Behold, the handmaid of the Lord
When Moses was was called to lead his people out of Egypt, he said, “O my Lord, I am not eloquent…but I am slow of speech, and of a slow tongue.” Enoch said, “Why is it that I have found favor in thy sight, and am but a lad, and all the people hate me; for I am slow of speech; wherefore am I thy servant?” Our own Elder Bednar has confessed feelings of weakness and inadequacy when describing his call to serve the Lord as an apostle. As someone who deals with very deep and innate feelings of weakness, I can imagine my response would be quite similar.
Following the Lord’s commands is difficult. Neal A Maxwell said, “If we are serious about our discipleship, Jesus will eventually request each of us to do those very things which are most difficult for us to do.” Abraham was asked to sacrifice his son, Nephi was asked to kill a man, the early Saints were driven from home after home, and there are countless ordinary, every day people who are currently living through the harder trials than you or I could ever imagine. In times of trial, sometimes the only comfort with have is that which we can receive from the comforter. Moroni was another prophet who felt inadequate to the task he had been given. As he was compiling the final portions of the Book of Mormon he said:
Lord, the Gentiles will mock at these things, because of our weakness in writing; for Lord thou hast made us mighty in word by faith, but thou hast not made us mighty in writing…
And thou hast made us that we could write but little, because of the awkwardness of our hands. Behold, thou hast not made us mighty in writing like unto the brother of Jared, for thou madest him that the things which he wrote were mighty even as thou art, unto the overpowering of man to read them.
Thou hast also made our words powerful and great, even that we cannot write them; wherefore, when we write we behold our weakness, and stumble because of the placing of our words; and I fear lest the Gentiles shall mock at our words.
That is a feeling I know all too well. While I admit that my writing has improved dramatically over the years, in conversation I still stumble with the placing of my words and fear mocking whenever I open my mouth. But the Lord said to Moroni:
…my grace is sufficient for the meek, that they shall take no advantage of your weakness;
And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.
Behold, I will show unto the Gentiles their weakness, and I will show unto them that faith, hope and charity bringeth unto me—the fountain of all righteousness.
I have an infinite number of weaknesses all stemming from my one great weakness–mortality. My thoughts on mortality and how it fits in with eternity is a post for another day, suffice it to say that I need this weakness of mine. As a mortal I was never meant to be perfect, I was meant to be perfected.
These weaknesses are a gift from a loving Heavenly Father who wants to help us grow and become strong. I have often talked to my children about repentance and the need for an atonement even if it were at all possible to avoid sin. The absence of sin does not indicate righteousness, only innocence. The Atonement of Jesus Christ helps us not only escape the eternal consequences of our sins, but helps us grow and become better… stronger.
In the days of Pinterest and mommy wars it’s so easy to become overwhelmed by what we lack and why we aren’t good enough. When the Lord asks us to reach out to a lonely neighbor, or fulfill a calling, or any other number of personal and overwhelming things that we as disciples of Christ are asked to do, it’s so easy to say, “You don’t really want me! So many other people would do a better job than I would.” When the Lord gives me the opportunity to bear my testimony, it’s so easy to say, “I’m not eloquent, and all the people hate me!” Yet there are also those in the scriptures who say, as Paul did,“I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.”
I love the story of the Brother of Jared. He not only did he have so much faith that he essentially forced himself into the presence of the Lord, but that very experience was precipitated by a complete surrender to the Lord’s power and grace.
When the Lord asked the Brother of Jared to come up with a way for them to light the inside of their vessels as they traveled, he came up with a wild idea. An idea that any of his companions would laugh at. In fact, this idea was so crazy that I imagine more than a few of his family members second guessed their decision to follow him to the promised land. The Brother of Jared made 16 clear stones out of molten rock and then asked the Lord to touch them so they would “shine forth in the darkness”. The Brother of Jared knew what Paul knew, and what Nephi knew, and Ammon, and Alma, and what Mary knew. He knew the Lord would prepare a way. He knelt in complete humility and said:
do not be angry with thy servant because of his weakness before thee…
nevertheless, thou hast been merciful unto us. O Lord, look upon me in pity… and suffer not that they shall go forth across this raging deep in darkness; but behold these things which I have molten out of the rock.
And I know, O Lord, that thou hast all power, and can do whatsoever thou wilt for the benefit of man; therefore touch these stones, O Lord, with thy finger, and prepare them that they may shine forth in darkness; and they shall shine forth unto us in the vessels which we have prepared, that we may have light while we shall cross the sea.
Behold, O Lord, thou canst do this. We know that thou art able to show forth great power, which looks small unto the understanding of men.
He went to the Lord with an idea that completely confounds even modern science and understanding, with absolute faith, knowing that the Lord is able to show forth great power–power that our mortal minds are utterly unable to understand. What followed this display of faith was so wonderful, that Moroni said,”and there never were greater things made manifest than those which were made manifest unto the brother of Jared.”
This experience reminds me of Mary, the mother of Jesus. When she was told that she would conceive and bear the Messiah, her response was simply, “behold, the handmaid of the Lord.” While I’m sure she felt the weight of this monumental responsibility, she had no doubt that God would help her fulfill it.
I am so grateful for the example of these people and for the scriptures that share them with me. I want nothing more than to feast upon these words so that next time the Lord asks me to do something hard, I will have the confidence to say, “behold, the handmaid of the Lord.”