I love the theme of this lesson that is expressed in 3 Nephi 9:11 as Christ speaks to the Nephites: “Behold, mine arm of mercy is extended towards you, and whosoever will come, him will I receive; and blessed are those who come unto me.”
This is shown literally in chapter 11, verses 13-15: “The Lord spake unto them saying: Arise and come forth unto me, that ye may thrust your hands into my side, and also that ye may feel the prints of the nails in my hands and in my feet, that ye may know that I am the God of Israel…And it came to pass that the multitude went forth, and thrust their hands into his side, and did feel the prints of the nails in his hands and in his feet; and this they did do, going forth one by one until they had all gone forth.”
The concept of Christ both inviting all to come unto him and receiving all who do is not unique to these chapters. It’s found in many other places. Here are just a few examples:
2 Nephi 26:27-28 and 33 “Hath he commanded any that they should not partake of his salvation? … Nay; but he hath given it free for all men; and … all men are privileged the one like unto the other, and none are forbidden.
“He inviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile.”
Matthew 11:28: “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”
4th verse of Hymn #117, Come Unto Jesus
Come unto Jesus from ev’ry nation,
From ev’ry land and isle of the sea.
Unto the high and lowly in station,
Ever he calls, “Come to me.”
President Uchtdorf’s October 2014 talk, “Receiving a Testimony of Light and Truth”: “The Church is a home for all to come together, regardless of the depth or the height of our testimony. I know of no sign on the doors of our meetinghouses that says, “Your testimony must be this tall to enter.” The Church is not just for perfect people, but it is for all to “come unto Christ, and be perfected in him.”
Christ has set forth the criteria of those whom he will receive: those who come to him. That’s it. There isn’t any other criteria. The scriptures don’t say he receives only those who dress a certain way, look a certain way or think a certain way. They don’t say he receives only those who have certain political opinions or whose family fits a certain description.
Sometimes the language or examples set forth in the scriptures or at church can make women feel like we are not fully invited—to the decision making table, to walk equally on the sacred path of discipleship, even to the full blessings of the gospel. It’s not just gender that can cause this feeling though, of course. Women and men can feel not invited or received at church because of divorce, mental illness, faith struggles, or even just personality and opinion differences. And yet, the scriptures and other revelations are clear: all are invited by Christ and all who come are received by him.
In her October 2006 General Conference address, “To Look, Reach, and Come Unto Christ” Anne Pingree refers to Minerva Teichert’s well-known painting, Christ in a Red Robe. She says: “[In the painting, Christ] stands majestically with outstretched arms. In tenderness and compassion He looks down upon the women straining to reach Him…We long to be close to the Lord, for we know that He loves each of us and desires to encircle us ‘eternally in the arms of his love.’ (2 Nephi 1:15) His touch can heal ailments spiritual, emotional, or physical. He is our Advocate, Exemplar, Good Shepherd, and Redeemer. Where else would we look, where else would we reach, where else would we come but to Jesus Christ, ‘the author and finisher of our faith’ (Hebrews 12:2)?”
Sometimes that seemingly simple act of coming can be hard, painful even—especially if we don’t feel truly received at church. But I feel peace to know that each of us has an invitation just as legitimate as anyone else’s and that when we come to him each of us we will be received and encircled “eternally in the arms of his love.”
Related Mormon Women Project Interviews
Cherish One Another, Cathy Stokes
“We need to support each other in our choices as much as we righteously can. Know who you are. Know what power lies within you. Get on a first-name basis with your Father in Heaven. Pour out your heart to Him. You got to get personal with Him. Know what He wants you to know and do what he wants you to do. And always be a proud woman of faith, never apologetic of who you are and what you believe. Never ashamed.”
Faith Unto Salvation, Patricia Joseph
“When I decided to be baptized, I felt I needed to tell the missionaries and Susan and my other LDS neighbor, Jeff, about my son in jail. It was painful and shameful to talk about, but I knew I had to. However, when I did tell them, there were no shocked expressions or no one pulled away. It was an embrace I had never felt before, no contact but I could feel the acceptance and embrace without the touch. I had never experienced anything like that in all my life. I knew this was the place and people I wanted to be with for the rest of my life. I have finally found the true meaning of Christianity.”
Other Related Women’s Voices
Are You the Woman I Think You Are?, Sheri L. Dew
“We are the ones who determine whether or not we will come unto Him. The drawing near, seeking, asking, and knocking are up to us. And the more we know about the Lord—meaning the more we experience His mercy, devotion, and willingness to guide us even when we may not feel worthy of His direction—the more confident we become that He will respond to our petitions.”
Where Can I Turn For Peace, Emma Lou Thayne
Where can I turn for peace?
Where is my solace
When other sources cease to make me whole?
When with a wounded heart, anger, or malice,
I draw myself apart,
Searching my soul?
Where, when my aching grows,
Where, when I languish,
Where, in my need to know, where can I run?
Where is the quiet hand to calm my anguish?
Who, who can understand?
He, only One.