“Put on Thy Strength”

In the middle of a passage about the gathering of Israel, Isaiah pleads with the Lord to rescue His captive people:

Awake, awake! Put on strength, O arm of the Lord; awake as in the ancient days….

Art thou not he who hath dried the sea, the waters of the great deep; that hath made the depths of the sea a way for the ransomed to pass over?

Isaiah 51:9-10, 2 Nephi 8:9-10

Shortly after, the Lord responds with a parallel challenge to His people:
Awake, awake, put on thy strength, O Zion; put on thy beautiful garments, O Jerusalem, the holy city;

Isaiah 52:1, 2 Nephi 8:24, 3 Nephi 20:36

The Book of Mormon prophet Jacob quoted both of these passages during a sermon, and the Savior quoted the second passage on the second day of His ministry on the American continent.

The first passage seems clear. For God to put on His strength is to exercise His power on our behalf. Isaiah acknowledges that, since God created the earth, He surely has the power to save us if He will.

But what does it mean when God tells us to put on our strength?

Elias Higbee, an early member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, asked Joseph Smith that question. Joseph provided the following answer:

[Isaiah] had reference to those whom God should call in the last days, who should hold the power of priesthood to bring again Zion, and the redemption of Israel; and to put on her strength is to put on the authority of the priesthood, which she, Zion, has a right to by lineage; also to return to that power which she had lost.

Doctrine and Covenants 113:8

God has made His power available to us, but we must take action to access that power.

President Russell M. Nelson has encouraged us to actively invite the power of God into our lives:

Challenges, controversies, and complexities swirl around us. These turbulent times were foreseen by the Savior…. Yet our Heavenly Father never intended that we would deal with the maze of personal problems and social issues on our own.

God so loved the world that He sent His Only Begotten Son to help us. And His Son, Jesus Christ, gave His life for us. All so that we could have access to godly power—power sufficient to deal with the burdens, obstacles, and temptations of our day.

“Drawing the Power of Jesus Christ into Our Lives,” General Conference, April 2017

President Nelson encouraged us to take the following actions in order to draw upon God’s power:

  1. Learn about Him.
  2. Have faith in Him and follow Him.
  3. Make sacred covenants with Him and keep those covenants with precision.
  4. Reach up to Him in faith.

President Nelson said that “there is nothing easy or automatic” about accessing the power of God. He described it as a “mentally rigorous” process. But he assured us that, when we do so, “our doubts and fears flee.”

Today, I will strive to follow Isaiah’s admonition to wake up and “put on [my] strength.” I will strive to draw upon God’s power by learning of Him, following Him, keeping my covenants, and reaching up to Him in faith.

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