Elder Holland starts by telling a story of two brothers who decided to go rock climbing without any safety gear. They almost reached the top when they came accrues a part that they couldn't pass, and they couldn't go back, they were stuck. the older brother was able to help the younger brother to the top of the ridge, but there was no way for the older brother to help himself. He would try to attempt to jump and hoist himself up, but the older brother realized that he would die so he told his brother to go look for something to help him up so he wouldn't have to watch him fall. The older brother said…
“Giving him enough time to be out of sight, I said my last prayer—that I wanted my family to know I loved them and that Jimmy could make it home safely on his own—then I leapt. There was enough adrenaline in my spring that the jump extended my arms above the ledge almost to my elbows. But as I slapped my hands down on the surface, I felt nothing but loose sand on flat stone. I can still remember the gritty sensation of hanging there with nothing to hold on to—no lip, no ridge, nothing to grab or grasp. I felt my fingers begin to recede slowly over the sandy surface. I knew my life was over.
“But then suddenly, like a lightning strike in a summer storm, two hands shot out from somewhere above the edge of the cliff, grabbing my wrists with a strength and determination that belied their size. My faithful little brother had not gone looking for any fictitious tree branch. Guessing exactly what I was planning to do, he had never moved an inch. He had simply waited—silently, almost breathlessly—knowing full well I would be foolish enough to try to make that jump. When I did, he grabbed me, held me, and refused to let me fall. Those strong brotherly arms saved my life that day as I dangled helplessly above what would surely have been certain death.”
Elder Holland goes on to say…
"Because we were then born into that fallen world and because we too would transgress the laws of God, we also were sentenced to the same penalties that Adam and Eve faced.
What a plight! The entire human race in free fall—every man, woman, and child in it physically tumbling toward permanent death, spiritually plunging toward eternal anguish. Is that what life was meant to be? Is this the grand finale of the human experience? Are we all just hanging in a cold canyon somewhere in an indifferent universe, each of us searching for a toehold, each of us seeking for something to grip—with nothing but the feeling of sand sliding under our fingers, nothing to save us, nothing to hold on to, much less anything to hold on to us? Is our only purpose in life an empty existential exercise—simply to leap as high as we can, hang on for our prescribed three score years and ten, then fail and fall, and keep falling forever?
The answer to those questions is an unequivocal and eternal NO! With prophets ancient and modern, I testify that “all things have been done in the wisdom of him who knoweth all things.” Thus, from the moment those first parents stepped out of the Garden of Eden, the God and Father of us all, anticipating Adam and Eve’s decision, dispatched the very angels of heaven to declare to them—and down through time to us—that this entire sequence was designed for our eternal happiness. It was part of His divine plan, which provided for a Savior, the very Son of God Himself—another “Adam,” the Apostle Paul would call Him5—who would come in the meridian of time to atone for the first Adam’s transgression. That Atonement would achieve complete victory over physical death, unconditionally granting resurrection to every person who has been born or ever will be born into this world. Mercifully it would also provide forgiveness for the personal sins of all, from Adam to the end of the world, conditioned upon repentance and obedience to divine commandments."
"That first Easter sequence of Atonement and Resurrection constitutes the most consequential moment, the most generous gift, the most excruciating pain, and the most majestic manifestation of pure love ever to be demonstrated in the history of this world. Jesus Christ, the Only Begotten Son of God, suffered, died, and rose from death in order that He could, like lightning in a summer storm, grasp us as we fall, hold us with His might, and through our obedience to His commandments, lift us to eternal life."
I only shared a few (a lot) of excerpts from this talk, but I invite you to read the whole thing because Elder Holland says everything so beautifully, and you have to read the whole thing to get the full effect and feel the power of his words. I have no doubt that Elder Holland is called of God. This talk reminds be that we are nothing, we would be doomed to pain, weakness, and death without the amazing and fantastic act of true love the Savior showed by completing the Atonement. Because of Him, He will "grasp us as we fall, hold us with His might, and through our obedience to His commandments, lift us to eternal life". But I ask you to notice that Elder Holland repeats that this gift that is freely given can only be obtained through our obedience.
This gospel means everything to me, it should mean everything to you. I am in no way perfect or close to it, but I keep trying, I will continue to learn and grow in the gospel and I hope that I will continue to be able to make the gospel a part of me and apply the principals into my everyday life, because that is the only way we will be truly happy. Because I have this knowledge of happiness, and because the gospel has brought me so much happiness, I want to share this message of the restored gospel with everyone that I can. 18 months is not the end of my mission, I will be sharing the gospel for the rest of my life!
Here is the website so you can read the whole talk.
As this letter comes in the wake of a good friend's sudden and unexpected death, Ashley said,
"My heart broke. BUT I know I can't be sad. The spirit is comforting me so that I may still focus on the important work that needs to be done here. I did get permission to email Lisa yesterday. Tell them I love them"
On a lighter note, Ashley and her companion and another companionship got to go to the Washington DC Zoo for Pday. I'm sure she had fun as she is an animal lover, and it hopefully took her mind off of the sadness of this week.
Also, Ashley once again ran into Sister Shipp, one of my childhood Young Women Leaders.