I've been reading 3 Nephi lately, one of my favorite books in all scripture. I wept yesterday as I read 3 Nephi 9. In it Christ reveals himself to a world lying in darkness, a world ravaged by sin. It's a foreshadowing of the Second Coming, really. And my mind was naturally drawn to the condition of the world we live in, a world desperately in need of that light of pure Love.
A few verses in chapter 10 particularly caught my attention today: verse 12, where it says that the "more righteous" part of the people were spared from the upheavals of the earth, those who had "received the prophets and stoned them not," and "had not shed the blood of the saints"; and verse 18, where it says that those "who were spared" had "great favors shown unto them," had "great blessings poured on their heads," and "Christ truly manifested himself unto them."
I was particularly struck by the moderation of the language. The people described here were far from perfect. The text describes them merely as "the more righteous part" of the people. The text does not say that they were perfectly obedient to the prophets, but they did "receive" the prophets, they did not "stone" them. The text does not describe these people as saints themselves, but they "had not shed the blood of the saints."
And yet it was these imperfect people who received "great favors," "great blessings poured on their heads." These imperfect people received the ultimate gift: the presence of the living, resurrected Christ. They saw him with their eyes, they touched him, they had his hands laid upon them and were healed by him.
This brought to my mind another passage of scripture in the Book of Mormon: Alma 32:28, where Alma, describing the process by which faith grows, said that all we need to do in order to exercise even a particle of faith is simply to "give place that a seed may be planted" in our hearts, and "do not cast it out".
These words in 3 Nephi show us the great pattern of faith. We do not have to be perfect. In fact, it is impossible that we will be perfect. What we can do, what each and every one of us has the power to do, is to receive without judgment, without condemnation. We can give place in our hearts and not cast out what we don't understand.
The rest is the work of God within us. God is the source of true faith. Faith is a gift of the Spirit that we can make ourselves worthy for simply by opening ourselves up, by being willing to receive it.
And if the imperfect people described in 3 Nephi were able to make enough place in their hearts to receive the living, loving, healing, resplendent, radiant Christ, why could not we?