The Natural Man – Mosiah 3:19

19 For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.
(Mosiah 3:19)

We are all subject to the limitations of mortality. We are all natural men and women, and as such, we are subject to human weaknesses. As Elder Jeffrey R. Holland observed a few weeks ago, the standards set by the Savior in the Sermon on the Mount can be overwhelming: don’t get angry, don’t have impure thoughts, love your enemies, and finally, “Be ye therefore perfect.” (See Matthew 5:21-48.) As we consider the distance between our own current state and the ideal described in these commandments, we might be tempted to either give up or to be very hard on ourselves. Elder Holland encouraged us instead to look to the Savior, who has the power to help us achieve this ideal:

“Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him … ,” Moroni pleads. “Love God with all your might, mind and strength, then … by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ.” Our only hope for true perfection is in receiving it as a gift from heaven—we can’t “earn” it. Thus, the grace of Christ offers us not only salvation from sorrow and sin and death but also salvation from our own persistent self-criticism (“Be Ye Therefore Perfect—Eventually,” General Conference, October 2017).

An understanding of this principle can also help us be more patient with others. I love the story shared by Elder Juan A. Uceda in General Conference a few years ago. A father became angry with one of his children for being disrespectful during family scripture study. She ran to her room and slammed the door. The father knew he had done wrong. After saying a prayer, he went to his daughter’s room to ask her forgiveness. After a few minutes, the daughter opened her scriptures and read Mosiah 3:19 to her father.

He thought to himself, “That scripture was written for me. She has taught me a great lesson.”
Then she turned her eyes to him and said, “I am sorry. I am sorry, Daddy.”
At that very moment the father realized she did not read that verse to apply that scripture to him, but she read it applying it to herself. He opened his arms and embraced her. Love and harmony had been restored in this sweet moment of reconciliation born of the word of God and the Holy Ghost. That scripture, which his daughter remembered from her own personal scripture study, had touched his heart with the fire of the Holy Ghost (“He Teaches Us to Put Off the Natural Man,” General Conference, October 2010).

Today, I will remember to be patient with myself and with others as we travel the path of discipleship. I will remember that we are all subject to the limitations of a fallen world. We can become saints, but only “through the atonement of Christ the Lord,” and only by humbling ourselves and submitting our will to the will of the Father.

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