“Ring out wild bells. . .ring out the old, and in the new,” goes the old Tennyson poem-turned-hymn. It continues, “The year is dying in the night. Ring out wild bells, and let him die.”
There are no bells ringing where I am tonight. And it isn’t quite the New Year. But there is someone dying, someone I don’t know well but she is close to those I love, and it has made today a somber day. We’ve marked it with tears, fasting, prayer, and searching for words when there is really nothing to say.
Of course, in the poem the bells are also ringing to bring in the new year, to celebrate the new life that is always just around the corner. Fittingly, there is new life all around me too. Not mine, of course, but people I love are having babies. There are two sweet, wonderful, fresh, squishy new little boys in this world. They are just starting out and every moment is a discovery for them and their parents. We’ve marked their births with congratulations, gifts, and lots of baby snuggles.
These two things happen every day. In every corner of the world, in every moment, people die and people are born. These are the two most common human experiences, the great equalizers of humanity.
But I don’t always remember these things are happening every day. Rarely do they happen with such immediacy and synchronicity. So many of us are stuck in the swings between the ringing in and the ringing out that we forget that those bells are constantly tolling for someone, somewhere.
I have a lot of friends who are also ringing out some personal wild bells because they have completed the Church of Jesus Christ’s prophet’s challenge. In October, President Russel M. Nelson challenged the women of the Church to read the entire Book of Mormon before the end of the year. Many of my friends are finishing the book over the last couple days and today they are celebrating. To hear their voices ring out with the accomplishment is to hear the Mormon testimonial equivalent of the wild bells’ “Ring out the darkness in the land, Ring in the Christ that is to be.”
I finished the Book of Mormon today. I am sure it is because of the wild bells of mortality surrounding me right now that the last chapters of Moroni rang true to me in a different way this time. Yes, at the end of the Book of Mormon comes a promise of discernment, a promise of truth-finding. And the end contains an excellent exegesis on faith (see Moroni 7: 20-44). The verses on charity are some of the most stirring in scripture (see 7:40-48).
But at the very end of the end is something that is, to me, greater than all of those things put together. It is something sprinkled in verses throughout the entire text of the Book of Mormon but concentrated especially in two of the last three verses. They say:
Yea, come unto Christ, and be perfected in him, and deny yourselves of all ungodliness; and if ye shall deny yourselves of all ungodliness, and love God with all your might, mind and strength, then is his grace sufficient for you, that by his grace ye may be perfect in Christ; and if by the grace of God ye are perfect in Christ, ye can in nowise deny the power of God.
And again, if ye by the grace of God are perfect in Christ, and deny not his power, then are ye sanctified in Christ by the grace of God, through the shedding of the blood of Christ, which is in the covenant of the Father unto the remission of your sins, that ye become holy, without spot.
Did you catch it? The word that rings through those verses?
When asked to distill the message of the Book of Mormon to only a few words, Moroni leaves us with the most powerful message he can: the grace of Christ is sufficient.
It is sufficient for all things. It sufficient to embrace the pain of death, to rejoice in the magic of new life, and to steadies through all the swings in between.
As the wild bells of mortality ring out and ring in all around me, there’s one word I hear in their peals. It’s the word that I will carry into the new year. Let it fill my life and the life of all those I encounter.