“Our Only Chance,” Ensign, May 1999, 66
In His last discourse to His disciples prior to Gethsemane and Calvary, the Savior declared that He was “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). On this beautiful Easter morning, I testify with the prophet Alma “that there is no other way … whereby man can be saved, only in and through Christ” (Alma 38:9).
The Savior’s Atonement is stunningly inclusive! “For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Cor. 15:22; emphasis added). Come one, come all, the Lord has invited. The gospel of Jesus Christ is for every man and woman, boy and girl. He doesn’t change the rules for the rich or the poor, the married or unmarried, the Portuguese or the Chinese. The gospel is for every one of us, and the spiritual requirements and rewards are universal. In matters pertaining to salvation, “all are alike unto God” (2 Ne. 26:33; emphasis added). The Lord’s motives stand in stark contrast to those of Lucifer, who is obsessed with attempting to make us feel less than who we are as sons and daughters of God. He despises a consecrated people and delights at obscuring our vision and enticing us away from the path that leads back to our heavenly home.
As a young BYU student I learned a little something about staying on course when heading home. One Christmas Eve my brother and I left to drive home to Kansas. But early in our journey we learned that a huge snowstorm was heading our way, so we pulled out a map, identified a detour that would skirt the edge of the storm, and headed into parts unknown. Our creative navigating proved dangerous. Our new route was unfamiliar, and we still ran right into the blizzard. To make matters worse, late that night as we were creeping along in blinding snow on an obscure highway, our old Ford quit. We were stranded. And we had absolutely no idea where we were.
Eventually we caught a ride to the nearest town, where we found that we were still hours from home and marooned in Last Chance, Colorado. At that point there was only one thing to do. We called home for help. In the middle of the night our father left to come and rescue us. By the next afternoon we were all safely home.
I’ll never forget Christmas Eve in Last Chance, where we were immobilized by a problem largely of our own making and one we were unequipped to solve. That day our father did for us what we could not do for ourselves. Now, each one of us is on the path towards our eternal home. And for various reasons we all need rescue—rescue from loneliness and heartache, from despair and disillusionment, from the consequences of innocent mistakes and blatant sin.
Where do we turn for help? “In the gift of his Son hath God prepared a more excellent way” (Ether 12:11). The Savior isn’t our last chance; He is our only chance. Our only chance to overcome self-doubt and catch a vision of who we may become. Our only chance to repent and have our sins washed clean. Our only chance to purify our hearts, subdue our weaknesses, and avoid the adversary. Our only chance to obtain redemption and exaltation. Our only chance to find peace and happiness in this life and eternal life in the world to come.
Left to his own devices, the natural man inevitably succumbs to Satan (see Mosiah 3:19), who abandons his prey once he lures them from the straight and narrow path. But the Savior will guide those who follow Him all the way home. Lehi’s family endured an intense wilderness experience designed to teach, test, and sanctify them. Likewise, the path from our former home to eternal life runs right through this earthly wilderness, where we may expect similar challenges and difficulties. But in our journey we are not alone, for the Lord’s promise to Lehi is the same to us: “I will prepare the way before you [and] inasmuch as ye shall keep my commandments ye shall be led towards the promised land. … After ye have arrived … ye shall know that … I, the Lord, did deliver you” (1 Ne. 17:13–14).
The Lord knows the way because He is the way and is our only chance for successfully negotiating mortality. His Atonement makes available all of the power, peace, light, and strength that we need to deal with life’s challenges—those ranging from our own mistakes and sins to trials over which we have no control but we still feel pain.
The Lord has promised to heal our broken hearts and “to set at liberty them that are bruised” (Luke 4:18); to give power to the faint, to heal the wounded soul, and to turn our weakness into strength (see Isa. 40:29; Jacob 2:8; Ether 12:27); to take upon Him our pains and sicknesses, to blot out our transgressions if we repent, and loose the bands of death (see Alma 7:11–13). He promised that if we will build our lives upon His rock, the devil will have no power over us (see Hel. 5:12). And He has vowed that He will never leave us or forsake us (see Heb. 13:5). There is simply no mortal equivalent. Not in terms of commitment, power, or love. He is our only chance.
Our responsibility is to learn to draw upon the power of the Atonement. Otherwise we walk through mortality relying solely on our own strength. And to do that is to invite the frustration of failure and to refuse the most resplendent gift in time or eternity. “For what doth it profit a man if a gift is bestowed … and he receive not the gift?” (D&C 88:33). My brother and I would have been foolish to not seek or accept our father’s help when we were stranded. Likewise, the Lord is our advocate, and He “knoweth the weakness of man and how to succor them who are tempted” (D&C 62:1). In other words, He knows how to succor all of us. But we activate the power of the Atonement in our lives. We do this by first believing in Him, by repenting, by obeying His commandments, by partaking of sacred ordinances and keeping covenants, and by seeking after Him in fasting and prayer, in the scriptures, and in the temple.
All of which requires our faith in the Lord. President Gordon B. Hinckley has said that “if there is any one thing you and I need … it is faith.”1 To have faith in Christ is to believe in Him, follow Him, and rely on Him. And it is to be blessed with the peace of conscience and mind that the Apostle Paul spoke of when he said, “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Philip. 4:13).
Not long ago the Relief Society general presidency was asked to meet with two journalists from eastern Europe who were intrigued about service performed by our sisters in their country. We explained that from its earliest days this grand organization of righteous women has sought to not only “relieve the poor but to save souls.”2 When they asked if we help women with their “emotional problems,” explaining that many in their country were discouraged, we responded that in Relief Society we study the doctrines of the gospel, and the gospel teaches us how to be happy even when life is hard. One of the reporters was incredulous: “Is it possible?” she asked. “Is it possible to be happy when life is hard?” Her question tugged at me, for I knew that she did not know where to turn for peace.
Is it possible to be happy when life is hard? To feel peace amid uncertainty and hope in the midst of cynicism? Is it possible to change, to shake off old habits and become new again? Is it possible to live with integrity and purity in a world that no longer values the virtues that distinguish the followers of Christ?
Yes. The answer is yes because of Jesus Christ, whose Atonement ensures that we need not bear the burdens of mortality alone. There is nothing this confused world needs more, nothing that inspires a greater sense of well-being, nothing that has greater power to strengthen families than the gospel of Jesus Christ. President Howard W. Hunter said, “Whatever Jesus lays his hands upon lives. If Jesus lays his hands upon a marriage, it lives. If he is allowed to lay his hands on the family, it lives.”3 The Savior will do for each of us what He has promised to do—if we will have faith in Him and receive His gift.
Through the years I, like you, have experienced pressures and disappointments that would have crushed me had I not been able to draw upon a source of wisdom and strength far greater than my own. He has never forgotten or forsaken me, and I have come to know for myself that Jesus is the Christ and that this is His Church. With Ammon I say, “[For] who can glory too much in the Lord? Yea, who can say too much of his great power, and of his mercy … ? Behold, … I cannot say the smallest part which I feel” (Alma 26:16). I testify that in this, the twilight of the dispensation of the fulness of times, when Lucifer is working overtime to jeopardize our journey home and to separate us from the Savior’s atoning power, the only answer for any of us is Jesus Christ.
May we recommit to seek after this Jesus, of whom the prophets have testified. May we yoke ourselves to Him, draw liberally upon the matchless power of His Atonement, and rise up as sons and daughters of God and shake off the world. To “those who will have him to be their God” (1 Ne. 17:40), the Lord has extended a magnificent promise: “I will go before your face. I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up” (D&C 84:88). Jesus Christ is our only chance. He will show us the way because He is the way, to which I testify in the name of Jesus Christ, amen.