As a father of young children, they will ask me when I am done tucking them into bed at night to close their closet doors.
For some reason, having closet doors ajar in the dark is creepy.
Can you blame them? Once in college I saw a scary movie and was uneasy when I returned to my apartment.
My roommates were gone, so I was alone.
But I didn't feel alone.
I opened doors, I checked under the bed, wanting to be sure. Silly, I know, but I couldn't shake that spooky feeling.
Somewhere out there is someone, right now, who is losing sleep, unable to shake the feeling that God is watching them from the shadows, holding a big stick and keeping track of our sins.
Is God an umpire, keeping score?
"You ran that red light! Foul ball."
"You went to a rated-R movie? Strike!"
"You made a missionary TikTok video telling people to come to Church for the chili cook-off. Home run!"
Why would we view God as our adversary, as if we were on opposing teams?
I once heard someone say that if life were a baseball game, God is not the umpire. No, God is like our father cheering us from the stands.
That analogy may not be perfect, but I like the idea.
Can You Feel the Love Tonight?
Speaking of fathers, can we talk about Father Lehi?
While caught up in the spirit, Lehi prophesied some amazing things.
I don't know about you, but I consider Lehi one of the greatest doctrinal teachers of all time ― right up there with Paul.
In 2 Nephi 1, Lehi shines brightly in his role as a prophet, but I think what's cool is that he is speaking to his sons from the heart of a parent.
I know we typically quote from Chapter 2 ("opposition in all things"), but there are some incredible things in Chapter 1.
Among them is Lehi's testimony of Jesus's "infinite goodness" (2 Nephi 1:10).
Wait. God's goodness is "infinite?" How can that be?
Is there a ceiling to Christ's love? Does his mercy ever reach a bottom, as a well in a drought runs dry?
Because if we can figure out the limits to His love, then we'll know when we've crossed that line, right?
Tell me, please, at what point does God stop loving us? How much sinfulness does it take to disqualify me from his eternal, perfect love?
Is there anything I can do, or add-to-the-mix of his love, to detract from or diminish it?
Let's ask Paul:
For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Well, that's pretty comprehensive. Except, did you notice the one thing not on that list?
The one person who can shut Christ out of my life, with power to walk away from Him, turning my back and refusing his overtures, who can shove infinity into a corner and pretend He's not there . . .
. . . is me.
Why is God Called "Good?"
Is everything God does good?
I've read some pretty disturbing stuff in the Old Testament. How am I supposed to make sense of it?
Oh! Are we defining good in one of those *wink-wink* "your ways are higher than my ways" kinda way?
Or can we trust the plain meaning of the word?
In March 1841, Joseph Smith declared:
"God is good and all his acts are for the benefit of inferior intelligences."
This is an interesting way of defining good. God is "good" because everything he does is to benefit us.
"God saw that those intelligences had not power to defend themselves against those that had a tabernacle."
Wow. This is starting to sound like science fiction. Apparently, those of us who were spirits were vulnerable. We couldn't defend ourselves against those with bodies. (Why is it significant that those with bodies were trying to subjugate us? What were those evil, embodied entities trying to do?)
"For it is a natural thing with those spirits that have the most power to bear down on those of lesser power. So we see the devil is without a tabernacle."
Well. So the reason for depriving Satan of a body was because he could do a lot more damage with one. Those with bodies have power over those who don't, right?
And we learn that it is not just men, but also spirits in general, who exercise unrighteous dominion, where those with a little authority, as they suppose, bear down on those with lesser power.
What this means to me: how incredible that God, who has a body, did not become a tyrant! How singular He is.
"Therefore, the Lord called them together in council and agreed to form them tabernacles so that he might gender the spirit and the tabernacle together so as to create sympathy for their fellow man."
(William McIntire Minute Book, March 1841)
Oh boy, did you see that? Blink and you might miss it. What was the purpose of God in giving us bodies? To "create sympathy" for one another.
Literally, our bodies are love-vehicles.
It's "Good" to Repent
The goodness of God is made manifest in repentance.
Which might sound strange, since repentance is often associated with rent sackcloth and ashes in our hair, godly sorrow and shame.
But am I the only one that thinks repentance is . . . joyful?
The goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance.
Or, as Jacob phrased it:
O how great the goodness of our God, who prepareth a way for our escape from the grasp of this awful monster; yea, that monster, death and hell, which I call the death of the body, and also the death of the spirit.
(2 Nephi 9:10)
Rescue me from the awful monster hiding under my bed?
Exactly what I'd expect from a loving Parent.
There's a Good Boy
Is there a difference between "good works" and "the law of works?"
On the one hand, we perform good works in Christ's spirit and in his name.
The "law of works," on the other hand, is taking credit for all the nice things we've done.
Which category would home teaching / ministering fall under?
For if Abraham were justified by the law of works, he hath to glory in himself; but not of God.
Now to him who is justified by the law of works, is the reward reckoned, not of grace, but of debt.
But to him that seeketh not to be justified by the law of works, but believeth on him who justifieth not the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.
(Romans 42:2-5, JST)
Well THAT'S not we've been taught in Sunday School, is it?
And I'm quoting from the Joseph Smith Translation, so this is as Mormon as it gets.
And here we find that true religion is NOT based upon the law of works (NEWS FLASH) but upon the law of grace in Christ.
1. If everythingGod does is good, meaning for our benefit, and
2. If every good thing comes from Christ, as Moroni tell us (Moroni 10:18), then
3. Any "good" we accomplish is in and through and by the power of God . . .
. . . so WHO ultimately gets the credit?
For if there be one among you that doeth good, he shall work bythe power and gifts of God.
So a good work is not defined by the action itself, but the spirit in which the action is taken (that of Christ's).
Whereas I could do something that appears to be a "good work," like praying, but if I am not praying in Christ's spirit, is it actually "good?"
If a man prayeth unto God except he shall do it with real intent it profiteth him nothing.
For behold, it is not counted unto him for righteousness.
If God is the wellspring of our goodness in the first place, shouldn't he get the glory? I mean, isn't our goodness derivative of His?
Who among us is a sovereign island of goodness, out in the middle of international waters, beyond the reach of God's loving embrace?
We swim in an ocean of God's goodness, kept afloat in his infinite mercy, despite all of our doggie paddling.
For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works.
Good works, then, do not make us righteous ― they are not the currency we pay St. Peter to gain admission into heaven.
Taking credit for our good works is like counterfeiting money and saying to the store clerk, "No, no, believe me, it's real!"
Good works, though, are a reflection that we have Christ in us.
But the glory is, and was, and always will be, God's.