The pain and the plan of salvation are very visible from my call. As a ward member, I often see the trials of the saints of the last days, including myself. Sometimes overwhelming and difficult to counsel. But most of the time the faith and determination to move forward stand out.
It is when almost everything is lost, when our life is refined to what is fundamental, we are left with what is most valuable, what is blurred among the vicissitudes of daily eagerness. Thus, old age, the penultimate lesson, introduces us into the detachment of all that is accessory, obliges us to be humble.
It is those tests, never desired, those cups that we would let pass, those that press us and extract our true condition.
The anguish endured by the Savior in the press of Gethsemane distilled a perfect love since he had no reason to suffer, but to lead the redemption of man demanded to go down to the bottom of his nature. In the same way, we as humans, sometimes suffer from someone else’s cause, but when we turn the other cheek, walk a second mile or hand over our cloak, we painfully extend the joints of our natural man to resemble the stature of the Savior.
Every suffering is unique and mysterious. While each saint’s life is expected to be a reflection of the usual course, he often departs on a different path from the «social» plan of salvation. There, far away, in a remote province, yet there are many hills where Father awaits his return. So his ways are not ours and his mercy spans the whole earth and not just the narrow local geography of those who consider themselves just.
Nevertheless, for the humble or for the one who is forced to be, pain is something sacred, it is a divine knowledge to which he has acceded by a tortuous path. To understand it and to accept it is to resemble Christ, who did not avoid it, but, even surprised in the revelation of its magnitude, hastened it to the bottom for our sake.
Pain and the Plan of Salvation
The wise revelation that pain keeps is known only by him who submits to the will of the Father in all things from the beginning. And just as the accent vivifies the word, the disciple renounces the monotonous murmur of the complaint and vivifies his life by accentuating in his resolute and courageous disposition the acceptance of the burden imposed.
Teacher in the abyss
He who is also a master in the dark abysses, having been in all of them, illuminates with his light every corner of them, those where no one imagined to fall. We cannot teach him any that he does not know, and so we can only bend the knee and confess his hand in all things and recognize his footprint in every place. Explorer of human pain, high priest of our holocaust, is always there to consume our pain in flame of hope.
Someday we will understand everything and know how we are known, but at this moment we are allowed to say «thy will be done». To be able to say this is a privilege!
Just as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego tested their faith in a fiery furnace, so the mild but persistent fire of the plan of salvation requires decision and confidence to be able to walk through the embers. Sometimes in the company of angels, but ¡they will be inside not outside the probationary furnace!
The Plan of Salvation
In the rudiments of the past, the gospel only defined two regions of the future landscape, heaven and hell. That ancient man, distant and waiting for the Messiah, could not appreciate the details of the work of salvation with the light at his disposal.
As the Sun slowly rose in each dispensation the contours of the landscape became clearer until the perfect day of restoration.
The fine line of the restoration makes an approach to the plan of salvation. That zoom brought by the prophet allows us to observe a multitude of tonalities and climates that God’s mercy has prepared for each one according to his constitution, that is, what they are able to bear. (D&C 88:22-24) The wisdom with which the Father has designed that ecosystem of glory reflects the attention he pays to each of his children and the tact used in the care of their future bodies.
I understand that state of trials and difficulties, which develops in the environment of a fallen world, on two levels, the one produced by man himself and the one magnified by the adversary.
In order to approach the knowledge of the probationary or preparatory state, we can do so by approaching the society of the free market. We should not underestimate what may seem foreign to the gospel, there is nothing that is.
One anecdote that illustrates this concept is the one starring Paul Seabright, professor of Economics at the University of Toulouse. At the time of Perestroika, he had to deal with several senior Soviet officials. One of them in charge of bread production in St. Petersburg and interested in the transition to a market economy asked him:
—»Who is in charge of guaranteeing the supply of bread in London?»
No one invented it and no one controls it. Prices fluctuate like storms or anticyclones. No science is more inaccurate than economics. The free market is born of human nature and the freedom to exchange goods and services.
The free market of probation
Like this one, there is a free market of probation of which we are all plaintiffs and bidders. All of us at some time acquire a problem or an offense and at some other time generate it for our neighbor. No one steals from that exchange and that generates an infinite world of relationships from which a necessary «opposition in all things» is born. (2 Nephi 2:11) In that environment we make decisions continuously, we do not stop analyzing, weighing and deciding our course.
- A basic principle of the free market is voluntary trade in goods or services, an absolute respect for the will of the consumer. In the market of probation each person is free to act as he morally considers it, «Wherefore, the Lord God gave unto man that he should act for himself. Wherefore, man could not act for himself save it should be that he was enticed by the one or the other.»
(2 Nephi 2:16) and that one or the other, is substance in the infinite complexity of the relations that the human being experiences in the world when living with the others. If that agency did not exist, «all things must needs be a compound in one; wherefore, if it should be one body it must needs remain as dead, having no life neither death,…». (2 Nephi 2:11) or in other words it would be necessary to call someone to secure the supply of bread in London or the supply of opposition and problems for man to act as a free man. The infinite variety of situations created by man’s free will provides the optimal environment for exercising it. A market of inexhaustible probation for freedom.
- Another principle is profitability. This principle is that the sum of the costs must be lower than the price of the product. In other words, if I spend 5 on producing I cannot sell at 4. In this sense, the effort that the Heavenly Father employs in maintaining the probationary state of the plan of salvation is very inferior to the result, his effort is very efficient. Why? because he is not interventionist, he provides the laws and the market is self-regulating, he respects the first rule, freedom. There are no waiting lists to receive action or act (2 Nephi 2:14). In the wisdom of the good God, there is no need for a gigantic central office with exhaustive control for each person and the consequences of their actions. Simply the gift of agency is the regulator of that market.
He has put us in that environment, but He has not thrown us out, He is interested in our benefit.
Yet Satan participates in this market by intervention, does not respect the laws, and acts by deception «for the devil is an enemy unto God, and fighteth against him continually, and inviteth and enticeth to sin, and to do that which is evil continually.» (Moroni 7:12) This struggle continues to alter the probative state, Satan performs it with a primitive method that requires a continuous effort (without ceasing) on his part, so that the profitability of his effort is much lower than that of the Father (do not rely on appearances). He transmits his influence by touch and contact, The Heavenly Father by the light that shines «Which light proceedeth forth from the presence of God to fill the immensity of space» (D&C 88:12) The efficiency of the heavenly method is evident.
The lack of syntony with the evidentiary market that the efforts of the adversary have, its lack of profitability, makes one suspect that he was not counted on to be an actor in this market, that he is an intruder or rather that he performs functions for which he was not called at first. That his second intervention in the plan of salvation is «accidental» (yes, between quotation marks).
We have no other complete model of salvation from another world to make comparisons, but there are clues. Without being able to expand on this issue, I can say that possibly our world is an exception in some of these aspects. A necessary exception for the atonement of the human race, which is more extensive than the world in which it lives.
Interventions in the free probation market
It appears to respect man’s will, but seeks his destruction. Why? Because within its possibilities it is the most profitable. Once the agency has been destroyed, the state of probation is destroyed, because there is no longer one or the other, but rather relativism prevails, that is, «it [is] no crime for a man [to do] anything at all» (Alma 30:17), everything is the same and therefore things [are] as a single whole; therefore, [they are] one body, [and remain] as dead.
The adversary plan operates at all levels. While in antiquity, its action was limited to local and limited storms, without combination with distant places. today the big fronts stand out. These cover the entire planet and move with speed and strength, «and behold, the enemy has combined.» (D&C 38:12)
This current hostility towards Christ and his disciples, not originated by the sum of the individual decisions, would be almost impossible a general coordination to coincide in the same gesture of pointing with finger of scorn to those who eat from the tree. On the spiritual battlefield provided by the new virtual spaces, where the five classical senses do not count and there is no time to evaluate the costs of these doctrines. Masters in the immaterial, they are capable of creating new atmospheres for all those who take advantage of their climate.
These general positions of people opposed to the values of the Gospel are induced and ordered by those great fronts (operators) that sweep the planet loaded with false and unfounded teachings. This plan devised by the adversary is putting an end to the one and the other. The world is decidedly rushing in a direction where the field of agency is encircled by a single body of beliefs dead in itself, like mute idols.
In the office
When, in the bishop’s office, I hear an elderly widow speak of her son’s illness, forgetting her own and ignoring his difficult situation, I can only admire her faith in giving me her two whites. Moved to listen to her testimony, I perceive a sacred pain to take out of her Gethsemane the gold of Ophir in abundance, I see that richness when I hear her say, «Your will be done». Behold, he that hath eternal life is rich.
It is these anonymous saints, who are not in any church council, whose opinion is not required, who almost always go unnoticed, who give consistency to the church. Those who bring a capital of faith and knowledge that make us face the great challenges. They know first hand the laws of the probation market, they have assumed the cost of being free, no front deceives them, their bitter cup does not make them bitter. They are always there, always.
This pain of the broken one is constantly accompanied by the trumpet of hope, this one, advanced, encourages us in our way announcing a better landscape behind the hill. And even in full probation we notice the light soul, as well as the lightness of a bird on the water.
There will always be trials with us, but so will guidance in the extensive plan of salvation and during this limited market of probation.
Just like from a poor neighborhood in Almería, an old widow invokes the light of the world every day, and as in the Moon or the Sun, it shines on her.