Seeing the Big Picture

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(This is an excerpt from the chapter "Seeing the Big Picture" from the book Voices of Hope.)

No one can overestimate the power of eternal perspective. True faith, according to Joseph Smith, is not just believing in the Supreme Being. It is knowing His attributes and our relationship to Him. It is knowing His plan for us and that we are living our lives in accordance with that plan. That kind of vision changes us forever.

On the day of Pentecost, the outpouring of the Spirit, combined with an encounter with the resurrected Lord (see Acts 2), transformed a group of insecure disciples into fearless and confident witnesses of truth, who in turn changed the world.

This is precisely the vision God wanted to share with the early Saints in this dispensation when He commanded them to complete the Nauvoo temple even as they were being forced to abandon it. In the temple, God could lift their gaze away from current struggles and persecutions and give them a broader perspective. In the temple, God could remind them that, as sore as their trials were and would yet be, His plan for them was far greater than anything they had imagined and that they were greater than they realized.

Suddenly, mobs and persecutions, injustice and pain, wagons and oxen were all put into proper perspective—an eternal perspective. This vision didn’t just provide a temporary shot in the arm but rather a long-term motivation that allowed those early Saints to endure with hope, patience, and strength.

The same vision calls to us today. If we can step away from the confusing voices and contradicting viewpoints of the world long enough to seek God, who sees the entire view, we will be able to endure as well. Seeing the big picture will give us the perspective we need to deal positively with all temptations, sins, mistakes, and challenges (see Alma 37:33).

A national journalist once reported that despite the success and good works of the Mormon Church, it was a terrible environment for women, blacks, and gays. The statement troubled me deeply. I know many women, blacks, and people who have experienced same-sex attraction who would strongly disagree with the journalist’s words. They know that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints offers them blessings they could never find elsewhere and a perspective large enough to allow them to disregard the world’s labels, stereotypes, and unsupported generalizations. Only in the Church do we learn true doctrine about what God desires for us and about the redeeming role of Christ. It is the only place where the perfect love of God and Jesus can be felt—not momentarily but continually through the covenant relationships we have with them.

The Church is not about drawing a line to exclude certain people but instead about drawing a circle to include all people. It is not about fitting a mold but instead about being molded. For those who have eyes to see, the Church of Jesus Christ is not just a good place for women, blacks, and gays; it is the only place for everyone who truly accepts Christ’s invitation: “And he inviteth . . . all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; . . . and all are alike unto God” (2 Nephi 26:33).

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