What Lack I Yet in My Relationship with God and Man?

May: Matthew 19-20; Mark 10; Luke 18

After the April 2023 General Conference, the way we treat other people was on everyone’s mind. Our Prophet talked to us very specifically about the way we talk to others as a peacemaker. I received texts and emails from friends and relatives discussing the way they wanted to improve their relationships with others. I also talked to family and friends asking for forgiveness if I had hurt their feelings by the words I had said in the past, promising to do better in the future.

During the Savior’s earthly ministry, He discussed how all of us should treat our spouse, how we should treat others, and how we should treat our relationship with our Heavenly Father. In all these relationships, we should ask ourselves “what lack I yet?”i

When a wealthy young man came to Jesus saying that he had lived all the commandments since his youth, he finished his litany of all the good he had done with the phrase, “What lack I yet?” When we ask God that question, He will always let us know! He knew what would be hardest for this wealthy young man – to give up all his possessions and follow Him. Rather than live with his fine home and servants, he would be following Jesus by living on the kindnesses of others. This young man went away sorrowing because he knew that was what he lacked, and he was unwilling to give it up.

In Elder Larry R. Lawrence talk entitled, “What lack I yet?” he said: “The Holy Ghost doesn’t tell us to improve everything at once. If He did, we would become discouraged and give up. The Spirit works with us at our own speed, one step at a time….”ii Maybe we judge the young man too harshly. If we knew his entire story, we may be surprised to find out that later, he did return to the Savior and followed him. I like to think that he is a type of all of us when we are asked to do something hard. We may go away sorrowing, but hopefully repent and change after we have realized that His way is the only way to become perfected in our relationships with God and Man.

My Relationship with My Spouse

The Pharisees asked the Savior: “Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause?”iii The Lord then taught these men who knew the Mosaic Law the higher law of a marriage relationship. The Savior explained that from the beginning of time God brought together men and women in a covenant relationship which joined them together eternally. The Pharisees then asked, “Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement and to put her away?”iv The Savior explained that it was because of “the hardness of your hearts”v that they put away their wives.

Marriage is ordained of God eternally. Adam and Eve were joined together in the Garden of Eden. That pattern continues today with eternal marriage in the temple. Pres. Russell M. Nelson feels strongly about nurturing marriage. He talked about it in General Conference in April 2006 (“Nurturing Marriage”), in General Conference in October 2008 (“Celestial Marriage”), in a Church Video in 2012 (“Marriage is Sacred: The Pattern of the Shopper), in a BYU Speech in 2014 (“Defenders of Marriage”), and in a Worldwide Devotional on Love and Marriage in 2017. Obviously, this means a lot to our Prophet. Here are a couple of quotes from his General Conference talks:

“Marriage brings greater possibilities for happiness than does any other human relationship. Yet some married couples fall short of their full potential. They let their romance become rusty, take each other for granted, allow other interests or clouds of neglect to obscure the vision of what their marriage really could be. Marriages would be happier if nurtured more carefully.”vi

“While salvation is an individual matter, exaltation is a family matter. Only those who are married in the temple and whose marriage is sealed by the Holy Spirit of Promise will continue as spouses after death and receive the highest degree of celestial glory, or exaltation.”vii

We can follow the Savior’s higher law of celestial marriage by understanding the doctrinal foundation of marriage, which is what the Savior was trying to teach to the Pharisees. Once we understand the eternal, covenantal relationship that marriage represents, then we need to foster our actions so that both members of the marriage relationship strive to strengthen their connection. A married couple can show appreciation, communicate positively, and contemplate how to strengthen their eternal relationship.

While reading Matthew 19, some may think that Jesus is teaching that divorce is never acceptable or that divorced people should never remarry. Obviously, that is not true. President Dallin H. Oaks explained that the Lord “permits divorced persons to marry again without the stain of immorality specified in the higher law. Unless a divorced member has committed serious transgressions, he or she can become eligible for a temple recommend under the same worthiness standards that apply to other members.”viii Pres. Nelson also reflected that “each marriage starts with two built-in handicaps. It involves two imperfect people. Happiness can come to them only through their earnest effort.”ix He then uses the analogy of a shopper and how with a big purchase, shoppers should take their time to make sure their purchase is right for them. If they buy something too quickly or without the proper investigation, they may find their purchase is not right for them. We do need to take the time to make sure our relationships are strong – for all eternity.

My Relationship with Others

As we reflect upon our family relationships and our relationships with others, we may need to gain a greater understanding of what lack I yet and immediately resolve to change what the Lord tells us we need to change (even if it is hard to hear). Elder Larry R. Lawrence told the story of “a faithful mother who humbled herself and asked, ‘What is keeping me from progressing?’ In her case, the response from the Spirit came immediately: ‘Stop complaining.’ This answer surprised her; she had never thought of herself as a complainer. However, the message from the Holy Ghost was very clear. In the days that followed, she became conscious of her habit of complaining. Grateful for the prompting to improve, she determined to count her blessings instead of her challenges. Within days, she felt the warm approval of the Spirit.x” But you may feel that you have a right to complain because everything is going wrong in your life right now! This attitude will not only drive away the Spirit, but also drive away your loved ones as well.

Money also gets in the way of our relationships with others. Jesus warned us: “How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God!…Children, how hard is it for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God.”xi Many of us are blessed with the things of this world. In the United States, the writer Arthur Thein Durning made the comment that we may be richer than our great-grandparents but are we happier? Fulfillment may increase when we start having money to spend, but that fulfillment may decrease when we have too much excess stuff. Elder Lynn G. Robbins reminded us that “one of life’s most fundamental questions should be, ‘What is sufficient for our family to be happy?’ Our success will depend not only on answering the question ‘What do we need to be happy?’ but also on answering the question ‘What don’t we need to be happy?’ One antonym for greed, and perhaps the antidote to it, is contentment.xiiThe Apostle Paul stated, “I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.”xiii

My Relationship with God

The Lord also pointed out that pride can ruin our relationships with others and our relationship with God. In Luke 18:9-14, the Savior tells the story of the prayers of a Publican and a Pharisee. The Pharisee does not see himself as having any sins or actions to change, but only sees the faults in others, while the Publican realizes that he is a sinner in need of repentance.

Humility empowers us in our relationship with man, but also in our relationship with God. Bishop Richard C. Edgley commented: “It matters not who we are or how lofty our credentials appear. Humility and submissiveness to the Lord, coupled with a grateful heart, are our strength and our hope…. Humbly submitting our will to the Father brings us the empowerment of God—the power of humility. It is the power to meet life’s adversities, the power of peace, the power of hope, the power of a heart throbbing with a love for and testimony of the Savior Jesus Christ, even the power of redemption.”xiv

Finally, the most important message the Savior gave us to follow in improving our relationships is that of becoming the servant-leader: “[B]ut whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister: And whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all.”xv As we ponder and act on how best we can serve others, our thoughts are turned to God’s service. We forget about telling others what they must do better. We are focused on our part of the relationship, rather than theirs. Whether it is as a spouse, as a friend, or as a disciple of Christ, we can improve our relationships by being content with what we have, caring for others rather than ourselves, and humbly following the will of our Lord, rather than our own will.

i Matthew 19:20

ii Larry R. Lawrence, “What Lack I Yet?” October GC 2015.

iii Matthew 19:3

iv Matthew 19:7

v Matthew 19:8

vi Russell M. Nelson, “Nurturing Marriage” April General Conference 2006.

vii Russell M. Nelson, “Celestial Marriage,” October General Conference 2008.

viii Dallin H. Oaks, “Divorce,” Liahona, May 2007, 70.

ix Russell M. Nelson, “Celestial Marriage,” October General Conference 2008.

xLarry R. Lawrence, “What Lack I Yet?” October General Conference 2015.

xi Mark 10:23-24

xii Lynn G. Robbins, “The Cost of Riches,” June 2003, Ensign.

xiii Philippians 4:11

xiv Richard C. Edgley, “The Empowerment of Humility,” October General Conference 2003.

xv Mark 10:43-44

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