A couple of weeks ago, I started school online through the Pathway program of BYU-Idaho. I will be honest: I knew that I would learn something but I mostly entered the program so I could matriculate into BYU-I online. It has not turned out to be just a bridge I must cross before I can get to work. The impact it has had on my life astounds me. Starting it at this time has truly been a tender mercy of the Lord.
This has been demonstrated to me over and over again throughout these past two weeks. I have been showered – no, deluged – with tender mercies. Let me explain to you what a tender mercy is.
It is an experience of the grace of Christ, either through personal revelation and communication with God, through a repentance and/or forgiving process, or an occurrence that is observable. While observable occurrences may bring with them a certain wow or witnessing factor in being able to point them out to others, the real power of them lies in the message they bring to you, which is one that can only be known through the Holy Ghost.
A few months ago I read and participated with Elder David A. Bednar’s “Learn in Doctrine”. It’s a very interactive book. During a difficult experience, it kindled my appetite for more such gospel learning. I wanted to read the next one, but more than that I wished I had a structured school of learning in doctrine, complete with teachers and deadlines. And then I found Pathway, which is exactly that.
Observable tender mercies often appear to be coincidences, but their timely and personally unique nature bring with them the whispering of the Spirit that God loves us, and that they are gifts to us from a loving God. They also bring an invitation to come unto Christ and to continue coming unto him through every minute of our lives.
In coming unto Christ, our burdens are lightened, and that is a tender mercy. We gain more faith and that is a tender mercy allowing us to see more clearly the hand of God in our lives and become aware that, as King Benjamin states in Mosiah 2:20-21 of the Book of Mormon:
I say unto you, my brethren, that if you should render all the thanks and praise which your whole soul has power to possess, to that God who has created you, and has kept and preserved you, and has caused that ye should rejoice, and has granted that ye should live in peace one with another—
I say unto you that if ye should serve him who has created you from the beginning, and is preserving you from day to day, by lending you breath, that ye may live and move and do according to your own will, and even supporting you from one moment to another—I say, if ye should serve him with all your whole souls yet ye would be unprofitable servants.
Our very lives are a tender mercy of the Lord. There are no coincidences.
During my Book of Mormon study this week, I encountered 1 Nephi 1:20 while practicing the study skill of “Substitution”. In Substitution, we change out either a word we are unfamiliar with for a word or definition we understand or more personally we change the name of who the verse is directed at. With my substitution, the verse now read:
Behold, I, Nephi will show unto you that the tender mercies of the Lord are over all you, Ami, whom he hath chosen, because of their your faith, to make them you mighty even unto the power of deliverance. – 1 Nephi 1:20
Shortly after that, I was invited through my class to listen again to Elder Bednar’s “The Tender Mercies of the Lord” from General Conference in April 2005, where he quoted that scripture and referred to it in ways that became even more meaningful after having just studied it for myself so intimately. In one of my favorite parts, Elder Bednar said:
I repeat again, the Lord’s tender mercies do not occur randomly or merely by coincidence. Faithfulness and obedience enable us to receive these important gifts and, frequently, the Lord’s timing helps us to recognize them.
We should not underestimate or overlook the power of the Lord’s tender mercies. The simpleness, the sweetness, and the constancy of the tender mercies of the Lord will do much to fortify and protect us in the troubled times in which we do now and will yet live. When words cannot provide the solace we need or express the joy we feel, when it is simply futile to attempt to explain that which is unexplainable, when logic and reason cannot yield adequate understanding about the injustices and inequities of life, when mortal experience and evaluation are insufficient to produce a desired outcome, and when it seems that perhaps we are so totally alone, truly we are blessed by the tender mercies of the Lord and made mighty even unto the power of deliverance. (“The Tender Mercies of the Lord”, Elder David A. Bednar, April 2005)
I invite you to read, listen, or watch the talk yourself. And I’d like to bear testimony that I know from experience that the Lord rains down upon us tender mercies daily, and if we are faithful and in an attitude of listening and being willing to learn and to obey, he sends even more. He is anxious to bless us. He knows it’s hard. He wants us to succeed. He wants you to succeed. I know that our Savior loves us, and we can understand this by opening our hearts to the Lord’s tender mercies.