¶ 2010-07-12 · William Jackson
[This is the transcript of a talk I gave in church on Sunday, July 11, 2010. An audio recording of my remarks is also available.]
When our daughter Emily was nine months old – and I say that like it was a long time ago when it was two months ago – she discovered a fun new game that she could play with us. We would sit her on a chair, or on a couch, or on our bed, or on the stairs, and then we would sit down in front of her, on the floor facing her. Emily would then throw herself off her perch headfirst into our waiting arms. She would giggle wildly, and then we would set her back up and repeat the process, over and over.
Children seem to be born with an implicit sense of trust in their parents. Before they can even walk or speak, they have confidence that their parents love them and will take care of them. When the Lord asks us to trust in Him, I believe He means that we should show the same confidence that little children show in their earthly parents.
Now unfortunately, on a few occasions Emily has attempted to play the diving game while we were not paying enough attention to her. Even though she has gotten a few bumps and shed a few tears, she still loves to throw herself into our arms.
Even though He has the ability, the Lord will not always catch us when we dive headfirst off the couch. But that does not mean that we cannot trust in Him.
Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. [Proverbs 3:5]
What does it mean to trust in the Lord? A close examination of this and other scriptures can help us understand what the Lord means when He asks us to trust in Him. Much like Sister Keeler1, I sometimes also have an obsessive fascination with language. In my studies I discovered that the Hebrew word that is translated “trust” in Proverbs 3:5 also appears in other places in the scriptures, but it is not always translated as “trust”.
I will not attempt to pronounce the Hebrew word, because I do not know Hebrew. We have enough intelligent people in the congregation that I think there is a good possibility that one of you does know Hebrew, and I donʼt want to embarrass myself in front of you.
In Deuteronomy chapter 28, the Lord explains to his people the great blessings that will come if they keep the commandments. He follows a long list of blessings with the matching curses that will come if the children of the covenant do not hearken to His voice. Included with these curses is this promise (with the same Hebrew word):
The Lord shall bring a nation against thee from far, from the end of the earth, as swift as the eagle flieth; … And he shall besiege thee in all thy gates, until thy high and fenced walls come down, wherein thou trustedst, throughout all thy land … [Deuteronomy 28:49, 52]
The Lord warns His people that it is not enough to simply build gates, walls, and fences to defend against their enemies. They must also put their trust in Him and keep His commandments. If they do not tend to these spiritual defenses, then they can expect their man-made defenses to fall when their enemies come knocking.
We are not so much occupied with building gates and walls these days; I think it is safe to say that we wonʼt have an opposing army marching on our city any time soon. So how does this counsel apply to us today?
When the children of Israel began to occupy the promised land, fortifying cities against their enemies was an essential temporal pursuit. In our day, building gates and walls can be likened to providing shelter, food, safety, and security for our families. The work of providing for the temporal needs of our families should not be neglected. But do we trust that our temporal preparations are all we need to keep us happy? Merely having warm beds and full stomachs is not the end of our existence. These necessities of life will not protect us from an enemy far more destructive than any earthly army.
When we trust in the Lord by keeping His commandments, fasting, praying, and studying the scriptures, we build spiritual gates and walls for ourselves and for our families. The prophet Nephi makes this clear:
… and whoso would hearken unto the word of God, and would hold fast unto it, they would never perish; neither could the temptations and the fiery darts of the adversary overpower them unto blindness, to lead them away to destruction. [1 Nephi 15:24]
From these scriptures we learn that to trust in the Lord means to believe in and act on His promises. He promises that if we follow Him and do what He asks us to do, He will protect us from the temptations and attacks of our adversary the devil.
Through the prophet Ezekiel, the Lord teaches us an important lesson about humility, and points out a dangerous place where we can be tempted to put our trust. Again, with the same Hebrew word:
When I [the Lord] shall say to the righteous, that he shall surely live; if he trust to his own righteousness, and commit iniquity, all his righteousnesses shall not be remembered; but for his iniquity that he hath committed, he shall die for it. [Ezekiel 33:13]
It appears that we can never be so righteous that the Lord will excuse a little iniquity. There is no righteousness quota that, when we meet it, qualifies us to sin, even just a little, even by mistake. The atonement does not work that way. This is what the apostle Paul meant when he wrote this to the Galatians:
… we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified. [Galatians 2:16]
Having faith in Christ goes hand in hand with trusting in the Lord. The Pharisees of Paulʼs time believed that if they obeyed the law of Moses perfectly, they would earn their salvation. Unfortunately, they also believed that they could actually obey the law of Moses perfectly. In Paulʼs words, they were attempting to be “justified by the law”. In Ezekielʼs words, they were “trust[ing] to [their] own righteousness” rather than trusting in the Lord.
The erroneous belief that salvation comes through a perfect adherence to the law of Moses was not new to the Pharisees in A.D. 30. About 180 years earlier, on the other side of the world, a prophet named Abinadi posed this question to the evil King Noah and his wicked priests:
… Doth salvation come by the law of Moses? What say ye? And they answered and said that salvation did come by the law of Moses. [Mosiah 12:31-32]
The correct relationship between the law of Moses and the atonement of Jesus Christ is expressed by Mormon as he described the righteous people of Anti-Nephi-Lehi:
Now they did not suppose that salvation came by the law of Moses; but the law of Moses did serve to strengthen their faith in Christ … [Alma 25:16]
These scriptures teach us that if we believe our good works and righteousness alone will save us, if we “trust to [our] own righteousness”, we will inevitably stumble and fall. To trust in the Lord means to understand the purpose of His atonement and to have faith in His saving power.
Please note that there is a subtle but important difference between these two ideas. It is incorrect for me to believe that my good works and righteousness will directly qualify me to inherit Celestial glory. Rather, it is correct for me to believe that my good works and righteousness will qualify me to receive the cleansing blessings of the atoning sacrifice of the Lord Jesus Christ. As the prophet Nephi taught us:
… we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.
The same Hebrew word we found in Proverbs 3:5 is translated in other scriptures as “be confident” or “have confidence”. In the 27th Psalm, David sings:
The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? When the wicked, even mine enemies and my foes, came upon me to eat up my flesh, they stumbled and fell. Though an host should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear: though war should rise against me, in this will I be confident. [Psalm 27:1-3]
Our enemies are the devil and his angels. Our foes are anyone who would lead us away from the strait and narrow path of salvation. The devilʼs agenda is not a mystery; the scripture says:
… he seeketh that all men might be miserable like unto himself.
“Misery loves company” is a gospel truth. Satan is now and always will be exerting all his strength and using all his cunning to make us miserable, to make us doubt, to make us fear and despair, to shake our confidence in anything worth trusting.
Try to recall for a moment a time when you felt the Spirit testify to your heart that something specific was true or right. It could be the peace you felt when you decided to be baptized. It could be the still, small voice whispering to you that The Book of Mormon is true. It could be a spiritual confirmation that you are about to marry the right person. For example, I remember a very specific moment and a very specific feeling when the Holy Ghost testified to me that Joseph Smith was a prophet of God.
Now, try to remember if you ever felt doubt about your testimony or decision. Did you ever question whether you had done the right thing? If you are like me, the gut-wrenching answer is, “Yes, I have felt doubt.” Satan sows these seeds of doubt in us hoping that in turn we will pick up a watering can and a spade and cultivate those little seeds until they grow into poisonous weeds and completely overcome our spiritual garden. But if we trust in the Lord and have confidence in His strength, we will recognize these doubts. We will know that they come from Satan, and we will know what to do with them. Elder Jeffery R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles gave us this counsel:
With any major decision there are cautions and considerations to make, but once there has been illumination, beware the temptation to retreat from a good thing. If it was right when you prayed about it and trusted it and lived for it, it is right now. Donʼt give up when the pressure mounts. Certainly donʼt give in to that being who is bent on the destruction of your happiness. Face your doubts. Master your fears.
Elder Holland goes on to quote the Apostle Paul:
Cast not away therefore your confidence … [Hebrews 10:35]
When we trust in the Lord we have confidence in Him and He in turn helps us to have confidence in ourselves.
We already know how we both demonstrate and develop our trust in the Lord: we keep His commandments; we study the scriptures; we pray sincerely and often; we gather our families around us and help one another learn and live the Gospel of Jesus Christ; we seek to understand the atonement and how we can obtain its blessings.
The Hebrew word for “trust” we found in Proverbs 3:5 is also translated elsewhere in the Bible as “to be secure”, “to hope”, and “to be bold”. When my daughter throws herself off the couch into our arms, she is secure because she trusts that we will catch her. She certainly hopes that we will catch her. And throwing oneself off a couch expecting to be safely caught by ones parents can definitely be described as “bold”.
When we truly trust in the Lord He blesses us with a feeling of security. We have a hope and confidence that the Lord will fulfill the promises he has made to the righteous. We can be bold as we stand for the things we know to be true and important. When we stand, we will not be moved. Psalms 125 begins:
They that trust in the Lord shall be as mount Zion, which cannot be removed, but abideth for ever. [Psalms 125:1]
One final promised blessing I will mention comes from Elder Richard G. Scott. He said:
Your peace of mind, your assurance of answers to vexing problems, your ultimate joy depend upon your trust in Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ.
I testify that the Lord is one in whom we can put our trust. He will keep His promises if we trust in Him. We will know peace, confidence, and security when we trust in Him.
In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.
Farrah Keeler spoke just before I did. In her talk, she explained that she is a language teacher and has “an obsessive fascination with language” (her words). ↩