Out of the Darkness…
Have you ever felt lost? Have you ever felt to be in so dark a place that you have felt no hope? Have you ever felt unquenchable despair? Have you ever felt that no light could possibly pierce the vapor of darkness in which you are surrounded? I am certain that we have all felt this, at least in a moment of time when all seemed lost, even if all was not really lost. I know that I have felt surrounding darkness and utter despair. At various points in my life I have felt that all was lost, along with wretched loneliness, which has pushed me to the brink of a chasm of despair.
As a boy I heard the following, but I do not recall the source: “When things are dark, when darkness surrounds you, and you are seemingly pushed to the very edge of what you can endure, and all seems lost, it is then, and only then, at this very moment, that the darkness turns pitch black.“
Believing I have never fully arrived at that point, I can only imagine how it felt in those hours after the crucifixion of Jesus Christ when despair in destruction overwhelmed the populace of the ancient Americas to the point of a real and utter despair, pushing them to the very edge of oblivion, and then thick darkness gathered and it turned pitch black, that not anything could be seen.
Imagine the loss. Imagine the despair. When you combine the totality of all the death, pain and sorrow that accompanied the destruction all around, with the terrible guilt for their own personal unworthiness and sin, thick darkness and utter aloneness would be the certain result. The mourning, howling and weeping described was no imaginary thing, no piece of drama conjured up to gain sympathy or to draw attention for some kind of personal gain, but was real in every sense. It was complete and utter despair in the most profound depths of wretched sorrow.
Because of the innate goodness of these remaining souls, their wretched sorrow led to godly sorrow, and out of the depths of despair came sweet humility and readiness to receive the Lord. It is when our sorrow for sin becomes godly sorrow that we take our first steps on the path to repentance and preparation to return to the presence of our Lord. It is no different for us as it was for them suffering in that ancient darkness, that the Lord has an offering, a path to our forgiveness, that is the most healing and restorative salve for any wound.
Of the depths of the Lord’s willingness to forgive and heal the repentant sinner, Elder Neil L. Andersen taught, “I am amazed at the Savior’s encircling arms of mercy and love for the repentant, no matter how selfish the forsaken sin. I testify that the Savior is able and eager to forgive our sins. Except for the sins of those few who choose perdition after having known a fulness, there is no sin that cannot be forgiven. What a marvelous privilege for each of us to turn away from our sins and to come unto Christ. Divine forgiveness is one of the sweetest fruits of the gospel, removing guilt and pain from our hearts and replacing them with joy and peace of conscience. Jesus declares, ‘Will ye not now return unto me, and repent of your sins, and be converted, that I may heal you?’” (General Conference, Oct. 2009).
In those moments and hours following the death of the Savior, and the unwillingness of so many to repent and follow the Lord, thunderings, and lightnings, and storms, and tempests, and quakings, and fires, and terrible destruction, came with death, and then unpierceable darkness enveloped the whole land like a vapor entering every crevice allowing no light neither to enter nor to escape.
Then, in the darkness, the land and people now redeemed, the voice of the Lord, a voice of justice, could be heard declaring all things, bringing a remembrance to the ears of all who could hear the word and the law of the Lord, and with His stern justice on the wicked and a merciful offering to those who would. “O all ye that are spared because ye were more righteous than they, will ye not now return unto me, and repent of your sins, and be converted, that I may heal you? Yea, verily I say unto you, if ye will come unto me ye shall have eternal life. Behold, mine arm of mercy is extended towards you, and whosoever will come, him will I receive; and blessed are those who come unto me. Behold, I am Jesus Christ the Son of God” (3 Nephi 9:13-15). When His people were sufficiently humbled, out of the darkness the Lord declared His peace, only asking as a sacrifice “a broken heart and a contrite spirit” (3 Nephi 9:20).
In just a few days time the followers of Christ in America went from suffering by personal witness the most exquisite darkness and sorrow in destruction, to experiencing the most exquisite light and joy in Christ. As we learn in 3 Nephi 10 that when the darkness dispersed and the earth trembled no more, and the rocks ceased to rend, and dreadful groanings and tumultuous noises passed away, mourning and weeping were turned to joy, and lamentations were turned to praise and thanksgiving unto the Lord Jesus Christ, their Redeemer.
In just a few days time the people of God went from the despair of terrible wickedness that surrounded them and threatened their very peace in the land, to a tumultuous upheaval of earth, seas and all the elements, to the deepest depths of darkness and lonely sorrow, and then to the loving touch of a still small voice declaring peace and comfort, to seeing the very light of the Risen Lord, to be personally ministered to by His loving voice and gentle hand.
And so it may be with us also. We are in this day surrounded by rampant wickedness. While God’s people are growing closer to him and Jesus Christ’s followers are gathering to His side, there is a terrible noise of rebellion and wickedness in the world that is destroying the peace of our land and driving many off the path, away from Zion, away from the Lord’s law of peace, the iron rod that leads to God. The hearts of men will fail them in the face of the coming judgments of God, the testaments that follow the testimonies of prophets who have called on the world to repent. Such testaments will bring forth tempests, floods, fires, quakes, pestilence, and the raging of the hearts men as they discover unrepentantly that there is no happiness in wickedness. Accompanying these harbingers there will be thick darkness that will gather around us, at times only figuratively, but nevertheless as real in the feelings of our hearts as those vapors of darkness from long ago. Yet out of this darkness, with broken hearts and contrite spirits, we can hear His voice, we can feel His peace, and we can see the light of our Lord piercing and illuminating to overcome darkness forever. For He is the “light and the life of the world,” and all who come unto Him will have peace now and eternal life in the world to come. In the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, amen.