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Surrendering Our Way to Power


A central message of scripture is to submit ourselves to God (James 4:7, Mosiah 3:19, Alma 7:23; 13:28, Ether 12:27). When we empty ourselves of ourselves—our agendas, preferences, peeves, demands, expectations—God is able to take up occupancy in us. Filled with Him, we experience great spiritual power. By losing ourselves, we gain ourselves. By surrendering (to God), we conquer (the world).

Yet God tells us to “be anxiously engaged in a good cause, and do many things of [our] own free will, and bring to pass much righteousness” (D&C 58:27).

Reconciling Opposites

How can we reconcile mandated submission with God’s instruction to be anxiously engaged? I think the answer is simple. As we submit our minds, hearts, and wills to God, He lends us more and more of His power. By surrendering our power, we gain His. Submission opens the door to heavenly power.

Priesthood is a good example of this principle. As we submit ourselves to God’s commands, He lends us His power. He allows—even encourages—us to do mighty works. Of course, His power must be used in righteousness. As soon as we try to use that power “in any degree of unrighteousness, behold, the heavens withdraw themselves; the Spirit of the Lord is grieved; and when it is withdrawn, Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man” (D&C 121:37).

But God’s invitation goes far beyond blessing babies and baptizing children. Enoch used faith to make the earth shake, mountains flee, and rivers change course (Moses 7:13).

Enoch’s Power

The key to Enoch’s power was twofold:

1. Enoch’s faith was not in himself but in God. When God invited him to be a messenger to the people, Enoch protested:

“He bowed himself to the earth, before the Lord, and spake before the Lord, saying: Why is it that I have found favor in thy sight, and am but a lad, and all the people hate me; for I am slow of speech; wherefore am I thy servant?” (Moses 6:31).

I’m sure you see the irony. Because Enoch felt unworthy to be a special messenger for God, He was ideally suited for the demanding task. Meekness is not a weakness to be overcome but a foundation on which God builds. Meekness and humility are preconditions for exercising God’s power.

2. Enoch did not use God’s power to advance his own agenda. He used it to advance God’s work and purposes and bless His children. If we want to enjoy God’s power, our whole desires must be to bless God’s children.

Sometimes lately in my evening prayers I am surprised to find unexpected words pop up, “Father, teach me to use Thy power to bless Thy children.” I think God is inviting me to learn the sacred process of heavenly power.

Reaching Out

This idea has been especially poignant to me lately. As I participated in BYU Education Week, I visited with people who suffer terrible pains. Several times people told me stories of dashed hopes and grim suffering. One woman told me of profound pains and cried with tears, “I’m done! I can’t go on!” I wept with her. I honestly had no answer for her wrenching challenges. I came home with a nagging melancholy. How can such good people bear such anguish?

It is all well and good to talk of eternal compensations. It is appropriate to offer our love and support. But is there no balm in Gilead? Is there no comfort for the overburdened? Is there no way we can help the desperate?

As I dozed off to sleep last night, a sacred invitation flowed into my mind: “Bring to pass much righteousness.” I turned on the bedside lamp and wrote those words. They felt like an answer and invitation.

Is there a way that we can exercise faith to draw the blessings of heaven into the lives of those who suffer? We would not truncate God’s educational curriculum for any of His children, but maybe part of the curriculum is for us to be united in yearning for each other. Maybe we can draw heavenly goodness into each other’s lives.

Creating Zion

Enoch’s people suffered terribly. Yet their afflictions seemed to open them to Enoch’s invitation to repentance. In their desperation, the people called on God. Enoch exercised God’s power to the chagrin and defeat of their enemies:

So great was the fear of the enemies of the people of God, that they fled and stood afar off and went upon the land which came up out of the depth of the sea. And the giants of the land, also, stood afar off; and there went forth a curse upon all people that fought against God; (Moses 7:14-5)

While there were wars in the world, “the Lord came and dwelt with his people, and they dwelt in righteousness. The fear of the Lord was upon all nations, so great was the glory of the Lord, which was upon his people. And the Lord blessed the land, and they were blessed upon the mountains, and upon the high places, and did flourish” (Moses 7:16-17).

The terrible affliction did not break the people, it united them. It created a city unique in the history of the world, a city that drew heaven into them and so that heaven could draw them up. “And Enoch walked with God: and he was not; for God took him” (Genesis 5:24).

Enoch and his people became the prototypic Zion.

“And the Lord called his people ZION, because they were of one heart and one mind, and dwelt in righteousness; and there was no poor among them” (Moses 7:18).

Personal Invitations

I think that God is inviting us to create Zion in our communities of concern. God invites us to purge our selfish desires and submit to His perfect purposes so that we can draw heaven’s blessings into the lives of those we love.

I don’t know a step-by-step process to activate this power. I am simply trying to find my way just as I suppose you are trying to find yours. I am asking the Spirit to teach me how I can help the poor, lift up hands that hang down, and strengthen weak knees. I would like to be an agent for God in the lives of those who suffer. I yearn to bless those we love.

In the wilderness of mortality, I feel like Nephi: “I was led by the Spirit, not knowing beforehand the things which I should do” (1 Nephi 4:6). While I do not know the process, I know that God has created an amazing adventure in godliness for those who respond to His invitation to join Him in blessing His children.

May we draw the power of heaven to bless those among us who suffer.

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You may be interested in Brother Goddard’s books such as Soft-Spoken Parenting, Drawing Heaven into Your Marriage, and Between Parent and Child. For more information about his books or his programs, visit www.FamilyCollege.com or his blog at www.drwally.org/

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7 Comments

  • Reply jael August 25, 2010 at 3:30 pm

    Thank you, as always, for the down to earth, common sense approach to this magnificent potential of our Eternal Gospel Plan. Your gift of words is such a blessing….. and has been given to you directly from our dear and loving Heavenly Father. You are using it well. The Spirit IS directing you in reaching and reassuring so many others, myself included.

    I am helped along this mortal way by all you say.

  • Reply Phillip Snyder August 25, 2010 at 3:42 pm

    Brother Goddard,
    I have read and studied your words for years on Meridian and also purchased and read your book. All I can say is that I believe you are very inspired and write under the influence of the Holy Spirit.
    I am a convert to the church at age 19 and have attempted to study and pray and do and learn as a disciple of Christ and holder of his holy priesthood for the past 51 years; and you have taken me to a much higher and deeper level of thinking, feeling and doing. I guess the word is love. You are definately blessed of God to think and feel and express yourself as you do. You are doing a magnificant work. Thank you.

  • Reply agc August 25, 2010 at 5:33 pm

    From the first time I heard you speak at a BYU family conference, I have been an appreciator of your work and your way of doing it. Thank you.
    In this essay I am puzzled, even troubled, with the concept of “emptying ourselves” so God can take up occupancy. That expression seems out of sync with how I understand The Plan. We are individuals with an ancient past during which we have become who we are with our interests and expectations, many of which I have to assume Our Father values. Our peeves and demands–those we can definitely empty out.
    I wish there were a better way to express the concept of submitting our preferences, sometimes changing them, in order to use ourselves under his power, with less and less selfishness or self-centered focus. I appreciate everything else you had to share. I’m troubled somewhat with the words and concept that we empty ourselves so He can fill us up. Perhaps we submit our “powers” so He can “saturate” them with His power.

  • Reply Betty August 25, 2010 at 9:42 pm

    Thank you for pointing us to a higher way,for sharing your experiences and the ideals that will draw us closer to our Heavenly Father.

  • Reply Cindy August 25, 2010 at 9:49 pm

    Just wanted to say that I was able to attend one of your classes last week and that I thoroughly enjoyed it. As soon as I’m over my jet lag I’m going to type up my notes so that I can re-enjoy it!

  • Reply Mae August 27, 2010 at 9:28 am

    I always love your articles! Thank you for your words of wisdom on this subject. I know that for me the principles taught in The 12 Steps are my personal “stepping stones” to cultivating the Faith in Jesus Christ you speak of and beginning to approach a little bit of Zion in my own heart, mind, family and community! 🙂

  • Reply admin September 2, 2010 at 11:12 am

    Thank you for your many kind comments. They are very encouraging.

    I would like to respond to Ardyth’s comment and question. She was uncomfortable with the phrase “emptying ourselves.” After reading her comments, I can see why it could be troublesome. I certainly do not want to get rid of our divine heritage and ancestral legacy.

    Maybe I use the phrase in an idiosyncratic way. To me it means to get rid of my own agenda, preferences, etc. It is to surrender to God’s will and wishes. This is exactly what Alma the Younger did so well. I think he essentially said to God: “I surrender. I have no agenda for my life. End it if you must. Rescue it if you can. Do with me as you will.” Because he emptied himself so effectively, he made more room for God to take up occupancy within his soul. Thus, within a matter of minutes, he went from total misery to indescribable joy.

    This ties to my favorite prayer:

    “Lord, I know not what I ought to ask of thee; Thou only knowest what I need; Thou lovest me better than I know how to love myself. O Father! give to Thy child that which he himself knows not how to ask. I dare not ask either for crosses or consolations: I simply present myself before Thee, I open my heart to Thee. . . . Smite, or heal; depress me, or raise me up: I adore all thy purposes without knowing them; I am silent; I offer myself in sacrifice; I yield myself to Thee; I would have no other desire than to accomplish Thy will. Teach me to pray. Pray Thyself in me. Amen.” (Francois de la Mothe Fenelon quoted in Fosdick, Meaning of Prayer, pp. 58-9)

    I appreciate Ardyth’s suggestions how this idea might be expressed better. And I suspect that we all agree on the principle–that we must turn our hearts and wills over to God.

    Blessings,
    Wally

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