Limits To The Power of the Lord

‘Head of Christ’
oil on oak, circa 1648-1650

Staatliche Museen zu Berlin
by Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn

There’s nothing like an election year to bring out the worst in people. As the rhetoric heats up, it’s no longer just the candidates that are vilified, but their supporters as well. Republicans are painted as heartless capitalists and religious fanatics that are all racist to the core. Democrats are portrayed as godless sluggards in perpetual search for government handouts–able but unwilling to take responsibility for themselves. Truth falls victim to ‘the greater good’ as it is conceived by special interest groups that fund the parties. 

These days my political passions run strong because I believe the future of this country is on the line. There have been many days when I’ve wondered if one person/one vote makes any sense. After all, about half of the people are going to get it wrong on election day. It’s easy to feel frustrated and powerless, especially when the choice before us seems so obvious. 

As I work through my temptation to ‘destroy the agency of man‘ this election year, I’ve spent some time thinking about the seriousness with with God views agency and free will. We’re accustomed to thinking of the limitless power of God and take great courage in being aligned with him. Yet how often do the scriptures describe him lamenting because what he could not do? “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee; how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings, and ye would not!” (Luke 13:34; see also  Chiasmus in 3 Nephi 10).

The Savior undoubtedly experienced great frustration during his earthly ministry (here for a take on Rembrandt’s portrayal of the face of Jesus). Though all powerful, he was rendered powerless by the agency of others. 

Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James, and Joses, and of Juda, and Simon?  and are not his sisters here with us? And they were offended at him.  But Jesus said unto them, A prophet is not without honor, but in his own country, and among his own kind, and in his own house. And he could there do no mighty work, save that he laid his hands upon a few sick folk, and healed them. And he marvelled because of their unbelief. An he went round about the villages, teaching. Mark 6:3-6 (emphasis mine)

Amulek taught that Christ cannot save us in our sins.  Imagine a Savior that cannot save!

And I say unto you again that he cannot save them in their sins; for I cannot deny his word, and he hath said that no unclean thing can inherit the kingdom of heaven; therefore, how can ye be saved, except ye inherit the kingdom of heaven? Therefore, ye cannot be saved in your sins. Alma 11:37 (emphasis mine; see also verses 40-41)

‘Head of Christ’
oil on oak, circa 1648-1656

Philadelphia Museum of Art
by Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn

Though Satan still attempts to frustrate the works of God, it is the god-given agency that Satan tried to destroy that limits God’s power. Ironic!  It was determined faithlessness–enabled by agency–that allowed the miracles of the Savior to fall ineffectually to the soil in Nazareth.  It is the desperate clinging to sin–enabled by agency–that allows men to stand before a Savior that cannot save them.

It would seem that even God sees limits to his power, through his own promise to respect the agency of men. No doubt he feels frustration on a level that we can’t dream of–even in an election year. Perhaps we should take time to reverence the principle of agency, whether is that of a political rival, or someone that chooses to live and believe in something different than we do.

Had he wanted, the Lord could have forced the miracle in Nazareth or saved the sinner by compelling them to repent.  He chose not to, out of reverence for the agency of man. I guess I would be wise to do the same, and carry on (the Savior didn’t quit after the whole Nazareth debacle). Some things are not ours to control.

‘Head of Christ’
oil on oak, circa 1648-1654
Detroit Institue of Art
by Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn


During these times of distress and frustration, we must not forget that, though respectful of our agency, the Lord remains all-knowing, and all powerful. He has answers to all our problems and promises peace to those that seek him. 

Cry unto him for mercy, for he is mighty to save.  (Alma 34:18; see also 2 Nephi 31:39 and D&C; 133:47).

Sometimes, in the press right before an election (or the powerlessness of everyday life), that is all we can do. 









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One thought on “Limits To The Power of the Lord

  1. Very true. I often marvel at my own desire for others to respect my agency while at the same time not truly respecting theirs, i.e. I know better than they do (I think) and so they should do what I want them to do. I have learned through experience that even IF we could erase the agency of others and have them do what we believe would be best for them, it would avail them (and us) nothing. The choosing is a critical part of the exercise. Of course, the whole plan falls apart without Agency and we would be wise to remember that.

    Thanks for the post. As always, I enjoy your thoughts and the way you express them.

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