Yesterday, I received a question about one of my posts, entitled Willing to Submit – Mosiah 3:19. Here is the question:
God is love right? So how can love inflict when the term inflict has to do with punishment. Surely love knows how to be persuasive.
This is such an important question that I’ve decided to discuss it over a period of three days. In order to do this, I’ve taken the liberty of decomposing the question into three parts:
- What do we know about God’s love for us?
- Why would God “inflict” things on us?
- What are the roles of persuasion and of punishment in motivating good behavior?
I hope that my decomposition accurately reflects the spirit and intent of the original question.
Question #1: What do we know about God’s love for us?
Near the beginning of the Book of Mormon, the prophet Lehi experiences a dream in which he sees a tree “whose fruit was desirable to make one happy.” Tasting the fruit, he finds it to be “most sweet,” more than anything that he had ever tasted before. As he eats the fruit, it fills him with joy (1 Nephi 8:10-12).
Lehi’s son Nephi later learns that this fruit symbolizes the love of God, which is “the most desirable above all other things” and “the most joyous to the soul” (1 Nephi 11:21-23).
God’s love is manifest in His willingness to descend to our level. Jesus Christ was born of a mortal mother (1 Nephi 11:14-21). He was willing to “dwell in a tabernacle of clay” (Mosiah 3:5) and to suffer “pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind” (Alma 7:11). He was willing to carry our sorrows, to suffer for our sins, and even to lay down His life for us (Mosiah 14:4-5, Ether 12:33-34).
Nephi tells us that God will never do anything that isn’t for our benefit (2 Nephi 26:24). He always has our best interests at heart.
During the Savior’s ministry on the American continent, He expressed some of the emotions He feels toward us:
- “My bowels are filled with compassion toward you” (3 Nephi 17:6).
- “Jesus groaned within himself and said: Father I am troubled because of the wickedness of the people of the house of Israel” (3 Nephi 17:14).
- “Blessed are ye because of your faith. And now my joy is full” (3 Nephi 17:20).
Our God feels empathy when we are suffering, sorrow when we make mistakes, and joy when we are doing well.
When we experience the love of God, it fills us with transcendent joy.
- Near the end of Lehi’s life, he reassured his sons that he did not fear death. “The Lord hath redeemed my soul from hell,” he said, “and I am encircled about eternally in the arms of his love” (2 Nephi 1:15).
- Nephi later testifies to us, “[God] hath filled me with his love, even to the consuming of my flesh” (2 Nephi 4:21).
- Alma and Ammon both described the joy of conversion to the gospel by saying that converts feel a desire to “sing redeeming love” (Alma 5:9, 26, Alma 26:13).
Today, I will be grateful for the love of God which is most clearly demonstrated by the ministry and sacrifice of Jesus Christ. I will remember that God wants me to have joy, and that to experience His love will bring me greater joy than anything else.