A few weeks ago, I learned about a “differential” as I was reading a newspaper insert about automobiles. The writer to the advice column said that their mechanic had told them that their differential was off, and this was causing them problems with tire tread and brake pads. The writer wanted to know if he could go to the auto-parts store and buy a new differential and install it himself?
The columnist explained that a differential is not really a single part, but a principle of physics. When a car is moving forward or backward, perfectly straight, the wheels all turn at the same speed. But if the car turns left, the left wheel has a smaller radius to complete the turn than the right wheel has, so the right wheel must move a little bit faster or else it will get dragged along. This is the differential. Wheels are connected by an axle, but by necessity they can move at independent speeds to complement each other.
As I thought about this, I wondered two things. One: How have I lived this long and not noticed this before? Two: what gospel principle applies to this new found knowledge?
Almost immediately, it seemed easily applicable to my marriage. A single wheel has potential to roll any direction, any speed, free and unfettered. That same tire, by itself, can’t pull as great of a load or accomplish as much. Attach that tire to an axle and give it a companion, and the two have potential to pull a load with them. As the twists and turns of life arrive, they have to adapt to them and stay synchronized with each other, make decisions together and heading in one direction in unison. There will be a differential in the relationship – sometimes one will need to move a little faster, and sometimes the other, but they will share the load and a common purpose, and accomplish something greater than the one could alone.
I was happy with this analogy, but continued to think on it more. After all, natural laws often have relationship to eternal laws, so what else could this be compared to?
It could also be applied, to a more imperfect extent, to being teamed up with the Lord. In St. Matthew 11: 29, Jesus commanded, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me.” In His time, they did not have automobiles, but they did hitch teams of horses or oxen saddled together with a harness called a yoke. This was the equivalent of an axle-of-old connecting the two animals. The same principle of a differential applied to making turns here. He said “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me…” Maybe this suggests that even though we cannot yet ride equally to Him, we should still make the covenants, get hitched up, and make the effort. Learn as we travel. As always, He will be our differential.
It is also interesting, in that commandment, that it is still our choice. Unlike the animals, we are asked to take that yoke upon ourselves – to put ourselves in that position. He gives us the opportunity, figuratively, to be teamed up with him in pulling the load and accomplishing the tasks. That thought, of itself, is inspiring to dwell upon.
My analogy is certainly not perfect, because Jesus does not simply make up the difference; He makes all of the difference. In fact, if my analogy were more literally applied to my life, my tire is sitting on a patch of ice, spinning and spinning, but never able to go anywhere of any substance without His help.
From the Book of Mormon, 2 Nephi 25:23, Nephi explained why he placed his efforts in writing the scripture and teaching his people. “For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved,” and I take the liberty of adding a few extra words here, “[before, during, and] after all we can do.”
What kind of “grace” do we receive before and during our lives? To me the primary gift of grace is the guidance and gift of the Holy Ghost – the comforter, or the Spirit of truth. We also receive the “tender mercies” of God, or the miracles that bless us day by day.
In the Book of Mormon, Aaron, one of the sons of Mosiah, is a missionary that obtained an audience with the King of the Lamanites. After exchanging a few introductory remarks (“Do you believe in God?” and then finding out generally what the king believed and understood about God), Aaron got busy teaching. Here is how he did it. Alma 22:12: “And … when Aaron saw that the king would believe his words, he began from the creation of Adam, reading the scriptures unto the king.” Aaron read from the scriptures. Pay attention to the topics he emphasized. Continuing verse 12: “How God created man after his own image, and that God gave him commandments, and that because of transgression, man had fallen.”
Skip to verse 14: “And since man had fallen he could not merit anything of himself;” Stop. That is a very valid point to make. That is the tire spinning on ice. That demonstrates the great differential in operation between us and our God. What can we do about it then? Continuing: “but the sufferings and death of Christ atone for their sins, through faith and repentance, and so forth;” Stop. What does “and so forth” mean? Using what I know from other teachings, any time I hear about faith and repentance, it is followed by baptism, receiving the gift of the Holy Ghost, and endurance in keeping the commandments. I presume that this belongs here too, but that Mormon is abbreviating the exchange to be brief in writing.
Continuing: “and that He [Christ] breaketh the bands of death, that the grave shall have no victory, and that the sting of death should be swallowed up in the hopes of glory; [I really like that phrase, the “hopes of glory” – I see that as my hope, and your hope, and your neighbor’s hope, all rolled together into one great hope!] and Aaron did expound all these things unto the king.”
Aaron placed his focus on explaining to the old king why Jesus was so important to him, and he used the scriptures to help prove his point. If we had the time here today, I’d do the same as Aaron, and read the scriptures to you. I won’t read them all, but I do want to read a few more important verses.
From the New Testament, St. John 6:38, 40: Jesus explains, “For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of Him that sent me. And this is the will of Him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day.”
It is explained by Jesus even more clearly in the Book of Mormon, 3 Nephi 27:14-15: “And my Father sent me that I might be lifted up upon the cross; and after that I had been lifted up upon the cross, that I might draw [or attract] all men unto me, that as I have been lifted up by men even so should men be lifted up by the Father, to stand before me, to be judged of their works, whether they be good or whether they be evil—And for this cause have I been lifted up; therefore, according to the power of the Father I will draw all men unto me, that they may be judged according to their works.”
So that verse tells us that there will be a judgment which is based upon our works. But Aaron told us earlier that “since man had fallen he could not merit anything of himself.” So how does that work? How can we have any hope if this is to be the case. Well, let’s keep reading one more verse:
3 Nephi 27:16 “And it shall come to pass, that whoso repenteth and is baptized in my name shall be filled;”
Filled with what? With grace! With “hopes of glory”
Continuing, “and if he endureth to the end, behold, him will I hold guiltless before my Father at that day when I shall stand to judge the world.”
That is the awesome opportunity! That is how it connects! That is what Jesus has done, and will do for us, if we do our part. If we follow Him and His commandments, he will hold us guiltless before our Heavenly Father at our day of judgment!
When I think of how that day of judgment will play out, I can’t imagine any way better than how it is described in the Doctrine and Covenants section 45:3-5: “Listen to him who is the advocate with the Father, who is pleading your cause before him—Saying: Father, behold the sufferings and death of him who did no sin, in whom thou wast well pleased; behold the blood of thy Son which was shed, the blood of him whom thou gavest that thyself might be glorified; Wherefore, Father, spare these my brethren that believe on my name, that they may come unto me and have everlasting life.”
These ideas just begin to explain why Jesus Christ is so important to me.
As far as the grace we receive to help us during this life, here are a couple of verses:
St. John 8:12: “Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.”
St. John 14:6 “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.”
Father Lehi said it very well, as recorded in 2 Nephi 2:6-8: “Wherefore, redemption cometh in and through the Holy Messiah; for he is full of grace and truth. Behold, he offereth himself a sacrifice for sin, to answer the ends of the law, unto all those who have a broken heart and a contrite spirit; [that describes what should be our effort to spin our wheel at and maintain the correct speed] and unto none else can the ends of the law be answered. Wherefore, how great the importance to make these things known unto the inhabitants of the earth, that they may know that there is no flesh that can dwell in the presence of God, save it be through the merits, and mercy, and grace of the Holy Messiah.”
In the last verse of the hymn, “With Humble Heart” by Zara Sabin goes like this:
As I walk daily here on earth,
Give me thy Spirit as I seek
A change of heart, another birth,
And grow, dear Lord, to be like thee.
When I think of how important Jesus is to me, I could claim as my own the words of the Hymn “I Stand All Amazed” by Charles H. Gabriel,
I stand all amazed at the love Jesus offers me,
Confused at the grace that so fully he proffers me.
I tremble to know that for me he was crucified,
That for me, a sinner, he suffered, he bled and died.
Oh, it is wonderful that he should care for me
Enough to die for me!
Oh, it is wonderful, wonderful to me!
Perhaps Paul said it best, as he stated simply to the Philipians (4:13): “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.”
I believe and feel that way too!
I declare it in the wonderful name of Jesus Christ, Amen!