As you can tell from the title, I have come to the conclusion that we are all rock climbers.

Our goal in rock climbing is to become strong and in shape. As we start climbing, some people are wonderful at it. They begin climbing and just keep on going and going and going — reaching incredible heights. And others are not so wonderful at it. They start climbing, and then they fall. And they start again, and fall again. And again they start, and fall. And it seems like they are making no progress at all. But the goal was never to climb the highest — the goal was to become strong and fit. So even the people who fall and slip and mess-up can reach the ultimate goal — as long as they try again. The only way they will be unsuccessful is if they become discouraged by their falls and decide to give up.

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Rock Climber MormonThe plan of salvation isn’t a grand-total tally where we get positive points for doing good things and negative points for doing bad things and there is a certain point threshold that you have to meet to be granted access to Heaven. This life is about becoming better. Heavenly Father wants us to succeed. He wants us to go rock climbing so that we can become stronger and better and happier than we were before. And at any point along the way we can say: “Heavenly Father, I’m sorry I haven’t been doing so good. I am going to be better starting now.” And Heavenly Father says, “Okay, this is your new starting point.”

Of course, there is a bit more to it than that.

We have to repent before we can get to the new starting point. But that makes sense. If a rock climber was to fall, they’d need time to recuperate. They need to tend the wounds—clean gashes, set broken bones and let the hurt heal. And all this is painful! But it would be far worse to try to go on without treating the injuries. If we do not take care of the sores, then we are more likely to fail when we try to start our climb again. The cuts and gashes get in our way, impeding our progress and causing us pain.

Growing up, whenever I told my mom I was sick, she would ask, “Where does it hurt? What feels sick? Is it your head? Are you nauseous? Do you have a stomach ache? Do you feel like you’re going to puke?” And most of the time my reply was: “I don’t know. I just feel sick. I don’t know where it hurts. I don’t know if it’s my head or my stomach. I feel gross and I want it to go away and that’s all I know.” When we fall in our rock climbing adventure, sometimes we don’t know where the pain comes from. We just know it’s there. And no one else—even someone with a scrape in the same place—truly knows what the pain is like. No one else, that is, except our Savior, Jesus Christ. When we fall from our climb, He is the one waiting there for us. He is the one to clean our scrapes and set our broken bones and prescribe the needed rest. And He is the only one who can do this job because He is the only one who knows what we are going through. He has felt the exact wound that we are experiencing, and He knows exactly how to make it better.

Have you ever gone to the doctor and had him or her say: “Well, something is definitely wrong, but we don’t really know what it is. You can try this and see if it works and if not we’ll try something else.” Because Jesus performed the Atonement, He knows exactly what is hurting or making us sick. He never has to play the healing guessing game. He is the only person who can truly empathize with us.

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