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Written by Brett D. Benson, author of Always Remember Him: Jesus Christ.
The Father’s love for His children is perfectly expressed in the life and teachings of Jesus Christ and in the Atonement He provided for mankind.
The Father reaches out to all His children. He comes to them through His Son and through the servants who are sent under His authority. Jesus worked only through perfect love, even when rebuking those who erred doctrinally. He came to help all of god’s children make it back home. And yet with all of the love which He held, He still allowed men to choose for themselves.
Jesus walked among the sons of men as their Teacher and exemplar, but He still allowed men their agency to choose which path they would follow. Because of this, mankind retained the personal responsibility to find the truth. Jesus forced no one to heaven, rather those who truly desired salvation made the necessary effort to obtain it. Men can only rise up in the strength of the Lord if they choose to follow the way that was perfectly exemplified and taught by the Son of god. He truly is the way, the truth, and the life.
Going back into Galilee, Jesus went immediately to a man who sought His help. The man came and knelt down before the Lord and pleaded, “Lord, have mercy on my son: for he is lunatick, and sore vexed: for oft- times he falleth into the fire, and oft into the water” (Matthew 17:15). The father of the boy then complained to Jesus that His disciples could not cast out the devil at his earlier request. The Savior then lamented His disciples’ lack of faith, saying, “o faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you, and suffer you?” (Luke 9:41).
Jesus commanded the men to bring the boy, and “as he was yet a coming, the devil threw him down, and tare him” (Luke 9:42). The boy thrashed on the ground “and wallowed foaming” (Mark 9:20).
And [Jesus] asked his father, How long is it ago since this came unto him? And he said, of a child. And ofttimes it hath cast him into the fire, and into the waters, to destroy him: but if thou canst do any thing, have compassion on us, and help us. Jesus said unto him, If thou canst believe, all things are possible to him that believeth. And straight- way the father of the child cried out, and said with tears, Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief. When Jesus saw that the people came running together, he rebuked the foul spirit, saying unto him, Thou dumb and deaf spirit, I charge thee, come out of him, and enter no more into him. And the spirit cried, and rent him sore, and came out of him: and he was as one dead; insomuch that many said, He is dead. But Jesus took him by the hand, and lifted him up; and he arose. (Mark 9:21–27)
Jesus’ disciples witnessed the lad’s healing and later asked Jesus privately why they could not heal him. “And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you. Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting” (Matthew 17:20–21).
Jesus knew that it was essential for His disciples to have both faith and love. While he was with them, He taught them this by example, providing the help and assistance needed by all men. After His death, they would need to fast and pray to obtain sufficient faith to accomplish their parts in His work.
Some time later Jesus turned to His disciples and said, “The Son of man shall be betrayed into the hands of men: And they shall kill him, and the third day he shall be raised again. And they were exceeding sorry” (Matthew 17:22–23). Though they still did not understand, Jesus taught how with faith all things are possible. And because of His love, all things would be provided for any who would seek Him.
The love of the Savior is incomparable and beyond description. even a mother’s love falls short of the love that brought the only Begotten Son from His throne above to suffer and die for mankind. “But, behold, Zion hath said: the Lord hath forsaken me, and my Lord hath forgotten me—but he will show that he hath not. For can a woman forget her suck- ing child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee, o house of Israel. Behold, I have graven thee on the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me” (1 Nephi 21:14–16; compare with Isaiah 49). The Lord will always answer those who seek Him. Through Him and under His direction man can also succeed in those things that are expedient for His purposes.
The Lord’s miraculous ability to help in any situation was about to be demonstrated again to Peter. After He healed the boy, Jesus was approached by tax collectors, who came demanding tribute to Caesar. Jesus told Peter, “go thou to the sea, and cast an hook, and take up the fish that first cometh up; and when thou hast opened his mouth, thou shalt find a piece of money: that take, and give unto them for me and thee” (Matthew 17:27). So it was and forever would be, the promise of the Lord was fulfilled according to His word.
If the Savior’s faith could be compared to a seed that had grown into a tree, and his love with the love of a mother, then perhaps His purity of heart could be equated to the pureness in a child’s heart. His answer to the question, “Who is greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” taught the plainness and purity of the gospel of Jesus Christ. He said, “Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:4). Jesus did not call one of his great apostles and put him in the midst of the people as the example. He called a child and then told His disciples, “except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3).
While the world’s heroes are great warriors, athletes, or actors, Jesus set a little child before men to teach them of the true nature of heaven. “For the natural man is an enemy to god, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child.” The Christlike qualities of a child are to be remembered and lived by those who desire to enter Christ’s kingdom and become like Him. Those qualities include being “submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father” (Mosiah 3:19).
Continuing in this same topic of the Savior’s love for His children, Jesus went on to teach the parables of the lost sheep, the coin, and the prodigal son. As these teachings indicate, the Lord will go to great lengths to find and recover His lost sheep, whether they become lost by unintentional wandering, irresponsible neglect, or purposeful rebellion. Like the little child who loves and yearns for even an uncaring or abusive parent, Jesus’ heart is pure and undefiled even when the love of men waxes cold against Him. even when the people He came to love were indifferent, irresponsible, or rebellious, He went on in search of His wandering sheep.
The parable of the prodigal son demonstrates the nature of His perfect heart. The story tells of a certain son who left to enjoy his inheritance, having asked for and received all that his father had to give him. The man felt he did not need his father any more. He had what he needed and so he left to experience life as he pleased. His riotous worldly living, which he thought was the true way to live happily, quickly depleted his inheritance until he became entirely destitute, grateful to eat what was left to the pigs.
And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants. And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him. And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son. But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet: and bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat and be merry: For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. (Luke 15:17–24)
As the story tells, there came a point when, after realizing what the world really had to offer, the boy “came to himself.” He realized how the world had deceived him into thinking it really had something when all along it really sought to rob him of that which his father had given him. When the boy remembered his father’s generosity, he decided to return home to see if he could regain just a small portion of the happiness available through his father’s way of living. He knew that even being a hired servant there would be preferable to the situation in which he now found himself. To his great surprise, as he neared his former home, he saw his father running to him to put a ring on his hand, shoes on his feet, and his father’s best robe on his body. His father even had the fatted calf prepared for his fill.
In our own efforts to be obedient, perhaps it is this characteristic of our Father’s love that can best rekindle our efforts to remain faithful. Just as his father was ready to receive the prodigal son, our Savior waits to embrace all who struggle. It was the prodigal son’s memory of his father’s love that brought him back, hoping for even a small portion of what he once had with his father. His father had showed him the right way all along, the true way of happiness.
Through his own choices, the prodigal son became separated physically from his father. In the same way each of us will find a time in life when we are distanced spiritually from the Lord. For all, the key to return- ing is found in remembering. As we remember, we spiritually draw closer to our Father, hoping for a portion of what we once experienced in His love, only to discover that He is running to receive us in His complete embrace. Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, repentance, baptism by immersion for the remission of sins (or renewing that covenant through the ordinance of the sacrament), and receiving the Holy ghost are the first principles and ordinances of the gospel. These are the first things that should follow when we remember Christ and His gospel. When we do these things we bring ourselves closer to Him so that we may always have His Spirit to be with us. This Spirit is indeed a complete embrace from a Father who is the only one who has something of any lasting value for His sons and daughters.