. (D&C 88:80.)

Whatever weakness you have, compensating blessings from the Lord will help you overcome them. We have wonderful people here at the College who have physical weakness, and yet they have incredible strength. I’m looking at one right now, sitting on the aisle.  She comes with her guide dog every day to school. She has been blessed with compensating blessings for her physical weakness. And she blesses my life. We all have weaknesses, too, most not as pronounced.

So we come to the College and we meet together that we may be no more strangers or foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints in the household of God, to lift each other up on a given day when we may be standing on higher ground, or to be lifted up on another day when somebody else is standing a little higher, in a little better shape than we are. We go around with our hands out asking, “Can I lift you up?” “Are you lonely?” “Can I say hello?” “Do you need a smile?” We come, with those physical weaknesses, to a temple of learning, to be lifted. It’s what Peter did, it’s what the apostles do.

Elder Bednar talked about going to England. You can view it on the Internet; it’s a great video. Elder Bednar said, “I’ve come to England to find the one.”  [Youtube, Elder Bednar in England,]

In Elder Bednar’s description about apostleship on the Church website, he explains that the purpose of an apostle is to minister to the one (“Elder David A. Bednar Talks about the Ministry of an Apostle,” We are not apostles, we are not prophets, we are shepherds, with a small “s.”  And we are in a position, as a community to lift others up, like Peter did.

Now what do we have to do to be lifted up? The book of 2nd Nephi chapter 16 quotes Isaiah, sixth chapter, which describes Isaiah’s vision of the Lord, and sees Him in the temple. There’s smoke, the prayers are coming up out of the temple, and he sees the train following behind the Savior—those that are faithful followers. He sees the seraphim that have six wings—two that cover their eyes, two that cover their feet, and two with which to fly, and they’re singing praises, “Holy, Holy to the Lord,” (2 Nephi 16:1-3). He says that the frames of the temple door shake at their speaking. What is Isaiah’s initial reaction in seeing this vision of the Lord in His majesty, sitting on His throne? He says, “I’m undone. I am a man of unclean lips,” (2 Nephi 16:5). The scriptures say it doesn’t matter what goes into the mouth, that defileth a man, but what comes out, (See Matthew 15:11). So Isaiah says, “I am a man of unclean lips.” (Isaiah 6:5)

So one of the seraphim goes to the altar and gets a hot coal. Now in the ancient temples, when the lamb was put on the altar and sacrificed, where did the blood go? It went in little rivers carved into the side of the altar down onto the coals. So this seraphim takes a hot coal and takes it to Isaiah, and touches his lips. Do you get it? He takes the blood of the lamb, and touches Isaiah’s lips, and makes him clean. Despite his physical weakness, he makes him clean.

Isaiah goes from a man who says, “Woe is me, I am undone,” to one who hears the voice of the Lord say, “Who will go for us, who shall we send?” And this man, who before the Atonement may have been in fear and may have felt his limitations, says, “Here am I, send me.” (Isaiah 6:6-8)

Whatever you think your weakness is, whatever you think your challenge is, the Lord has blessed you with the capacity to learn. He has blessed you with the capacity to grow. He has blessed you with the capacity to realize all the gifts He has given you. He’s blessed you with the capacity to fulfill the mission he’s already promised and probably laid his hands upon your head or patted you on the back as you left His presence, and said, “Go do this.” He armed you with it.

You can do it—through the blood of the Atonement. It is the enabling power to lay hold upon things that you otherwise could not accomplish in your life. It is the grace of God, and brothers and sisters, it is real, and it applies to your life. Satan would say to you, “You’re past it. It doesn’t work for you. It works for everybody else, but not for you.” That is the lie of the Great Deceiver, and as he is referred to in the 12th chapter of Revelations, the Great Accuser, (Revelations 12:10), who, John the Revelator said, stood before the Father both day and night, and said, “They can’t do it. They can’t do it.”

You have been held back until now to prove him wrong. And so, brethren, rise up, oh ye men of God, and be done with lesser things. And you sisters, your hymn is, “As Sisters in Zion.”  In the second verse it says to you that the “errand of angels is given to women.” Now Sister Richards is a bit aglow today, because on Sunday we had our first grandchildren, a set of twins. The errand of the angels has been given to women, “to cheer and to bless in humanity’s name.”

Brothers and sisters, may the Lord touch your hearts that you might know what you’re capable of, to know where you have the ability to lift, that you may see with eyes to lift others who need that lifting. I bless you with an increased desire for discipleship that you may feed His sheep, that you, in your own way, will run to the open tomb and look in, as Peter did, and know that it is empty, that Christ lives, that He cares about us, and wants to be involved in your life. I leave you that as a testimony and my blessing, in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.


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