Mosiah chapters 22 through 24 both illustrate how the Lord works in our lives to make us equal to our challenges. We read that the people of Limhi were in a tough situation in that “there was no way that they could deliver themselves” from their affliction (Mosiah 21:5). This is an important teaching- there are times when we simply cannot be delivered on our own efforts, no matter how well intentioned, or how great they may be. The book of Mosiah is an excellent text to show the power of the deliverance Jesus Christ offers us.
Instead of immediate deliverance, Limhi and his people experience “prosper(ing) by degrees” (Mosiah 21:16), and having their burdens lightened (Mosiah 21:15). It is during this time that the Lord shows us that even though we may not be delivered from our troubles right away, he still answers prayer, and through his Atonement, gives us the enabling power to bear our burdens!
We see the same type of experience shared by Alma and his people as they were in bondage to the wicked priests of Noah. Amulon was in control of Alma’s freedom, and Amulon was not a nice man. We read that Amulon, “was wroth with him…” and “exercised authority over them, and put tasks upon them, and put taskmasters over them” (Mosiah 24:9). Amulon even went so far as to prohibit the humble people of Alma from praying vocally (Mosiah 24:10-11). Alma and his people pray in their hearts instead. They experience a miracle:
“the voice of the Lord came to them in their afflictions, saying: Lift up your heads and be of good comfort, for I know of the covenant ye have made unto me; and I will covenant with my people and deliver them out of bondage. I will also ease the burdens which are put upon your shoulders, that even you cannot feel them upon your backs, even while ye are in bondage…” (Mosiah 24:13-14)
I believe this miracle was made possible by the Atonement of Jesus Christ. His enabling power, or grace, made both groups of people endure tough times. The situations these folks faced were not changed right away, but they were changed from the inside!
Elder Bednar had much to say in relation to the enabling power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ when he addressed students at BYU several years ago. I want to share a portion of his message:
If I were to emphasize one overarching point this morning, it would be this: I suspect that you and I are much more familiar with the nature of the redeeming power of the Atonement than we are with the enabling power of the Atonement. It is one thing to know that Jesus Christ came to earth to die for us. That is fundamental and foundational to the doctrine of Christ. But we also need to appreciate that the Lord desires, through His Atonement and by the power of the Holy Ghost, to live in us—not only to direct us but also to empower us. I think most of us know that when we do things wrong, when we need help to overcome the effects of sin in our lives, the Savior has paid the price and made it possible for us to be made clean through His redeeming power. Most of us clearly understand that the Atonement is for sinners. I am not so sure, however, that we know and understand that the Atonement is also for saints—for good men and women who are obedient and worthy and conscientious and who are striving to become better and serve more faithfully. I frankly do not think many of us “get it” concerning this enabling and strengthening aspect of the Atonement, and I wonder if we mistakenly believe we must make the journey from good to better and become a saint all by ourselves through sheer grit, willpower, and discipline, and with our obviously limited capacities.
Brothers and sisters, the gospel of the Savior is not simply about avoiding bad in our lives; it also is essentially about doing and becoming good. And the Atonement provides help for us to overcome and avoid bad and to do and become good. There is help from the Savior for the entire journey of life—from bad to good to better and to change our very nature.
I am not trying to suggest that the redeeming and enabling powers of the Atonement are separate and discrete. Rather, these two dimensions of the Atonement are connected and complementary; they both need to be operational during all phases of the journey of life. And it is eternally important for all of us to recognize that both of these essential elements of the journey of life—both putting off the natural man and becoming a saint, both overcoming bad and becoming good—are accomplished through the power of the Atonement. Individual willpower, personal determination and motivation, and effective planning and goal setting are necessary but ultimately insufficient to triumphantly complete this mortal journey. Truly we must come to rely upon “the merits, and mercy, and grace of the Holy Messiah” (2 Nephi 2:8)…
An Example of the Enabling Power of Jesus Christ
Examples of the enabling power are not found only in the scriptures. Daniel W. Jones was born in 1830 in Missouri, and he joined the Church in California in 1851. In 1856 he participated in the rescue of handcart companies that were stranded in Wyoming by severe storms. After the rescue party found the suffering Saints, provided what immediate comfort they could, and made arrangements for the sick and the feeble to be transported to Salt Lake City, Daniel and several other young men volunteered to remain with and safeguard the company’s possessions. The food and supplies left with Daniel and his colleagues were, to say the least, meager and were rapidly expended. I will now quote from Daniel Jones’ personal journal and his description of the events that followed:
“Game soon became so scarce that we could kill nothing. We ate all the poor meat; one would get hungry eating it. Finally that was all gone, nothing now but hides were left. We made a trial of them. A lot was cooked and eaten without any seasoning and it made the whole company sick. Many were so turned against the stuff that it made them sick to think of it. . . .
“Things looked dark, for nothing remained but the poor raw hides taken from starved cattle. We asked the Lord to direct us what to do. The brethren did not murmur, but felt to trust in God. We had cooked the hide, after soaking and scraping the hair off until it was soft and then ate it, glue and all. This made it rather inclined to stay with us longer than we desired. Finally I was impressed how to fix the stuff and gave the company advice, telling them how to cook it; for them to scorch and scrape the hair off; this had a tendency to kill and purify the bad taste that scalding gave it. After scraping, boil one hour in plenty of water, throwing the water away which had extracted all the glue, then wash and scrape the hide thoroughly, washing in cold water, then boil to a jelly and let it get cold, and then eat with a little sugar sprinkled on it. This was considerable trouble, but we had little else to do and it was better than starving”
All that I have read thus far is a preparation for the next line from Daniel W. Jones’ journal. It illustrates how those pioneer Saints may have known something about the enabling power of the Atonement that we, in our prosperity and ease, are not as quick to understand: “We asked the Lord to bless our stomachs and adapt them to this food” (Jones, Forty Years, 81; emphasis added). My dear brothers and sisters, I know what I would have prayed for in those circumstances. I would have prayed for something else to eat. “Heavenly Father, please send me a quail or a buffalo.” It never would have occurred to me to pray that my stomach would be strengthened and adapted to what we already had. What did Daniel W. Jones know? He knew about the enabling power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ. He did not pray that his circumstances would be changed. He prayed that he would be strengthened to deal with his circumstances. Just as Nephi, Amulek, and Alma and his people were strengthened, Daniel W. Jones had the spiritual insight to know what to ask for in that prayer. “We hadn’t the faith to ask him to bless the raw-hide, for it was ‘hard stock.’ On eating now all seemed to relish the feast. We were three days without eating before this second attempt was made. We enjoyed this sumptuous fare for about six weeks” 1
1. David A. Bednar, In the Strength of the Lord, BYU Speeches, October 23, 2001. The story related by Elder Bednar comes to us from: Daniel W. Jones, Forty Years Among the Indians [Salt Lake City: Juvenile Instructor Office, 1890], 81.