I just finished reviewing the profit/loss statements for my practice this year, breaking down employees and activities by their overall cost vs. profitability. It is a pretty cut and dry process of figuring out how much it costs to have someone come to work vs. the revenues they generate. As the Lord’s prophet to the Nephite people, King Benjamin went through a similar process of weighing the value of his people to the Lord. He laid out the cold, hard facts and illustrated the degree to which his people were indebted to God. They were so deeply ‘in the red’ that were they to serve him continually, they would still be unprofitable servants (Mosiah 2:20-21).
There are certainly days when I have an acute awareness of my many shortcomings. These are magnified by the lens that helps me recognize the degree to which I have been blessed. Fortunately for me, Benjamin then recounted how an angel had appeared to him to declare “glad tidings of great joy”. The angel instructed Benjamin that he should teach the people about the atonement of Christ and the great plan of redemption so “they may also be filled with joy” (Mosiah 3:3-4). Rather than focusing on the fact that they owed so much to God, Benjamin showed them the degree to which they were loved by God. This evidence was provided by describing the ministry of Jesus Christ and his ransom for men (Mosiah 3:5-11). Although we are all unprofitable servants, our souls remain of great worth to God (Moses 1:39).
This account reminded me of the pivotal moment in the life of Enos when he wrestled before God to receive a remission of his sins. He remembered having heard his father speak often “concerning eternal life, and the joy of the saints” (Enos 1:3). He admits that he had a certain amount of guilt (it was swept away in the end), but that was not what caused his soul to hunger. Rather, it was his recollection of the joy of the saints–a topic on which he had heard his father speak of so frequently.
It strikes me that a message of glad tidings of great joy is something we can’t hear enough of. Though it is certainly helpful to have an awareness of our indebtedness to God and our inherent unprofitability, we need to hear and experience the joy–not just in eternity, but here and now. This joy comes as we understand the worth of our soul in God’s eyes (see also D & C 18:10-13). Lose this perspective and our life is a realization of our unprofitability to God, and our inability to ever be ‘in the black’ on our own. Gain it, and we can comfortably admit that, though unprofitable, we are of great worth to Him.