Monday, December 19, 2011

Grace and Gasoline (2 Nephi 25:23)

Before I dig into writing this post, I want to comment on the power of hymns. This morning I was having some of the strongest urges of attraction for a man that I've felt in a long time. I just started playing some hymns and the effect was almost instant. I felt my longing for companionship immediately filled by the companionship of the Holy Ghost reassuring me and helping things subside. I believe God is a musician. He gave us sacred music as one of the most fierce weapons in our arsenal.

Now onto today's post:

Have you ever pushed a car a quarter mile because it was out of gas? So have I. Last night at 1:00 AM. (Long story...) Anyway, I learned some great spiritual truths in the process that I'd like to share today, building upon other lessons I've learned in the past.

Think of life like a road trip from New York to San Diego (2 of my favorite cities!). I have likened my own life to this analogy many times. Bear in mind that San Diego here represents not just any end of the journey, but the one we most desire--it is like Eternal Life in the Celestial Kingdom. There are many detours we could take along the way that could prevent us from getting there and cause us to settle for a less-desired destination.

Now think of how the Atonement fits this scenario. For many years I thought that the Atonement was like the windshield wiper fluid of our journey: used to help us clean off the bugs and crud we collect along the way. Oh what a silly and simplistic analogy that is, I've learned! Honestly, the Atonement DOES actually fill the role of cleansing us, but it is so much more important than that as well! After all, if all it did was clean us when we got dirty, then it wouldn't do much to help those of us with SSA until after we made mistakes. I've learned that it helps much more than that along the way!

While on my mission for a while the car my companion and I had experienced problems with its power steering. Have you ever driven a car without power steering? It's something we all take for granted until it's gone. Turning a car going 45 mph without power steering is not an easy task! It was that experience that began to help me realize what GRACE is. Grace has been defined as "the enabling power of the Atonement." It gives us the power to do the right thing. Life truly is like a road trip, but on my mission I began to realize that the Atonement isn't merely like unto wiper fluid--it is power steering fluid! Try making that road trip from NY to SD without power steering. You'd be left to rely completely on your own strength to make each needed turn along the way. Technically we are capable of getting there on our own--that is, all have agency and COULD technically make all the right choices and turn to get to the end on our own, but without power steering it is made a lot more difficult.

Then last night I learned that even my power steering analogy was far to simplistic a model to describe the help of the Atonement in our lives. Power Steering is indeed much like the enabling power of grace, but even that still makes it much like a convenience than a need. Grace is more like gasoline. Let me explain by first quoting a favorite verse of Latter-day Saints from the Book of Mormon. From 2 Nephi 25:23 we read:

"For we labor diligently to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved after all we can do."

Unfortunately, the reason lots of latter-day saints love this verse is because of those last five words, "after all we can do." They read it with super emphasis on that phrase in order to both diminish the importance of grace in the passage and glorify the role of works. How many times have you heard this verse read, "it is by grace [this word is read softly and timidly, like it's some cuss word or something] that we are saved AFTER ALL WE CAN DO!!!!!!!!!" This is generally followed by some kind of raucous celebration about the doctrine of works. Brethren and sisters, these things ought not so to be! Indeed, in context of the chapter, I think we are reading that verse completely backwards. The entire chapter is about our dependence upon Christ. Look what happens when we switch the final phrases of the verse around:

"For we labor diligently to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ and to be reconciled to God; for we know that after all we can do, it is by grace that we are saved."

We haven't actually changed the meaning of the verse at all, merely the point of emphasis. That way we begin to see that even all those good things we do don't save us--grace does! Here's where everything ties together:

Last night pushing a car with no gas just a quarter mile to the Chevron, my mind went back to my good ol' road trip analogy and I realized that once again it was *technically* possible to get the car all the way from New York to San Diego without any gas. But doing so would kill me! (By the way--the car is essential to the trip and can't be abandoned or left behind mid-way in my analogy.) I even had the help of a benevolent stranger and it still wasn't fun or easy. The car suddenly became a symbol to me of the natural man and our bodies. We absolutely need them for eternal life, but unaided they actually become a hindrance that can prevent us from reaching our eternal goal. However, when we are able to control the vehicle it is actually just as essential to getting us there! Christ's grace is an enabling power that helps us not only clean the windows and steer the car, but also to move forward with strength far beyond our own.

Seeing the Atonement through that lens, it becomes incredibly applicable to SSA whether or not we fall into transgression. At the beginning of this post I mentioned an incredibly strong surge in attraction and lustful feelings I felt this morning. I of myself could not control that urge without incredible effort beyond what I will always be able to render. The gift of the Spirit though, available by the Grace of God, helped me immediately dispel those feelings. I definitely don't have the strength to push my car (literal or figurative) to San Diego! But with wiper fluid, power steering, and gasoline, I am enabled to present my vehicle clean and successfully driven to that great destination for final inspection before the Lord.

Perhaps my favorite part of this analogy is that while emphasizing the absolute necessity of grace, it doesn't undermind agency or works either. Even with unlimited gasoline and power steering, I must drive the car! I can still choose to squander those great endowments of grace and take forbidden paths or drive recklessly, risking an accident. Only by careful driving in the right direction by my own free will can I get there. Nonetheless, if left to myself with no gas I'll never get there.

Don't try pushing your car alone. It isn't fun and you'll never get there. Your struggles with the natural man are just too heavy! Rely on the Lord and He will enable you with His grace.

My best,



  1. An afterthought: Emphasizing the "after all we can do" part could lead us to believe that we have to push the car as far as we possibly can to San Diego before God gives us the gasoline to get there. Silly, eh?

  2. Oh how spoiled we are now days! lol I am 46 yrs old and learned to drive without power steering now we think we cant live without it!
    I saw your name in facebook and thought, oh my heck please tell me he is not an active gay man (active in sex that is), it'll ruin everything we have tried as a church to teach on this subject. I am so happy to learn you have resisted as so many of us have to do with different trials.
    I use to fix any problem i had in my sex life with finding another man (as a sexual abuse survivor i always thought sex was love)so when my husband started having migraines that would last up to 15 months non stop it was a soul searching venture to learn to turn to God and not other men to fill the void. It has not been an easy task but it has be well worth the effort.
    I do wish you all the best in your search for the right woman which the Lord has waiting for you, that you will be able to pour all your love and happiness towards. I wish/hope a huge happy family for you to one day see in the Celestial kingdom:)...God bless you Obadiah u are a sweetheart :)


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