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Thursday, August 29, 2013

MMM Sermons: The Merciful Obtain Mercy

by Saint Mark (bio)

Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints call them "talks," but most people call them sermons. This is a series of sermons that many Latter-day Saints love and believe. I hope these sermons promote and perfect your faith as they do mine. Read previous MMM Sermons or watch this specific sermon.

I remember growing up with a Mormon friend. He was the only Mormon friend I had that I knew of. I hated spending the night at his house because he didn't have any Coke in the fridge and his family only ate wheat bread, which was an abomination in my home. But, despite the non-Coke, non-white bread home, his home was peaceful and clean and terrifically white. I always remember a large amount of sunlight coming through the windows and bathing the inner rooms and hallways. Further, I remember a poem on the wall of my friend's room. It had the words, of course, but behind the text was a beach scene: a sunrise rising over the waves and an unblemished beach save one set of footprints in the sand. All the years of visiting my friend and staying the night at his house, I never once read that poem. I remember the picture but not one word of it passed by my eyes.

It wasn't until much later, after having joined the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and becoming a Mormon myself that I finally read my friend's poem known as "Footprints."

One night a man had a dream.
He dreamed he was walking along the beach with the Lord.
Across the sky flashed scenes from his life.
For each scene, he noticed two sets of footprints in the sand; one belonging to him, and the other to the Lord.
When the last scene of his life flashed before him, he looked back at the footprints in the sand. He noticed that many times along the path of his life there was only one set of footprints.
He also noticed that it happened at the very lowest and saddest times in his life.
This really bothered him and he questioned the Lord about it.
"Lord, you said that once I decided to follow you, you'd walk with me all the way.
But I have noticed that during the most troublesome times in my life, there is only one set of footprints.
I don't understand why when I needed you most you would leave me."
The Lord replied, "My precious, precious child, I love you and I would never leave you.
During your times of trial and suffering, when you see only one set of footprints, it was then that I carried you.

Knowing that I had seen this poem for a decade and not read it, I was overwhelmed by its powerful message. In simple terms, this poem by Mary Stevenson touched my soul. But, beyond that generic yet true phrase, I felt an inner understanding that I had searched for my whole life. Why had I survived so many horrors of my youth and could still smile and still feel peace? How could I forgive those who had abused, harmed, or even tried to murder me? How could I be merciful to those who were so unmerciful to me?

My answer lay in this poem's explanation: It was Christ who carried me through the trials of life, not because I merited such service but because he showed me mercy. I was not a Christian as a youth. Far from it. In fact, I was a hedonist and grew-up in a hedonistic household. There was very little that was godly in my home, that praised God, that reinforced His commandments.

And yet, because of Christ's character and charity and even though I was not a Christian at the time, I feel He put me on His back and carried me through a multitude and a variety of dark, dreary, and demoralizing days--some self-inflicted and some at the hands of others. Therefore, how could I not show mercy when I have received so much mercy in my own life?

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf's talk spoke to me, like a refrain from the childhood wall of my friend's home.
"When it comes to hating, gossiping, ignoring, ridiculing, holding grudges, or wanting to cause harm, please apply the following:

Stop it!

It’s that simple. We simply have to stop judging others and replace judgmental thoughts and feelings with a heart full of love for God and His children. God is our Father. We are His children. We are all brothers and sisters.

We must recognize that we are all imperfect—that we are beggars before God. Haven’t we all, at one time or another, meekly approached the mercy seat and pleaded for grace? Haven’t we wished with all the energy of our souls for mercy—to be forgiven for the mistakes we have made and the sins we have committed?

Because we all depend on the mercy of God, how can we deny to others any measure of the grace we so desperately desire for ourselves? My beloved brothers and sisters, should we not forgive as we wish to be forgiven.
Like a refrain from the childhood wall of my friend's home.

How can you and I not show mercy and forgiveness and kindness to others when you and I have received so much mercy and forgiveness and kindness in our own lives?

How can we not, right? The answer seems to be found in a simple poem about footprints ignored in youth but embraced after experience.

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