All people live on spiritual credit; Jesus Christ is the mediator who steps between the debtor and creditor, answering the plea for mercy while fulfilling the demand for justice. So taught President Boyd K. Packer of the Quorum of the Twelve on Sunday evening.
Focusing much of his talk on the Savior’s atonement and the responsibility of individuals to accept its redemptive power through repentance, he addressed thousands of college-young adults during a Church Educational System devotional assembly held in the Marriott Center on the Brigham Young University campus in Provo. The meeting was transmitted by satellite to meetinghouses throughout North America and elsewhere.
President Packer noted that some had come to the devotional with questions and searching for direction, and others were wondering how they “got off the gospel path” and how they might return. “While I speak to all, I speak most earnestly to the one who is seeking,” he said.
“I have had an unquenchable desire to bear testimony of the Father and of Jesus Christ,” he declared. “Christ said, ‘If ye had known me, ye … have known my Father also’ (John 14:7). I have yearned to tell what I know about what Christ did and who the Father and Son are.”
He said, “All truth is worth knowing. Some truths are more useful, but there are truths that are most worth knowing.”
Further, President Packer said, “I know words carried by the gift of the Holy Ghost can bring to your understanding ‘the truth of all things’ (Moroni 10:5). All truth is worth knowing. Some truths are more useful, but there are truths that are most worth knowing.”
He spoke of the deeper understanding of the word “father” that he gained after he became a father. He said that two of sons, born 13 years apart, were not expected to live shortly after their births, but both survived. “Such experiences will teach you what ‘father’ and ‘mother’ mean,” he said. “Then you know that you would give your life if that little son could live to experience mortality.”
He said there have been many times he has yearned to relieve the suffering of a child or to erase the grief or pain from someone he loves, only to realize that he could not do that. “But I have learned the fact that I would do it if I could is of very great consequence in my relationship to the Lord.”
He spoke of “a puzzle” in the scriptures about justice and mercy, “two seemingly conflicting principles.” He related a parable in modern-day language to illustrate how Christ’s atonement makes it possible for individuals to be saved from sin if they do their part.
The parable tells of a man who, in order to acquire something he wanted very much, incurred a great debt although he had been warned about going into debt and particularly about the creditor. The debtor signed a contract with the lender and didn’t worry about repaying the debt since the due date seemed a long time off. Eventually, the contract fell due and the creditor demanded payment in full. Only then did the debtor realize that his creditor not only had the power to repossess all that he owed but also the power to cast him into debtor’s prison. The debtor pled for mercy, the creditor demanded justice.
“There they were: one meting out justice, the other pleading for mercy. Neither could prevail except at the expense of the other,” President Packer said. “ ‘If you do not forgive the debt, there will be no mercy,’ the debtor pleaded. ‘If I do, there will be no justice,’ was the reply.
“Both laws, it seemed, could not be served. Mercy cannot rob justice. Each is an eternal ideal that appears to contradict the other. Is there no way for justice to be fully served and mercy also?
“There is a way. The law of justice can be fully satisfied and mercy can be fully extended, but it takes someone else. And so it happened this time.”
President Packer said the debtor had a friend who, although thinking the debtor foolish to have gotten himself into such a predicament, loved him and stepped between him and the creditor as mediator. The friend told the creditor, “ ‘You demanded justice. Although he cannot pay you, I will do so. You have been justly dealt with and can ask no more. That would be just.’” The mediator said to the debtor, “If I pay your debt, will you accept me as your creditor?”
“'Oh, yes,’ cried the debtor. ‘You saved me from prison and show mercy to me.”
“'Then,’” said the mediator, ‘you will pay the debt to me, and I will set the terms. It will not be easy, but it will be possible. I will provide a way. You need not go to prison.’”
President Packer said, “Unless there is a mediator, unless we have a friend, the full weight of justice, untempered and unsympathetic, must, positively must fall on us. The full penalty for every transgression, however minor or however deep, will be exacted from us to the uttermost farthing.
“There is a Mediator, a Redeemer who stands both willing and able to appease the demands of justice and extend mercy to those who are penitent….
“We all live on spiritual credit. In one way or another, the account builds. If you pay it off as you go, you have little need to worry. Soon you begin to learn discipline and know that there is a day of reckoning ahead. Learn to keep your spiritual account paid off at regular intervals rather than allowing it to collect interest and penalties.”
President Packer said it is expected that all people will make mistakes, that they do things they regret, “things that you cannot even apologize for much less correct; therefore you carry a burden.” He said guilt, like indelible ink stain cannot easily be washed away. A stepchild of guilt, he said, is disappointment, regret for lost blessings and opportunities.
He said the gospel of Jesus Christ teaches that relief from torment and guilt can be earned through repentance. “Save for those few who defect to perdition…there is no habit, no addiction, no rebellion, no transgression, no offense, small or large, which is exempt from the promise of complete forgiveness. No matter what has happened in your life, the Lord has prepared a way back if you will heed the promptings of the Holy Spirit.”
He told the young adults to “listen up” as he delivered a message that contained what he described as “truths worth knowing.”
“You know that there is an adversary,” President Packer said, speaking of Satan who, cast out in the beginning and denied a mortal body, has sworn to disrupt “the great plan of happiness and become an enemy to all righteousness. He focuses his attacks on the family.”
“You live in a day when the scourge of pornography is sweeping across the world. It is hard to escape it. Pornography is focused on that part of your nature through which you have the power to beget life.”
There is no part of pornography that is innocent, he said. “To collect it, view it, or carry it around in any form is akin to keeping a rattlesnake in your backpack. It exposes you to the inevitable spiritual equivalent of the serpent’s strike with its injection of deadly venom. One can easily understand, with the world being what it is, that you can almost innocently be exposed to it, to read it, or to view it without realizing the terrible consequences. If that describes you, I warn you to stop it. Stop it now.”
President Packer said that as individuals go through the repentance process they should remember “that great morning of forgiveness may not come all at once. If at first you stumble, do not give up. Overcoming discouragement is part of the test. Do not give up. And as I have counseled before, once you have confessed and forsaken your sins, do not look back.
“The Lord is always there. He is willing to suffer and pay the penalty if you are willing to accept Him as your Redeemer.”
Further, he said, “Do not expect that all will go smoothly throughout your life. Even for those who are living as they should, it sometimes will be just the opposite. Meet each of life’s challenges with optimism and surety, and you will have the peace and faith to sustain you now and in the future.
“For those who do not yet have all of the blessings you feel you want and need to have, I firmly believe that no experience or opportunity essential to redemption and salvation will be denied you who live faithfully. Remain worthy; be hopeful, patient, and prayerful. Things have a way of working out. The gift of the Holy Ghost will guide and direct your actions.”